In the Gospel the vineyard stands for the Holy Land. The tenants are the Jewish leaders God left in charge. The servants the master sent to collect the grapes were the prophets; and the son the tenants killed was Jesus himself.
Doesn’t the behavior of the wicked tenants seem so cruel and unreasonable that the people would not have taken the parable seriously? Hadn’t the owner sense enough not to turn his vineyard over to such scoundrels?
I heard an explanation of the laws governing planting vineyards, and it clarifies things. Strict Jewish law allowed only one kind of crop to be planted on any piece of land. However, for vineyards the rabbis made an exception. Since no grapes could be harvested the first four years after planting, the lawyers made it lawful to plant some other crop between the vines. Now. The dispute between the owner and the tenants could have been over such crops, or even over grapes from the first four years.
The first reading too contains an inconsistency. At the beginning of the story it was Joseph’s bother Reuben who tried to save him. Then, as the story developed it was another brother. Judah, who was keen on saving him. The reason for the difference is that each of the twelve tribes had its own family of storytellers that passed down the ancient stories. A thousand years after his brothers let Joseph be taken down to Egypt the Jewish people began putting their stories in the book we call the Bible. The scribes doing the writing called in the storytellers from all the tribes; and they attempted blending the twelve versions of each ancient event into one narrative. To satisfy both the descendants of Reuben and of Judah the scribes put both versions of the ancient story in the Bible.