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Jesus was constantly getting under the skin of the religious leaders and scholars. At the conclusion of the story Jesus tells, they wanted to stone him. Right there on the spot. No waiting. What held them back? Fear of the people.

Why this level of hate of Jesus by the religious leaders? Jesus saw what was in their heart, pointed it out clearly, and wouldn’t back down. They were constantly being embarrassed and the people loved Jesus.

What does this mean for me? I must be careful not to have the heart of the religious leaders. God is God. He will give his kingdom (country) to whomever he wants to. My commitment to Jesus, regardless of the consequences to me, must be unwavering. I can’t be saying, Jesus would never do that. Jesus is in complete control and will do what he sees is necessary for justice.

Why this is important: This is not about someone else. This is about us. We think we know more than our mighty God and his Son Jesus. Part of this is about how we see things. Do we think what we have is ours or is it actually God’s and we are just tenants?

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We must humble ourselves and not reject Jesus. What is intended for us by God can be given to others. God is God and God is just. Jesus reigns as absolute King. We must honor and glorify him.

And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out.  Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.[1]

Source: Luke 20:9-19

The picture in this parable is a common one. It was not unusual in Palestine, as in many parts of the world today, for land to be owned by one person and farmed by others. In the south, we knew of them as sharecroppers. When a man plants a vineyard and rents it out to tenants, he expects to collect proceeds from the profit on the crops. Even if his absence is long, he expects the land to remain profitable.

When harvest time comes, the owner sends servants to collect the proceeds from the vineyard. The first one is sent away after being beaten. A second servant is also beaten and treated shamefully. A third is wounded. All the owner’s efforts to collect his share are rebuffed with impunity. The detail portrays the persistent unfaithfulness of the nation in their lack of response to the prophets. The Old Testament is full of such failure. As Luke 13:6–9 notes, the nation has no fruit to give God.

The owner decides to send “my son, whom I love.” This expression may well be a way of describing him as an only son, since the tenants expect his death to lead to their being given the land. The owner assumes the tenants will treat him with respect.

  • But when they see the son arrive, they see an opportunity. Barring any breach of relationship, it was not unusual for land to pass to tenants if no heirs existed.
  • But the logic of these tenants is skewed: “If we kill the heir, we will become the heirs!”
  • How will killing the heir reap benefits for them? How twisted sinful thinking can be.
  • Blindness can see strange things in the dark.
  • The allusion here is to their approaching execution of Jesus, which is the parable’s key point.
  • Jesus knows exactly what they are about, even though it makes no logical sense.

Jesus asks the people how the owner will respond to the execution of the son. The pattern of previous behavior made finding the culprit for the crime easy. The owner will come, kill the tenants, and lease the land to others. This alludes to the coming involvement of the nations in the promise, as Acts shows, though it also includes a reference to the Twelve, who form the base of the new community Jesus is forming. The crowd gets the point about the shift in who gets to tend the vineyard and exclaims, “May this never be!” Surely Israel and her leadership could never be guilty of such reckless disobedience.

Jesus cites Scripture and a popular proverb to drive home his point. Psalm 118 teaches that the righteous one rejected by others is exalted by God as the key figure. This text is probably about the king who leads the procession into the temple. Old Testament Jews would have thought of their king in these terms, and Jews contemporary to Jesus would expect the nations to be in the place of blessing. The rejectors would have been the nations. Jesus turns the image upside down, noting that now the king is rejected by his own people (Isa. 53).

The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. All other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornerstone

If God then exalts the stone into the key foundational role, it is risky business to stand opposed to the foundation. Everyone who falls on the stone is broken, and those on whom the stone falls are crushed. This proverbial remark is much like the later Jewish Midrash on Esther 3:6: “If the stone falls on the pot, alas for the pot; if the pot falls on the stone, alas for the pot!” Either way it is a problem to oppose the precious stone whom God has exalted—his Son Jesus.

Opposition to Jesus grows more intense, for they know Jesus is challenging them, just as he did earlier at the temple. He accuses them of being in the exact opposite place of where they see themselves. They want to arrest him, but the people remain an obstacle. Jesus is still too popular with them. He will have to be discredited first. So to this effort they turn their attention.[2]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 20:9–19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Bock, D. L. (1996). Luke (pp. 507–509). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.