Matthew 21:33-46 Jesus the Capstone

33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’[h]?

43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”[i]

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

Jesus the Capstone

Jesus, I am a bit confused because I have always been taught that the passage means that you will come back after the last kingdom on earth has been established and you will smash that kingdom before you reign for 1000 years.  The book I read today says that the original audience would have understood that you were the rock setting up a new kingdom in their own time.  The kingdom that you would have smashed would have been the uneasy alliance in Jerusalem between the Pharisees and Sadducees. In each case you establish a rule by smashing kingdoms and the rock represents you and the kingdom that you establish.  I must say the idea that you would establish a kingdom at the time of speaking sounds like it falls in line with the parable that you had just told about the tenants.  The Pharisees and Sadducees would have been furious because you were both telling them they were responsible for the historical rejection of God’s prophets (most recently standing aside as John the Baptist was beheaded), and also that they would reject you, but that you would smash them like the stone does in Daniel 2.

What do you want to teach us today?  Is it that rejecting you is disasterous?  Is it that we can have a moral, self-serving faith that can get offensive and cruel when it comes to God speaking real truth?  I think it is both.  If we do not live lives of obedience to you, our lives will ultimately be disasters.


  1. Which character represents God the Father in Jesus’ story?
  2. Jesus’ hearers would have understood the story to relate to Daniel 2.  How does Daniel 2 help you relate to the story?
  3. When in history do you think that the ‘rock’ crushes its opposition?
  4. How do people today react to God’s prophets (people who teach the truth)?
  5. Why would Jesus want us to know that opposition can be crushed.

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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