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.
Jesus told another parable describing his rejection from his own people. A landowner leased his prized vineyard to tenants to take care of it in his absence. His servants returned at harvest time to get his share of the fruit, but time after time, the tenants beat and even killed the servants the landowner sent. Finally, the landowner sent his own son to get his percentage of the fruit, thinking the tenants would respect his son, but they killed him as well. They killed him outside the vineyard so they wouldn’t defile their fruit, since the tenants were hoping to rid themselves of the landowner and keep the vineyard for themselves. In the parable, the landowner represented God, the vineyard stood for Israel, the fruit stood for righteousness, the tenants represented the Jewish religious leaders, the servants represented the prophets, and the son represented Jesus. So Jesus asked the listeners what the landowner would do to the tenants. They said, he would put those tenants to death and lease the vineyard to other tenants. Jesus responded that the kingdom would be given to Gentiles who would produce fruit in like manner.
Jesus also quoted Psalm 118 to his audience, showing that the rejected Son was the “capstone” of the faith. In the first century, buildings were made of stone. The capstone was the stone set in the foundation of a building’s corner wall, around and against which all the other stones were measured. Jesus challenged his audience, “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” We can either fall on Jesus and his message, be broken and found in him bearing fruit, or he will, in judgment, fall on us and we will be ruined. God sent men with his messages to his people, and those men, the prophets, were harshly treated and their words ignored. God’s people even rejected the ultimate prophet, Jesus. What about you? Do you listen to those who speak God’s word, or are you critical of those who preach the gospel? Do you nitpick God’s messengers and fail to hear Jesus through them because you find fault with them? Let’s not be like ancient Israel and refuse the message of the Lord, but rather let us be careful to pay attention to those God has placed in our lives to teach us his word today.