MATTHEW 21:33-44 THE KING MAKES HIS ENEMIES JUDGE THEMSELVES
33. Hear another parable: there was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.
In this parable a certain householder did all that could be done for his vineyard: it was well planted, and hedged round about, provided with a wine-press digged in the rock, and guarded by a tower built for the purpose. Even so the Jewish Church had been created, trained, guarded, and fully furnished by the Lord; “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant “( Isaiah 5:7). Everything was in good order for the production of fruit, so that the Lord was able to say, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? “( Isaiah 5:4. ) The owner went into a far country and committed the estate to husbandmen who were to take care of it for him and yield to him a certain share of the produce as the rent. Thus the great Lord of Israel left the nation under the care of priests, and kings, and men of learning, who should have cultivated this heritage of Jehovah for him, and yielded up to him the fruit of this choice vineyard. God for a while seemed gone from his chosen people, for miracles had ceased; but this should have made the scribes and priests the more watchful, even as good servants are the more awake to guard the estate of their master when he is away.
34. And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
The householder waited till near the full time in which he could expect a return. The time of the fruit drew near; and as the husbandmen sent him none of the produce of the vineyard, he sent his servants to receive the fruits of it, and bring them to him. These servants, as the lord’s representatives, ought to have been received with due honor; but they were not. The leaders of the Jewish nation for a long time rendered to the Lord no homage, love, or service. Prophets were sent of God to Israel, but their message was refused by the rulers of the people.
35. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
The husbandman, the persons in charge and authority, kings, priests, and teachers; these united in doing evil to the owner’s servants. They were not themselves his “servants”; they deserved not so honorable a title. Beating, killing, and stoning, are put for various forms of maltreatment, which the Lord’s prophets received at the hands of Israel’s husbandmen, the religious rulers of the nation. Those to whom the vineyard was leased were traitors to the chief landlord, and did violence to his messengers; for in heart they desired to keep the vineyard to themselves.
36. Again he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
The lord of the vineyard was patient, and gave them further opportunities to mend their ways: Again, he sent other servants. Failure to bring back the fruit was not the fault of the first messengers, for other servants were rejected even as they had been. The householder was very anxious to win the husbandmen to a better state of mind, for he increased the number of his representatives, sending more than the first, trusting that the evil men would yield to repeated calls. No good came of this effort of kindness; for the badly-disposed husbandmen only continued their murderous cruelty: they did unto them likewise. It was evidently a bad case. The Jewish people would not hearken to the voices of the Lord’s servants, and their rulers not them the example of persecuting the men whom God had sent to them.
37. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
The sending of his son was the householder’s last resort. Luke represents him as saying, “What shall I do?” He might have resolved at once to punish the evil-doers; but his action proved that mercy had triumphed over wrath:
Last of all he sent unto them his son. The sending of Jesus to Jerusalem was God’s ultimatum. If he should be rejected, judgment must fall upon the guilty, city. It seemed impossible that his mission could fail. In sending his beloved Son, the Father seemed to say, “Surely, ‘they will reverence my son.’ Can they go the length of doing despite to the Heir of all things? Will not his own beauty and majesty overawe them? Heaven adores him; hell trembles at him; surely, they will reverence my Son.”
38. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us hill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
Things turned not out as a loving heart might have hoped. Evil worked itself to its consummation. When the husbandmen saw the son; that is to say, as soon as the chief priests and Pharisees perceived that the true Messiah was come, they said among themselves what they dared not say openly. The very sight of the heir of all things fired them with malice. In their hearts they hated Jesus, because they knew that he really was the Messiah. They feared that he would dismiss them, and assume possession of his own inheritance, and therefore they would make an end of him: “This is the heir; come, let us kill him .” Once get him out of the way, they hoped to keep the nation in their own hands, and use it for their own purposes: therefore they inwardly said, “Let us seize on his inheritance. ” They knew that he was “the heir”, and that it was “his inheritance”; but their knowledge did not prevent them from seeking to snatch the vineyard away from its rightful owner. Our Lord pictured to the life what was passing in the minds of the proud ecclesiastics around him, and he did not hesitate to do this to their faces. No names were mentioned, but this was personal preaching of the best kind.
39. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
The Lord Jesus becomes prophetic, as by the parable he foretells the success of their malice. The husbandmen were hasty in carrying out their wicked plot. No sooner said than done. Three acts were in that drama, and they followed quickly upon each other. We will drop the figures, and unveil the facts. They caught him in the garden of Gethsemane; they cast him out in their Council in the hall of Caiaphas, and when he was led without the gate of Jerusalem; they slew him at Calvary; for theirs was the crime, though the :Romans did the deed. Thus the Heir was slain, but the murderers did not long retain the vineyard; swift justice overtook them.
40. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do to those husbandmen?
Jesus puts the matter before them. Out of their own mouths shall the verdict proceed. There is a time when the lord of the vineyard cometh. To those chief priests that hour was drawing very near: the question for them to think of was, “What will he do unto those husbandmen? ” As a class, the religious leaders of the Jews were guilty of the blood of a long line of prophets, and they were about to crown their long career of crime by the murder of the Son of God himself: in the destruction of Jerusalem the God of heaven visited them, and dealt out just punishment to them. The siege of the city and the massacre of the inhabitants was a terrible avenging of the innocent blood which the people and their rulers had shed.
41. They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
Their reply was probably made complete, and full of details, that they might hide their own shame by a parade of justice in a case which they would have men think was no concern of theirs. In very deed, they pronounced upon themselves the sentence of being wicked men , to be miserably destroyed , and to have their offices given to better men: “he will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen .” They could not or would not give an opinion as to the mission of John the Baptist; but it seems that they could form a judgment as to themselves. The j Lord’s vineyard passed over to other a husbandmen; and the apostles and the first preachers of the gospel were found faithful to their trust.
Just now there are many professed ministers of Christ who are quitting, the truth which he has committed to his stewards, as a sacred trust, and setting up a doctrine of their own. Oh, that the Lord may raise up a race of men “who shall render him the fruits in their seasons !” The hall-mark of a faithful minister is his giving to God all the glory of any work that he is enabled to do. That which does not magnify the Lord will not bless men.
42, 43. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and a given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
Our Lord reminds them of David’s language in <19B822> Psalm 118:22,23. They were professedly the builders, and they had rejected him who was the chief corner-stone. Yet the Lord God had made the despised one to be the head of the corner. He was the most conspicuous and honored stone in Israel’s building. Against the will of scribe and priest this had been accomplished: for it was the Lord’s doing. They might rage, but holy minds adored, and said, “It is marvelous in our eyes. ” The sufferings and glory of Christ are the wonder of the universe:” which things the angels desire to look into” ( 1 Peter 1:12). All that relates to him is marvelous in the eyes of his people.
The doom of the unfaithful religious builders was the result of their sin: “Therefore say I unto you. ” They were to love the blessings of the gospel: “The kingdom of God shall be arisen from you.” All share in the honors and offices of that kingdom would be refused them. That loss would be aggravated by their seeing it “given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. ” What a warning is this to our own country! We, too, are seeing the sacrifice and deity of our Lord questioned, and his sacred Word assailed by those who should have been its advocates. Unless there is a speedy amendment, the Lord may take away the candlestick out of its place, and find another race which will prove more faithful to him and to his gospel than our own has been.
44. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
Those who stumble over Christ, the chief corner-stone of the Church, are injured: they suffer grievous bruising and breathing, but he remains unhurt.
Opposition to Jesus is injury to ourselves. Those upon whom he falls in wrath are ground to powder; for the results of his anger are overwhelming, fatal, irretrievable. Oppose him, and you suffer but when he arises in his might, and opposes you, destruction has already come to you.
MATTHEW 21:45-46 THE KING’S ENEMIES PLOT AGAINST HIM
45. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
They had tried to turn aside the point of his parables; but they had tried in vain: the likenesses were striking, the parallels were perfect, they could not help knowing that he spake of them. Such parables; so true, so cutting, so pertinent, how could they escape them, or endure them?
46. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for prophet.
Since they could not answer him, they would apprehend him. Happily, the multitude thought too well of Jesus to allow of their laying hands on him, though they sought to do so. These great religionists were as cowardly as they were cruel: they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
They dared not tell the truth concerning John because they feared the people, and that feat restrained their anger against John’s Lord. It was arranged, in the order of providence, that ecclesiastical malice should be held in check by popular feeling. This was an instance of the way in which full often the earth has helped the woman ( Revelation 12:16), and the will of the masses has screened the servants of God from priestly cruelty.
He who rules all things sets in motion a high order of politics in the affairs of men in reference to his church. At times, princes have saved men of God from priestly rancor, and anon the multitude has preserved them from aristocratic hate. One way or another, Jehovah knows how to preserve his son, and all those who are with him, until the hour comes when by their deaths they can glorify his name, and enter into glory themselves.