“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. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 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.” 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’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
(Matthew 21:33-46 ESV)
In the parable Jesus tells in today’s passage a landowner planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants. This man was an entrepreneur. He went through a lot of trouble to start a business and hire workers. He rightfully expected a return on his investment.
When it came to collect on that investment he sent his servants to the tenants. But the tenants beat, killed, and stoned the servants. Finally, the landowner sent his son to them. But the tenants killed him too.
The characters in this parable are easy to identify. The vineyard is Israel which is often referred to as a vineyard in the Old Testament [Deuteronomy 32:32, Psalm 80:8, Jeremiah 2:21, Isaiah 5:1-7 et. al]. The landowner is God. The servants are the Old Testament prophets sent by God to Israel. The tenants are the past and present Jewish leaders whose responsibility it was to steward Israel. And the son, of course, is Jesus.
Just like the landowner, God prepared a beautiful land for Israel and gave her stewardship over it. In return God expected Israel to be thankful and to follow Him. But instead Israel, like the tenants in the parable, rejected Him.
So God sent His prophets to warn them and call them to repentance. But like in the parable, the Old Testament prophets were brutally mistreated by those to whom they were sent [1 Kings 22:24; 2 Chronicles 24:20-22; Hebrews 11:37 et. al].
Despite the brutal treatment of His messengers, God continued to be patient with Israel. God is very forbearing [Numbers 14:18; Psalm 103:8; Romans 2:4 et. al]. He continues to send His love towards people even though they reject Him.
Then the landowner sends his son but the tenants kill him, just like Israel (at the behest of the very leaders Jesus is speaking to) would kill Jesus in just a few days. Notice the tenants knew exactly who the son was – just as many today are well aware that Jesus is God’s son. But they thought they could thwart the landowner’s plans – just as many today thumb their nose at God’s design for life and plan of salvation.
The end result of the parable is the landowner will justifiably put the tenants to a miserable death and will give the vineyard to other tenants who will give him what he is due. Notice the religious leaders understood exactly what these tenants deserved. And since they were the tenants, they convict themselves with their own words.
Just like in the parable, God repeatedly tries to reach people with His love through His messengers and His Son. But the world rejects God, often with much vitriol. But the truth is people know exactly who Jesus is. They know He is God’s son. The evidence is clear and convincing.
They also know they are wrong for mocking and tarnishing the image of Jesus, thinking that by doing so they can defeat God. Silly people. Just like the landowner in the parable, God will have the final say. And He will deal severely with those who mistreat Jesus in this life.
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