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: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 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. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 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. 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? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.nAnd when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet. Mat 21:33-46 KJV
The householder illustrates God the Father, who sent His Son into the world to redeem mankind. Mt. 21:37; Jn. 3:16; 15:1 The vineyard illustrates the kingdom of Heaven part of the kingdom of God, which was intrusted to the Jews, planted by God with the rich and fruitful vines of the knowledge of God, His commandments, the institutions of religion, and His revealed Word. Mt. 21:43; Mk. 12:1-9; Lk. 20:9-19; Rom. 3:1-2; 9:1-5 The hedge illustrates God’s watchful care and provision for the protection of the kingdom, so that it would be free from the intrusion of wild beasts which would spoil the vines and destroy the fruit. The winepress illustrates all the institutions and means of blessing for the human race. Winepresses were hewn out of solid rock. They usually consisted of two or three vats, each a little higher than the other, with troughs from one to the other. The grapes were put in the top vat, which was always the biggest, and two or more persons with naked feet and legs would jump up and down, crushing the grapes. The juice flowed into the next vat and from it would be drawn off into the next, or into vessels, leaving the dregs in the vats. The tower illustrates the place of dwelling where the workers of the vineyard could find rest and recreation and a place to store the fruit. These towers in literal vineyards were sometimes forty to fifty feet high, affording a place for the watchman to see the vineyard and protect it.
The husbandmen illustrate Israel who had charge of the vineyard to render unto the householder the fruit in due season. Mt. 21:45-46 There were two kinds of leases that could be had in the East. The tenant paid a money rent to the proprietor, or else he agreed to give the owner a definite amount of the produce, whether the harvest had been good or bad. Such leases were given by the year or for life; sometimes the lease was even hereditary, passing from father to son. The latter kind of lease is no doubt referred to in this parable.
The householder going away illustrates the long period that God permitted the nation to be ruled under the guidance of kings and prophets through the law. Acts 13:17-43 The time of the fruit illustrates the seasons that God expected results from the Jews in extending the kingdom among other nations and doing those things required to bring the knowledge of God to others.
The servants illustrate the Old Testament prophets, priests, and teachers whom God sent to get the Jews to render to Him the fruit of the kingdom. Mt. 23:37-39; Heb. 11:32-40 The son of the householder illustrates the Son of God, who was sent to the lost sheep of Israel. Mt. 10:6; 23:37-39; Jn. 1:11; 3:16; Acts 2:22-36 The maltreatment of the servants and the son illustrates the bitter hatreds and backslidings of Israel against God from the time in Egypt to the crucifixion of Christ. This is plainly recorded in 1 Ki. 18:13; 22:24-27; 2 Ki. 6:31; 21:16; 2 Chron. 24:19-22; 36:16; Jer. 37:1–38:28; Mt. 23:37-39; Acts 7:52; Heb. 11:36; Lk. 4:29; Jn. 8:37, 59; 10:31-39; 19:14-30.
The scheme of the husbandmen to seize the inheritance illustrates the reason for their rejection of the Messiah. They sinned against light. If Jesus was the Messiah and if He was introducing the kingdom of God, the whole spirit of which was different from theirs, then they would lose their places as rulers, as teachers, as men of influence, as well as their authority over the people and their chief business. They were so connected with a system and with wrong ideas, principles, and customs, which must pass away with the reign of the Messiah, that if Christ prevailed they must fall. They imagined that if they could destroy Christ, they could continue in their possession of the inheritance. They killed that they might possess, but killing was the shortest road to entire loss. Every possible method of leading them to right conduct had been exhausted; so judgment must fall. They pronounced their own judgment. Mt. 21:40-41 The destruction of the husbandmen refers to the cutting off of Israel and the destruction of their city and nation. Mt. 23:37-39; 24:2; Lk. 21:20-24; Acts 13:44-49; 18:6; Rom. 11:1-33
The central truths illustrated are stated in Mat. 21:42-44. The Jews at last saw the application of the parable and immediately went out unconsciously to fulfill it. There are three main truths illustrated by this story:
- The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner. 21:42; Ps. 118:22-23; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:7 The cornerstone on which the superstructure rested was the most important stone in the building. The primary meaning in the Psalm about the rejected stone was taken from the great cornerstone that the builders of Solomon’s Temple left out because they did not understand the head architect’s plans. Afterward this stone was found to be that on which the completeness of the structure depended – on which the two walls met and were bonded together. The Messiah of these Jews was compared to this stone. Christ warned them not to make the same mistake that the builders of the Temple had made.
- The kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 21:43 This refers to the cutting off of Israel from being the ministers and people of God to carry out God’s purpose of evangelizing the world. Acts 13:44-52; 18:6; Rom. 11:1-33 The Gentiles have been the propagators of the Gospel throughout this Age of Grace.
- Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder Mt. 21:44 This saying means that the individual who humbles himself and falls on the stone for mercy shall receive mercy and shall become broken in heart and spirit, Isa. 57:15; 66:1-2; Ps. 34:18; Mt. 5:3-7 but if he hardens himself against God, he shall receive judgment without mercy. The stone in this verse is the same as in verse 42. It refers to Christ, who is pictured as a stone in Scripture, in a threefold way:
- To Israel – He is pictured as a stumbling stone and a rock of offence, because He came as a lowly servant instead of a great world-monarch 8:14; Rom. 9:32-33; 1 Cor. 1:23; 1 Pet. 2:8
- To the Church – He is pictured as a foundation stone and the head of the corner 1 Cor. 3:11; 2:20-22; 1 Pet. 2:4-5
- To the nations – He is pictured as a smiting stone of destruction 2:34, 44-45; Lk. 21:24; Rev. 16:14; 19:11-21
Israel stumbled over Christ; the Church is built upon Christ; and the nations will be broken by Christ.