“Emmanuel’s Opponents” – Matthew 21:33-46

May 1st, 2016 

Matthew 21:33-46 (Mk 12:1-12; Lk 20:9-19)

“Emmanuel’s Opponents”

Auxiliary Text: Isaiah 5:1-7

Call to Worship from: Psalm 80


Service Orientation:  We will ultimately be crushed and replaced if we fail to realize that God created, gifted, empowered, purchased, and enabled us to produce fruit.  


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. — Luke 12:48b


Background Information:

  • The parable of the Wicked Tenants is clearly modeled on Isa 5:1-7. The follow-up discussion utilizes other portions of the OT as well.  In addition to explicit quotations, one should probably think of references to killing the prophets (e.g., 2 Chr 24:21) behind 21:35 and to the plot to kill Joseph (Gn 37:20) behind killing the son in 21:38.  Verse 43, on the removal of the kingdom from the current Jewish leadership, may allude to 1 Sm 15:28.  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 71)
  • While the agricultural procedures are commonplace, the wording is clearly allusive, and predisposes the reader to a story in which the disappointing vineyard represents God’s frustration over his people’s failure. The allegories are not the same in that in Isaiah it is the fruit itself that fails, while here it is the tenants; in Isaiah the vineyard is itself destroyed, but here it is given to new tenants, so that in this parable there remains hope for the future, whereas in Isaiah all is disaster.  But the echo remains unmistakable.  Israel’s failure to produce the fruit God required in Isaiah’s day is now being repeated, but on a more disastrous level, as the parable will go on to explain.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 812)
  • In 4Q500 (of the Dead Sea Scrolls) there are allusions to a stone, a winepress, “branches of your delight,” and a vineyard, again in the context of a critique of temple leadership and its corrupt offerings. All this makes it highly likely that the targumic interpretation was already known in Jesus’ day and that Jesus consciously alluded to it as he told his parable in the temple precincts.  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 72)
  • Strictly speaking, all that Jesus is doing (and all that the evangelists are reporting) is reusing scriptural language in creating a new parable. However, the parallels are so complete that obviously we are meant to infer that Israel’s leaders, and more specifically the temple leadership, have become as corrupt as those whom Isaiah condemned.  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 72)
  • (v. 33) There is no introductory formula to show that Jesus (or the evangelists) wanted to call attention to a direct citation of Scripture. Nevertheless, all eight key words–“planted, vineyard, laid, hedge, dug, winepress, built, tower”–are found in the LXX, if not in the identical form, at least employing the same root words.  This amount of parallelism goes beyond that found in typical “allusions.”  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 72)
  • (v. 33) It is important to note that the NT does not look favorably on “hirelings,” for they do not have the same care for that which is the owner’s as does the owner himself (see Jn 10:12-13), and this parable only reinforced that idea. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 620)
  • (v. 34) The fruit (a key term here–vv. 34b, 41b, 43) represents, to borrow from John the Baptist’s language, the fruit of repentance (3:8, 10), or more broadly, a righteously obedient life (7:16-20). (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 617)
  • (v. 34) There is no more remarkable historical fact than that of the uniform hostility of the Jews to the prophets. That a nation of such a sort as always to hate and generally to murder them should have had them in long succession, throughout its history, is surely inexplicable on any naturalistic hypothesis.  Such men were not the natural product of the race, nor of its circumstances, as their fate shows.  How did they spring up?  No “philosophy of Jewish history” explains the anomaly except that one stated here,–“He sent His servants.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 110)
  • (v. 35) Many absentee landowners were notorious for their harsh treatment of their tenants. Here, the scene is reversed, and the landowners’ servants are abused when they come to collect a portion of the harvest.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 697)
  • (v. 35) The verb derō (“beat,” v. 35) can also mean “flay” or “flog” and stands for general bodily ill-treatment (cf. Jer 20:1-2; 37:15; for Micaiah, cf. 1 Kgs 22:24). Killing the prophets is attested in the OT (1 Kgs 18:4, 13; Jer 26:20-23), as is stoning (2 Chr 24:21-22; cf. Mt 23:37; Heb 11:37).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 452)
  • (vss. 35-36) The long history of the ill-treatment of Israel’s prophets is a commentary on this part of the parable (1 Kgs 18:13; 22:24-27; 2 Kgs 6:31; 2 Chr 24:19-22; 36:15-16; Heb 11:35-38). (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 413)
  • (v. 37) Between the greatest of the prophets and Jesus was a difference not only of degree but also of kind. He was the owner’s Son.  The implication was unmistakable:  Jesus was claiming to be God’s Son.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 413)
  • (v. 37) In Luke’s version of this parable, the owner of the vineyard calls him “my son, whom I love” (Lk 20:13), an echo of the Father’s voice at Jesus’ baptism in Mt 3:17 and on the Mount of Transfiguration in Mt 17:5. (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 308)
  • (v. 38) The historical situation behind this section reflects the law that property would go to anyone in possession of it when the master died. So the tenants assumed that by killing the son and heir to the property, they would obtain the inheritance.  So they killed the son.  (They may have thought that the owner had already died.)  With these words, Jesus was revealing to the religious leaders his knowledge of their desire to kill him.  (Bruce Baron; Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 424)
  • (v. 41) Do we perhaps have an OT parallel in the procedure followed by Nathan when he addressed David? Note: a. Nathan’s parable (2 Sm 12:1-4); b. David’s reaction (vv. 5 and 6); c. the explanation and application: “You are the man! . . .” (vv. 7-12).  While Nathan was telling the story, David was unaware that the prophet was, in a concealed manner, talking about him.  So also it is possible that the chief priests and Pharisees, among others, were at first unaware of the fact that they themselves were “the wicked tenants.”  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 784)
  • (v. 44) Some versions do not include this verse because many of the older manuscripts omit it. The verse may have been inserted later, copied from the parallel passage in Luke (Lk 20:18). (Bruce Baron; Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 426)


The question to be answered is . . . Why does Jesus tell this parable?


Answer:  We tend to forget that we are not our own, that we have been bought with a price so we could be fruitful.  Instead, we rebel against God.  God crushes those who rebel against Him and replaces them with the rejected.


The Word for the Day is . . . Replace


Why does Jesus tell this parable?

I-  God owns and privileges His elect so they will effectively produce good fruit.  (Mt 21:33-34, 40-41, 43; see also: Ps 1:1-3; ch 80; Prv 11:30; Isa ch 5; 11:1; 27:1-6; 60:21; Jer 2:21; Ez ch 17; 19:10; Mic 7:1; Hos 10:1; Mt 3:8-10; 7:16-20; 13:12; 21:18-21; Mk 11:12-17; 12:1-11; Lk 3:8-9; 12:48b; 13:6-9; 20:9-16; Jn 15:1-17; Rom 7:4-5; 14:5-8; 1 Cor 6:19-20; Gal 5:22-23; Eph 2:8-10; 5:8-11; Phil 1:9-11; Col 1:9-12; Jude 1:12; Rv 5:9)


There are eight verbs in verse 33, showing how much God worked on their behalf.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 617)


Our Savior, in his question, supposes that the lord of the vineyard will come, and reckon with them.  God is the Lord of the vineyard; the property is his, and he will make them know it, who now lord it over his heritage, as if it were all their own.  The Lord of the vineyard will come.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 309)


And what we are doing ourselves with our privileges?  Truly this is a serious question, and one that ought to make us think.  It may well be feared that we are not, as a nation, living up to our light, or walking worthy of our many mercies.  Must we not confess with shame that millions amongst us seem utterly without God in the world?  Must we not acknowledge that in many a town and in many a village Christ seems hardly to have any disciple, and the Bible seems hardly to be believed?  It is vain to shut our eyes to these facts.  The fruit that the Lord receives from his vineyard in our own country, compared with what it ought to be, is disgracefully small.  It may well be doubted whether we are not just as provoking to him as the Jews were.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 199-200)


Nothing offends God so much as neglect of privileges.  Much has been given to us, and much will be demanded.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 200)


The tenant growers had a marvelous opportunity to develop a good living.  They had an excellent vineyard to cultivate and were given the complete trust of the owner to operate it.  But they were not content with merely a good living; they wanted the whole harvest for themselves and were merciless in achieving that end.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 295)


Note, God’s church in the world is taken under his special protection.  It is a hedge round about, like that about Job on every side (Job 1:10), a wall of fire, Zech 2:5.  Wherever God has a church, it is, and will always be, his peculiar care.  The covenant of circumcision and the ceremonial law were a hedge or a wall of partition about the Jewish church, which is taken down by Christ; who yet has appointed a gospel order and discipline to be the hedge of his church.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 307)


More than once God has warned other nations against any ill-treatment of the Jews (Gn 12:3; 15:13-14).  In preparing Israel for its role as His ambassador to the rest of the world, God gave the nation not only His promises, but also His precepts and a succession of great and gifted men to write the sacred pages of its unique Book.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 413)


II-  God’s opponents not only fail to produce fruit but rebel against submitting to God.  (Mt 21:35-39, 43; see also: 1 Kgs 18:4-13; 22:24-27; 2 Chr 24:19-22; 36:15-16; Ps 2:2; Jer 2:21; 7:25-27; 20:1-2; 26:7-11; 38:1-11;  Mt 23:34-37; Acts 7:51-52; 1 Thes 2:15; Heb 11:35-38)


The assertion, which seemed audacious blasphemy to them, fitted in with all His acts in that last week, which was not only the crisis of His life, but of the nation’s fate.  Rulers and people must decide whether they will own or reject their King, and they must do it with their eyes open.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 111)


These leaders loved themselves more than they loved God and others.  Their hearts were filled with greed, and they wanted the vineyard and everything that came with it.  Verse 38 pictures them as grasping after the inheritance, for they lusted after power, control, and authority in God’s kingdom.  They wanted it so badly that they were willing to kill the Master’s Son in the process.  This parable would be played out vividly in just three short days when they crucified the Son of God, the very Son the Father had sent to save Israel.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 291)


We may be tempted, therefore, to dismiss the parable, thinking it applies only to them and not to us.  But if that is the way we are interpreting it, we are utterly misreading Jesus’ words.  Jesus told the story in that way because he was speaking to Jews.  But would he not have made it equally pointed if he were telling it to us?  He may have used another image, or he might simply have said that we too may be compared to vines, as Israel was.  Has he not planted us in our lands, whatever they may be?  Has he not fenced us in?  Had he not watered and cared for us?  Has he not built a watchtower for us?  Has he not sent his servants to care for us and present our choice fruits to him when he returns for them?  He had done all these things.  Yet we have not been faithful any more than Israel was faithful.  We have also hated God and would destroy him if we could.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 461)


Jewish tradition held that Isaiah had been sawed in two with a wooden saw (cf. Heb 11:37).  From Scripture we know that Jeremiah was thrown into a pit of slime, and tradition held that he was eventually stoned to death.  Ezekiel was rejected, Elijah and Amos had to run for their lives, Micah was smashed in the face by those who refused to hear his message (1 Kgs 22:24), and Zechariah was actually murdered in God’s own Temple (2 Chr 24:20-22; cf. Mt 23:35).  OT history bore witness to their murderous hearts, whose wickedness would culminate in killing the Son of God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 298)


The more God pleads with men, the more self-conscious and bitter becomes their hatred; and the more bitter their hatred, the more does He plead, sending other messengers, more perhaps in number, or possibly of more weight, with larger commission and clearer light.  Thus both the antagonistic forces grow, and the worse men become, the louder and more beseeching is the call of God to them.  That is always true; and it is also ever true that he who begins with “I go, sir, and goes not, is in a fair way to end with stoning the prophets.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 110-1)


When these wicked tenants see his son approaching they begin to plot.  They enter into a consultation with each other.  Accordingly, what they are going to do to him is not a matter of impulse.  On the contrary, it is “malice aforethought,” the result of wicked deliberation, of corrupt, selfish scheming.  It is premeditated murder.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 783)


The story shows that sinners are so virulent in their hatred of others, including God, that they murder God’s servants and would murder God himself if he stooped to place himself within their grasp.  What are the two great commandments?  The first is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  The second is like it:  “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39; see Lv 19:18; Dt 6:5).  But on the basis of this story, it is correct to say that man in his natural state does precisely the opposite.  He hates God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind, and he hates his neighbor even as he hates himself.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 460)


Originally, they had plotted simply to keep all the profits from the vineyard; now they planned to expropriate the entire vineyard.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 295)


The point then is precisely to ask, “What can now be done for the people of God when a total work of grace has been lavished on them and yet they remain as if grace had never touched them?”  Because of the failure of the vineyard, he will now bring judgment upon it.  Its hedge will be destroyed.  Its wall will be trampled down.  The vineyard will become a wasteland instead of cultivated (Isa 5:5-6).  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 72)


III-  You will be crushed and replaced if you try to foil the purposes of God.  (Mt 21:41-44; see also: Ps 110:5-6; Isa 8:13-15; 60:12; Ez ch 17; Dn 2:34-45; Zech 12:3; Mt 8:12; 12:31; Lk 20:16; 21:24Acts 13:46; Rom 9:30-33; 10:19-21; 11:13-36; 1 Cor 11:29; Eph 4:30; Heb 2:3; 10:26-31; 1 Pt 2:6-8)


The very people who should most welcome the coming of God’s kingdom will be denied its privileges, and the very people most unlikely to succeed spiritually will find it.

So all spiritually satisfied, religiously proud, and biblically astute and learned people should take note.  Christ is the center, and no amount of paraphernalia can take his place.  You may know Greek and Hebrew, you may hold church office, and you may be a respected Christian philanthropist, but if any of this nudges Christ from the center of your faith and life, beware of some stunning reversals ahead.  Others will receive God’s blessing.  (Bruce Baron; Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 426)


The judgment of God should not be taken lightly, because God should not be taken lightly.  God is our Judge.  The God who offers salvation now is the God who will judge in righteousness hereafter.  Therefore, if you will not have Jesus as your Savior now, in the day of his grace, you will have him as your Judge when you stand before his throne at the final day.  Remember that as he spoke those words, Jesus was on the way to the cross to die for such as would believe on him.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 464)


God’s enemies are destined to be pulverized into nothingness.  To try to destroy Christ is to assure one’s own destruction.  Through Daniel the Lord predicted Christ’s ultimate coming in judgment against the unbelieving peoples and nations of the world, represented by the magnificent and seemingly invulnerable statue of gold, silver, bronze, iron, and clay.  As the “stone . . . cut out without hands,” Jesus will one day strike the statue of unbelieving mankind, and “then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold [will be] crushed all at the same time, and [become] like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind [will carry] them away so that not a trace of them [will be] found” (Dn 2:32-35).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 299-300) (red bold emphasis Pastor Keith)


The religious leaders are told they will reject Jesus and be crushed.  But instead of taking the warning, they hunt for ways to arrest him, hindered only by fear of the people who accept Jesus as a prophet (see on v. 11), and so trigger the very situation they have been warned about–a dramatic example of God’s poetic justice.  God in the Scriptures foretells this very event; and these men, prompted by hatred, rush to bring it to pass.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 454)


Note, God will have a church in the world, notwithstanding the unworthiness and opposition of many that abuse the privileges of it.  The unbelief and frowardness of man shall not make the word of God of no effect.  If one will not, another will.  The Jews’ leavings were the Gentiles’ feast.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 309-10)


The idea behind this is that all these OT pictures of a stone are summed up in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the foundation stone on which everything is built, and the cornerstone which holds everything together.  To refuse his way is to batter one’s head against the walls of the law of God.  To defy him is in the end to be crushed out of life.  However strange these pictures may seem to us, they were familiar to every Jew who knew the prophets.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 309)


The tenants assumed wrongly that they would inherit the vineyard if they eliminated the son of the owner.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day assumed they would continue in power if they killed Jesus.  In both cases (the story and history), people who should have recognized rightful authority rejected it.    (Bruce Baron; Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 424)


By their rejection of the prophets’ message and finally of the Son himself, Israel showed that they were incapable of repentance and belief.  So the kingdom will be taken away from them and given to a unity of Jews and Gentiles, a foreshadowing of the church.  The same presentation is given by Paul in Rom 11:11-24; where he used the image of branches being grafted into the olive tree.   (Bruce Baron; Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 425)


From the rubble of the temple–every stone of that temple will be laid to the ground–a new and everlasting stone is put in place.  That stone is Jesus, in particular Christ and him crucified, risen, and exalted–what will indeed be “the Lord’s doing” and “marvelous” in the eyes of the apostles and still in our eyes today!  The stone that the builders (or “tenants”) or Jewish leaders rejected has become the foundational stone of the new temple.  And this stone either saves or crushes.  The stone either stays in place as the cornerstone on which you build your fruitful life or that stone is pushed out of place and becomes a stumbling stone that rolls over and crushes to dust all who oppose it (see Isa 8:14, 15; cf. Dn 2:34, 35).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 618)


The old tenants lost their place because they failed to produce the required fruit, and it is the distinguishing mark of the new “nation” that it will produce it.  The point is not developed here, but this qualification potentially carries a warning to the new “nation” as well.  If it in turn fails to produce the fruit, it cannot presume on its privileged position.  The next parable will contain a sobering final scene to just that effect (22:11-13).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 817)


Daniel 2 describes the vision of a statue, representing a succession of pagan empires, smashed by a stone which represents a new kingdom set up by the God of heaven which will replace all previous regimes and will last forever.  When the stone hits the statue, the statue is “broken in pieces and becomes like the chaff of the threshing floor which the wind carries away” (Dn 2:35; cf. vv. 44-45), while the stone itself becomes a mountain and fills the whole earth.

These two stone passages together add a new dimension to Ps 118:22.  The sense of ultimate vindication and triumph is echoed in the Daniel allusion, but this verse adds the destructive effect of the stone on all who do not value it.  It thus ends Jesus’ parable and interpretive comments with a severe warning of the consequences of rejecting the stone God has chosen, that is, rejecting and killing the son.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 818)


Jesus was telling the people of his day, “you can be part of my kingdom and thus grow up in me and fill the earth.  That will happen by the decree of God my father.  Or you can stand against me and my kingdom and be broken.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 464)


This is a statement to them personally of the judgment they will receive, which had been enacted to the disciples symbolically in the cursing of the fig tree for not bearing fruit (21:18-21).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 698)


With majestic finesse, the Lord forced them to act as their own judge and jury and pass sentence on themselves.  He asked, “When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?”  The story was so gripping and it was told with such realism that those men were carried along by it.  Forced for the moment to forget their hatred of Jesus, they blurted out the truth.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 414)


Because of Israel’s unbelief, the kingdom of God was about to be taken away from the Jews.  When Nebuchadnezzar rose to world power, Israel lost its political ascendancy over the nations and will not get it back “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk 21:24) when Christ returns to reign.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 415)


The vineyard, which is Israel, is not itself destroyed, but rather given a new lease of life, embodied now in a new “nation.”  This “nation” is neither Israel nor the Gentiles, but a new entity, drawn from both, which is characterized not by ethnic origin but by faith in Jesus.  If there is a deliberate echo of Dn 7:27, “the kingdom . . . will be given to the people of the saints of the Most High,” there is a poignant force in the transfer of this image to a different “people” which is not now simply Israel as Daniel had known it but which fulfills the role of the vineyard which is Israel.

What is lost by the current leadership and gained by the new “nation” is “the kingdom of God.”  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 815)


These specific details should not be allegorized; they merely highlight God’s love and concern for his people.  The main lessons of the passage are clear enough without the material that Luke omits, but its inclusion, in quoting Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard, makes it absolutely clear that Jesus is passing judgment on the Israel of his day and its leadership.  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 71)


The next section of Isa 5 proceeds to enumerate Israel’s sins, including those that involve literal plots of land:  the rich accumulate property by unjust actions, exploiting the poor.  As a result, their houses will become desolate and their vineyards nearly fruitless (5:8-13).  The main message of the “song,” therefore, is clearly about “Yahweh’s frustrated expectations concerning Judah” (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 72)


IV-  God has a history of allowing the rejected to replace the rebellious.  (Mt 21:42-43; see also: Ps 118:22-23; Isa 28:16; Ez ch 17; the stories of Joseph (Gn), Moses, Gideon, Jephthah, David, Solomon, Josiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Jesus; Mt 5:10-12; 14:1-2; Acts 4:10-12; Eph 2:19-20; 1 Pt 2:4-9; 3:14) 


The stone . . . rejected was the crucified Christ, and the restored chief corner stone is the resurrected Christ.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 297)


He is sure that God will build on Him, and that His place in the building, which shall rise through the ages, will be, to even careless eyes, the crown of the manifest wonders of God’s hand.  Strange words from a Man who knew that in three days He would be crucified!  Stranger still that they have come true!  He is the foundation of the best part of the best men; the basis of thought, the motive for action, the pattern of life, the ground of hope, for countless individuals; and on Him stands firm the society of His Church, and is hung all the glory of His Father’s house.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 115)


The Jews imagined that no doubt they were the people, and wisdom and holiness must die with them; and if they were cut off, what would God do for a church in the world?  But when God makes use of any to bear up his name, it is not because he needs them, nor is he at all beholden to them.  If we were made a desolation and an astonishment, God could build a flourishing church upon our ruins; for he is never at a loss what to do for his great name, whatever becomes of us, and of our place and nation.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 310)


At the first planting of Israel in Canaan, the fall of the gentiles was the riches of Israel (Ps 85:10, 11), so, at their extirpation, the fall of Israel was the riches of the Gentiles, Rom 11:12.  It shall go to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 310-1)


The crowds at Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem had sung out a portion of the last Hallel psalm, “O Lord, save us,” a quotation of Ps 118:25-26 (cf. Mt 21:9).  Now Jesus draws on Ps 118:22 to point to his rejection and future vindication:  “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” (Mt 21:42).  God gives prominence to his suffering servant like a “capstone” (lit., “head of the corner”), either the stone that held two rows of stones together in a corner (“cornerstone”) or the wedge-shaped stone placed at the pinnacle of an arch that locked together the ascending stones.  The suffering of the Son will be turned into the position of ultimate prominence and importance.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 698)


A builder would go to the stone pile and select for himself the best stones for use in constructing the finest buildings, tossing the defective stones aside.  But the psalmist imagined another builder who came along and noticed one of the stones that the first builder had discarded, and he not only used it in his house but made it the cornerstone.  The reference here was to the Son once again.  Though He would be rejected and mistreated like the son in the parable, though He would be discarded as defective by those who supposedly knew about such things, He would become the cornerstone, the all-important figure in the Father’s plan.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 623)


The hand of God was in all this; This is the Lord’s doing.  Even the rejecting of him by the Jewish builders was by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; he permitted and overruled it; much more was his advancement to the Head of the corner; his right hand and his holy arm brought it about; it was God himself that highly exalted him, and gave him a name above every name; and it is marvelous in our eyes.  The wickedness of the Jews that rejected him is marvelous; that men should be so prejudiced against their own interest!  See Isa 29:9, 10, 14.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 310)


Originally, the psalmist meant this as a picture of the nation of Israel.  Israel was the nation which was despised and rejected.  The Jews were hated by everyone.  They had been servants and slaves of many nations; but nonetheless the nation which everyone despised was the chosen people of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 308)


A Jewish tradition tells of an odd-sized stone being sent from the quarries that did not seem to fit anywhere in the design of Solomon’s Temple which was being erected, so the workmen threw it into the Kedron Valley.

When the Temple was nearing completion, they discovered that the corner-stone which locked the whole together, was missing.  The quarries said that it had been supplied.  Then one of the workmen remembered the stone that had been discarded.  When it was found it was discovered to fit exactly into the key position (see Ps 118:20-23).  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 116)


Those men were eager enough to set up the Messianic kingdom.  Nothing would have pleased them more than to have a militant Messiah who would smash the power of Rome and make Jerusalem the capital of a new world empire and themselves the chief administrators of it all.  But in their blindness they were rejecting the very Messiah who was the cornerstone of the kingdom.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 414-5)


For many centuries, Israel had been the stone which the empire builders of the world had rejected as insignificant and despised, fit only for exploiting and then discarding.  But in the Lord’s divine plan, Israel was chosen to be the chief corner stone in the redemptive history of the world, the nation through which salvation would come.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 297)


For six months Jesus has been telling his disciples that the rulers at Jerusalem would kill him (16:21; 17:23; 20:18).  Now he tells the rulers themselves, albeit in a parable form, which, at some level, the leaders understand (vv. 45-46).  Undoubtedly some who heard Peter a few weeks later (Acts 2:23-37; 3:14-15) were the more convicted when they remembered these words of Jesus.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 453)



Worship Point:  The God Who spoke the Cosmos into being, the God Who is the Judge of all Creation, the God Who loves you so much that He sent Jesus; is the God who patiently, graciously, mercifully, forgivingly, and lovingly works through you to allow His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (fruit).  Why is it so hard to worship Him?


In fact, the patience of the owner and the brutality of the growers are so absolutely astounding, so unrealistic and abnormal, that some critics say Jesus overdrew the story or that the gospel writers exaggerated His original version.  But those extremes are essential to the parable’s point.  It was the very uncommonness of the owner’s patience and of the growers’ wickedness that Jesus wanted His hearers to notice.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 295-6)


The Lord (or “master”) is lovingly long-suffering.  He plants his vineyard, cares for it, and sends servants to harvest it.  And even after the first servants are hurt or destroyed, he holds back his anger and sends more servants, and finally, in the greatest act of loving long-suffering, he sends his own son.  In parable form it all sounds crazy.  What landowner would do such a thing?  But that’s just the point.  What defies historical realism really happened in and outside Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.  God’s apparent gullibility is his intentional grace!  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 618-9)


It might be argued that at this point the story goes way beyond the boundaries of reason, that in the ordinary course of life no proprietor whose rights had been so rudely trampled upon would have been generous enough to give the criminals still another chance, and certainly that he would not have delivered over his own dear son to the whims and wiles of those who had bludgeoned his servants.  This must be granted.  But then, it should be borne in mind that this is a parable.  Moreover, as will be shown later (see on v. 42), it is a parable depicting sin most unreasonable and love incomprehensible!  Considered in this light, the story is one of the most beautiful and touching ever told.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 783)


One might have expected that the owner would have responded most vigorously to the cruel treatment his servants had received, treatment which at the same time was an insult to himself.  But he did not.  He decided to give the share-croppers another chance to do their duty.  So again he sent servants, more in number than the first time.  However, these were treated similarly.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 783)


Gospel Application:  We are fruitful in proportion to our connectedness to Jesus.  Apart from Him we can do nothing fruitful.  (Jn 15:1-17)


Jesus used this metaphor to show that one stone can affect people different ways, depending on  how they relate to it (see Isa 8:14, 15; 28:16; Dn 2:34, 44, 45).  Ideally they will build on it; many, however, will trip over it.  In the end, Christ, the building block, will become the “crushing stone.”   He offers mercy and forgiveness now and promises judgement later.  We should choose him now!  (NIV Life Application Study Bible, 1698)


Spiritual Challenge:  We must constantly fight against the American cultural mentality that I am my own and no one can tell me what to do.  With that kind of attitude you will be replaced.


Throughout history, and still today, many people refuse to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord not because of lack of evidence but because they refuse to believe the evidence.  They do not believe simply because they do not want to believe.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 298)


So What?:  We will never be in harmony with either heaven or earth unless and/or until we realize we were created, gifted, empowered, purchased and enabled to produce fruit for God.




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