- Jesus speaks specifically to the chief priests, the scribes and the elders (Mark 11:27).
- With this parable, Jesus shows that he knew what they were up to and thus gives them a chance to repent.
- The symbolism of this parable:
- The “man” is God.
- The “vineyard” is Israel.
- The “vineyard workers” are Israel’s leadership.
- The “servants” are the prophets.
- The “Son” is Jesus.
- The language of this parable is very similar to Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa 5:1-2).
- The Psalms also likens Israel to a vineyard (Ps 80:8-19).
- God repeatedly sent his servants the prophets, but Israel’s leadership usually did not receive them (Jer 7:25-26, Jer 25:4-7, Matt 23:33-39).
- Those listening to Jesus’ parable were well aware that the vineyard symbolized Israel, that the vineyard workers symbolized Israel’s leadership, that the servants symbolized the prophets, but now Jesus presents the shocking news of the parable; that God has now sent his son but that the vineyard workers will kill him!
- That Jesus is the Son of God shows that he is more than just a prophet. Moreover, the Son is also the last one God sends, after him there will be no more.
- The relationship one has with the Father is determined by how one relates to the Son. If you receive the Son, you also receive the Father, but if you reject the Son, you also reject the Father (1 John 2:23).
- Jesus asks a rhetorical question and invites the listeners to consider for themselves what the master of the vineyard should do. So far, the vineyard owner has been unreasonably patient.
- When a word of judgment like this is conveyed, there is always a chance for repentance before the words become reality (Jon 3:10). That the religious leaders did not listen to this judgment and repent is sadly shown in Mark 12:12.
- Since the leadership of Israel did not receive the Son, their status as God’s vineyard workers will be handed over to the Gentiles.
- In the Gospel of Matthew’s parallel to this parable, Matthew writes: “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who bear its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43).
- Paul first preached to the Jews, but when they did not accept the gospel, he preached to the Gentiles instead (Acts 13:46-47), saying that they should listen instead (Acts 28:28).
- In Romans, Paul writes that “hardening has come upon a part of Israel, and will continue until the Gentiles have come in in full numbers.” (Romans 11:25b).
- Today we can see that these prophetic words of Jesus have been fulfilled. Although Israel is still God’s own people, today God is working first and foremost through the church to extend his kingdom beyond the world.
- Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23.
- The stone symbolises Jesus and the builders symbolise the leadership of Israel.
- A cornerstone was the most important stone in a building, and if Israel’s leadership had been good builders, they would have quickly realized when they inspected Jesus that he is an excellent cornerstone. Instead, they rejected Jesus.
- At other times, Jesus is likened to the spiritual rock that followed Israel in the desert (1 Corinthians 10:4) and a stumbling block that brings people down (1 Peter 2:8).
- Israel’s religious leaders understood, but still would not repent; they had already decided to murder Jesus (John 11:53, Matthew 12:14).