Jesus’ Parable of the Tenants revealed that the Jewish chief priests were aware that their Messiah had come and decided to kill him so that they could remain in control of God’s earthly kingdom. The parable and its interpretation are as follows:
“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servant to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “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.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. (Matthew 21:33-46)
It says in Matthew’s gospel that on the morning of Jesus’ crucifixion, “When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself” (Matthew 27:1-4). The chief priests and elders were not concerned about Jesus’ guilt or innocence, they only wanted to gain custody of him so that they could put him into the hands of the Roman government and have him killed. The chief priests and elders’ primary objective was to get rid of Jesus so that he would no longer be a threat to their assumed authority over the people of Israel (John 11:47-48).
Matthew 27:20 indicates that the chief priests and elders persuaded the crowd outside the governor’s palace to destroy Jesus. The Greek word that is translated persuaded, peitho (pi’-tho) has a similar connotation to what we think of today as a jury in a trial, but it goes deeper into the realm of belief and suggests that the chief priests and elders were able to convince the Jews that Jesus was not who he claimed to be and therefore, they shouldn’t put their trust in him. “Peitho, in the active voice, signifies ‘to apply persuasion, to prevail upon or win over, to persuade,’ bringing about a change of mind by the influence of reason or moral considerations” (G3982). Matthew described the situation this way:
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (Matthew 27:15-26)
Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 118:22 at the end of his parable of the tenants (Matthew 21:42) pointed to a larger conspiracy that was taking place at the time of his crucifixion. Aside from the Jews rejection of their Messiah was an attempt by Satan to usurp the authority of God’s Son. Beginning with their bondage in Egypt, there was an ongoing effort by Satan to shift the Israelites’ allegiance away from God and onto himself. Pharaoh’s cruel treatment of the people of Israel made them fearful to rebel against him. Even though God promised to deliver them from their bondage in Egypt, the Israelites refused to listen to Moses and rejected God’s offer of help. Exodus 6:2-9 states:
God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.
The Israelites’ unbearable circumstances caused them to ignore what Moses said God intended to do to save them. The Hebrew word that is translated listen in Exodus 6:9, shama (shaw-mah’) means to hear intelligently. “Hearing can be both intellectual and spiritual…In the case of hearing and hearkening to a higher authority, shama can mean to obey (Genesis 22:18)” (H8085). When it says that “they did not listen to Moses,” it meant that the people wouldn’t do what Moses told them to, he didn’t have any influence over them.
The prophet Isaiah’s mention of the precious cornerstone that would be rejected showed up in the context of a covenant that God’s people had made with death (Isaiah 28:15-16). This may have been in reference to Moses’ final proclamation to the Israelites. Moses said, “See, I set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19).
The Jews response to Pilate’s declaration that he was “innocent of this man’s blood” (Matthew 27:24) seems to indicate that they were aware of the fact that they were rejecting their own Messiah. Matthew stated, “And all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!'” (Matthew 27:25). One of the things that is evident from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion is that everyone was clear about who Jesus claimed to be, even the Roman soldiers that carried out his execution. Matthew said, “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisted together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!'” (Matthew 27:27-29). The title King of the Jews was first introduced by the wise men that came looking for Jesus not long after his birth. Matthew recorded:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:1-6)
Micah’s prophecy of the arrival of Israel’s Messiah (Micah 5:2) was clear evidence that Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about himself. The fact that the Roman soldiers “mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!'” (Matthew 27:29), seems to suggest that even they were convinced that Jesus was who he claimed to be, and yet, they also rejected him and killed him anyway.
Isaiah’s prophecy of the LORD’s coming salvation indicated that Jesus’ appearance would be “marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” (Isaiah 52:14). The beatings and whippings that Jesus endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers was in itself enough to kill the average person. By the time he was led off “to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull)” to be crucified Jesus was so weak that he was unable to carry his own cross (Matthew 27:32-33). Isaiah indicated that Jesus was rejected by everyone and had to bear the burden of the willful disobedience of not only the Jews, but also every person, past, present, and future that would receive him as Savior. Isaiah said:
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
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.
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.
If it weren’t enough that Jesus was rejected by of all of mankind, he also had to endure the rejection of his heavenly Father. When he was hanging on the cross, Matthew said, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema, sabachthani?’ that is ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). The Greek word that is translated forsaken, egkataleipo (eng-kat-al-i’-po) means to desert (G1459). Just as his disciples had left him and fled after he was taken prisoner in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:56), Jesus’ own Father abandoned him while he was dying for the sins of the world.
Isaiah’s explanation of Jesus’ complete rejection centered around God’s Eternal Covenant of Peace and the compassion that He would eventually show to everyone because of His Son’s sacrifice. Isaiah’s prophecy stated, “‘For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD, your Redeemer…Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 54:7-8, 55:6-9).
The Hebrew words that are translated brief moment in Isaiah 54:7, qaton (kaw-tone’) and rega’ (reh’-gah) denote the shortest space of time and could also be expressed as the blink of an eye. In other words, God’s desertion of Jesus probably lasted less than 400 milliseconds or the average time it takes to blink your eyes. The Apostle Paul talked about the mystery of the transformation of believers’ bodies and said, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55). It seems that God the Father’s rejection of Jesus had something to do with his transformation from a mortal to an immortal state. Because Jesus died a mortal death and was separated from his Father momentarily, the eternal rejection that believers would have otherwise experienced at death has been eliminated.