Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
How does a dead son become the cornerstone of a renewed vineyard?
Today, Jesus alludes to Isaiah’s parable, a grower’s love-song for his planted vineyard that ends up disappointing him. The grower ends up turning the disappointing vineyard over to destruction.
Jesus re-interprets the love-song about a vineyard. In Isaiah, God was the caretaker of this vineyard. Despite careful attention from the grower, the vineyard produced only worthless “wild grapes.” The vineyard’s failure forced the grower to remove his care.
In Jesus’ parable, the “produce” was fine, but the delivery system was malfunctioning. The problem was with the tenant farmers themselves. They were violent, destructive, and uncaring. Their ultimate goal was to place themselves in control, to be the cornerstone of the vineyard: “come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.”
In the honor and shame culture of Israel, the landowner’s decision to send his son as emissary, in spite of how the servants were treated, was appropriate since he could expect proper respect for his appointed heir, the cornerstone of the future.
For Matthew, the twist comes from the reality he knew. The murdered son became the cornerstone of the kingdom. The kingdom is founded upon Jesus, the Son who was sent by the Father, Who was killed, Who rose, and Who, having died, has become the cornerstone of the renewed vineyard, the new covenant.
We are now the tenant farmers, charged by God with cultivating His vineyard and with producing for Him. He loves this vineyard and has carefully established it. So, we live with the reality of this charge, and with the obligation to deliver the fruit from our effort into the hands of the Son upon whom this vineyard has been built.
How to do it? We follow Paul’s command to Philippians. We do not get anxious about the work, rather we do it with eyes of faith focused on Jesus the cornerstone. We realize His Father’s provision for us, the fact He will bring us success. We pray, we offer petition to God, we live thankful lives, and we focus on the good. Then we Keep on doing what we have learned and received.