”He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time.10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. 13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” 17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’[a]? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.” Luke 20.9-19
How could the Jews not have seen that Jesus was the Son of God? Now we know that some of them believed, many perhaps. But as a whole, as the establishment of religious life, as a nation, they rejected Jesus. The parable in this passage is partly subtle and partly overt. There is no doubt that the owner of the vineyard is God and the son they rejected and killed was Jesus.
Now Jesus was of course telling this before his death. He knew the path God had chosen for him. It was undeniable. He was born to die, to suffer, to be rejected yet to offer hope as well. He was born to pave the way for our redemption.
I like to imagine Jesus in those Temple courts, teaching under what is call Solomon’s Porch. The Temple was massive. Equal to a ten story building, with acres upon areas for the Jews and Gentiles alike to worship. It was, as we know from Jesus, not simply a place for worship but for commerce. It was the center of Jewish life. Every Jew would go at times to the Temple to offer sacrifice to God. They would go for learning, conversation. Jews from all over the world would come, it was certainly a multi-cultural experience as Israel was a world center for trade.
This is the context in which Jesus was teaching and preaching. It wasn’t a small isolated country in the middle of no where. Israel is what is called the “Fertile Crescent,” forming a land bridge from Africa and Asia giving access to modern day Europe. God placed Israel in just the right spot so it might be the center to the ancient near east world.
Jesus’ message was delivered in an area that had the foot traffic to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus was the fulfillment to the Jewish faith and his teachings would indeed become the capstone the builders rejected. Even though Jesus was rejected, his sacrifice, death and resurrection was necessary in order to redeem for the sins of humanity. I don’t know why God couldn’t do it another way. Perhaps it’s his justice, his fairness, and his love that only allowed blood to be spilt in exchange for sin. That was indeed the purpose of the temple — to worship God and find forgiveness of sins.
So here we are two thousand years later with the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Jesus alive and well, dwelling in the hearts of all who believe. What a gift to the world and to all who will receive and believe on the name of Jesus. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
”O Lord God, you are good. Thank you for loving me and for allowing me to walk in your grace. I find strength and comfort in your arms. I find forgiveness in your midst. I praise you Lord for filling me with your Holy Spirit and calling me to take your Gospel to the ends of the earth. Thank you Jesus for redeeming humanity, even though we rejected you by our sin, your love is greater than my failures. Come now, find me faithful, sanctify me with your love. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen