Matt. 25:31-46 Jesus tells a parable about sheep and goats. He says that, when the ‘Son of Man’ returns in glory on the ‘Day of Judgement’, all people will be gathered together and will be separated into those who have pleased and offended God, “as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32). This will not be an easy task simply from outward appearances, as long-eared sheep and goats look very similar in Palestine. Jesus says that the ‘sheep’ he will lead and whom God will bless (see John 10:11-16) are those who have fed and clothed the hungry and the poor, while the ‘goats’ (who are rejected from God’s eternal kingdom) are those who have ignored the needs of others.
The parable of the tenants in the vineyard
Mk 12:1-12 Jesus tells another parable about tenants in a vineyard. “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it and dug a hole for a winepress and built a tower” (Mark 12:1).
The watchtower in a vineyard (Mark 12:1)
In Jesus’s day, vineyards were protected from animals, thieves and strong winds by a sturdy wall or hedge – often strengthened by fig trees. When the vines developed fruit-bearing branches, they were raised above the ground on wooden supports, and pruned each spring to promote new growth. A watchtower was often built on the highest point to keep a lookout for thieves. The tenants paid the owner by giving him a share of the crop – sometimes as much as half the grapes (see the feature on Vineyards later in this section).
Jesus tells how the owner of the vineyard rented it out and went away on a long journey. When he sent a servant to collect his share of the crop, the farmers abused the servant. They killed other servants, and when the owner sent his son, they killed him too.
The Pharisees were furious as they realised that Jesus was telling a story about God (the ‘owner’ of the vineyard), and how the Jewish religious leaders (the ‘farmers’) had killed the prophets sent by God (the ‘servants’) and were plotting to kill Jesus himself (the ‘owner’s son’).