The 13th Sunday after 


The Parable of 


Evil Husbandmen in the 


Mat 21:33-44Matthew 21:33-44

Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a
vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and
built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far
country: {34} And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his
servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
{35} And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed
another, and stoned another. {36} Again, he sent other servants more
than the first: and they did unto them likewise. {37} But last of all he
sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. {38} But
when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the
heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. {39}
And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
{40} When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do
unto those husbandmen? {41} They say unto him, He will miserably destroy
those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen,
which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. {42} Jesus saith
unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the
builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is
the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? {43} Therefore say I
unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a
nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. {44} And whosoever shall fall
on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will
grind him to powder.


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

Today is the 13th Sunday after Pentecost.  We hear the parable of the
vineyard on this day.  It is also the Church New Year, being September
1.  Also on this day we commemorate St. Symeon the Stylite and his
mother, Martha, so we have many feasts today. 

All Scripture helps us to learn about God.  It gives us promises.  It 
teaches us how to live.  It teaches us how not to live by giving us the 
opposite example.  It also gives us a pattern and a role for living.  

Today, in this parable about the vineyard, we can see all these things. 
On the surface, there is a strong rebuke of the Jews, because of their
rejection of the Messiah.  Some of the Jews, were the ones, of course,
that were the husbandmen who killed the Householder's servants and even
His son.  The Jews understood this when He rebuked them.  Have no doubt
about it.  This was one of the things that led them to plot to kill Him.

We not only see the negative example of the Jews, but also a pattern for
how to live.  If you look at how carefully God created the vineyard, and
His continual entreating of the householders and what he required of
them, you can see that this is, in microcosm, the Christian life. And
you can see how to live and how not to live.  And then, with a little
explanation, with an understanding of the mind of the Church of what
fruits are and what some of the symbolism is, you can see how this
parable doesn't just apply to  the wicked Jews who killed the Savior. 
It applies to us, who are wicked if we do not do the work that we are
called to do in the vineyard.  

Now, there's also a marvelous connection between this Gospel and the 
Gospel we say for St. Symeon who is a venerable Father.  We say this 
Gospel where at the end it says, "My yoke is easy and My burden is
light.  Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden." There is a
connection between these words, "Take My yoke upon you" and what God
told the householders to do.  It's quite simple.  God gave us everything
we need for our salvation.  It is natural labor.  Not natural according
to the natural man, but natural according to the heavenly man, which is
who we are supposed to be becoming.  

Let's see a little bit about this parable - it is rich in symbolism -
and then see how it applies to us.  

"There was a certain householder which planted a vineyard and hedged it
round about and digged a wine press in it and built a tower and let it
out to husbandmen and went into a far country."  

If you read from the Fathers you can see what these things mean.  The
Church has understood them for many, many hundreds of years now.  The
Householder, of course, is Jesus Christ.  The vineyard is the Jewish
people, and by extension, the New Israel -Christians, the Christian
Church.  Blessed Theophylact says that everything described is
spiritual.  He created a vineyard with everything necessary for our
sustenance and for our salvation.  A vineyard bears sweet and juicy
grapes that are not only tasty for the palate, but are good for the body
and, by extension, this vineyard is good for the soul.  

There is a hedge round about the vineyard.  What does a hedge do?  It
protects from marauders, from thieves and from wild animals.  It keeps
that which is undesirable, and even evil, out.  The vineyard is the
Church.  And the hedge that goes round the Church is just like the sides
of a boat, which is another image of the Church - the Ark. This is the
Law, the Law of God.  This is our tradition.  Our Holy Tradition: our
fasting, our services, which are so full of meaning and beauty, our way
of thinking, confession, the grace of baptism - all of these things and
many more are the hedge that goes round about the Church.  

The winepress is the altar.  Sacrifices are offered on this altar.  The
Jews would have thought of the sacrifices of bullocks, but we think of
the sacrifice that the God-Man has given to us and of the Body and Blood
of Christ offered on this altar.  And the tower within the hedge is the
temple. It is high, to be seen by all, and to be a light for all.  And
the temple, or course, must be within the hedge because the True Faith
is only within the Church.  And it is hedged round about keeping away
heresy and unclear ways of thinking and acting, no matter what they are.

There are two meanings regarding the husbandmen.  First of all, the
Jewish teachers were the first husbandmen all throughout the ages.  And
there were good husbandmen, but there were a remarkable amount of bad
ones.  Later, Christian bishops, priests, deacons and indeed, all of us,
because we are a holy priesthood, a holy nation, and peculiar people, so
says the Apostle Peter.  We are like husbandmen now because if you see,
later in the parable, the vineyard was taken away from the first
husbandmen.  They were not worthy of it.  And it was given to other
husbandmen, that is the universal Church, through the calling of the
Gentiles. Now we are of that vine and of that body, if we choose to live
according to the way God has taught us. 

Now, God, the householder,  went into a far country.  What does this
mean?  It means God's long-suffering for us.  It means that He is slow
to judge us and quick to hear our repentance.  He is not slack
concerning our salvation, but He is patient with us.  But you know, when
a person goes on a long journey, they return from that journey
eventually.  And when He returns that will be the end of the age.  That
will be the judgement.  So God is patient.  And God might seem,
occasionally, because of this patience, to be far away from us.  "He
doesn't see", so we sometimes lie to ourselves.  Indeed, He sees all,
and He is patient.  But there will come a time of reckoning. 

So we must not be slack concerning what we have been told to do just
because He is not on top of us as a taskmaster with a whip, telling us
every moment what to do.  We must indeed be mature in Christ and live
according to the Gospel without compulsion.  Remember some of the other
things that are in the Gospels.  The prodigal son went into a far
country and came back.  In that case the country means something
different.  Remember the foolish virgins.  Their master went away and He
was late, so they thought, in coming and five of them let their oil go
out.  They did not have works of mercy and of devoutness and of desire
and they were left out when the Bridegroom came to the great feast.

Be careful, brothers and sisters.  Life has a sort of narcotic quality
to it.  We're so busy with living.  We're so busy with the things we
need to do (or think we need to do). We forget so often, God is merciful
and allows us time. Time to become like Him.  Time to repent of our
sins.  Time to grow in knowledge of Him.  Time to grow in perfection.
This is the purpose of our life.  Not time to acquire anything, or for
pleasures, or for entertainment, or all the other things that are craved
in our industrial society.  We must watch.  Jesus said it to us.  He
said to His apostles and to us, "Watch, therefore, for ye know not what
hour the Lord shall come."  

So, the Master of the house is in a far country.  But He still sees all.
 And He is patient.  And that patience should spur us to action knowing
that we have a little bit of time to work out our salvation.  It should
make us zealous.

Let us think for a minute of this image of the vineyard.  The Master of
the house has given us everything necessary and he has hedged it off so
that all which is evil cannot get in.  As long as you are within the
vineyard you are safe.  As long as you are within the Ark you are safe. 
All the things in the vineyard are there for a purpose: the altar, the
tower, the trellises, the land, and the crops. We are given these things
in order to work.  What are householders to do in the vineyard?  Are
they to lie in the sun?  Are they to daydream their days away?  There is
work to be done in the vineyard!  There is honest labor and growth to be
accomplished in the vineyard, and gradual growth in the knowledge of
God.   And as we grow in the knowledge of God, we grow in becoming like
God in morality.  

"And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the
husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. {35} And the
husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and
stoned another. "

In fact this happened twice, and then He sent his Son.  The "time of the
fruit" is the years of the prophets, according to the Fathers.  They
announced the coming of the fruit many, many times.  And God sent His
servants to receive the fruits of the vineyard, that is our obedience
and growth.  That is all we are asked to do, to tend the vineyard. 
We're given all the tools and everything necessary just to be obedient. 
That is what we are asked to do and to grow in the knowledge of God. 
God counts as His gain our gain and knowledge of Him.  

So these householders, these terrible wicked men, given all of these
things for their salvation, thought of it as theirs instead and grasped
it, and killed the prophets.  Isaiah was sawn in half.  Zachariah,
father of St. John the Baptizer, was killed between the temple and the
altar.  St Elias was hounded.  So many of the others were killed,
tortured in various ways because the husbandmen would not be obedient to
the Master of the house.  

"But last of all he sent unto them his son saying, 'They will  reverence
my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son they said among themselves,
'This is the heir.  Come let us kill him.  Let us seize on his
inheritance.'  And they caught him and cast him out of the vineyard and
slew him."

The coming of the son is the Incarnation.  God comes to His own
vineyard, which He had created for us.  And when He was cast out of the
vineyard, this was a prophecy of how He was to be killed because,
indeed, He was killed outside the gates of Jerusalem, cast outside the
vineyard.  Jerusalem is a metaphor for the Church, and He was also cast
outside the guileless will of the people.  He was killed by the wicked
householders outside of the Law, outside of the vineyard, which was
hedged round about. 

Now, there is an important question which asked, "When the Lord,
therefore, of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those
husbandmen?"  He came looking for fruit, you know.  He came looking for
obedience.  He came looking for someone who had used His gifts, the
talents that He had given properly.  Some actively opposed Him, and
perhaps there were other householders who were not so wicked, just
misused the vineyard and did not work, but then again did not lift the
hand to stop the killing of the prophets or of the Son of God. 

The Jews hearing the parable did not yet that is was about was about
them. We can see in St. Luke that they did understand eventually because
they said, "He will miserably destroy those wicked men and will let out
his vineyard unto  other husbandmen which will render him the fruits in
their seasons."  Then when Christ said something that made them
understand, it was them - they said, "God forbid!"  Well, they had
already said it.  They had prophesied what would happen to themselves
and all those who do not labor in the vineyard with honest work.  

Let us look carefully at this phrase, "...render him the fruits in their
 seasons."  There is fruit to be rendered.  To be a Christian is to have
an obligation.  You have accepted God's grace, and baptism.  You must
work now in the vineyard.  Our Christian life is labor.  I've said it a
thousand times and I will say it a thousand more times if I have breath.
 The great heresy of our age is that one can have belief without labor. 
It is not true.  The Christian who laments his sins knows that he must
labor to cease doing them. The Christian that loves God and is thankful
for what has been given desires to labor in the vineyard and picks up
his spade and digs, and a hoe and hoes away the weeds from his soul so
that it will be bright and shiny and will be able to grow.  

We have everything we need in this vineyard and it is hedged round about
and yet we, in our foolishness, sometimes cut through the hedge.  That's
what we do when we sin, you know.  That's what we do especially when we
have incorrect attitudes about the Christian life, because from
incorrect attitudes comes sinful behavior and we open the hedge.  And if
we open it wide enough, marauders will come in.  This is happening in
our beloved Church, even as we speak, these days.  And it is something
that should make a Christian lament.  We currently see so many opening
the hedge to marauders by false doctrines, false ways of life, false
practices that are being touted as Orthodox and we know that they are

The fruit that the Lord wants is the knowledge of Him in our souls.  And
a necessity - if the knowledge comes then the action will come too.  A
man fools himself if he thinks he knows something about God and he
doesn't live morally.  Do not mistake the time the Lord has given you
for your own personal security. You must bear fruit.  It is a
requirement.  Now, you need not bear fruit like St. Symeon did.  He
would stand in prayer from sundown until the 9th hour (that's 3 in the
afternoon).  And then he would counsel people until sundown from that
time. And he did this for 80 years on a pillar.  He had clairvoyance and
humility and all manner of spiritual gifts.  He bore fruit abundantly. 
We must have humility and realize we cannot reach such heights.  But we
must stay in the hedge to bear the fruit that God desires and requires
of us.  

How do we do this?  It's simple.  The things I've told you over and
over. And the things I tell myself over and over, because it is only
possible to do spiritual works by making a beginning; keeping the fasts,
accepting the Church's authority over you, and the way you live, even in
the way you think, the way you act, going to the services, fasting,
praying, giving alms-giving what is God's to God, and work in the
vineyard.  Know that your purpose is to know God.  It's to become
perfected.  It's to ascend in knowledge and in action.  Those two
swords, when Christ said it was enough, when someone said, 'here are two
swords', knowledge and action.  Those are the necessities for salvation.
 Anytime you sin you break down the hedge.  So you must rebuild it as
rapidly as possible.

May God help you in staying within the vineyard and in working out your
salvation.  Now remember, in the vineyard, there is a product of a
vineyard and it is grapes, and fruit.  Now, if you are in the vineyard
and you do not participate in producing fruit then you will be cast off.
 Have you ever seen grapevines burn?  It is mentioned when they tried to
burn the Three Holy Children.  The wood that comes from a vine, like
grapes, when it dries out, burns incredibly rapidly and with great heat
and intensity.  This is what will happen to those who cast themselves
off the vine by not laboring.  So now we see.  We come to the end of the
meaning of this parable.  Apply it to your life.  Work in the vineyard,
brothers and sisters, and struggle for your salvation and understand
that every moment God requires of you fruit.  May God help you to attain
salvation.  Amen.     


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 The following sermon was transcribed from one given Sept 1/14 1997, the
13th  Sunday after Pentecost, and also the  day of the commemoration of
the Church /New Year St. Symeon the Stylite.

 The term "Venerable Father" is used in the Orthodox liturgical
literature to denote a saintly monk. 

 Matthew 11:30, 11:28 (The verses are in reversed order)

 Mat 21:33

 1 Peter 2:9

 Cf. 2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some
men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that
any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

 Matthew 24:32

  (Mat 21:34-35)

 Cf. Matthew 23:35

 Matthew 21:37-39

 Matthew 21:40

 Matthew 21:41

 Cf. Luke 22:38

The 13th Sunday after Pentecost 

The 12th  Sunday after Pentecost

The Parable of the Evil Husbandmen in the Vineyard 

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