THE JEWISH SPIRITUAL LEADERS HAVE SURRENDERED STEWARDSHIP OF GOD’S KINGDOM
– THEIR ATTEMPT TO USURP OWNERSHIP OF THE KINGDOM INSTEAD OF FUNCTIONING AS GOOD STEWARDS
– THEIR REJECTION AND MISTREATMENT OF GOD’S ENVOYS
(DESPITE GOD’S PATIENT LOVE AND FORBEARANCE)
4 UNTHINKABLE ROLE REVERSALS
There will be dire consequences for those who reject God’s authority and attempt to live independently from His sovereign rule. The Jewish nation had been carefully and lovingly cultivated as God’s choice vine. The religious leaders were privileged to receive numerous prophetic warnings leading up to the culmination of God’s revelation in John the Baptist who served as the forerunner to God’s only beloved Son – the living Word. Yet they consistently failed to humble themselves and submit to God’s authority. The patience and forbearance of God has been stretched beyond any imaginable limits. The day of reckoning is upon them. This is their last chance to respond with respect and obedience to the Promised Messiah.
Geldenhuys: He shows His enemies that He is fully aware of their murderous plans against Him and warns them that if they should carry out those plans an awful fate is awaiting them. Moreover, the parable is also the answer to their previous question – He is acting on the authority of the Father who sent Him.
Steven Cole: Jesus told this parable for two main reasons. He wanted to encourage His faithful servants who get beat up and thrown out of the vineyard to keep on being faithful. He owns the vineyard and the main thing is for His servants to bear fruit for Him. Second, He told it to warn those who wrongly think that they own the vineyard that they do not. A day of reckoning is coming!
Deffinbaugh: Jesus is saying that He is the Son of God, that He comes in God’s authority, that they will kill Him, and that God will not only destroy them, but He will give their leadership to the Gentiles.
I. (:9-15a) UNTHINKABLE ROLE REVERSAL = GOD’S ELECT NATION MISTREATS GOD’S ENVOYS INSTEAD OF RESPECTING THEM
“And He began to tell the people this parable:”
A. (:9b) Privilege of Kingdom Stewardship Over a Long Time Period
“A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers,
and went on a journey for a long time.”
The rental was to be a percent of the harvest, not cash up front
Donald Miller: The figure of a vineyard was a familiar representation of Israel (see Isa. 5:1-7; Jer. 12:10; Hosea 10:1; Ps. 80:8-13). It suggested both God’s choice, for a vineyard does not plant itself, and God’s patient nurture of his people, inasmuch as a vineyard needs constant care. The fruit of obedience to his will is a legitimate demand on God’s part.
Bruce Hurt: Who are the vine-growers? These are the religious leaders (cf “the chief priests and the scribes with the elders” who confronted Jesus in Lk 20:1) These mean are those who God had puts in charge of caring for His vineyard, the nation of Israel, especially providing for their spiritual nourishment, in the true way of God. Notice that these leaders are never called “owners” but serve only as stewards (including all their previous leaders – kings, priests and prophets) who were given responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the people of Israel.
B. (:10-15a) Persecution of God’s Envoys Culminating in the Killing of God’s Beloved Son
1. (:10) First Slave – Beat Him / Sent Away Empty-Handed
“And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order that they might give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed.”
Geldenhuys: The servants who were sent to fetch of the fruit of the vineyard represent the various prophets and other messengers of God in Old Testament days who from time to time were sent to the Jewish people and were but too often ill-treated and rejected by the Jewish leaders (cf. Jer. vii. 25, xxv. 4; Amos iii. 7; Zech. i. 6).
2. (:11) Second Slave – Beat Him / Treated Shamefully / Sent Away Empty-Handed
“And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also
and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed.”
Each slave is mistreated progressively worse than the preceding one
Lenski: As Jesus recites these points in the parable he is looking these very vine-growers squarely in the eye, and they know that Jesus has them in mind. The situation is dramatic in the extreme. The fact that no human lessor of a vineyard ever did a thing such as that which is depicted here brings out the full enormity of the reality of which these Sanhedrists were guilty. The patience of God toward Israel’s rulers is without parallel in all human history – an illustration must be invented to picture it, and that illustration must be unreal.
3. (:12) Third Slave – Wounded and Cast Out
“And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out.”
Alfred Plummer: The uniform hostility of kings, priests, and people to the Prophets is one of the most remarkable features in history of the Jews. The amount of hostility varied, and it expressed itself in different ways, on the whole increasing in intensity; but it was always there. Deeply as the Jews lamented the cessation of Prophets after the death of Malachi, they generally opposed them, as long as they were granted to them. Till the gift was withdrawn, they seemed to have had little pride in this exceptional grace shown to the nation, and little appreciation of it or thankfulness for it.
4. (:13-15a) Beloved Son – Rejected and Killed Him
a. (:13) Sending the Most Precious Envoy
“And the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do?
I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’”
Geldenhuys: In this verse the Messianic consciousness of Jesus is expressed very clearly. In these words He declares plainly that, while He is a divine Messenger and One who acts on God’s authority, He is quite different form all the other divine messengers, as, e.g., the prophets. He is altogether unique – the beloved Son of the Father. In addition, He is the very last One to come to the people, and indeed to the whole world. After His coming no higher revelation and no mightier manifestation of God’s love is to be expected. Through His coming to the people they (and especially the leaders) have now their last chance.
b. (:14) Scheming From the Depths of Depravity
“But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him that the inheritance may be ours.’”
c. (:15a) Sealing Their Destiny by Rejecting and Killing God’s Beloved Son
“And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”
Lenski: They first threw him out outside the vineyard. This agrees too closely with the place where Jesus was put to death, John 19:17; Heb. 13:12, 13, “without the gate,” “without the camp,” to be a meaningless feature of the parable, compare 1 Kings 2:13; Acts 7:58. Jesus died on Calvary, outside of Jerusalem, “cut off in the intention of those who put him to death from the people of God and from all share in their blessings.” Trench.
II. (15b – 16) UNTHINKABLE ROLE REVERSAL = GENTILES GAINING KINGDOM STATUS INSTEAD OF THE JEWS
A. (:15b) Role Reversal Deserved
“What, therefore, will the owner of the vineyard do to them?”
B. (:16a) Role Reversal Executed
“He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.”
Anyabwile: No one can safely reject the Father’s prophets or the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ. “How will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Heb 2:3). We will not. We will be destroyed.
MacArthur: But now our Lord says, “Not only will this generation be destroyed, but the custodianship of Israel will pass from the hands of these apostate, untrue, unfaithful, Messiah-rejecting leaders to others.”
Here is this nondescript little collection of weak-faithed men, many as seven of them, perhaps, fishermen, unskilled, untrained, unimportant by the world’s standard, and certainly by Israel’s religious measurement. And they are the new leaders of God’s vineyard, the new vine-growers, the new stewards, the new custodians of a new people of God. And at the end, you remember, of Matthew, when our Lord gives them their final commission, the eleven are in Galilee and they see Jesus, verse 17, “they worshiped Him; some were still doubtful.”
Jesus ended all doubt when He came up and spoke to them and He said this, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” You are the ones. You go. You “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” You go. You’re My representatives. You’re the new tenant farmers, the new contract workers, the new vine-growers in My vineyard.
This is the stewardship that was given to the apostles and the apostles were faithful to it. The apostle Paul himself, added to the original group, was a steward of the mysteries of God. First Corinthians 4, he said he is a steward. “Consider me as a steward of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that a man be found faithful.”
So the work of God in building up the body of Christ through evangelism and edification is given to a new stewardship. It is those who start with the apostles, and then the New Testament prophets, and then come the evangelists, and teaching pastors, who build their teaching in their ministry on what was revealed to those early apostles and the associates of the apostles who wrote the New Testament.
C. (:16b) Role Reversal Unthinkable
“And when they heard it, they said, ‘May it never be!’”
Morris: To Jesus’ enemies it was unthinkable that the privileges of the Jews as God’s chosen people could under any circumstances be given to the Gentiles. They interject, God forbid! (the only occurrence of this strong expression anywhere in the New Testament outside the Pauline writings). The words express their sense of outrage and horror as they break in, in the manner of the listeners in 19:25.
III. (:17) UNTHINKABLE ROLE REVERSAL = JESUS BECOMING PREEMINENT AS THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH INSTEAD OF REJECTED BY THE NATION OF ISRAEL – IMAGE OF CHIEF CORNER STONE VS. REJECTED STONE
A. Prophetic Anticipation
“But He looked at them and said, ‘What then is this that is written’”
B. Rejection of the Messiah
“The stone which the builders rejected,”
C. Preeminence of the Messiah
“This became the chief corner stone’?”
Anyabwile: A cornerstone is used in constructing a build to make sure the foundation is square and level. If the cornerstone is off, the entire building will be off, so this one stone is essential to the entire structure.
IV. (:18) UNTHINKABLE ROLE REVERSAL = CHIEF CORNER-STONE NOW BECOMES STONE OF DESTRUCTION– IMAGE OF FALLING ON STONE OR STONE FALLING ON SOMEONE
A. Broken to Pieces
“Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces;”
Deffinbaugh: The Son who is rejected and put to death is the Son of God who will rise from the dead, and who will someday return to the earth to establish His kingdom. The Son is on the one hand, a “stone of stumbling,” a cause of stumbling to the Jews. This was our Lord’s role at that moment in time. In a “passive” way (the stone didn’t move, men stumbled over it) Jesus was a stumbling block to men who refused to acknowledge their sin and their need of a Savior. But this passive “stone of stumbling,” whom the builders (the leaders of the nation) rejected, will also be an active agent in their destruction. Now, He is viewed as a moving stone, a falling stone that crushes and grinds His enemies.
“but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
Steven Cole: Verse 18 means that if you pit yourself against the chief cornerstone, you will lose and He will win every time. A Jewish proverb put it, “If the stone falls on the pot, alas for the pot; if the pot falls on the stone, alas for the pot!” (Midrash Esther 3:6). Either way, the pot loses and the stone wins!
Morris: To fall on the stone or have the stone fall on one in either case means destruction.
Anyabwile: If we fall on that stone (by rejecting him) or that stone falls on us (in condemnation), then we will be “broken to pieces” or it “will shatter” us (v. 18). If we reject Jesus Christ when he offers himself to us in the gospel, we break ourselves. If his condemnation falls on us, it crushes us.
Geldenhuys: As a blind man who stumbles and falls over a stone and injures himself against it, so those who through their unbelief and falseness of heart are spiritually blind will find Jesus, as it were, a stumbling-block in their path and so in a spiritual sense they will fall and come to grief. Even in the ordinary course of life this will happen to those who do not believe in Jesus. But whosoever persists in the state of unbelief until the time of grace is expired will be completely crushed by the judgment of God, carried out by the Son – and be pulverized like one on whom a tremendous rock crashes down.
When the terrible judgments of God visited the Jewish leaders and the unbelieving section of the people in Palestine during the Roman-Jewish war, the words of Jesus in verses 17 and 18 came true. But only at His second advent will their final fulfilment take place – and that for everyone (from whatever race or station he may be) who has not rendered Him faith and obedience as the Son of God.