Matthew 21:33–46: The Rejected Cornerstone

by Jul 1, 2024Premium, The Gospel of Matthew

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When the religious leaders questioned Jesus’ authority to do the things that he was doing, Jesus turned the tables on those leaders by exposing their uncertainty about the authority of John the Baptist, whom the people knew to be a prophet (Matt. 21:23–27). Then, in the previous passage, Jesus told a parable about two sons to illustrate the disobedient unbelief of the religious leaders in Israel (Matt. 21:28–32). Now, Jesus extends this logic from ignorance to unbelief to its conclusion in the renegade rebellion of the leaders against the God whom they profess to serve. Jesus makes this point powerfully through the parable of the tenants. Here, Jesus holds before us the closing lines of Psalm 2: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way” (Ps. 2:12).

Discussion Questions

1. How does this parable connect back to the previous two sections (Matt. 21:23–32)? How does this parable echo Old Testament prophetic passages about God’s relationship to his vineyard, Israel (e.g., Isa. 5:1–7)? What kind of responsibility does this parable envision for the leaders of God’s people (v. 33)? Whom do the servants in this parable represent (v. 34)? How does this parable capture the history of mistreatment of prophets in the Old Testament (vv. 35–36)?

2. Why does the landowner in this parable expect that these tenants will respect his son (v. 37)? What does the tenants’ response of the arrival of the son represent (v. 38)? How does the rejection of Jesus culminate a long history of Israel’s rejection of the prophets whom God had sent to his people? Why do you think that the leaders do not recognize right away that Jesus is speaking about them (v. 41)?

3. What is the “cornerstone” mentioned in Psalm 118 (v. 42)? How does the passage that Jesus cites connect to the words shouted by the people when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem (Matt. 21:9)? What role does Jesus prophesy about himself here? What does Jesus mean when he talks about people falling on the cornerstone, and about the cornerstone falling on people (v. 44)? How does this call people today to repentance and faith in Jesus?

4. How do the religious leaders respond when they finally realize that Jesus had been talking about them (vv. 45–46)? Why do you think that they did not repent? How do they compare to David when Nathan had confronted David about his sin? How are you stewarding your own life? How do you respond when God’s Word confronts you and demands fruit for God? How do you respond to the claims of Jesus Christ, the Son of God?