” Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: 34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. 45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.” (Matt. 21:33-46)
It has been said, that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus loved to tell parables. It was one of His favorite teaching methods. In a parable, a simple truth can be told, while a spiritual lesson is learned. In the Parable of the Vineyard, the Lord told a story that everyone in the Temple could relate to in all of its parts. The people knew how vineyards were planted, and then protected by a hedge of thorns. The thorn hedge was designed to keep out wild boars, and thieves.
In addition to the hedge, most vineyards had a winepress nearby for pressing the grapes. Often there was a tower built in the vineyard. From the tower, a watch could be kept over the area. Also, in the tower, temporary lodging could be found. The people of Palestine were familiar with the financial transactions associated with the vineyard. There were three ways an owner of a land could make money.
First, he could simply rent the land for a flat fee. Second, he could require a certain percentage of the crop after it was taken to market. Third, he could demand a fixed amount of the fruit.
The Householder in the Lord’s parable had decided to take a fixed amount of the fruit. When the time of harvest was near, he sent his servants to receive the fruits of the vineyard. But the husbandman surprised the servant. For whatever reason, the servant was beaten. Another was stoned, and still another servant was killed.
As the Lord told His simple story, the people of Palestine knew that such things really did happen. Disputes between management and labor, with violence in the work-place, is as old as civilization. In the Lord’s Parable, the owners of the vineyard sent more representatives to negotiate his business, but all of those that were sent were hurt. In an ultimate act of good will, and as a sign of good faith, the householder sent his own son. “Surely,” he thought, “they will honor him.”
But they didn’t. The workers of the vineyard were so angry, and unreasonable, that they killed the heir to the vineyard, thinking that if they killed him, the owner would die in due time, and then the land would be up for public auction. Perhaps they could take it for themselves. As contemporary as the Parable was to those who heard Christ speak, the spiritual overtones were not difficult to discern by the Chief Priests, and by the Pharisees.
The Certain Householder was God the Father. The Vineyard was Israel. Isaiah 5:7 says, “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant”.
The covenant of circumcision, and the ceremonial Law, were a hedge, or a wall of partition around the Jewish church.
The altar of burnt offerings was the winepress, to which all the offerings were brought.
The Husbandmen were the Chief Priests, and the Pharisees. To them was the vineyard let out.
Meanwhile, the Householder went into a far country. That happened spiritually, when the Shekinah glory was withdrawn from Israel. Still, the Servants were sent, a reference to the prophets. The prophets came to Israel because God was looking for fruit (Matt. 21:34). He expected it.
The expectations of God, says Matthew Henry, “were not hasty – for the Lord did not demand pre-payment;
The expectations of God were not high payment – for the Lord did not put the laborers in peril of being penalized if they did not come to Him;
The expectations of the God were not hard – for the Lord did not demand more than He Himself has planted”.
The expectations of God were reasonable.
Nevertheless, the Servants of the Householder were treated cruelly. Jeremiah was beaten. Isaiah was cut in half. Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, was stoned in the Temple area.
Still God persevered in His goodness. He sent other prophets. He sent John the Baptist, who was beheaded. And He sent the Twelve Apostles.
But the Religious Leaders of Israel were drunk with the blood of the saints. Finally, the Householder sent his only son, the heir of all things.
The Householder’s Son was Jesus Christ, who was to be honored. But instead of showing the reverence that was deserved, the Son was cast out of the vineyard and killed. And that is exactly what happened to Jesus. He was plotted against (Matt. 21:38). Pilate, and Herod, and the princes of the world, plotted against the Lord, but only because they knew Him not. “For if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8).
While the world at large did not know Jesus, the Chief Priests and the Elders knew who Jesus was. They understood that this was the Heir. At least some of them understood, and still they said, “Come, let us kill Him. Jesus was taken outside of the city of Jerusalem, and crucified. Some wanted Jesus dead, out of envy. Some wanted Jesus dead, out of fear. Others wanted Jesus dead, out of hatred.
The only question left to answer, was what should be done to the Husbandman and His helpers? Should not those who hurt the servants, and killed the Son, be punished? And should not the vineyard be given out to others?
While the Chief Priests, and the Pharisees were considering all the spiritual interpretations of the words of the first parable, the Lord told another one. Jesus spoke of the Stone which the builders rejected, and how the same became the head of the corner.
Again, the Chief Priests, and the Pharisees understood immediately.
In this parable, Jesus was the Chief Stone. The builders were the religious leaders of Israel. They had rejected him, but he was still to become the most important part of the national life of Israel, no matter what. Though the builders would stumble over Him, as men stumble over hidden stones, He would grind them to powder, as a large boulder can easily crush a man.
The rejected Stone crushed Israel, because the people pulled it down upon their own heads, when they cried out before Pilate, “Let His death be upon our heads and upon our children.” And so it happened.
In these short parables are many truths about God, about man, about Jesus Christ, and about national Israel.
Concerning God, we discover first, that God is great. The greatness of God is revealed in the fact of His creation. It is incomprehensible in its majesty, and complexity. Man has turned his mind outward, and subdued creation.
He has channeled his energies downward, through the microscope, to discover the world of viruses, and find cures for cancers. Man has gone down in the oceans, to touch the bottom of the sea.
Now man is turning his eyes, and energies outward, in earnest, and discovering the wonders of the stars, and galaxies.
As God is great, so God is good. The goodness of God is revealed in the work, and provision He gives to His creation. God has given adequate resources for the work He has called man to do. He has entrusted all His resources to man, asking only that proper respect, and honor, be returned to Him.
As we learn that God is great, and God is good, we also discover something about man. First, man has many privileges. The vineyard was equipped with everything- the hedge, the winepress, and the tower, which would make the task of labor easier to discharge.
The Father has not only given man a task to perform, but He has also provided the means to do the task. Man is very fortunate.
Second, man is a free agent. “God,” says William Barclay, “is no tyrannical task- master; He is like a wise commander who allocates a task and then trusts a man to do it.” Man is therefore responsible for his attitude and actions concerning Christ.
Then third, man is accountable. To all men there is coming a day of reckoning. We will have to answer to God for the way in which we have carried out the tasks entrusted to us by God. Every idle word will be evaluated. Every intention of the heart will be investigated. There will be no secrets in the Day of Judgment. The Books will be opened, and the record will be read.
One thing that the record will reveal about man is how deliberate his sin was. The Religious Leaders of Israel, like the husbandman of Christ’s parable, carried on a deliberate policy of rebellion, and disobedience towards the Master.
But they did not always do that, for the time came when the Father made the hurting to stop. And then the privileges of the Religious Leaders were taken away from them, and given to others.
While this was happening, the Son was exalted. “The Stone which the Builders rejected is become the head of the building.”
The exaltation of the rejected Stone is declared to be something majestic, and marvelous, and so it is. Today, in the eyes of millions, Jesus is precious, and He is marvelous.
To the artist He is the One altogether lovely.
To the architect He is the Chief Cornerstone.
To the astronomer He is, the Sun of Righteousness.
To the baker He is the Living Bread.
To the banker He is the Hidden Treasurer.
To the biologist He is the Life.
To the carpenter He is, the Sure Foundation.
To the builder He is the True Cornerstone.
To the doctor He is the Great Physician.
To the educator He is the Great Teacher.
To the farmer He is the Sower and the Lord of the Harvest.
To the florist He is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.
To the geologist He Is, the Rock of Ages.
To the horticulturist He is, the True Vine.
To the judge He is the Righteous Judge.
To the juror He is the True Witness.
To the jeweler He is the Pearl of Great Price.
To the editor He is the Good Tidings of Great Joy.
To the oculist He is the Light of the Eyes.
To the philosopher He is the Wisdom of God.
To the printer He is the True Type.
To the servant He is the Good Master.
To the student He is the Incarnate Truth.
To the one who labors He is the Giver of Rest.
To the sinner He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.
To the Christian He is the Son of the Living God, the Saviour, the Redeemer and Lord.
Jesus Christ is precious.
While the Chief Priests, and the Pharisees, plotted the death of Christ, He claimed that they could not deny Him His honor, for in reality, they were His servants. He was the Son of the Living God.
This passage contains one of the clearest claims of Jesus ever made, to be unique, Jesus claimed to be different from even the greatest of the servant prophets who went before Him. He is very God of very God.
Our passage also reveals the sacrificial reality Jesus knew awaited Him. The Lord knew that He would be taken outside the city of Jerusalem and killed. He did not die because He was compelled to.
Jesus died because He knew what the Father had sent Him to accomplish. The Father wanted Him to create a new nation, called the Church. 1 Peter 2:9 say, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
For the last one hundred and fifty years many Christians have been enamored with national Israel. They should be more enamored with the church. The church is the most unique institution on planet earth, not the current Christ rejecting secular nation that once had a unique spiritual legacy with great privileges.
There is something majestic, and marvelous, in all that Christ has done, from His work at Calvary, to the creation of the church. As there is something majestic, and marvelous, so there is SOMEONE, who is the same. He is the Father’s Son. He is the Chief Cornerstone.