Verse of the Day Devotion Matthew 21:33
“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey.” – Matthew 21:33
Today we will look at the Parable of the Tenants, the second of three parables, in sequence, that depict God’s indictment and sentence of the present Jewish Leadership, unless they realize their errors and turn to the truth. Jesus does not reject Israel as a whole, only the current leadership, which has rejected him. The contrast is not between Jews and Gentiles but rather between those who reject and those who accept Jesus. Here is this parable as found in Matthew’s gospel.
“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey. And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, They will respect my son. But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance. And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers? They said to Him, He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons. Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the Scriptures, THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES’? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” Matthew 21:33-44.
This parable’s image closely resembles which was written by Isaiah. “Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. And He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it, And hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected it to produce good grapes, But it produced only worthless ones.” Isaiah 5:1-2. The Hebrew expression regarding the grapes produced is that they were wild, poison grapes. The slight difference between this verse in Isaiah and the parable is that the parable speaks of what the Jews did, as opposed to what they were, which was essentially those who took advantage of the vineyard owner. We also see another picture of this in Isaiah. “The LORD arises to contend and stands to judge the people. The LORD enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people, “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing My people, and grinding the face of the poor? Declares the Lord GOD of hosts.” Isaiah 3:13-15.
The parable starts with a landowner planting a vineyard and then putting up a wall, with a pit to be used as a wine press along with a watch tower. He then, as a landlord, rents this out as an investment. Now, we then read “And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce.” Matthew 21:34. First of all, it takes roughly four to five years for newly planted vineyards to produce good grapes, therefore this was not a short time period. When these slaves arrived, they were killed. Therefore, he sent another group of slaves and they were also killed. “But afterward he sent his son to them, saying they will respect my son. But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves this is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance. And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” Matthew 21:37-39.
Jesus then asks the audience, predominantly Jews with the leadership, a question. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” Matthew 21:40. Then they answered Jesus saying, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.” Matthew 21:41. Next, in verses 42-43 we read something unique to Matthew. It emphasizes the transference of leadership in Israel to new individuals. But the use of ethnos, the Greek word meaning “a people”—a collective singular” suggests more than simply the appointment of new leaders; it envisages a new community of disciples who perform the works God commands. Jesus is not so much foreshadowing the shift of God’s activity from Jewish to Gentile realms as anticipating the replacement of Israel by the church, which will unite both Jew and Gentile. Those who have rejected Jesus, for whom the cornerstone has become a stumbling stone, will be broken by him. And even if one does not actively oppose Jesus, anything less than genuine discipleship will lead to judgment, the stone will fall on and crush such a person.
We can apply this parable to our lives by asking two questions; first, have we truly come to know Christ as our Lord and Savior, or have we rejected Him like the Jewish leadership did? And second, if we are a believer, what have we done with and for Jesus? Are you like the bad tenants rejecting His Word and living a life of disobedience? If there is any question, we need to study His word, and pray fervently. He loves us and wants us to be totally committed to Him. I can tell you, life this way is totally worth it now and eternally.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.