Summary: Matthew 21:33-44 - When God sends messages our way, we are faced with a decision: shoot the messenger, or, with an open heart, accept the message.
• Throughout His ministry, Jesus had spoken about the time when His hour would come – the hour in which He would be called upon to fulfill His life’s purpose by dying on the cross to save humanity from an eternity in hell. He had always known that His ultimate purpose was to make the ultimate sacrifice.
o But for most of His ministry, He refrained from describing Himself too often as the Messiah in His teachings because He knew that the consequences would be disastrous for Himself and for God’s plan for salvation. If He openly claimed to be the Promised One from God, many of the Jews would want Jesus to lead them to victory over the Romans and reestablish the earthly kingdom of Israel.
• However, His time had finally come, and now He began to speak more freely about Who He truly was. Matthew 21 begins with the scene of Jesus returning to Jerusalem for the last time, only this time Jesus didn’t come in under the radar like He usually did. This time a huge multitude of people followed Him into the city all the way from Jericho, and as He rode into the city of David on a donkey, these people spread out their clothes on the ground while others cut down tree branches and spread them out on the road before Him. Whereas before Jesus had made every effort to avoid this kind of display, He now entered Jerusalem publicly presenting Himself as the promised Messiah, the King of Israel.
• The chapter continues with Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple just as He had done at the beginning of His ministry. Then Jesus leaves Jerusalem and stays the night just down the hill in Bethany. When He returns to the city the next morning, Jesus shifts His focus to telling the harsh truth to the Jews: they had failed to keep God’s law, and now they were going to lose their place as God’s elect people unless they turned from their evil ways. He first reveals this through the illustration of the withered fig tree (vv. 18-22). When the chief priests and elders of the Jews came to Him questioning His authority, Jesus quickly put them in their place.
• Then Jesus continues by telling two parables to illustrate the situation that the Jews were in, and it is the second of these parables that we will be looking at today.
1. Parable Told – Jesus’ Illustration
a. Judean vineyards →The rocky hillsides and Mediterranean climate of Judea made it the perfect place to grow grapes, so all along the Judean countryside farmers planted large vineyards to produce wine. In those days, it was common for a landowner to plant a large vineyard to rent out to other men who were called vinedressers.
i. So, in His usual manner, Jesus took a situation that was a very common part of the daily life of the people to whom He was speaking and used it to illustrate a heavenly message to His audience.
ii. Matthew 21:33-46 → Read along in your Bibles with me starting in Matt. 21:33 (READ v. 33)
b. Provision for the vinedressers → In verse 33, Matthew records Jesus’ description of the vineyard in His parable, but just like all of Jesus’ parables, this description carries with it a meaning that goes beyond the surface of the situation.
i. The vineyard → There are many things that this short verse teaches us about the vineyard and about the landowner.
1. We learn that the landowner took great care in preparing his vineyard and made every possible provision for the vinedressers.
a. Prepared the ground → First, the landowner prepared the ground. In the rocky terrain of Judea, it would have taken a great amount of work to remove all of the stones from the ground so that it was able to be plowed.
b. “Planted a vineyard” → Next, we find that the vines had already been properly planted so all the renters had to do was grow the grapes.
c. “Set a hedge around it” → Next, it tells us that the landowner set a hedge around the vineyard. A vital part of any good vineyard in 1st century Palestine was some sort of a barrier to surround the property. Jesus’ day was one where it was not uncommon for thieves to raid vineyards. So, a “hedge” – either a stone wall or an actual hedge of thorns – was placed around the vineyard to keep out thieves and animals.
d. “Dug a winepress in it” → Not only had the landowner already prepared the ground, planted the vines, and built a protective wall, he also dug out the wine-vat for the renters to press the grapes. In those days, a wine press had two pits dug out of the rocky soil, and the pits were connected by a small channel and built so that one was higher than the other. The grapes were then pressed by foot in the higher vat, and the juice drained through the channel down to the lower vat.