The Parable of the Wicked Tenants, Matt. 21:33-46

Vineyard33 “Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press
in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country.
34 When the season of 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 Afterward 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 cast 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 very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; 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 nation producing the fruits of it.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. But when they tried to arrest him, they feared the multitudes, because they held him to be a prophet. Matt. 21:33-46

A parable is a story that is intended teach a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus exposed the spiritual condition of the chief priests and the Pharisees through the telling of this story. And, it is scathing in its pronouncement of murder.

In this analogy, the owner of a vineyard, who established the vineyard with great effort, left it in the care of tenants or renters. These renters did not produce the fruit that was expected of them. Worse yet, they kept killing the owners’ servants who came to check on their progress! Essentially, Jesus is calling the ruling elders, lazy shiftless servants who committed murder to hide from the owner their unproductiveness.

The most terrifying comparison is the murder of the owners’ son to His own death, and his body being carelessly cast outside the vineyard.

Israel’s spiritual condition had been one of rejecting and killing the prophets, and finally the Messiah. They had been sent prophet after prophet and although they claimed to love these prophets, in reality they rejected the teachings. By doing so, they rejected God.

FYI: In the Scriptures, there are three trees that are used as symbol for Israel, the vine, the fig tree and the olive tree.
  • The vine is the symbol of Israel’s spiritual conditions [Ps 80:8-10]
  • The fig tree symbolizes Israel’s national/political conditions [Hos 9:10; Mat 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31; Luke 21:30]
  • The olive tree symbolizes Israel’s religious conditions [Jer 11:16; Rom 11:17]

Elijah had no effect on these hardened people even though he called down fire in their sight. [1Kings 18] Jeremiah was the weeping prophet, who wept bitterly over the peoples’ rejection of the Lords’ teachings. [Lam] Daniel had left them with a timeframe for knowing the year when Messiah would be executed. Yet here they stood not accepting the “owners’ son” who was in front of them. [Dan 9:24-17] The Psalmist writes that the chief cornerstone would be rejected for the building of the Kingdom of God.

The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. Psa. 118:22

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Matt. 21:42 

For this rejection, they in turn will be rejected themselves. The kingdom is taken from them and given to all the “who-so-ever wills” of the world [John 3:16].

They knew they were being condemned so, instead of repenting, they sought to rid themselves of the bothersome rabbi. There was murder in their hearts.

Next Week: The Wedding Banquet

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