Then he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?”
When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.
This parable is actually pretty straight-forward. Enough so that the Chief Priests actually understood it. (Usually Jesus had to explain His parables.) So its meaning is relatively easy to understand, but its message might be a little hard for us to hear.
Jesus is now the cornerstone of faith. We need Him for our faith to hold up against anything. But people have and will continue to reject Him. What does that mean for these people? Well, first of all, without the cornerstone, their faith will crumble. But according to this parable, God will also destroy them and take them away from His kingdom.
I don’t know why that message is so hard for modern Christians. I guess we view God primarily as one who loves us and takes care of us, a God who forgives all our sins. And I guess it’s hard for people to reconcile that image with a God who destroys people, or condemns them to Hell. How can He be both? we think. Shouldn’t He forgive the wicked tenants? But consider how righteous His anger is. These people killed countless messengers and His Son. Is that justice not appropriate?
We also need to keep in mind that Jesus is the cornerstone. God is a God of forgiveness, but without Christ’s sacrifice there is no forgiveness. We need Jesus in order to have a relationship with God. Therefore if you reject Jesus you reject God’s forgiveness. And, again, the punishment is just. Keep in mind that God forgiving our sins is not justice. Justice would be for us to be punished for our sins, as the wicked tenants are.
And, finally, God’s ways are are higher than our ways (see Isiah 55:8). We can never hope to really understand Him. So if those two images are hard for you to reconcile, stop trying and just accept Jesus’s words as Truth.