9 And he began to speak unto the people this parable: A man planted a vineyard, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into another country for a long time.10 And at the season he sent unto the husbandmen a servant, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty.11 And he sent yet another servant: and him also they beat, and handled him shamefully, and sent him away empty.12 And he sent yet a third: and him also they wounded, and cast him forth.13 And the lord of the vineyard said, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will reverence him.14 But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.15 And they cast him forth out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore will the lord of the vineyard do unto them? 16 He will come and destroy these husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.17 But he looked upon them, and said, What then is this that is written,
The stone which the builders rejected,
The same was made the head of the corner?
18 Every one that falleth on that stone shall be broken to pieces; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will scatter him as dust.
To the malicious challenge of his enemies Jesus had already replied, claiming for himself divine authority and condemning the rulers for their guilty unbelief. He now added a parable, more clearly stating his claims and more solemnly rebuking these hostile rulers and pronouncing judgment upon the nation they represented. He told the story of a householder who established and equipped a vineyard and let it out to tenants. He lived at a distance and expected as rent a certain portion of the vintage. When he sent for the fruit, however, his messengers were abused and killed; at last his own son was sent and was slain. He determined to come and to exact justice and to deliver his vineyard to tenants who were more worthy.
The parable was so plain that the enemies of Jesus perfectly understood its meaning. The householder was his Father; the vineyard was Israel; the husbandmen were the rulers to whom the nation had been intrusted; the servants were the prophets sent to summon the people to repent and to render to God the fruits of righteousness; the son was Jesus himself, who thus claimed a unique relation to God, distinct from the prophets and from all human messengers; the death of the heir was his own approaching crucifixion; the return of the householder was the coming visitation of divine judgment, the rejection of Israel, and the call of the Gentiles. It was aside from the present purpose of Jesus to refer to the individual Jews who would accept him and to the future conversion of the nation of which Paul wrote. He wished now to emphasize his own rejection and the guilt and punishment of the nation. He declared, however, that this death would issue in his exaltation and triumph; that he was |the stone which the builders rejected,| which |was made the head of the corner.| He also warned his enemies that all who, in unbelief, should stumble on that stone, all who should reject him, would be |broken to pieces,| and all who should attempt to drag down that stone would be ground and scattered as dust.