The Parable of the
appears in three of the gospels
(Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19),
with Matthew’s account being the most complete.
However, there are additions in the others; hence, it is wise to study all three accounts so as to achieve the greatest understanding. To get the context of what is happening, we need to look at Matthew 21:18.
Early in the morning,
Jesus goes to the temple courts to teach
While He is teaching, the chief priest and elders confront Him,
wanting to know by what authority He is teaching.
them to control the conversation,
Jesus answers the question by first
asking a question
They do not like His question nor His response to their answer;
He has told them that
they can’t save face from their obvious attempt to cajole Him
He is not obligated to answer their question
What Jesus told them is that John the Baptist and He received
their authority from the same source.
This exchange causes the leaders to become angry and
puts them in opposition to Jesus. Jesus then further
frustrates the priests by telling two parables:
the first one is the Parable of the Two Sons,
and the second is the
Parable of the Vineyard,
sometimes called the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.
The first parable
Jesus teaches tells the priests that
they have claimed to accept the message
but they have failed to live up to it
by being obedient.
Outwardly, they are pious and appear to be people of God,
but God knows the heart, and there they have failed miserably.
The next parable (the Parable of the Vineyard)
is like pouring salt on a wound.
Just in case they didn’t fully understand (which they did),
Jesus gives a much clearer picture
of what He means.
this further infuriates the priests, but it also gives the others
who were present an opportunity to hear Jesus
the implications of the disobedience of the Jewish people
throughout the ages.
Background: There are 6 main characters in this parable:
1) the landowner—God,
2) the vineyard—Israel,
3) the tenants/farmers—the Jewish religious leadership,
4) the landowner’s servants—the prophets who remained obedient and preached God’s word to the people of Israel,
5) the son—Jesus, and
6) the other tenants—the Gentiles.
The imagery used is similar to Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard
(it would be prudent to study this also)
found in Isaiah chapter 5.
The watchtower and the wall mentioned in verse 33 are means of
protecting the vineyard
the ripened grapes.
The winepress is obviously for stamping
out the juice of the grapes to
make the wine
The farmer was apparently away
at the time of harvest and
had rented the vineyard to the tenants.
This was customary of the times, and he could expect
as much as half of the grapes as payment by the tenants for use of his land.
Explanation: Verses 34-36 tell us the
landowner sent his servants to
collect his portion of the harvest
and how they were cruelly rejected by the tenants;
were beaten, stoned, and even killed.
Then he sent even more the second time and they
received the same treatment.
The servants sent represent
prophets that God had sent
His people/Israel and then were
rejected and killed
by the very people who were
claiming to be of God and obedient to Him
Jeremiah was beaten (Jeremiah 26:7-11; 38:1-28), John the Baptist was killed (Matthew 14:1-12), and others were stoned (2 Chronicles 24:21). In this parable Jesus is not only reminding the religious establishment what they were like, but He was putting in their minds a question:
how could they claim obedience
as God’s people and still reject
We don’t know how many servants the owner sent, but that is not what is important; the theme is
God’s repeated appeal through His prophets
to an unrepentant people
In the next verses (37-39), the situation becomes even more critical.
The landowner sends his own son, believing that they will surely respect him. But the tenants see an opportunity here;
they believe that if they
kill the son
they will then receive his inheritance.
The law at the time provided that if there were
no heirs then the property would pass to
those in possession
(possession is nine tenths of the law).
This amounts to conspiracy to commit murder by the Jewish leadership,
and it is prophetic in the sense that Jesus is now telling them
what they are going to do to Him
(see Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16).
After Jesus’ death, Peter
would make the same charges
against the religious establishment
The tenants probably thought that the fight for the property was over,
but it wasn’t;
the owner would now appear on the scene.
Jesus now (vs.40-41) asks the question,
what will the owner do to the evil tenants?
What He is doing is forcing the religious leaders/priests
to declare their own miserable fate:
condemnation for their blatant
This is similar to the question that Nathan put to David
(2 Samuel 12:1-7).
Up to this point, Jesus has been
dealing with the immediate situation
of Israel and its past disobedience;
now Jesus leaves open the question of
what Israel’s leadership is going to do with
the Messiah, the Son of God,
whom He refers to as the“chief cornerstone”
Cornerstones and capstones are used symbolically
in Scripture and picture
Christ as the main piece of the foundation
of the church and the
head of the church, respectively.
Jesus is the beginning of and is
foundational to the church,
and He now stands over the church
in His rightful position of honor,
guiding the church to fulfill its divine destiny.
This verse makes clear prophetically how
Jesus will be rejected
by the religious establishment
ultimately be crucified
(see Psalm 118:22-23).
The key to understanding this parable and what it says
about the religious leaders is found in verse 43, where
Jesus makes their lack of obedience
Jesus tells the leaders that because of
they will be left out of the kingdom of heaven
(individually and as a people);
that they have let their opportunity for the time
being slip away to be given to the Gentiles
(see verse 41, “other tenants”).
This will be more than they can tolerate, as we will see in verses 45 and 46.
He is saying that there will be
a new people of God made up of all peoples
who will temporarily replace the Jews so that
Jesus can establish His church.
This will change the way God deals with man,
the old dispensation of the law
new dispensation of God’s grace.
It will usher in a period of time
will no longer understand forgiveness
as man’s work through what he
does or doesn’t do
or by the sacrifices of animals on the altar, but by the
of Christ on the cross.
It will be a time where each individual can have a
personal and saving relationship
One and only God of the universe.
The exciting part of the verse is the phrase
authority to the church
share the gospel of Christ
to the lost of the world.
Up to this time, the Jews felt that they
had automatic membership in God’s kingdom because of
their relationship to Abraham;
this is why they put so much emphasis on genealogies.
But the new people of God
would truly have
what God wanted for Israel all along:
personal and holy relationship that
honored through the
spreading of God’s word to all peoples
(see Exodus 19:5-6).
Jesus continues the stone metaphor in verse 44 to show
how a stone can be used to build
something beautiful, such as His church,
or it can be used to crush and destroy,
depending on the situation.
This could be likened to God’s word:
to some it is salvation, peace and comfort.
To others it is foolish and disconcerting
of its ability to convict man of his sins
(2 Timothy 3:16).
Verses 45 and 46 give us three insights into the
psyche of the chief priest of the religious establishment.
1) They are jealous and envious of Jesus’ popularity with the common people. This encroaches on their authority and power to govern.
2) They have come to the realization that Jesus is talking about them. This hurts their pride and embarrasses them in front of the people.
3) They understood the analogy of the son and that Jesus was referring to Himself.
This would be blasphemous to them, and they would
now seek to kill Jesus.
From here the leaders would meet in secrecy to plot how
they would get rid of Jesus. Why all the secrecy?
The people thought of Jesus as a prophet from God;
arresting Him could cause an uprising.
An uprising would jeopardize the leaders’ relationship
with the Roman authorities,
something that the Jews did not want at any cost.
We apply this parable to our lives by asking two questions;
have you come to know Christ
as your Lord and Savior,
you rejected Him
the Jewish leadership did?
The process is simple, as long as you are
seeking a relationship with Christ.
You need to recognize your sins,
and then accept
Christ as the only One
who can save you from the
penalty of your sins.
if you are a believer,
what have you done with Jesus?
Are you like the bad tenants,
rejecting His Word and living a
If you are,
you need to study God’s Word
and pray for guidance,
seeking His will for your life
living out that will
as best as you can, moment by moment, day by day.