Parable of the Vineyard-Matthew 21:33-44

A good part of our daily news comes from Israel and the Middle East and it seems that Israel is always involved in conflict. They seldom start it, but they always seem to be willing to follow the Old Testament scripture of Exodus 21:23-25: "And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, 24: Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25: Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."

Since the nation of Israel is in the news daily, let's look at their background and where they came from.

God started with Abraham approximately forty five hundred years ago. He promised him the land of Caanan and descendants like the sands of the sea. This promise was carried down through his son, Isaac, and Isaac's son, Jacob.

Jacob had twelve sons, and when they numbered seventy five souls, God sent them to Egypt. There they multiplied over a period of three hundred and forty years into a nation of over two million. The Egyptians feared them and persecuted them, so they left Egypt and spent forty years crossing the desert and came into the Promised Land of Caanan. This is the land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob many years before.

The twelve families were each allotted land and were like twelve individual states. The tribes of Reuben, Simeon, Isaacher, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher and the two tribes of Joseph, called Ephriam and Manassah, settled north of Jerusalem. Judah and Benjamin settled from Jerusalem south. The tribe of Levi, who were the priests, were awarded small tracts of land near cities all through the greater area. The Children of Israel held a much larger area at that time than they hold today. God will restore all of it to them in the future.

At first they were governed, according to God's will, by the priests and later by judges for about three hundred years, but they wanted to be like the Gentile nations around them and have a king. They chose Saul, who didn't serve them well. God put him aside and made David king. David united all twelve tribes, and this continued under his son, Solomon.

When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took over the kingdom. He taxed the people heavily and the ten northern tribes rebelled, took the name Israel and chose Jereboam, a servant Solomon had exiled to Egypt, as their king. The two tribes south of Jerusalem were now called Judah and consisted of the descendants of Jacob's sons Judah and Benjamin. Division of the nation was very much in conflict with God's plans for His chosen people.

The northern tribes started to practice idolatry and Israel fell from God's favor. In 722 B.C., Israel was captured by the Gentile nation of Assyria and later Judah sinned and in 595 B.C., Gentile Babylon took them into captivity.

God is going to restore His favor to Israel and Judah as one nation at a future date, but for over twenty five hundred years they have been harvesting the wild grapes of disobedience that Isaiah wrote about so many years ago. Old Testament prophets warned them repeatedly and in this parable, in Matthew 21, Jesus warns that His rejection as their Messiah would have serious consequences.

This is the parable of the vineyard and it has a backward and a forward application. It points out Israel's sin in rejecting God's messengers, the prophets, and then it looks forward to what would occur when Jesus was rejected and delivered up to death by His own people.

Matthew 21:33-44. “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."

The householder who planted a vineyard was God Himself. The vineyard pictured Israel.

This was not the first mention of this in Scripture. Turn to Isaiah 5:1-7 "Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: 2: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. 3: And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. 4: What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? 5: And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: 6: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7: For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry."

These religious leaders should have known Isaiah's prophecy and understood it. They knew the householder represented God and the vineyard pictured God's chosen nation Israel. The hedge around it was the Law of Moses. It separated God's way of dealing with Israel from the way He dealt with the Gentile nations. God never gave the Gentile nations any laws or rules like He did His chosen people, Israel.

The Law told them how to conduct their religion and all the different phases of life.

The winepress represents worship and obedience, the fruit Israel should have produced.

The tower represents, first of all, the Tabernacle with God’s presence to watch over them on the desert journey. Later, in Caanan, it pictured the Temple with God present in the Holy of Holies and pictures God's closeness and personal contact with them.

The husbandmen picture the chief priests who were to cultivate and maintain the true worship of God by the people of Israel.

The servants who were sent by the householder represent the Old Testament prophets such as Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and in New Testament times, John the Baptist.

The nation as a whole mistreated, ridiculed, or ignored these prophets. Tradition claims they murdered Isaiah by sawing him in two inside a hollow log. Jeremiah was put in a muddy pit in a prison. They cut off John the Baptist's head.

After all these prophets were rejected, Verse 37 states; “Last of all He sent His Son.” God's Son, Jesus Christ, was standing right there telling them this parable. They still refused Him, even though they understood the parable. In another passage, Matthew records these religious leaders were actually indignant that He should talk to them that way. These were the leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, who had the responsibility of guiding God's people.

Verse 34. “He sent his servants.” These were the Old testament prophets we just talked about, who came with warnings and instructions from God and their messages should have been accepted and obeyed because they came from God.

Verse 35. “Beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.” All twelve tribes, the ten north of Jerusalem called "Israel" and the two southern tribes called "Judah", mistreated and ridiculed the prophets who came to them with the Lord's instructions.

In Acts 7: 52, after Christ had been crucified, Stephen confronted them with these words; "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:"

Hebrews 11:37-38 tells of the cruel treatment of the Old Testament prophets. "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38: (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth."

Verse 37. “Last of all, He sent unto them his son.” God, in His magnificent grace toward mankind, sent His Only Son to His vineyard, the nations of Judah and Israel.

God tried for centuries to get the Jews to be faithful to Him and they would not, so He went to the sheep of other folds. The vineyard that represented the privileged place God had given the Jews was given over to Gentiles. Not all Gentiles have accepted Christ as their Savior, but individual Gentiles have accept that place of privilege from God, and I'm one of them!

God rightfully expected spiritual fruit from the Jews and they failed, so He gave the vineyard commission to the "whosoever will" of John 3:16.[16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."]

The fruit from His vineyard is now the church, the Bride of Christ, still in the growing stage. It consists of all the souls brought to know Christ as their Savior during this church age.

In this passage, Jesus was pleading with the people in the Temple. It wasn't the street crowd He was talking to, it was the religious people who went to the Temple.

In John 6:38, He had told them, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." He knew that many would reject Him and then they would persecute Him the way they did the prophets before Him.

Verse 38. “This is the heir; come, let us kill him.” His own people expressed the hatred of the natural heart to the fullest extent possible with the rejection of Christ. Satan was the instigator of this, but man isn't bound to do Satan's will if that man is a child of God.

Later, Peter laid it on the line very plainly to the Jews in Acts 2: 23, "Jesus, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:"

Verse 39 of our text says, “They caught him and slew him.” There is no way the leaders of the Jews can be excused for delivering our Lord to be crucified. The apostle Paul stated, in 1 Thessalonians 2:15, "Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:"

Also, 1 Corinthians 2:7-8. "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." The Jewish leaders refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah.

It was Gentile soldiers in the Roman army who physically crucified Jesus, but it was the Jewish religious leaders who falsely accused Him and demanded His death.

The Jews brought the charges against Him and the Gentiles carried out the penalty. We are all guilty, Jew and Gentile, of the greatest crime in history, the murder of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 4: 26-28. "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27: For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28: For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done."

Verse 40 of our text. "What will he do unto those husbandmen?" They answered Him in the next verse. “He will miserably destroy those wicked men.” They prophesied their own punishment. Their words were partially fulfilled in the setting aside of their nation in favor of the Gentiles and forty years later in the destruction of Jerusalem. At that time, the Jews were scattered all over the world and many of their descendants haven't returned to the promised land at this time. Bible prophecy often has more than one fulfillment. A return to the land started in 1948. They will all return during the Tribulation and face God's judgment for rejecting the Messiah.

Verse 42, Jesus really touched a nerve with the students of the Scriptures, the scribes, and in verse 43 He also told the proud Pharisees that their Kingdom would be given to Gentiles.

Verse 42-43. “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."

Surely these students of the scriptures knew the prophecy of Psalm 118: 22. "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner." The rejected “Stone” was there with them. He would become the head stone in the new temple of living stones, called "the church." Because the Jews rejected Him, it would be mostly Gentiles.

A Jewish legend explained Psalm 118:22 by stating that when they built Solomon’s Temple a stone was sent up from the quarry at the start of the foundation. The masons couldn't find a place for it. Since all the stones were cut to fit exactly in the quarry, and this one didn't fit anywhere, it was thrown into the valley below Mount Moriah. When the masons called for the cornerstone the stone cutters said it had already been sent up. They remembered the rejected stone and searched until they found it. They carried it back up to it's rightful place as the cornerstone of the Temple.

The King and kingdom that the people of Israel had waited so long for was offered them and rejected. God would put them aside for many centuries. Isaiah 8: 14. "And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." Christ was offered as their sanctuary from God's wrath, but by rejecting Him as their King, He became "a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel."

Israel will possess the kingdom eventually, and Christ will be their Messiah-King. During the meantime, the grace of God is going out to the Gentiles. Christ is the Stone of salvation; He's also the Stone of judgment. The Jews stumbled over Him and were broken.

Gentile rule and persecution of the Jews will end when Christ returns to establish His kingdom. Remember, only the Jews are Jews. All other nations are Gentiles, even those in the Middle East who are closely related to the Jews.

In Daniel's prophecy, King Nebuchadnezzar saw an image of Gentile powers that would rule over Israel until the return of Christ. At that time the image will be crushed to powder by Christ and end Gentile domination of God's people. This will occur during the Tribulation. Daniel 2: 34-35. "Thou sawest that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. 35: Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth."

Matthew 21:44. "And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." The foundation of the church is this Stone, Jesus Christ. Falling on this Stone is putting your faith in Him for salvation.

When we trust Christ for our salvation, our sinful will is broken and God gives us a new heart. Rejecting Christ, or making no decision at all, will cause the Stone to fall on you and you will suffer God's eternal judgment.

God deals with us on the basis of our acceptance of Christ's work to save us. Christ is the stone rejected by man, but was accepted by God the Father.

Jesus was made the cornerstone of the church. Believer's are the living stones that make up that church. God offers us this favored place through His Son, Jesus! All He asks of us is to have faith in the work Christ finished by dying for our sins. That's much less than He asked of Israel under the Law in Old Testament times.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4. "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"

Acts 16:31. "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

Remember, God loves you so much that if He had a refrigerator, He would put your picture on it!