On this Good Friday, we come at this holy time in Holy Week to remember. Some may find the name of this day a bit odd: Good Friday? How can a day that’s so bad in the killing of an innocent man on a cross be so good?
While the process was not good in our eyes, the end result was!
Turn with me to Matthew 21:33-46 (take time to read through this now). This passage is known as the Parable of the Tenants. Jesus used these parables during his earthly ministry as he spoke with unbelievers to both instruct and to conceal.
This parable begins with a master of the house who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants. After this was accomplished, he left to another country. If you read through Isaiah 5:1-2, you will see the parallel.
Let me sing for my beloved
my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
2 He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes (Isaiah 5:1-2).
Jesus brings this picture into play, showing that His Father is the “master of the house” and the house of Israel is the vineyard. He provided everything needed for it not only to bless them but to bless every tribe, tongue, people, and nation with its provision. The fruit it bore was to be sweet to the world, but it yielded the wild grapes, sour to the taste.
God made every provision for His people. “When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit.” These servants are the prophets that God sent—all throughout history. And all throughout history, the ‘tenants’ (God’s people) who professed God with their mouths at their religious functions, denied His Word by their actions. Jesus even said:
Therefore I will send you prophets and wisemen and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar (Matthew 23:34-35).
But notice what the master of the house (Yahweh) did. Well, first look at what he didn’t do! He could have sent an army that was at his disposal to bring retribution. While they deserved that, He loved them enough to send them one more person—His Son. Now, we must read what he says with the proper inflection. “They will respect my son!” He is not saying this in a clueless, pie-in-the-sky type of mentality. No, He is saying, “They will respect my son.” And if they didn’t? Consequences will ensue.
Did they respect him? No! In fact, they existed as if they were the ultimate rulers of the land! And the implication? They acted as if God did not exist. Everytime God sent someone to check on their condition, they beat them, killed them, or stoned them. But God still let them press on—He loved them enough to discipline, but still maintained His patience and preserved them as a people.
With the Son? “They took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” Why is this so important? Hebrews 13:12-13 says:
12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
A boy was turning the pages of a book on religious art. When he came to a picture of the crucifixion, he looked at it for a long time, and there came a sad look on his face. Then he said, “If God had been there, he wouldn’t have let them do it.”
In this Parable, we must see what Jesus is doing here. This is the earthly father who would say, “They will respect my son.” In Isaiah 53:4-6, we read:
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
The Lord laid on him our sin. In Isaiah 53:10, Scripture tells us that “it was the will of the LORD to crush him.” While the tenants did do Him in, God used them as an instrument of judgment, mercy, and a sacrifice for sin.
They intended to throw Him out! But they took him outside the camp where the lambs were sacrificed for the forgiveness of the sins of His people. He bore their reproach. He was rejected by His own, but God used that as an instrument of both judgment against those who rejected, but also as an instrument of mercy to those who would receive him.
Remember, Jesus is telling His listeners a parable—and they were certainly caught up in it! When Jesus asked them, “When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” (v. 40). How did they respond? At this point, they were not totally tracking with Jesus’ point. So their response was blunt and forceful:
“He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons” (v. 41).
They just condemned themselves. They thought they would have the land as an inheritance, but the way they treated God’s messengers indicated they did not want to really be a part of the owner’s territory to begin with. You cannot have the blessings of the Master and reject the Master.
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;[a]
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
Every person in this place and in this world will react to this “stone” in one of three ways:
- You will stumble over it
- You will be crushed by it
- You will be aligned with it.
At this point, some in his audience believed in aspects of him, but rejected other aspects. He’s a great teacher, they would say, but is he a political king that will overthrow? Where’s his army? Where’s his ambition? They stumbled. They had created a Messiah in their own thinking influence by the culture around them—rather than the Word and the Spirit informing and transforming their thinking.
Some will be crushed by it. Whether they were an atheist who outright rejected, or a faithful church attender who is going not to get to know Christ better but to simply be seen—both will be crushed! Both are aligning themselves up with their own thoughts, wanting even God’s things for selfish reasons.
But the rejected stone becomes the cornerstone. We can only see it when the Lord marvelously opens our eyes to receive it. By this new people, these nations, these Gentiles—they would produce fruit thanks to the Spirit who produces fruit through them. This can happen if Christ is the cornerstone of your life—with the foundation of the Word of God, and we being the living stones.
The cross of Christ shows us the heinousness of our sin that caused him to writhe in agony!
The cross of Christ shows us the love of God who was patience enough not to leave us in our rebellious, sinful condition.
The cross of Christ is necessary—for without His death, we would die. Without His death, there would be no resurrection. Without His resurrection, there would be no resurrection for us!
Stumbling? Crushed? Or aligned? Either way, God’s Word still speaks: They will respect My Son. What will you do with the Son today?