The second parable that Jesus told the religious leaders is the Parable of the Tenants; we are still in the scene that began in 21:23, which we discussed in Rising Tensions. If you missed that part, for best results, I would urge you to READ IT NOW before you continue.
OK, now that we are all on the same page, let’s have a look at what has just happened in our narrative. The Jewish religious leaders may or may not have gotten every bit of the parable, but they knew Jesus had just made them look bad; that much is clear. Beginning in 21:42, Jesus makes use of a quotation from Psalm 118 that was originally a song of thanksgiving for a military victory; it was often sung in Jesus’ day by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem. For them, the “stone that the builders rejected” referred to Israel, but Jesus applies it here in a different way, for here He applies it to Himself; He is the stone the builders rejected. Interestingly, this imagery became a very important component of the teaching of the early church, as seen in 1 Peter 2:4-8 and Acts 4:12. As such, the stone rejected is identified as the capstone, the stone that holds the entire building in place; this cones together quite nicely with our earlier discussion concerning Matthew 16:18-19 wherein the Apostles are seen as the “foundation” of the church with Jesus as the “capstone”. To be quite clear, if you remove the capstone (sometimes called “keystone” today) the building crumbles.
21:43 ff. demonstrates Jesus’ emphasis on the fact that the Jewish leaders have forfeited their rights to enjoy God’s favor, God’s presence, which is also to say His Kingdom, by their stubborn refusal to receive their Messiah (the stone that was rejected) and thus, Jesus will build a new temple of a new people comprised of all ethnic groups as a new holy nation; His Church.
The Jewish religious leaders seem to have caught enough of His meaning to motivate them even more to silence Him for good. No, this simply would not do; they must kill Him as soon as possible! Yet, there was still the problem of the crowds who viewed Jesus as a prophet; what to do about the crowds? This was now clearly their problem, and to its solution they would turn their full attention in 22:15-40. Even so, Jesus wasn’t quite finished with them, for He has one more parable, and quite a parable it was. We’ll tackle it when we get back together next time…