Matthew 21:33-46

33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.

34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.

35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.

36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.

37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’

39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”

41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.

46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

landowner (v.33) — picturing God

vineyard (v.33) — picturing the nation of Israel

Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill.He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; so He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it.”For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help (Isaiah 5:1-7). (See also Jeremiah 2:21 and Psalm 80:8.)

The description of the preparation of the vineyard in verse 33 is, I think, to show that God created Israel, cared for Israel, and gave Israel everything the nation needed to succeed. (But the priests and rulers He appointed to govern treated it like it was their own.)

servants (v.34) — picturing the prophets sent to Israel

son (v.37) — picturing Christ

It is probably true that no person would send his son into a situation where servants had previously killed his other representatives but would immediately call the authorities. The contrast is between what men would do and what God had done. God did send His Son, even though Israel had rejected His prophets earlier and killed them and had rejected John the Baptist. — Walvoord, page 162.

What will he do? (v.40) —  He had made them find the verdict (v.31); He now made them pass the sentence. He who compelled them to be the jury, finding the verdict in the case of their own wrong, now compelled them to be the judge, passing sentence upon their own iniquity. And they were quite vehement about it, and their very vehemence is the evidence of the tremendous force with which Jesus spoke the words, that searching intensity that stirred the conscience, and compelled attention, and made the chief priests forget their quarrel with Him and speak out the truth. — Morgan, page 261.

The quote in verse 42 is from Psalm 118:22-23. (See also Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7.)

The figure of a stone is found often in Scripture, Jesus being referred to both as the foundation stone and the head of the corner (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5). To Israel, Jesus was a stumbling stone and a rock of offense (Isaiah 8:14-15; Romans 9:32-33; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:8). At the time of His second coming, He will be a smiting stone of destruction (Daniel 2:34). — Walvoord, page 162.

A nation (v.43) — in the original, there is no “a” — it’s just “nation,” so it’s not referring to a specific nation but to those who bring forth fruit—believing Israel. It can’t be the church (see Gaebelein’s quote below). And it certainly can’t be Gentiles in general because in no way can they be said to be bringing forth fruit. It can only refer to the believing remnant in the Tribulation who will enter the kingdom.

The nation to whom the Lord promises the kingdom is not the Church. The Church is called the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the Habitation of God by the Spirit, the Lamb’s Wife, but never a nation. The nation is Israel still, but that believing remnant of the nation, living when the Lord comes. — Gaebelein, page 437

broken (v.44) — Some commentaries say this is speaking of the brokenness necessary to receive salvation but that didn’t make sense to me. Gaebelein has another take (below).

The Lord in these few words predicts the coming judgment of the Jews and the Gentiles. The one sentence has been carried out and the other is still to be executed. The Jews have fallen on this stone and they have been broken. How it has become true! The stone is yet to fall and strike the world-powers, the Gentiles, and grind them to powder. [Turn to] Daniel 2 and read Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the divinely given interpretation. The stone cut out without hands, falling out of heaven, smiting the great image at its feet, is the Lord Jesus Christ in His second coming. The Lord refers to this here. As truly as He broke the Jews who fell on Him, so will He pulverize Gentile world power and dominion, when He is revealed from heaven. The nations are ripe for their judgment. — Gaebelein, page 437-438.

I e-mailed Ricky Kurth and got this response:

If your question is about “broken,” the right cross reference is Isaiah 8:14-15. Those are the verses the Lord is thinking of.

He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken, be snared and taken.

Isaiah 8:14 speaks of “both the houses of Israel” and “the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” and then says “many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken…” The Lord is speaking to “the chief priests and elders” (Matthew 21:23), so we know that He is talking about what will happen to them if they “fall” or “stumble” on the rock of Christ. Even the chief priests knew He was talking about them (Matthew 21:45; Luke 20:18-19). It is always Israel that is said to have “stumbled at that stumblingstone” (Romans 9:32).

The rest of the verse, the part about the stone grinding them to powder, I think concerns the Gentiles (Psalm 2:8-9; Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45).

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