In response to the religious leaders’ unwillingness to be authentic in their response to Jesus and accept him as the Son of God, Jesus tells the people a parable. Note: when someone refuses the gospel, it is right to offer a warning, even if it is couched in a wise form like this parable.
The parable is about a vineyard. The vineyard was a symbol of the nation of Israel (see Isaiah 5). This was a bit like telling a story about the national flag of Israel. Everyone would have understood its significance.
There are tenants. The owner has let the vineyard out to be cared for by tenants. At the appropriate time for the owner to receive rent for letting out the vineyard, he sends a servant to receive the rent due. One after another of the servants are sent and they are all treated shamefully, beaten up, and thrown out by the tenants. The servants represent the prophets sent by God to God’s people asking them to give to God what is his due—true worship.
Last of all, the owner of the vineyard sends his son, thinking surely they will respect his son. But instead, the tenants reason that if they kill the son then the vineyard will be theirs. The son is Jesus, the Son of God. This was literally fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion.
What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.
The hearers of this parable understand what Jesus is saying. By God’s people’s rejection of God’s prophets, and finally the killing of God’s Son, their special place will be taken away. Given all of God’s promises to his people, this is shocking conclusion. But then Jesus looks at them directly, quoting from the most cited psalm in the New Testament, Psalm 118: the stone the builders have rejected has become the capstone. Jesus, rejected, crucified, will rise again and ascend on high, and be the capstone of God’s salvation plan for his people.
In fact, the destiny of all peoples will be determined by whether they believe in the Son or not (20:18).
Note: my life will be determined by my response to Jesus. Note also: Jesus’ death and resurrection is a sufficient sacrifice for my sins, the sins of Israel, the sins of all God’s people, the sin of the world. Rejoice! Accept Jesus as Lord and such joy will be yours! Let us, then, not ignore what God says to us, but be quick to believe his Word and trust him.
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