Luke 20:9 – 19
He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. And he sent still a third; this one also they wounded and threw 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 discussed it among themselves and said, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.’ So 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, “Heaven forbid!” But he looked at them and said, “What then does this text mean: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.
Still in the temple courts, with the religious leaders who questioned his authority standing there, Jesus turns to the people and tells a parable. In reading this story, remember that in the Psalms and in the prophets, we find references to Israel as God’s vineyard. This story is about a man (God) who planted a vineyard (Israel) and went away to another country for a long time – reminiscent of the story we read a few days ago of the man who went away to get himself crowned king. It was not at all unusual for a wealthy man to go to Rome, but travel was tedious in those days, and the journey to and from Rome a long one. Only in this case, the man leased the vineyard to tenants (the religious leaders, priests and Pharisees) – they were simply to care for the vineyard and share the produce (teach the people about the true God). And so the season came for the harvest, and the man sent a servant to collect his share, but those tenants beat the servant (prophet) and sent him away empty-handed. He sent a second and a third servant (prophet) but they as well were beaten and thrown out. Finally, he decided to send his own Beloved Son (Jesus), thinking they would surely listen to him. But they killed him so that they might have the inheritance (Israel) for themselves (their own political gain). And Jesus said then, “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” Those listening said “Heaven forbid!” but Jesus replied, “What then does it mean: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The temple system would be destroyed – through Jesus, and the action of the Holy Spirit, God would live in the hearts of his followers. Jesus is the cornerstone of the new temple.
The scribes and chief priests, those who had been questioning Jesus, realized that this story was about them, and they were angry! They wanted to kill Jesus right then, or at least to arrest him, but there was a big crowd around, who obviously were hanging on his every word, and they feared the people. It was not a good time; they went away to their plotting.