9He began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. 10When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed.11Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. 12And he sent still a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. 13Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.' 14But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, 'This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.' 15So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others." When they heard this, they said, "Heaven forbid!"17But he looked at them and said, "What then does this text mean: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? 18Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls."
In a nutshell of a parable, Jesus basically tells the whole story of how Yahweh sent His prophets to Israel so that Israel would repent and turn back to their true God and save themselves. As we know, Israel unceremoniously rejects the prophets. As a last ditch effort, the "owner of the vineyard" (= Yahweh) decides to send his own "beloved son." The son's fate is worse: the "tenants" (= Israel) kill the son.
We must remember that Jesus is speaking. He is fully aware of what he is saying. Jesus is prophesying that Israel will kill him and that God the Father will turn toward the Gentiles with the good news of his crucified and risen Son. Switching metaphors from a vineyard to a building, the passage notes, 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'. This statement is a verbatim quotation from Psalm 118:22 and this statement is repeated post-Resurrection in Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7, both passages describing Jesus in these terms -- the stone (Jesus) that the builders (Israel) rejected has become the cornerstone (the basis of the New Covenant People of God).
One of the burning questions for the early Christian community was, Why did Israel reject Israel's Messiah, Jesus? Ironically sad and paradoxically confusing, the failure of Jews to accept the Jewish Messiah.
The Apostle Paul puzzled over this question as well. Here's what he had to say, in Romans 11:11: " Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious."
Paul's inspired thought on this matter includes the following: 1. Because Israel failed to receive the Messiah, other nations were brought into Israel's history of election (11:13-24). 2. Israel's failure is presented to the church as a permanent warning. God will spare an unbelieving church no more than he has spared unbelieving Israel (11:20-22). 3. Israel's failure confers a stable, indestructible hope. The church can learn from Israel that God is faithful and that he never withdraws his grace. Despite its failure, Israel remains called (11:29). It is not rejected (11:1), but forever loved by God (11:28). One day it will again become true Israel (11:26-27). 4. In the meantime the church has the task of making Israel jealous (11:11, 14).
So much more is wrapped up in Israel's rejection of Jesus. And not all for the bad. Some for the good, particularly for all of us who find ourselves belonging to the Gentile nations. In the mysterious outworking of ordo salutis (order of salvation), God has seen fit that Israel's rejection becomes our inclusion within the larger story of God's salvation of the nations. Thanks be to God.
Let's pray: Father God, the marvelous richness of your wisdom is displayed in the failure of Israel to receive fully her Messiah which in turn became our invitation to your great salvation story. And though Israel has rejected her Messiah, it is not forever. One day "All Israel" will be saved. So may even now be a season of goodly jealousy on the part of Israel, that she might glimpse the hope, love, and joy among the Gentile believers of the Messiah and turn toward her true Lord and Savior. In Christ's Name, Amen.