Looking for Fruit
Looking for Fruit
Matthew 21:33 “Listen to another parable”: “This sounds as though the Sanhedrists tried to leave and that Jesus detained them” (Lenski, p. 835). Observe how Jesus had turned the tables upon His opponents. No longer are they questioning Him, but He is questioning and teaching them. The previous parable had exposed the insincerity of the Jewish leaders. This parable, an extension of the previous one, describes the rebellious history and eventual down fall of the Jewish nation.
Matthew 21:33 “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers”: The landowner is God. The vineyard represents the privileged status given to the nation of Israel (Isaiah 5:1-7). The vineyard was complete; it was given everything necessary to operate. In like manner, God had given to Israel everything necessary so they could serve Him successfully (Romans 3:1ff; Isaiah 5:4 “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?”) Israel was hedged or protected, not only by their location (Numbers 23:9), but also by their law (Ephesians 2:14,15). “Vine-growers”: Represents the Jewish nation and especially her rulers (21:41). “It tells us of God’s trust in men. The owner of the vineyard entrusted it to the cultivators. He did not even stand over them to exercise a police-like supervision. God pays men the compliment of entrusting them with His work” (Barclay, p. 290). “And went on a journey”: “God had come down upon Mt. Sinai, given the law, and established the Hebrew nation, after which He had withdrawn. That had indeed been a long time ago; and for four hundred years before the appearance of John the Baptist (He had remained silent)” (McGarvey, p. 591). Jackson notes, “The ‘other country’ into which the man journeyed ‘for a long time’ (Luke 20:9) represented Jehovah’s cessation of personal communication with Israel from Sinai to the coming of Christ” (p. 33).
Matthew 21:34 “And when the harvest time approached”: Which refers to the state of ripeness that God expected of the Jewish nation. “It tells us of human freedom. The master left the cultivators to do the task, as they liked. God is no tyrannical task-master” (Barclay, p. 291). “He sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce”: These slaves represent the O.T. prophets whom God had sent to Israel. Many of them had been persecuted by their fellow Israelites (Elijah-1 Kings 19); (Jeremiah-12:20); (Ezekiel-2:6; 20:49); (Amos-7:10-13); (Zechariah-11:12). Jesus often drew parallels between the persecutions of the prophets and the actions being committed by His contemporaries (Matthew 5:12; 23:27). Matthew 21:35 “And the vine-growers took His slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third”: See Hebrews 11:36-37.
Matthew 21:36 “Again He sent another group”: Observe God’s patience. “The master sent messenger after messenger. He did not come with sudden vengeance when one messenger had been abused and ill-treated. He gave the cultivators chance after chance to respond” (Barclay, p. 290). (Acts7:52; 2 Kings 17:13; Jeremiah 44:4; Neh. 9:30)
Matthew 21:37 “But afterward He sent His son to them”: Jesus is not just another servant. He is in a different class from the prophets (Matthew 16:13-16). This is an admission of Jesus’ divine nature. The prophets were “sons”, but not like this “son”. Jesus is the Son of God in a distinct sense, that is, one equal with the Father (Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 14:9; 20:28; Hebrews 1:8). “They will respect my son”: “How greatly is the love of God evidenced by the sending of His Son in spite of the abuse heaped upon the aforesent prophets” (Jackson, p. 34). The rejection of His Son did not catch God by surprise (Acts 2:23). Rather, God respected human freewill, even when it came to sending His beloved Son, and what God expects is so reasonable. There was no good reason for not respecting His Son, especially when Jesus arrived with all the credentials of Sonship.
Matthew 21:38 “But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance’”: This reveals that those involved in the death of Jesus were not completely ignorant, yet they had stubbornly refused to accept His credentials (Acts 2:22; John 12:37; 12:43-43). The Jewish leaders deliberately plotted Jesus’ death, and envy was a major motive behind their plot (Matthew 27:18). In the immediate context, the Jewish leaders had challenged the authority of God’s Son (21:23). These vine-growers “had just harshly demanded of the Son that He tell by what authority He did anything in the vineyard” (McGarvey, p. 592). The Jewish leaders deliberately made a decision. They placed their own positions and security ahead of the will of God (John 11:47-50). In like manner, many people today think that if just enough people rebel against God that such will force God to come to the bargaining table. Yet, how does Jesus picture the owner of the vineyard in this story? The Master does not show up and work out a deal with the wicked workers, He destroys them. Matthew 21:39 “took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him”: This is another clear prediction of His own death (Matthew 16:21). Jesus was taken out of the city (John 19:17) and He was put to death “without the gate” (Hebrews 13:13). “After two intervening days, the Jews would fulfill this detail by thrusting Jesus outside the walls of Jerusalem and crucifying Him there” (McGarvey, p. 593).
Matthew 21:40 “Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?”: Jesus does not allow the rulers to hide behind, “We do not know” (21:27). “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vinegrowers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons”: They pronounced their own doom (2 Samuel 12), which was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. When some in the crowd heard this, they responded “May it never be!” (Luke 20:16). Here we learn something. People may disagree with the standard found in the Bible, but in their actions and interaction with their fellowmen, they admit that the standard is just and right.
Matthew 21:42 “Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’”:
The quotation is from Psalm 118:22. Jesus is the stone, which the builders (the Jewish rulers) rejected (1 Peter 2:4). “This quotation is from the very Psalm from which the multitude had quoted at the triumphal entry. This picture of the Jewish leaders attempting to construct a building (their version of the Kingdom of God), and rejecting the cornerstone which is the key to the structure of the whole building” (Foster, p. 1132). The cornerstone was the most important stone in the entire structure. “Cornerstones were laid so as to give strength to the two walls with which they were connected” (Jackson, p. 35). Others note that the cornerstone determined the angles and lines not only for the foundation but for the rest of the structure as well. Jackson notes, “Jesus Christ, as the chief corner stone, blends together: eternity (John 1:1) and time (John 1:14); deity (Heb. 1:8) and humanity (1 Tim. 3:16); the First covenant and Second (Heb. 10:9); mercy (Eph. 2:4) the justice of God (Romans 3:26); and Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:16)” (pp. 35-36).
Matthew 21:42 “This became the chief corner stone… and it is marvelous in our eyes?”: The Jews rejected Jesus, and the Father made Jesus the chief corner stone. Man’s unbelief does not stop the purposes of God. The way in which God can work out His plans in the face of human opposition is marvelous. Observe that Jewish rejection did not alter God’s plans. God did not withdraw His offer or change what He was planning.
Matthew 21:43 “Therefore”: Because of Jewish rejection and the failure to bring forth fruits such as faith, repentance and obedience. “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it”: The kingdom to be taken from the Jews was their special reign as Jehovah’s chosen/covenant people. The kingdom was not merely taken from the Jewish rulers, but also from the whole nation of Israel. A new nation would be formed, and this nation would constitute the kingdom of God. That nation is the church, a spiritual nation composed of Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:9; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 2:11ff). “Producing the fruit of it”: Spiritual advantages must be used, or the consequences will be great. The Jewish people were responsible for what their leaders did. God expects “fruit” from those who claim to be His people, and the same principle not only applies to the individual (John 15:2ff), but also applies to congregations (Revelation chapters 2-3).
Matthew 21:44 “And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust”: “To refuse His way is to batter one’s head against the walls of the law of God. To defy Him, is in the end, to be crushed out of life. The picture is of a stone which breaks a man, if he stumbles against it, and which crushes a man to powder, if it falls upon him” (Barclay, pp. 293-292). God has no sympathy for those who ignore or reject His Son. All who take a stand opposite Him will be condemned. Jesus is the final test. The person with whom everyone must deal. He is the only way to God, and eternal life cannot be gained by going around Him (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Matthew 21:45 “they understood that He was speaking about them”: Again, even less than honest men can understand the point and meaning of the parables. Yet even though they clearly understood Jesus’ point, and that Jesus had exposed them as ungrateful workers who were willing to kill the heir to seize the property for themselves, they immediately continue to act out their part in the story. Here Jesus is telling them, “I am on to you”. “I know exactly what you are thinking”. In like manner there are passages that one can read that expose our motives at the very moment we are reading the passage. For example, consider Romans 1:21-28.
Matthew 21:46 “And when they sought to seize Him, they feared the multitudes, because they held Him to be a prophet”: Some people become even more hardened when they hear the truth and they became only more determined to resist. Yet they did not fear God. Nor did they fear Jesus, even after Jesus had worked miracles and disclosed the inward motives in their hearts.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017