Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to two important stories from the Scriptures, one from the Old Testament, in the Book of Genesis, and another one from the Gospels, as a parable told by the Lord Jesus to His disciples. Both of these stories tell us the same message and are parallels of each other. And what is this message which all of us should take heed of?
The Old Testament story tells us about the sons of Jacob, also known as Israel, who were the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. We heard about how Jacob loved Joseph, one of his youngest sons very much, doting on him and giving him the best of everything, because he was born of his beloved wife Rachel, the woman she loved. And Joseph’s brothers resented him because of this preferential treatment, and they plotted against him.
We heard how they wanted to kill Joseph, and they were plotting to do so among themselves, but Reuben, one of the brothers, spoke out against the killing of Joseph and wanted to rescue him from the plots of his brothers who hated him. In the end, after they have seized Joseph and threw him into a well, they agreed to sell him to the Midianite merchants who were passing by that area, and they got twenty pieces of silver in return for the sale.
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus told the disciples a story, about a landowner who possessed a vineyard and then entrusted that vineyard and property to several tenants when he left the country for other lands. This story was indeed very similar and a parallel to what we have heard from the Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers, as we heard how the tenants entrusted with the vineyard refused to obey their part of the obligations and contract.
The landowner sent his servants several times to the tenants, asking them to fulfil their obligations according to the contract that he had set with them. They refused to listen to the servants of the landowner and instead rejected them, cast them out and even persecuted them and tortured them, and killed some of them. The tenants refused to pay their due to the landowner, likely because they were tempted by the riches that they have attained through their harvests and refused to share them with the rightful master of the vineyard.
Eventually, in the end, the landowner sent to them his own beloved and trusted son, the heir to all of his vineyard and properties. He thought that the tenants would respect his son and listen to him. But no sooner that he reached the vineyard that they plotted against him and killed him, thinking that if they did so, they would be able to seize all the properties and the riches of the vineyard for themselves. That was what we heard from the New Testament today, which is a clear parallel to the story of Joseph and his brothers.
As you can see, just as the brothers of Joseph plotted against him, the wicked tenants also plotted against the son of the landowner and his servants. Ultimately, in the end, many of the concerns were about property, worldly wealth, power, prestige, and all the other things which throughout the history of mankind, have resulted in much bitterness and rivalry among us, causing relationships to break, and even for man to oppress and to hurt his fellow men.
Then, brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we look at yet another example, which even though was not part of our Scripture passages today, but it is in fact the most important of all? What the Lord Jesus had told His disciples on the parable of the landowner and the wicked tenants was in fact a premonition and prophecy which the Lord Jesus spoke about Himself. He spoke of what would happen to Himself, when He was betrayed and handed over to the chief priests, with the price of a slave.
Surely we all remember how Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, went to the chief priests and offered to betray Him? And what did he receive from the elders and the chief priests in return? Thirty pieces of silver, a price comparable to that of Joseph when he was sold to the Midianite merchants as a slave. Thus, the Lord Himself has been betrayed and sold out like a slave, the most humiliating of all positions and peoples.
But that was exactly what He has done, in the manner of Joseph, who was brought to the land of Egypt. Yet, it was all God’s plan, for Joseph was sent ahead of his brothers and family, to be powerful in the land of Egypt, eventually becoming its Regent, and by whose wisdom and authority, helped not just his own family, but countless other people when the whole world was wrecked by famine, which was alleviated only by Joseph’s wisdom and preparedness.
Similarly, the Lord has done everything as He had done, for our sake, for our salvation and liberation from the tyranny of sin. He has lowered and humbled Himself so much, assuming the appearance of a slave, a criminal, condemned to death for sins and mistakes that He Himself did not commit. Yet, He took everything up upon Himself, endured the great and unimaginable agony of the cross, with the singular purpose of our salvation. That is ultimately because God loves each and every one of us, His beloved children.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the Scripture passages today, the story of Joseph, the parable of the wicked tenants and the landowner, and the Passion of Our Lord Himself, let us think about our own respective lives, in all that we have done in our lives thus far, and how we can follow the Lord more faithfully by our actions. Let us not be tempted by the allures of worldly glory and the passions of the flesh, all the things that have caused the brothers of Joseph, the wicked tenants, the chief priests and the Pharisees to do sinful and wicked deeds, in order to preserve themselves and their worldly desires.
Let us all be ever more generous with our love and charity during this time of Lent, by reaching out to our brethren in need, those who are in need of our love, care and attention, those who are hungry and suffering, those who have no one to feed them or be with them when they are in need of company. May the Lord move our hearts and limbs to be His tools to do His will among His people. May the Lord bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.