After nailing the leaders for their unbelief, he then told a parable warning them of what would happen if they didn’t repent.
And the start of it is very similar to Isaiah 5 in which God describes a vineyard that he planted, the vineyard representing Israel and Judah. And in both cases, we see that the owner does not receive the fruit he deserves from the vineyard. The one difference is that Jesus places the blame specifically on the tenants who were put in charge of the vineyard.
The tenants, of course, were these very leaders that had rejected Jesus, and all those that had come before them. They had been put in charge of the spiritual welfare of Israel that they might bear spiritual fruit for God. But instead, they became corrupted and failed in the charge they had been given.
Why? They failed to honor God, instead focusing on themselves. They focused on money, power, and the praise of man. Is it any wonder that Israel failed to produce fruit when its very leaders failed in their responsibilities?
And so God sent his servants. Throughout Israel’s history, he sent prophet after prophet to warn and admonish the people. But time and again, the leaders of Israel rejected the prophets, beating and/or killing them.
Finally, God sent his Son. But now the leaders planned to kill the Son, hoping to take what rightfully belonged to him.
When Jesus asked the people what would happen to such people, the people replied,
[The owner] will bring those wretches to a wretched end…and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time. (Matthew 21:41)
Nevertheless, the people were astonished that such horrible people could exist, saying, “May this never be!” (Luke 20:16)
Have you never read in the Scriptures: ” ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew 21:42-44)
What was Jesus saying? He was saying that he is the one on whom everything rests. He is the cornerstone (probably a better translation than “capstone” here) of everything. The cornerstone was always laid down first when constructing a building, and everything was built around it.
In the same way, Jesus is the one we are to build our lives and his kingdom around. But the Jewish leaders rejected him, and so the kingdom of God would be given to those the leaders despised, the tax collectors, prostitutes, and the Gentiles who would turn to Jesus and embrace him as Savior. The leaders, meanwhile, would be judged and lose everything.
How about you? How are you building your life? Are you building it on money? Possessions? Power? The things of this world? Or are you building it around Jesus? Is he the chief cornerstone of your life?
God has given you your life. You and all you have ultimately belong to him, and he will demand that you produce fruit in your life for his kingdom. But you cannot produce fruit if you are living for yourself. And if you reject him who is the cornerstone, you, like the Jewish leaders will lose everything and be judged.
Who are you living for?