On a roll, Jesus moves to the second parable in his hard-hitting trilogy that will have Chief Priests and Pharisees spitting feathers. A landowner created a vineyard investing in infrastructure not only to grow fruit but turn it into wine. He then placed his creation under the management of tenant farmers. Just as in many regions today, tenant farmers in first-century Palestine lease the land, care for the crops and reap rewards from the harvest with a set amount going to the landowner. However, these tenants were evil, beating and killing servants sent to get his cut. Then he sent his son. But they killed him also.
Jesus leaves us, and those listening, in no doubt to the meaning of his story. God owns the vineyard of Israel. It is supposed to bear the fruit of worship and obedience. He sent prophets to gather this fruit. Finally, he sent his Son. The religious leaders of Israel rebel, give no fruit, and kill the Son of God.
Jesus drives his point home by asking the religious leaders a question they would have found insulting, ‘Have you never read the scriptures?’. After all, they were ‘experts’ in the law. Then he quotes the words of King David in Psalm 118:22-23. ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?’
Listening that day, in a temple portico with the crowd, was Peter. The next weeks would be a crazy ride of emotions for him. From the depths of despair in abandoning Jesus, finding relief in the liberating forgiveness of his master to the spirit-filled ecstasy of a Pentecost revival, it must have felt like a roller coaster of emotions. Then he and John were arrested for causing a stir by healing a man and teaching about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The following day the Jewish leaders asked them by what power they were acting. Peter recalls Jesus parable and uses it in his reply:
‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’
It is a tragic wonder that those who should have been the first to recognise the arrival of the ‘Son’ completely missed Him. He had been right there in front of their eyes and they were blind to him. The blindness of the builders is both astonishing and catastrophic as they discarded the stone on which all the others would take their lead.
The chief cornerstone was the first stone laid down on the ground at one corner of the building, which was then built by adding stones next to and on top of the chief cornerstone. If the chief cornerstone was laid even slightly angled, the whole building ended up crooked. If it was laid even slightly slanted, the whole building ended up tilted and risked collapse. The Apostle Paul captures the centrality of Jesus when writing encouragement to his friends in the city of Ephesus:
God raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things. Ephesians 1:20–22
More From This Series
View the other Devotionals in our “For the Joy” series