Troparion — Tone 8
Behold the Bridegroom comes at midnight, / and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching, / and again unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless. / Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, / lest you be given up to death and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom. / But rouse yourself crying: Holy, Holy, Holy, are You, O our God! / Through the Theotokos have mercy on us!
Reading from the Book of Exodus 1:1-20
Now these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt; each man and his household came with Jacob:
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah;
Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin;
Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.
All those who were descendants of Jacob were seventy persons (for Joseph was in Egypt already).
And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation.
But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.
Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we;
“come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.”
Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses.
But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel.
So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor.
And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage – in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.
Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah;
and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”
But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive.
So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?”
And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.”
Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty.
Reading from the Book of Job 1:1-12
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.
And seven sons and three daughters were born to him.
Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East.
And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.
So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.
And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?
“Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
“But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Gospel of Matthew 21:18-43
Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry.
And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.
And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.
And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”
But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:
The baptism of John – where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’
But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”
So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’
He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.
Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.
Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.
For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.
Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.
Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.
And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.
Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.
Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’
So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
Exodus, Job, and Matthew this week all focus on decisions and prophecies this week. In each reading there is a line and plan to follow, the natural order of agriculture and the lineage of Jacob all follow lines that should come. There is a pattern and purpose to growing a vineyard, and your family line, a natural order that can seem easy at first. As we learn in the readings it doesn’t always go as planned man and his decisions can and do interfere with what is laid out before him by God.
Holy Week is full of examples of prophecy and plans laid out for generations that all focus down to the actions of Jesus and those that closely surround him. Many of these are unknown to those performing them (other than Jesus) at the time. On Palm Sunday we see several examples of this. Today continues Holy Week, and the challenges of the chief participants are well chronicled. Our readings here give us as individuals many years removed from the goings on of the gospel a chance to be influenced and guided the same way as those participants in it. We are called to observe and obey the prophecies and natural order of God’s promises in the same way today.
When facing challenges we must be observant of the order of what surrounds us. Are we making decisions that flow with our natural setting as simply as a vineyard and how it must be tended and is dependent and determined by action? Working against the nature of prophecy is as fruitless as working against the vineyard. God has set a path before us and before all those who came before. Each of us must make choices and take action to follow what is to come or bear the consequences of disturbing what is to be.