When Jesus was challenged by people in authority, quite often he responded with a parable. I like to think it was to confuse them a bit, make them think harder and take their superiority and put it into perspective as quite often they had no idea what he meant.
(I need to remember this and try to apply it to my own life, because far too often when I am challenged, I come out swinging with a bag full of words, arguments and justifications. hmmm… this may be the biggest lesson I gain from today’s devotional!)
This conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees takes place near the end of Jesus’ ministry. He uses this parable to teach that he is ushering in something new, as the parable convicts the religious leaders of mistreating the prophets of God and now rejecting the Son of God.
This is not an easy parable but I will to unpack it. While you read through today’s devotional, see which characters you can relate to…
Symbolism in the parable:
- landowner- represent God
- vineyard: His Kingdom
- tenants: specifically the religious leaders in Israel and all who reject Jesus
- servants- God’s prophets and faithful believers
- the beloved son: Jesus
After repeated attempts to get through to the wicked tenants, the landowner sends his son. Surely the wicked tenants would respect the Landowners son. However, they do not. They cast him outside the vineyard and kill him.
The Pharisees having this discussion with Jesus were well aware of the prophet Isaiah’s use of the vineyard in describing the temples destruction. (Isaiah 5:1-7). They knew Jesus was alluding to himself as the cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22-23). These were scandalous words by Jesus. He was challenging the religious authorities and the traditions of the time.
Jesus quotes from Psalm 118; a psalm the Jews applied to the Messiah. Psalm 118 was sung when they were released from captivity and every Year since during the Feast of Tabernacles when they celebrated their freedom. Words from Psalm 118 were shouted by the Jews saluting Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, on what we know as Palm Sunday. Matthew 21 begins with this account and ends with Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees. They undoubtedly made the connection.
Jesus is basically saying, He is the stone rejected by the religious leaders of the time, and God has made Him THE Cornerstone. They did not believe Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for, looking for, and praying for. The Pharisees rejection of Jesus is not one of ignorance, but one of hard-heartedness. Their self-righteousness blinded them. They were like the tenants who would kill the landowner’s son. Also, Jesus speaks of a new people (the Gentiles) who will join family of Israel who don’t reject him and they would bear fruit. (Galatians 3:26-29, Romans 4:1-16)
Much has been written on this parable and the difficulty in understudying it. After reading a number of commentaries, I wonder if part of Jesus message is: there is going to be a new way, a New Kingdom, that won’t make sense to those in power, and certainly won’t please them. (Ephesian 2:20)
Those who believed Jesus was the Messiah, the disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the many who followed Him, made a radical choice thus separating them from their faith community. It was a dangerous and life altering choice. When I read this parable, I wonder which role I would play.
I want to believe that I would speak up for the landowner’s son…that I would be one of the brave who followed Jesus, leaving behind those who dissented. I tell myself that if I had lived when Jesus came to earth, I would have believed he was the Messiah, and would have stood strong in my faith- and not given into the pressure and politics of the religious leaders who were mired in the Law and blind to the Grace and mercy offered by Jesus.
I want to believe I would be bold, strong; taken a stand against the common and popular message and go against the tide of “normal, safe, accepted.”
I wonder where I am called to take a stand, act in faith against the same oppressions that exists in the church universal today…
Sometimes I charge ahead, impassioned and bold…and honestly at other times, I struggle to find the courage.
Can you relate??
How would you apply this parable in your life today?
Where are you involved as one who stands against the crowd because of what you believe about Jesus?
Read the entire chapter of Matthew 21 and 22, observing what scenes, events and dialogue bookend this passage in Matthew 21:33-46. Originally, there were no chapter and verse divisions in the Scriptures. The placement of stories can often add meaning and clarity.
Why do you think Jesus waited till the end of His ministry to make such bold statements that would impact both the religious and political climate in Jerusalem? Clearly timing mattered.
hmmm… timing… waiting… if they were needed in Jesus life, how much more so in ours? How do you deal with waiting? How do you decide on the best time got speak or take action? Where does God play into this?
For further study:
Why did Jesus teach in Parables:
Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew:
Daily Lectionary Readings:
Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-18; Psalm 105:16-21; Mathew 21:33-46
If you want to read through the New Testament during Lent (about 1/2 hour a day)
Read on Day 17: John 1-5