The Stone that is Rejected is the Cornerstone

Matthew 21:33-46

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.”

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.

The statistic that I have always heard is that 40% of the material in the gospels is situated around the last week of Jesus’ life before Crucifixion and Resurrection. Palm Sunday is obviously the beginning of that.

And a lot of things are happening in the narrative really quickly and each event highlights a real historical and even prophetic event in the text. And by prophetic I mean that this is the rapids before the waterfall for the Jewish people and the Covenant mediated through Moses. There is terrific tension and desire for change in their mindset. The problem that the Jewish people have is that they are not living in the Promised Land according to the promises of God.

Temple: Built by Herod, not themselves, and certainly not a temple of the glory of Solomon.

Priesthood: The high priests are being put in place by Rome!

Land: They do not rule themselves. And their rulers are pagans! YHWH is LORD over pagans!

Messiah: One who will act to right these wrongs.

Covenant: Its blessings go unfulfilled.

Identity: If they are not blessed by God, how can they be right with God. Purity issues come to the fore. And different groups see themselves as the rightful people that God will use to bring about “revival” (my language.)


And so, into this worldview, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. He has already told His Disciples that He is going to die here. They do not understand. He has set His face like flint and he arrives in Jerusalem to acclaim on Palm Sunday.


  1. Palm Sunday Background


  1. A different kind of king arrives Matthew 21:1-11

Jesus enters Jerusalem to acclaim and praise! This is what we      think of when we think of Palm Sunday. The parade that develops is what one would expect for a conqueror like David        who has returned from success in battle.

But He does not enter in on a war horse! (Which He does in         Revelation 19:)

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.

Hosanna!- Oh Save!

Oh Save Son of David! Over and over again! It is a celebration of a certain type of hope.

Don’t you hear what they are saying?

The problem is that Jesus is not acting as they expect

A different Savior, a different problem! He is not riding in on a     war horse! He is a king like David, but not fighting like David did!


  1. A change in the temple practices Matt 21:12-17

Jesus exercises authority over the temple practices!

        (This is why the conversation about authority!)

A house of prayer for the nations

The temple will be destroyed

The sacrificial system will cease

At His trial, this is brought up.

Matthew 26:

59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

The temple is central to the Jewish people and their relationship with God. You do not mess with the temple. Unless you are…


  1. The Cursing of the Fig Tree (Nation of Israel)

        Matt 21:18-22

The fig tree is a metaphor for the nation of Israel

John the Baptist in Matthew 3: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.


Having looked at the background of chapter 21, let’s get to our parable. Because what is happening on Palm Sunday is different depending on how you view Jesus!


  1. Palm Sunday Parable the Actors v.33-39


  1. God is the Landowner

        The vineyard is the nation of Israel: This is a reflection of Isaiah5

        He expects for a vineyard to produce grapes.

“I am the vine and you are the branches. Apart from Me you can do nothing.


  1. The Jewish people are the tenants

        They have a history of fruitlessness.

They consider themselves to be currently in exile. Why would this        be? It is because they were not faithful to the covenant. They did       not bear the fruit that God was seeking.


Jesus is the resolution to this fruitlessness in their lives. But they do not see their need or the possibility that Jesus brings to them.


  1. The vineyard is Israel

        You can think of this as the covenant, or the plans and purposes of God which is called being fruitful. Fruit is what God expects         from His creation.

What are God’s purposes for Israel? Keep the covenant. Follow    the Messiah!

Not reject the prophets. Not reject the desire of the landowner.    Not reject and kill the Son.

(The attempt to “force God to act” by rebelling against Rome is a         disaster. This same attempting to force God to act in asking         Jesus to come down from the Cross as a proof of Who He is a   similar disaster!)

Verses 45-46 The reaction of the Jewish Leaders.

This idea is included in verse 23 in this chapter:

23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”


III. Jesus Reinforces the Meaning of the Parable


“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.”

  1. You must adopt God’s perspective

Isaiah 8: 11 This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:

12 “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.
13 The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.
14 He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be
a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.
15 Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken,
they will be snared and captured.”


The background of Isaiah 8 and Jesus’ reference here:

The nation of Israel has been grossly disobedient to God.

And they are under attack from Samaria and Syria.

They are getting whipped and losing territory.

So they make alliances. They make an alliance with Egypt, and then Assyria of all places. And so Assyria comes down into Israel, defeats Syria and Samaria and marches all the way to Jerusalem before God miraculously defeats Sennacherib.


Why were they losing territory to Samaria and Syria? (That is the conspiracy, those two states were working together against Judah) What is the resolution for this problem? It is faithfulness to the covenant and trusting in God. Instead Israel makes agreements with Egypt and then Assyria. The alliances created here will be a bigger problem than the original problem.

God does not call what they call conspiracy a problem. God calls their lack of willingness to keep the covenant a conspiracy. And that is the ultimate problem. They don’t recognize the true problem. Instead they just want to be prosperous and do what they want.

And the language used is that of stumbling over a stone. God will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. But if we do not trust in God, we will be the stumblers. Do not fear what they fear! We need to fear missing out on what He is doing, not fear loss of possessions. So, this is the historical context of the quote from Isaiah 8. Now, apply that to Jesus’ day!

The Jewish people of Jesus’ day see the problem as Rome. The Romans are preventing them from having self-rule. The Romans are preventing them from having appropriate high priests. The Romans are oppressing the people of God, and therefore, God must want to drive them out.

And Jesus has ridden into town on an animal not fit for a conqueror and is rebuking their management of the temple and is now telling this parable rejecting their leadership. (Many people, consider the crowd on Palm Sunday, expect Jesus to be a deliverer from Rome.) As such he will attract Roman attention: Herod at his trial for example. If He attracts Roman attention but is not the one to deliver from Rome, then their lives will just be worse off! It is better for one man to die for the people… (Ironic statement in the gospel of John). But, the problem is not Rome. Do not call conspiracy… Do not fear what they fear! God is acting in a new way in their midst. They rejected John the Baptist when he told them they needed to repent, they reject Jesus now. They will persist on this present pathway and in 70Ad and again in 135 AD Rome will utterly destroy the temple and disperse the people. Into permanent exile they will go.

Matthew 23: 37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate.


  1. The rejected stone is the cornerstone

Very simply this means that what God is doing can be easily rejected by people. Later in Isaiah 58 the prophet writes:

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.


A cornerstone is the first piece laid in a foundation of a new building. God is building a new covenant. Jesus is bringing change in reference to the temple, the land, the covenant, the sacrificial system, and the identity of the people of God!

As such, the opportunity comes when we recognize what God is doing. And this is the message about Palm Sunday. What is God doing? Who is Jesus? And how do we fit into the parable?


  1. Fall on the Stone or the Stone falls on you v.44

All are called upon to fall on this stone. As such we will be broken. But our brokenness will cause us to rest on Jesus. The Jewish people need to be broken. They need repentance. They must submit to what God calls conspiracy. In our own lives, it is the conspiracy in our own hearts to not submit to God that is what truly threatens us. By falling onto Jesus, we will gain the foundation to live and submit to God’s plans and purposes.

Examples in marriage, family and work.

If we do not fall on Jesus? Then we will experience the wrath of God. We will be crushed. In very obvious and terrible ways this happens to Israel in 70AD. This day, Palm Sunday, is a day of opportunity for them. It is an opportunity to repent and have life. It is an opportunity to have a new covenant with God. But they would not.

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.”

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.