Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #856 MP3 Audio File Video File

Yahweh's Vineyard

Matthew 21:33-46

Delivered 05/07/17

I want us to look this morning at the parable of Yahweh's Vineyard ,which is found in all the Synoptic Gospels. We will be primarily looking at Matthews account but will draw from the others as well. This parable of the vineyard gives us the history and future of the nation Israel from a first century perspective. From our perspective looking back we see the accuracy of the Bible. History plays out just as this parable predicts.

To get the context let's begin with verse 23:

When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?" Matthew 21:23 NASB

So here we see that Yeshua is in the Temple, and the "the chief priests and the elders" (Mark and the scribes also) approached Him and began to question His authority. "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?" Yeshua answered their question with a question about John the Baptizer's authority:

Yeshua said to them, "I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. "The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" Matthew 21:24-25a NASB

They refused to answer, because they were afraid their answer would upset the people:

…And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Then why did you not believe him?' "But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet." And answering Yeshua , they said, "We do not know." He also said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. Matthew 21:25-27 NASB

As they questioned Yeshua's authority, Yeshua painted them another picture. It was a picture of a vineyard in verse 33 and following. Everyone understood what this vineyard represented. The vine, along with the fig tree, was a national symbol for Israel. As a matter of fact, at the very Temple where Yeshua stood, there was a richly carved grape vine. This grape vine was sculpted around the door which opened into the holy place. It was seventy cubits high. The branches and leaves were made of the finest gold. The grapes were very costly jewels. It was first placed there by Herod, and over time, rich and patriotic Jews added to its glory by contributing a new grape or a new leaf. The vine was an exceedingly meaningful symbol for the Jews.

"Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. Matthew 21:33 NASB

"Listen to another parable"—a parable is a brief story or narrative drawn from human life or from nature, not relating to some actual event, but true to life and concerning something very familiar to the listeners, given for the purpose of teaching a spiritual truth. It is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The etymological meaning of the word parable is: "a placing alongside of" for the purpose of comparison.

The intention of parabolic teaching is given by Christ in Matthew 13: 11-17. First, it is a method of teaching the responsive disciple. The second intent of parabolic teaching was to hide the truth from the unresponsive, and so aid in the hardening of their heart as they continuously rebelled against God.

Bernard Ramm, in his book, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, says, "The golden rule of parabolic interpretation is—Determine the one central truth the parable is attempting to teach. Practically all writers on the subject mention it with stress." Dodd says, "The typical parable presents one single point of comparison, the details are not intended to have independent significance." Others have put the rule this way:" Don't make a parable walk on all fours." So, our objective, as we study this parable, is to find its one central message.

In this parable, the vineyard is Israel, it is my understanding that all the parables are about Israel. The owner is Yahweh; the tenant farmers are the Jewish leaders; the slaves are the prophets that are sprinkled throughout Israel's history that the leadership has always rejected, and the only son is of course Yeshua. Here we have a veiled prediction that Yeshua would be killed by the religious leadership of His day. Yeshua's authority comes from His Father who sent Him just as the son in the parable received his authority from his father. Thus Yeshua was claiming higher authority than those in the Sanhedrin, who were mere renters in the unfolding plan of God. The claim of any one man to have authority greater than the Sanhedrin would have shocked a first century Jew.

"Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. Matthew 21:33 NASB

Yeshua begins His parable with a very familiar hallmark of the Middle Eastern agriculture, a vineyard. The text in all caps is a quote from the Tanakh. Yeshua is quoting the opening stanzas of the parable of Isaiah Chapter 5, but makes a different application than the one found in that prophecy. His hearers would have recognized it from the star:

Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. And He dug it all around, removed its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it, And hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected it to produce good grapes, But it produced only worthless ones.

"And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge between Me and My vineyard. "What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? "So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. "And I will lay it waste; It will not be pruned or hoed, But briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it."

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress. Isaiah 5:1-7 NASB

Yahweh had, at the exodus, planted Israel, as it were. The Law of Moses defined that which Yahweh expected from His people. Seven hundred years later the Messiah Himself amplified that same message as He spoke to the dwellers of Jerusalem and to the men of Judah. He told them another parable, and as He mentioned the buzz word "vineyard," they immediately knew He was talking about them.

Until we get to the end of the stanza, the words of Christ are almost verbatim. In the case of Isaiah's parable, the vineyard represented the house of Israel and the choice vine, Judah (Isa. 5:7). The point of the parable was that Yahweh had made every provision for Israel to live as the people of God, having protected them and nurtured them through many years. Yet the nation produced "worthless" grapes, and would therefore meet with the judgment of Yahweh.

"Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. Matthew 21:33 NASB

Consider this landowner's attention to detail as Yeshua tells this parable: He put a strong wall around it to keep the wild boars from rooting up everything he'd planted and to discourage thieves making off with his crops. He dug a pit for the winepress; one shallow pit where the bunches of grapes were crushed, and one deeper pit to hold the juice as it flowed in. He built a watchtower for shelter, storage, and as a vantage point from which men could see the whole vineyard. He thought of everything; all provision was made for a great harvest and prosperity for the farmers. This was Israel in the holy land He had promised to Abraham when he left Ur. This was the land flowing with milk and honey to which He brought Israel after redeeming them from slavery in Egypt. Under Joshua, He planted His people in this land. There He left them for 1,400 years, or as Yeshua says it in this parable, He "went on a journey."

In the Targum of Isaiah (the Aramaic paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures), the tower is interpreted as the Temple. Thus many of His listeners would recognize the association of what He was saying regarding the Temple, and that His words thus included those who ran the Temple.

It was very common in the first century for an owner of a vineyard to leave, to go on trips, and not even live in the area. He would simply hire someone to (what we would call) manage the vineyard. Every year a percentage of the produce would go back to the owner. But if over a period of five years no produce went back to the owner, the manager assumed ownership of the vineyard. This was put in place in case an owner went on a trip and died. They did not have all the communication we have today. After five years it would be evident that he was not coming back, and they would take over ownership of the vineyard.

"When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. "The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. "Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. Matthew 21:34-36 NASB

The word "vine-growers" is from the Greek word georgos, which can refer either to the owner of a farm, or in this case, to one who does agricultural work on a contractual basis. It is translated: "Tenant" (NIV) or "husbandman" (KJV).

In this parable who do the vine-growers represent? The Sanhedrin or religious leaders of Israel, while the vineyard is the nation of Israel itself. Somewhere along the way the vine-growers decided they wanted to be the owners. They took over the vineyard. Over and over again, God sent His prophets, who are the "slaves" of the parable. The nation, through its leaders, consistently rejected the prophets, rejecting them and their message. Rather than responding to them, they would beat them. They would even kill them. Prophet after prophet after prophet was sent and rejected.

One example of this would be the 5th century prophet, Jeremiah, who received bitter treatment from the religious and political leaders in Judah—even being left for dead in a muddy cistern:

Then they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchijah the king's son, which was in the court of the guardhouse; and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. Now in the cistern there was no water but only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud. Jeremiah 38:6 NASB

Zechariah prophesied, being the son of Jehoiada, the godly priest that elevated the young Joash to Judah's throne after the tyranny of Queen Athaliah, and after prophesying, was murdered at the order of Joash who had turned away from the Lord (2 Chron. 24:20-22). Israel and Judah resisted the merciful warnings of the prophets, again, taking matters into their own hands.

Elijah was driven into the wilderness by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Isaiah, as tradition has it, was sawn in half. John the Baptist had his head removed. This was the fate of many of the prophets; notice what the writer of Hebrews says:

They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. Hebrews 11:37-38 NASB

Commenting on Yeshua's parable in Matthew 21,Luther said, "If I were God and the world treated me as it treated him, I would kick the wretched thing to pieces." What would you do if this was your vineyard? Would you send in the troops? Would you round up your militia and march on those vine-growers and butcher all of them? Listen to what Yeshua says:

"But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' Matthew 21:37 NASB

What man would ever do that?

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. Romans 5:7 NASB

One would hardly die for a righteous man or a good man let alone a bunch of murdering mutinous vine-growers. Do you know what the next verse in Romans says?

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NASB

There never was a more loving Father, and there never was a more loved Son. There had never been a time when the Father did not love the Son; He was the eternally begotten beloved one. In the beginning, before anything else began, He was there, and He was loved infinitely and unchangeably and immeasurably by His Father. They were always together, being loved and loving in return.

Yeshua, in this parable, is telling His audience that He is not a prophet; He is the Son. That is the basis of His authority. He owns the vineyard. He has been sent by His Father to possess what is His. But they will reject Him and put Him to death:

"But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' Matthew 21:38 NASB

Instead of respecting His Son, the vine-growers saw an opportunity to take the vineyard for themselves. I suppose they assumed that since the son was coming alone, the father had died. They figured that if they killed the last heir, they would be able to take possession of the vineyard. So they took this Son and killed Him:

"They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Matthew 21:39 NASB

The implication in the story was absolutely clear. Now the Son had come to Israel, and they were fulfilling this prophetic parable exactly as our Lord described. They had failed to hear the long line of prophets that God had sent. Now they would reject the word of the Son, and they would kill Him. Yeshua is prophesying His own death at the hands of these religious leaders. In a few short days, they will deliver Him to their own authorities and condemn Him to death.

Yeshua is describing to them who they are, and what they are doing. And, indirectly, He is answering their question, "By what authority do you do these things?" He says, "Here is my authority: I am the owner of the vineyard. I am the rightful heir to it. I am the beloved Son whom the Father has sent:

"Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?" Matthew 21:40 NASB

In Mark's account it looks as though Yeshua answers His own question, but in Matthew it is clear that Yeshua asks the question, and it is the chief priests and elders who give the answer. So Yeshua asks, "What will he do to those vine-growers"? And they answer:

They said to Him, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons." Matthew 21:41 NASB

Imagine this! Yeshua is saying that He is the Son of God, that He comes in God's authority, that they will kill Him, and they say that God will not only destroy them, but He will give their leadership to the Gentiles. Notice how Luke's account renders this:

"He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others." And when they heard it, they said, "May it never be!" Luke 20:16 NASB

The response of the Lord's hearers is "May it never be!" This is from the Greek words me ginomai—"God forbid!" This is the only place in the Gospels that this expression, common to Paul, appears. It is a thought almost too horrible to consider.

"He will come and destroy the vine-growers"—historically, how did God destroy the "vine-growers"? Forty years later, Roman armies came in, surrounded the city of Jerusalem and captured it, and the chief priests, the scribes and the elders were led away in chains into captivity, to be dispersed among the nations. God did exactly what He said He would do in this parable.

"And will give the vineyard to others"God, through the Gospel, was preparing a new nation, which would take the place of the old in which only Jews and proselytes participated. That new nation was to create one new man from both Jew and Gentile through the work of the cross:

for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, Ephesians 2:18-19 NASB

Once there were Jews and Goyim. Now Christ comes and unites them to Himself so that "in Him" there would be only One New Person, namely Christians.

"But you are fellow citizens"—the adversative conjunction "but" (alla) marks a strong contrast from the negative just stated. "Fellow citizens"—is from the Greek word sumpolites, this Greek word is not found in the LXX and occurs only here in the New Testament. It is the opposite of foreigner. The Goy are now Kingdom Citizens. Previously, in the Old Covenant, we were strangers and aliens.

This brand new nation relied not upon natural descent from one man, but a spiritual rebirth in the one Man, Yeshua the Christ, bringing harmony to all true children of God. There's now no difference between Jew and Gentile (Col. 3:11, Rom. 10:12, Gal. 3:28, Acts 10:34-35) because the nation of God is built around Yeshua—it's become no longer geographical, but multi-national.
Yeshua then applied the lesson of the parable by an appeal to the Scriptures in typical Rabbinic manner. This method of finishing off a parable with a Scripture quotation is regularly found among the Rabbis:


Yeshua questioned whether or not these religious leaders in Israel had even read the Scriptures' teaching on Messiah! That was quite a dig aimed at the chief biblical scholars of Yeshua's day.

Yeshua here quotes from Psalm 118:

The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. Psalms 118:22 NASB

He is saying, This very Son that you are rejecting will become the cornerstone of the new Temple, of the New Covenant—of a whole new way of life.

Notice who it is that rejects this stone: it's the "builders!" Who should have known a good stone when they saw one? The builders! This referred to the religious leaders, those who should have understood the Scriptures. Yet due to their spinning of God's Word to create a religion of self-dependence in legalism, they rejected Yeshua who is the Christ.

"THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED"—the word "rejected" is apodokimazo, which means: "to reject (after scrutiny), declare useless." The rulers didn't just make a quick judgment error on the spur of the moment. This word indicates that they had a chance to examine the "stone" carefully and then reject it after reflection.

They were like a bunch of stonemasons, Yeshua says, who thought a stone was useless. They studied it and decided that it was the wrong size and the wrong shape and the wrong materials: "Discard it!" they said, and they turned their backs on it, but it turned out to be the cornerstone, the most important stone in the building, but they could never see that. They put a big stamp on it, "REJECTED." They scrutinized Yeshua. They saw His holy life and miraculous works. They witnessed His power over demons. They heard His life-giving words. Yet because Yeshua did not fit the pattern they had in mind for a Savior, they rejected Him.

They look at this Galilean rabbi, and they think that He is merely in the way. A stone to be rejected and cast aside. What they cannot realize is that this stone is to become the foundation stone for God's covenant people.

"THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER STONE"— when we think of modern day builders laying a corner stone, it is generally a small concrete box that contains current newspapers and other documents for future generations to break open and read about what took place during the era of construction. But it didn't have that idea in Yeshua's time. The corner stone was the key to the rest of the structure. The appropriate stone in size and shape would be placed strategically so that the rest of the building might take its alignment and form based on the corner stone.

With this metaphor, the biblical writers established that the kingdom God built would be founded upon Yeshua the Christ. Every detail in its dimensions, shape, size, and form relates directly to Christ. Without the corner stone, the building has no value. Paul expressed this clearly:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Yeshua Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 NASB

Christ is the corner stone to such a degree that "the whole building," all the redeemed through the ages, are fitted and joined together into one, "Holy Temple in the Lord."

Peter picks up on the same thought:

And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua the Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 NASB

Just as Paul did, Peter describes the body of believers as "a spiritual house" or a Temple that exists for the worship, praise, declaration, and glory of our Lord. We're "living stones" that are joined to Yeshua "the living stone." He follows in the next verse by declaring Christ "a precious corner stone."


Now, what is specifically implied in corner stone? We are not just built upon the person of Christ, as grand and wonderful as He is as the God-man. He is the corner stone, rejected by men—that is put to death on the cross and raised from the dead by the Father because He was our substitute before the wrath of God at the cross and in the resurrection.

"THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES?"—it is "marvelous in our eyes." The present tense implies constant amazement on the part of all that understand what God has done in Christ on behalf of sinners. "Marvelous" translates a word meaning: "wonder, amazement," or something that is "an object of wonder."

This verse in Matthew 21:42 is quoted from Psalm 118:22-23. Do you know what the next verse in Psalm is?

This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 NASB

This is often sung as if it's the day in which we're singing that's what we should rejoice over. While this is a good thing to do, it's the day of the rejection of the Messiah, which the reader is to rejoice over, that God had it in His mind to seal the salvation of His people through the One being crucified on their behalf. The encouragement is to praise God for the work of the cross rather than for the literal twenty-four hour period in which we're singing it.

After quoting from Psalm 118, both Matthew and Luke add this:

"Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust." Luke 20:18 NASB

Having established Psalm 118:22 as messianic, Yeshua connects it with two other messianic verses about the stone. Isaiah 18:14-15 refers to stumbling on that Stone, and Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45 refers to being crushed by it. The Son is on the one hand, a "stone of stumbling," a cause of stumbling to the Jews. This was our Lord's role at that moment in time. In a "passive" way (the stone didn't move, men stumbled over it), Yeshua was a stumbling block to men who refused to acknowledge their sin and their need of a Savior. But this passive "stone of stumbling," whom the builders (the leaders of the nation) rejected, will also be an active agent in their destruction. Now, He is viewed as a moving stone, a falling stone that crushes and grinds His enemies:

"And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. 45 "Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true, and its interpretation is trustworthy." Daniel 2:44-45 NASB

There is nothing enigmatic or hidden in this parable that Yeshua gives to the Sanhedrin. This was "in your face" stuff. The teachers of the law, chief priests and elders flinched at the conclusion of Yeshua's words because they knew that they didn't come out of this parable well. Nobody said, "What does all that mean?" as the disciples had asked almost three years earlier at the end of Yeshua's parable of the sower. The men in the Temple knew exactly what He meant:

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet. Matthew 21:45-46 NASB

They knew this parable was about them, but because they were afraid of the people, they did nothing except walk away. They would settle this in a few days when they would arrest the Son and have Him put to death just as Yeshua predicted they would.

I want to close this morning by skipping ahead in time about two months to Acts 4. This would have been just a couple of months after the resurrection of Yeshua. This would have happened in Jerusalem where all of these events took place. I think it would be fair to say that many of the religious leaders in Acts chapter 4 would have been the same religious leaders from the discussion a month before in the Gospel of Matthew. In chapter 3, Peter and John heal a lame beggar in front of the crowd. Everybody knows it; everybody confirms it. Then chapter Acts 4:

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Yeshua the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. 5 And it came about on the next day, that their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; Acts 4:1-5 NASB

This is just months later from the discussion in Matthew; these are the same people.

and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. And when they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Yeshua the Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead— by this name this man stands here before you in good health. "He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone. Acts 4:6-11 NASB

Where do you suppose Peter got that answer?:

"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Yeshua. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. Acts 4:12-14 NASB

The leaders of Israel are speechless; they have no reply:

But when they had ordered them to go aside out of the Council, they began to confer with one another, crying, "What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. "But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name." Acts 4:15-17 NASB

Isn't that remarkable! This is just a few months after the discussion in the Gospel of Matthew. These are the same men. Now the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua have taken place. The evidence is so overwhelming that thousands upon thousands of people are turning to Yeshua. These religious leaders confer together and say the fact that these men did a miracle is unmistakable: "Everybody knows it; we cannot deny it." In other words, there is no question this is true.

At that point what we would like to hear is: "We were wrong." But what do they say? "We must shut them up so no one else will know." These men were blind; they rejected the Messiah and He crushed them to powder in AD 70 when He returned in Judgment destroying the Temple, bringing and end to the Old Covenant and consummating the New Covenant. The Kingdom was removed from Old Covenant Israel and given to the Church, all those, both Jew and Gentile who have trusted Christ.

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