Sunday, September 20, 2020

Matthew 21. 33-46: The Son of the Vineyard Owner

Jesus' parable in Matthew 21 (verses 33-46) tells his own story. Set in a vineyard, the son of the vineyard owner is killed by wicked tenants who are unwilling to give the owner the portion of the harvest that is owed. It doesn't take much to understand the story as a prediction of Jesus' fate. Below is an unidentified image (I'm still trying to identify it) from a medieval manuscript that illustrates the story. 


(Left) Unidentified manuscript illustration of Matthew 21:33-46. (Right) Christus in der Kelter. Gebetbuch des Ulrich von Montfort. c. 1515-1520. Vienna: Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod. 2748, fol. 49v.

It also doesn't take much to understand the implications of the vineyard and Christ's relation to it as a Communion symbol. 

One of the symbolic images for the death of Jesus is the winepress. In those images (above right) Jesus is shown trampling grapes while bearing the weight of the winepress. The implication is that the crushing and juicing of grapes offers a parallel to Jesus' death and subsequent remembrance in the cup of communion. There are other vineyard images that should bring to mind the role and actions of Jesus' life and death. 

In the two images here, the wine press is the screw type that applies pressure from above in order to crush the grapes. In the parable illustration you can see the winepress through the open door of the watchtower. In the illustration with Jesus, he treads on the grapes even as the winepress crushes him. Note that it is the first person of the Trinity who turns, powers, the screw that presses on Jesus. Isaiah 63 and Revelation 14 both refer to the winepress with a tone of punishment or retribution. Here, though, it is not retribution that Christ models, but sacrifice, giving himself to death at the hands of the tenants or the winepress.

In regions that have no winemaking tradition, these images might be harder to understand. And, of course, the artists from these regions depict the equipment they saw in their own winemaking industries, and they make Jesus look like themselves. 

This week on Art&Faith Matters on or white?

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