November 27, 2022 Jesus the Stone

Jesus the Stone

Nov. 27, 2022

Read Matthew 21:28-46


The Parable of the Two Sons is the first of three parables in succession.  It is clear that the second and third parables are about Israel, that is, their failure to respond to God with repentance and fidelity. Thus, this parable is also about Israel. One of the sons represents Israel but, more specifically, the leaders of Israel. Yet, there is an important application for us. Remember the difference between interpretation and application. There is only one correct interpretation of every passage of Scripture. It is what the author intended to communicate. There can be many applications. We may ask, “How does this truth apply to me?”


The first son, the one who refused to work in the vineyard, represents those who reject God from the beginning. People like tax collectors (who took graft) and prostitutes (who have rejected God’s design in marriage and purity). The Gentile nations are also represented by the first son. They rejected God from their founding and continue to do so.


The second son represents the leaders of Israel (Jesus is speaking to the chief priests and elders [vs. 23]). They said they would serve in the vineyard, but they did not. Jesus has been continually pointing out their many sins throughout the book. By extension, the second son also represents Israel. As Jesus will make clear in the Parable of the Wedding Feast (the third parable), Israel failed as a nation to prepare themselves.


Of the first son, Jesus says:


A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. [1]


“He changed his mind.” This is nothing less than repentance. Indeed, the literal rendering of the word in Greek (μετανοεω, metanoe-o) is “change of mind.” The tax collectors and prostitutes repented at the preaching of John the Baptist. The Gentiles would repent once the gospel went forth soon after this dialogue.


The second son did not do the will of his father even though he said he would. When Jesus asks the priests who did the father’s will, they answer correctly. The first son did. Then he reveals that this parable is about them! Even after it was evident that John spoke with the authority of heaven, they still would not repent. They would not “change their minds.”


There is an application for us. Just like the priests and elders of Israel, we also have a tendency to look down on sinners: prostitutes, people with addiction problems, drug dealers, thieves, chronic gamblers, etc. But, we could create a different list for church members: gossipers, those addicted to entertainment (movies, tv, sports), selfish, not being devoted to our spouse. When John the Baptist came, both the religious and non-religious needed to repent. Their list of sins were just different. Our lives should be characterized by a continual turning to the Lord and by a mortification of remaining sin. We should not look down upon the more egregious sinners because, except for the grace of God, any one of those could be us. It is only God’s grace that has delivered us from being like them. (There comes a point, when a person refuses to repent after being called to repent, that we may have to cut off or reduce communication with a worldling in order to more effectively use our time.) But, initially, reach out with compassion to those under the dominion of sin. Discern if they have a favorable response. If so, continue to speak to them. Sometimes a person must hear the law and the gospel (in that order) more than once before they surrender to the Lord.


The Parable of the Vineyard is the easiest parable to interpret because Jesus makes it so and Matthew’s commentary confirms it.


The tenants of the vineyard are Israel. They produced no fruit. They beat and killed the prophets that the Owner of the vineyard had sent to them. And then they murdered the Son of God.


He asks the priests and elders:


When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”[2]


They answer him correctly:


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.” [3]


When they answer, they do not realize that he is talking about them! Then he tells them plainly:


Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. [4]


And this is what the Lord did. The kingdom was removed from the Israel and given to the Gentiles… to us! The church is the fulfillment of this parable. By and large, the church is composed mostly of Gentiles.  There have always been a few Jews who have received the gospel and who are then added to the church. Thus, Jew and Gentile are one body and one people in the church of our Lord. Yet, it is still true that, ethnically, the church is mostly constituted with Gentiles.


The parable of the Vineyard is easy to interpret and the only part where the meaning may not be plain is verse 44:


And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”[5]


Who are those who fall on the stone? Who does the stone fall upon?


Jesus is the stone. Those who fall on this stone are those who stumble on it, the Jews. When Jesus says that the stone will fall upon some, he is referring to the vision given to Daniel in Daniel chapter two. In that chapter there is a stone from heaven that destroys the statue.


The statue that Daniel saw represented the Gentile nations. Thus, the stone falling upon some is Jesus crushing the Gentiles when he sets up his kingdom.


So, to the church (the saved) Jesus is the cornerstone for building God’s house. To the Jews he is a stumbling stone who will break those who reject him. To the Gentiles he is a destroyer of those who reject him.


Our Lord uses the singular, “And the one…” Also, “when it falls on anyone.” This parable applies to people as individuals as much as it applies to categories of people.


Jesus is the stone! But what kind of stone is he to you?


Have you experienced Jesus as the crushing stone? Here is a divine fact that no one should miss: You must experience Jesus as the crushing stone! He comes to crush your kingdom and even your very life! Unless he has, you are still in your old life. Jesus comes to crush your old life to powder and give you a new life. This is what he said in chapter 16:


For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.[6]


Jesus did not come so that people would just add him to their lives like they add a new job or a new hobby. He didn’t come as an addition to your life! He came to terminate your old life and give you a whole new life! When he terminates your old life, he crushes it. Not only crushes it, but crushes it to powder! Have you experienced Jesus as the crushing stone?


Be warned! You do not want to experience Jesus as the breaking stone. Those who fall over the stone are broken, Jesus says. This falling upon the stone represents the unbelief of the Jews. The apostle Paul calls Jesus the stumbling stone for those who do not believe (Romans 9:32-33). As we have seen, this applies to individuals as well as to the Jews as a nation. Don’t be the one who stumbles at the words of Jesus! Do not stumble when Jesus reveals sin and the sin he reveals is yours! Do not stumble when Jesus reveals impure motives and those motives are yours. Do not stumble when he reveals himself as the very God come in the flesh. Rather than stumbling, allow him to crush you!


Once you are crushed, Jesus is ready to be your cornerstone. The church is built upon the cornerstone, but so is your life! The new life that Jesus gives to those who are crushed is a life that is built upon the words of Jesus. This is why every one who claims to follow Christ must build their lives upon his words. We must know them. We must build our lives upon them.


We have seen two things this morning from two parables. First, we must see that it is not what we say that matters to the Lord, but what we do. In the Parable of the Two Sons, one son said that he was not going to do what his father asked. But he did. The other son said that he would do what his father asked but he did not. The first son enters the kingdom (vs. 31), the second son does not.[7]


Do you know there are Christians like this? Some will say all the right things, but they live in disobedience. Do not be that kind of Christian! If you live that way, you will not enter the kingdom! There are some who may not say all the right things. There are some who may even allow their remaining rebellion to make them feel unhappy about following the Lord in a certain area, but they love the Lord so they obey him anyway. Do you know what happens when they do that? They discover that obeying was the best course of action all along! They start out unhappy but end up happy! Now, the very best way to live is to both say and do the Lord’s will. You begin by enjoying the Lord and you end up enjoying the Lord! And there are disciples like that today. But those are not in this parable. Our Lord is comparing only the sayers and the doers.


When we enjoy the Lord we become a doer. If you wish to be a doer, just enjoy the Lord! And the way to enjoy him is to spend time with him in the morning, being in spirit, eating and experiencing gladness in his words. If you start this way, your enjoyment will last through the whole day. If it fades, just enjoy another verse later in the day!


The second thing we saw was in the Parable of the Vineyard. We saw that Jesus is the Stone. We must avoid, at all costs, making him a stumbling stone. Do not be offended by the teachings of the Lord. Do not reject the words of our Lord because they seem too difficult. Even if you have not yet felt a compulsion to follow Christ, do not allow the Lord Jesus to be stumbling stone to you.


If you have not yet experienced Jesus as the crushing stone, you must pray to that “beginning,” for, when he crushes you, your old life will be powder and your new life will be a new beginning!


Everyone who names Christ as their Lord and Savior, must have him as their cornerstone, their foundation stone. What are you building your life upon? It is sad but true that there are some Christians who start off well but then get sidetracked. They begin building their lives upon foundations of sand. Like their jobs. Or, a hobby. Or, even the teachings of pastors and Christian authors. Of course, we can have our understanding of Scripture enhanced by the reading or listening to the teachers that God has placed in the church. But, we ought not to have their teachings to be the foundation of our lives. Christ Himself is our foundation! We test all things by Him! We build upon Him!


There is no replacement for the words of God! Building our lives upon the foundation of Christ means to build our lives upon his words. Do not forget that the words of the apostles are the words of Christ too, because they were given the mind of Christ. Thus, we must prioritize God’s word in our lives.






[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 21:28–29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 21:40). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 21:41). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 21:43). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 21:44). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 16:25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] At least not initially, when the kingdom first comes at the return of the Lord to the earth.