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.”
“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.” Thus the leaders of Israel, the chief priests and the elders, answer Jesus. Jesus pulled a Nathan. Nathan was the prophet who spoke to David. Nathan convicted David of adultery by telling a parable similar to this in that it asked a question by which those answering condemn themselves. It’s the whole judge not lest ye be judged bit. It is the meaning of Romans chapter 2 when Paul shows that when we condemn others we condemn ourselves because we are guilty of breaking the same law.
Jesus tells a parable. The chief priests should have been smart enough to know Jesus was laying a trap for them. They should have heard the echoes of Isaiah chapter 5. They should have known that the vineyard was Israel, that the tenants would end up being them. But if they knew this they pretended not to. They think maybe Jesus is just asking a question concerning law. They answer it as such. Then Jesus lets the hammer drop. He lets them know he speaks about them. They are the tenants. They are the ones who beat those who call for repentance and murder them.
The prophets, men like Isaiah and Jeremiah, Elisha the list could go on. God had told them how to judge prophets In the 13th chapter of Deuteronomy and the 18th chapter, If they entice you after other gods, they shall die. If they speak the in the name of God but what they say does not come to pass they shall be put to death. So prophets would have to be able to show they were prophets by something immediate that the people could see and they would have to be faithful to the word of God. But it was the ones that were faithful to the word of God that were beaten and abused, ignored and marginalized, imprisoned and stoned. The people would not hear the word of God. It was the false prophets the kings listened to. The ones who told people what they wanted to hear. It didn’t matter if it continually failed to be true.
I often wonder if we are any different today. Not that pastors are prophets in the sense of the Old Testament. But then us Christians in general who have had the Spirit poured out on us in baptism, who can point people to that which the prophets of the Old Testament could point to. Who like John the Baptist point to Christ and say behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Isn’t that just too harsh a pill to swallow? Sinners need forgiveness. I’m not a sinner. This is what our hearts want to say. We would rather listen to the man who tells us if we pray in this manner we will receive this. If we behave in this manner we will avoid that pitfall in life. We want to believe we are the masters of our own destiny. Churches that speak of Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins remain empty. Churches that reveal that this world only has tribulation to give to the followers of Christ but that our hope is in the resurrection? Those churches are maligned even by other so-called Christians. Churches that give you rehashed self-help lessons in the place of “Jesus Christ and him crucified”, the only thing that Paul would know among those to whom he preached? Well those churches overflow. They have a good youth group, you know. Yes, they do, because the parents don’t know the word of God, or don’t care about the word of God beyond what it can do for their children in this world. They may teach the commandments, but they don’t teach the gospel. They want to move beyond the gospel, by which they mean they turn away from the cross, and look at themselves and what they should do instead. They reject Jesus. They reject the cornerstone. And so it crushes them.
This is what Jesus lets he priests and elders know. The vineyard will be taken from them and given to others. So it is that many on the last day will say “Lord, Lord!” and will not enter the kingdom of heaven. They will say that they did many great things in his name, but the Lord will say he did not know them. So it will be for those that read scriptures like the Pharisees thinking that in them they have eternal life, and not realizing that they speak not of they need to do for themselves to earn eternal life, looking for rule after rule and becoming ever stricter in their own walk. But these scriptures speak of Jesus Christ, the stone the builders rejected, the stone the Chief priests and elders, the stone you and I crucified with our sins, but who in that crucifixion became the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and broke the bonds of death with his resurrection that we would be raised anew with him to walk in the newness of life even now serving him in everlasting innocence, righteousness and blessedness.
Now the Peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.