Reading the Word
Matthew 21:33–46 (ESV)
33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
Parallel Texts: Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19
Understanding and Applying the Word
The key to understanding this parable is knowing who Jesus is addressing through it. The passage gives us this information. In verse 45, we are told that the chief priests and the Pharisees perceived that Jesus was speaking about them. This is no surprise as he has been in a constant face-off with them since he entered Jerusalem for Passover week.
The parable tells us that the religious leaders and the religious system that they represented had failed the people. The leaders, who had been assigned by God to take care of his vineyard (i.e. the people of Israel), had failed to respond to the Lord’s servants that he had sent (referring to the prophets of the Old Testament). Lastly, the Lord had sent his own Son, Jesus, but the religious leaders would not listen to him either. Instead, they were planning to put Jesus to death, which they will do in just a few more days. What the religious leaders did not realize is that they were rejecting the very cornerstone of God’s salvation plans.
As a result, the religious leaders were rejected by God, as well as the system that they represented. God was moving to replace these things with something different. This new thing would prove to be the Church, made up of Jew and Gentile and no longer tied to the temple, the sacrificial system, or the priesthood. Instead, Jesus would be the great high priest who offered the once-for-all sacrifice of himself for all who believe. Big changes were coming because of Christ!
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