So now Jesus goes into another parable. Another hard one. If you’ve been reading along, it shouldn’t be too tough to figure this one out. The tenants are the religious elite to whom God entrusted the care and welfare of God’s vineyard (the world), and who took that trust and created a corrupt, exploitive, elitist religious system. God is now sending God’s son, Jesus, to come and reclaim it, and they will reject him. They will kill him in order to keep the vineyard for themselves.
Jesus won’t let up now. As pointedly and as clearly and as piercingly as he can, he is going to continue to expose and tear down their system. At this point, after entering Jerusalem and driving out those who were selling in the temple, Jesus is almost daring them to crucify him. He’s in a sort of chess match with them, playing a strategy they’ve never seen and which just dares them to move in for the kill. He knows this is his destiny, but he’s going to make them do it.
There is an argument to be made that it is “God’s will” to put Jesus on that cross, because Jesus has to go to the cross in order to save the world. And, yes, I suppose orthodox theology says that, but there’s more to it than that. If that’s all it is, then why doesn’t Jesus just go and tell them to arrest him? I think it’s because he wants them to own it.
Jesus doesn’t want to let corruption, exploitation and elitism off the hook. Some theology does say that God put Jesus on the cross. Some really bad, disgusting, and abhorrent theology says that the Jews put Jesus on the cross. Some theology says you and I put him there. Well, there is some truth to all of those (not much in the way of the Jews- remember Jesus too was Jewish and so was the mass of people that wanted nothing to do with him going to the cross), but if you ask me, when I read the Gospels I believe it is corruption, exploitation and elitism that put him there.
Take any culture at any time in any corner of this world. Then have God show up in the flesh to actively, overtly, powerfully, and effectively attack corruption, exploitation, and elitism by lifting up the lowly and bringing down the haughty, and that version of God in the flesh will be killed. So Jesus has come into Jerusalem and he will simply continue to do what he does, until the power structure decides to do something about it.
There are numerous theologies which are right and good that explain why Jesus ended up on a cross. And there are numerous Old Testament prophecies that this whole journey of Jesus from manger to cross fulfill. And those are all good. But the truth is, you don’t need all those to get Jesus to some form of execution. It’s just the way of a broken world. Corruption, exploitation, and elitism will go to the ends of the earth to defend themselves. But praise be to God that though that is true, beauty and wholeness can emerge even from that. That’s the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if you ask me.