Parables | Parable of the Tenants | Matthew 21:33-46
Topic: Gospel Passage: Matthew 21:33–21:46
INTRO: PARABLE OF THE TENANTS
Good morning, Mercy Fellowship. Hope you are well this morning. If you don’t know me, my name is Curtis, I’m an elder apprentice and happy to be preaching this morning. We are currently in a series on the Parables of Jesus, that we will be wrapping up in the next few weeks and then come September we will be in the book of Esther.
The parable for today though, is the parable of the Tenants in Matthew 21:33-46 and if you have a bible, you can open up to it, but let me give us all some context from the entire chapter of Matthew 21 to help us understand what is going on.
In the beginning of this chapter, Jesus enters into Jerusalem on a Donkey and is celebrated as He rides in as people line the streets and lay their cloaks they would wear down on the road and palm branches they would have cut, they laid on the road as well. And they did this as a sign of submission to Jesus being King. We celebrate this in our church calendar as Palm Sunday. The issue with this though, is that they thought that Jesus Kingship, would be to overthrow the Roman government, and when He doesn’t act like they want, they will later chant for Him to be crucified.
But as the narrative goes, they are celebrating Jesus entry into Jerusalem, and an issue arises. They’re excited thinking that He will overthrow the Roman government, but instead of doing that, Jesus first move is to go to the temple, and overthrow tables of the money changers who are cheating and swindling others for their own selfish gain. And as Jesus Kingship/authority is established, it is established but not in the way that people want it to be.
So let me say this. Jesus is King now and forever, and that is good news! Between elections coming up that cause so much division, between all the chaos that is breaking around our nation and in the world, the fact that Jesus is King, should be a solid foundation that we can rest upon. We cling firmly to the idea of Jesus as King, because after He resurrected from the grave and right before His ascension back into Heaven, He says in Matt. 28 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus Kingship is good news to us, who follow and love Him. And let me say this as well, Jesus is a King who does fulfill our needs, wants and desire, but here’s a problem. We begin to not like the idea of Jesus as King when Jesus’ Kingship impacts & confronts us in a way that is challenging and uncomfortable. The religious leaders felt that way. They didn’t like Jesus’ authority He was displaying, so they ask Him a question. “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matt. 21:23)
And as they question Jesus, He says that He will tell them by what authority if they can answer the question of where John the Baptist, who was Jesus cousin, where he came from. And they punt the question away because they feared the crowds and said ‘We don’t know,’ and Jesus says ‘then I won’t tell you where I get my authority.’ And right after that, Jesus shares three parables: A parable of two sons, The parable of the Tenants, and the parable of the wedding feast. And what they all have in common is the theme of replacement. That the authority that was once held by the religious elite was going to be taken from them and given to others, because they weren’t bearing fruit, and their authority was never there’s to begin with; it was given to them by the authority over all authorities, King Jesus.
Jesus is King and has established His authority. His own people, the Jews do not like His authority. *Thorn in side
33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures “‘The stone that the builders rejected, has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
GRACIOUS KING (V.33-36):
We see lots of imagery in this parable. In these 2 first verses that there is a master of the house, or later on, he is referred to the owner of the vineyard. And this owner is the one who planted the vineyard, put a fence around it for protection, built a watchtower that would’ve been manned and used to guard against crop thieves and he dug a winepress, so that the grapes could eventually be made into wine. And all of this language although foreign to you and me would have been understood in that time to be communicating, that He is talking about Israel, God’s people. In Isaiah 5 Israel is described as a Vineyard, that is established and a fence is put around it as well as a watchtower is placed in its midst and it would have been clear to the religious leaders in Jesus’ time that He was talking about their nations history.
What did God do for the nation Israel? What is their history? Well, very quickly, God calls Abram, who will later be called Abraham out of a foreign nation, and says that through him will come a great nation as numerous as the stars in the sky and as generations go by they flee to Egypt as a famine takes place in the land. And over 400 years they eventually become slaves and it is only through the sovereign hand of God that the nation of Israel, somewhere around 2 million people are set free from the bondage of Egypt. And to make a long story short, they are planted in a promised land that God had for them, they had the commandments of God given to them as a safeguard against idolatry from foreign nations and they had the temple where the presence of God was in their midst, looking out for the people. And the result?
God planted them and they prospered, It was called a land that flowed with ‘milk and honey.’ that’s what a vine symbolizes, prosperity but it’s not just that though, because the vine also led to a winepress were the wine would be made, so as to communicate that prosperity God gave led to joy and happiness.
And God, who is the master, the owner of this people, gives them priests, tenants as they’re called in our story. People of whom are responsible for stewarding and cultivating the prosperity of the people of God through right worship but also right sacrifice. Do you see how God is a gracious King? Do you see how God has given them every opportunity for thriving as the people of God?
Let me ask this question to you, do you see how God is a gracious and even patient King towards you? God is not different today, than He was back then. As we are now the people of God, God has given every opportunity for us to flourish, to prosper. You might say, ‘Well what has God done?’ He’s given us His word so we may know God, through giving us His church, so we can gather as a foreign nation as we are all exiles here, and most importantly God has given Himself! He has given the Son, Jesus Christ, so we might have be redeemed from our sinful lostness and the Holy Spirit, to lead and guide us into all truth and right living. This is why the Apostle Paul tells the church in Ephesus that they’ve been given ‘Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.’ This is His creation, this belongs to Him. This is His Vineyard and His fruit!
And as the master of the vineyard sends servants to collect what is rightfully His, they’re mistreated, some are murdered and some are stoned to death. These servants represent God sending prophets to Israel time and time again, and they came with a message that usually went, ‘you need to turn from your idolatry, your wrong worship.’ ‘You need to turn to God, and not just that but you need to obey God as well.’ And what does Israel do to the prophets? They mistreat them, they don’t believe what they say or heed their warnings and some are evening murdered. Once again, it needs to be emphasized how gracious, how patient God is towards His people. How slow to anger He is, that when we sin or when we don’t worship God, He gives us time after time after time after time, to repent and worship Him. He says through the prophet Isaiah, ‘I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices.’ (Is. 65:2)
But the parable makes a slight transition, to where the owner of the Vineyard will send His own son, the other gospels, refer to Him as the only son. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
The rejection of the King’s authority over His own vineyard by the tenants and the rejection of his servants leads to a climax where their is the rejection of His Son. And if it were not obvious enough, Jesus here is communicating His own death by the hands of Israel’s leaders, He is foretelling of His crucifixion. Two observations that needs to be noticed from this section though…
1) The Son [Jesus] shows up in grace.
This should shock us all, that after the servants and many of them had been mistreated, abused, murdered and stoned by the hands of the wicked tenants, that the Son doesn’t show up with an army to destroy them, but rather shows up vulnerable to give them another chance at given the owner of the Vineyard what is rightfully His.
And once again, being that all of scripture is about Jesus, this is explaining to us how gracious Jesus is first appearance is. Mercy should be a word that comes to mind. That after all Israel has been through, in going after other gods and mistreating the prophets throughout the generations, Jesus, who is referred to as the ‘Lord of hosts,’ which means ‘Lord of angel armies,’ doesn’t come to Israel with an army, but comes to them as a vulnerable baby, born of Mary. And His entire earthly ministry is one that is marked by grace and truth. (John.1:17) This is grace that the world has no idea of apart from God. This is unmerited favor, which is the definition of grace is a foreign subject in this earth.
Everything on earth is merited, everything on earth has an input/output function and yet the input of us, God’s people, is rebellion, worship of other god’s, carelessness towards our Savior. And the output, is the favor of God time and time again. In other words, grace. Do you see the grace of God in your life? I say all of this, not to discourage you, but I say all this because I want you to see how beautiful Jesus is. *Experienced Common grace & Saving grace
That though we stumble, though we get dirt on us, He picks us up, brushes the dirt off us and helps us on our way. That we may walk with a limp, He comes beside us and helps us and strengthens us. That though we may be weak believers, The Holy Spirit empowers us, with His strength, to do what we can’t do on our own. I want this to stir our affections towards Him, because He’s worthy of it.
2) Jesus explains why people don’t want to worship God:
People don’t want to give God His rightful due of worship and praise because (V. 38) they would rather have His inheritance than have Him. Meaning, they would rather have the Kingdom without the King, they like the idea of heaven but it is a heaven that is void of Jesus.
You can think back to Genesis, where in the beginning, when the garden was created and Adam and Eve were stewarding and cultivating the land and God gave only one command of what they couldn’t do, Satan comes along and says ‘Did God really say that?’ ‘You don’t have to obey God, You can disobey God and still have everything He gave you.’
You think of Israel back in the OT days when the prophets were being sent to them, they lived in a land that was prosperous, but refused to worship the God that gave them that land.
And now in our modern day, there are many people that want themselves and their loved ones in heaven, but a heaven that has no God. I say this with all seriousness and as lovingly as I can, if you can picture yourself in heaven with all your loved ones and Jesus is not there, you are not going to end up in heaven but rather hell. You want the Kingdom but there is a King of that Kingdom, Jesus Christ. What makes heaven, heaven is that God is there!
The stumbling point for so many of us, is that we in our own pride, in our sinfulness want to be god of our own lives. We don’t want someone coming into our life and telling us what to do, how to live, what’s right and wrong, we want to be autonomous creatures.
In other words, we don’t want to worship a God where we fulfill His purposes but rather we want to worship a God that fulfills our purposes. Do we want Jesus for what He will give us or do we want Jesus because He is King over all the creation?
This was the issue with the Israelites when Jesus entered in on a donkey, that we started off with. They worshipped Jesus as King because they thought He would overthrow the Roman Government and save their nation, it was about them. They thought Jesus would save their kingdom. But only six days later, The same Israelites are now chanting ‘crucify Him!’ because Jesus is not concerned about their Kingdom but rather about the kingdom of God.
And you and me can look at this and think that was only their issue and we are not like them, but the reality is we are exactly like them. That we are the ones that really like Jesus when He works for us and our own little kingdoms, but the moment Jesus starts to do things we don’t like, we’re the first ones to yell crucify Him. I need us all to see this, the blood of Jesus, God’s only Son is on our hands, because of our rebellion towards Him. I need you to feel this for a moment, the weight of what we have done. We have killed God’s Son, we are guilty. Verse 39 says ‘And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.’ And that prophecy is fulfilled when Jesus’ dies, that he is taken outside the city walls, and is crucified, signifying that Israel did not want Him to be one of them.
So what happens with guilty people, who have the blood of the Son on their hands? Judgment awaits guilty people.
SELF-PRONOUNCED JUDGEMENT (V.40-44):
40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures “‘The stone that the builders rejected, has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
The religious leaders that Jesus is speaking to pronounce judgement on themselves when Jesus asks ‘what should happen to those tenants?’ By responding ‘putting those wretches to a miserable death, out of the vineyard and give it to other tenants who will give the fruit in due season.’
That judgment will come to all who are guilty of murdering the Son by an eternal death, where there is no possibility afterwords of enjoying the prosperity of a vineyard or the joy and happiness that comes from the winepress. We can ask, why is Judgment coming to me? Because we have rejected the cornerstone of God’s church, that’s why.
And Jesus funnels the whole parable down to a single verse that is quoted from Psalm 118, that ‘The stone that the builders rejected, has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.’
There was a stone rejected by builders, it didn’t appear to be significant to the construction workers so it was tossed to the side, because the cornerstone was the most important part of the foundation, some commentaries said it supported the chief weight of the building, and even though they rejected it, it became the cornerstone, and this was God’s doing.
And Jesus shares this verse specifically and deliberately because He is going to be rejected by His own. And yet what they don’t realize is that they are rejecting the cornerstone of the people of God, that He will bear the full weight of the sins of His church when He goes to the cross in a few short days. What will happen to the people of God? As a result the Kingdom of God will be made up of a new people. No more, will God’s people be characterized as a nation, but they will be know by the fruit they bear, as they build their lives on the foundation of the apostles and prophets teaching, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone, tying both old and new together. Those who would seek to attack this cornerstone, this King, would be pulverized and those whom Christ judges, will be crushed to bits.
So what hope could their possibly be if it’s true that we are guilty, if it’s true that the blood of Jesus is on our hands and that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. That as He has given us everything we need for right relationship with Him and for our flourishing, we’ve rejected it all and judgement awaits, what hope could there be?
PERCEIVED AND BLIND (V.45-46):
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
There’s two options for us this morning of Jesus’ Kingship; rejection or repentance.
Rejection of Jesus means we can perceive that Jesus is talking about us all we want, just like these religious leaders but until we do something about it, it means nothing. This is the epitome of spiritual blindness, that the religious leaders can perceive Jesus is talking about them and yet, want to arrest Him and act just like the wicked tenants we read about. The bible is full of warnings of the rejection of God, because it leads to spiritual blindness with saying things like ‘They have eyes to see, but they’re blind. They have ears to hear but they’re deaf.’ That whatever Jesus might say, it just falls on deaf ears. If you perceive that Jesus is talking about you today, do something about it. Look to Him, trust in Him.
But second choice we have this morning, is to repent and receive what Jesus has done in our place. That as we’ve talked about and emphasized how gracious and patientthie character of God is, and if we repent of our sins, admit our wrong we’ve committed against God, how we have offended Him with our sin by wanting the inheritance of the Son without the Son.
If we are to repent, Jesus would say ‘I will take your place as guilty on the cross for your sins, and in return I’ll give you my inheritance of right relationship with God. He will be to you a Father now and forever. I’ll also give you paradise, and eternity with me, where a new heavens and earth will be created, where no pain or sorrow or hurt is anymore but joy and happiness abound endlessly, because God and man are reunited.’
This is Jesus, Mercy Fellowship. Full of grace and truth, loving us in our weak and sinful estate, to redeem us and make us a people for his glory and our joy. Jesus is King.
More in Parables
August 30, 2020Parables | Kingdom Power and Value | Matthew 13:31-33; 44-46
August 16, 2020Parables | Parable of the Wedding Feast | Matthew 22:1-14
August 9, 2020Parables | Parable of the Persistent Neighbor | Luke 11:1-13