“Hear another parable. There was a certain householder who planted a vineyard, hedged it around, dug a wine press in it, built a tower, and lent it out to farmers, then went into a remote country. And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the farmers so that they might receive its fruits. And the farmers took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants more in number than the first, and they did to them in like manner. But last of all, he sent to them his son, saying, ‘They will reverence my son.’ But when the farmers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and let us seize his inheritance.’ And they caught him, cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. Therefore, when the Lord of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?” They say to him, “He will miserably destroy those wicked men and will lease out his vineyard to other farmers, who will render him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus says to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, the same has become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth its fruits. And whoever falls on this stone shall be broken, but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spoke of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet. Matthew 21:33-46 (Cf. Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19)
This parable of Jesus was spoken as a warning to the religious leaders of the Jews. The people of Israel were God’s planting, His vineyard. God had redeemed them and made them His own people.
The chief priests, scribes and elders were like the wicked vinedressers in this parable. They were entrusted with the task of caring for God’s people by teaching them from the Word of God and leading them in worship and in service to God. But when God sent His servants, the prophets, to call the people to repentance, the prophets and their message were rejected. Some were even mistreated and killed.
God sent John the Baptist to prepare His people for the coming of their Messiah. John called on all to repent and be baptized that they might receive forgiveness from the Lord God, but the religious leaders of the Jews rejected John and his baptism (cf. Luke 3:1ff.; 7:29-30; Mark 1:1ff.).
Finally, God sent His own beloved Son; but He and His Word were rejected by them too. Their Christ they handed over to Pontius Pilate to be crucified.
The religious leaders of the Jews were to be building the kingdom of God by rightly teaching the Word of God and preparing the people for the coming of their Messiah and Savior, but they laid aside and rejected the Chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ (Psalm 118:22). Instead of pointing people to Jesus their Savior, they rejected and killed the very Son of God!
Unless they repented, they faced eternal destruction and torment in hell for their rejection of Christ Jesus (cf. John 3:18,36; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). Because these leaders of God’s people rejected Christ, God put others in charge of His flock, faithful shepherds who would feed God’s flock with the pure Word of God (cf. Jer. 23:1-4).
Pastors today can take admonition from this parable of Jesus as well! They are to faithfully proclaim the doctrine of the Apostles and Prophets – the true Word of God – and they are to faithfully hold up Christ Jesus and His redemptive work as the central teaching and cornerstone of the Christian Faith. They are to point those in their care to Jesus and His cross so that they would trust in Him and receive forgiveness and life through faith in Jesus’ name.
However, many pastors set aside the Christ of the Bible and reject His Word. Instead of pointing their hearers to Jesus and His cross for pardon and forgiveness, they direct them to human works and man-made traditions. They seek to make followers for themselves rather than disciples of Christ Jesus.
Christian congregations, too, must take great care to build upon Christ and His Word, lest they forsake the only true foundation and set aside the Chief Cornerstone, which is Christ their Savior.
Bring those into Thy fold who still to Thee are strangers; guard those who are within against offense and dangers. Press onward with Thy Word till pastor and his fold through faith in Thee, O Christ, Thy glory shall behold. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #485, Verse 7)
[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]