One of the questions I get, as a pastor, is how I go about writing a sermon. For me, it begins with a review of the scriptures we have been given for the week. I think all of you know that we are a tradition that uses the common lectionary, which is a three year cycle of readings, that includes an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament Reading and a Gospel reading. I start by searching for one of the readings that might have a relevant message within in it.
When I read through the Gospel lesson, however, which was only verses 9-20, I was a little confused because the parable by itself made no sense at all. So, I pulled out one of my bibles and began reading from the beginning of the chapter and continued on a few verses beyond the parable. This is what I just read to you, and when I had the context of the situation it made much more sense to me. It was then that I could see that Jesus was begging the question, “who owns the vineyard?”
The chief priests, the scribes and the elders knew they had been bested by this question so they plotted further to trip Jesus up. So they send spies who pose the question of taxes. I am going to actually begin with that question, because it offers us a little context of the day.
The Jews of Jesus’ day were vexed at living under a foreign, pagan government, whose rule was enforced by an army of occupation. The Jews paid a land tax, an income tax, a poll tax, an import tax, and a tax on grain, wine, and oil. We may think we are heavily taxed today, but things were far worse in first century Israel. Well that is unless, of course, our current governor gets her way.