Beliefs have consequences, and so does unbelief. The persistent rejection of God’s message, God’s messengers, and Israel’s Messiah would have devastating effects on both the nation of Israel and all those who continued in unbelief.
In 1631, the royal publisher in London produced a new edition of the King James Bible. The only problem was the proofers made a mistake in Exodus 20, the famous passage listing the Ten Commandments. The word not was accidentally left out of one of the commandments so that verse 14 read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” You can only imagine the scandal of this oversight. When the shocking mistake was discovered, the king ordered all the copies destroyed and the publisher fined 300 pounds, which in today’s economy would be about $70,000. Some copies of that edition managed to survive, however, and it became known as the Sinner’s Bible or the Wicked Bible—and you can understand why. That little typo was embarrassing, and costly.
Well, the supreme court of Israel—the chief priests, scribes, and elders—are making, not only a costly mistake, but an eternally dangerous one at that. They have misread the character of Jesus Christ. And the consequences will not be financial, but eternal.
Jesus is back in the temple teaching, and He delivers two more parables aimed at these religious leaders who are denying Christ and His claim to have a future, glorious kingdom.
Mark and Luke record only the first parable, so we will turn to Matthew’s Gospel, which records both of them. Jesus is standing in the temple courtyard, delivering this stinging parable, beginning in chapter 21, verse 33:
“There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country.”
Jesus is clearly drawing upon the imagery of Isaiah 5, where Israel is portrayed as the Lord’s vineyard. Well, this vineyard Jesus is describing is now in the hands of tenant farmers who are supposed to bring in a harvest of fruit.
When harvesttime arrives, the owner sends some servants to collect the fruit. But the tenants are unwilling to keep their agreement—they want all the fruit for themselves. Jesus says in verse 35, “The tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another.” When more servants are sent, they get the same violent reception.
Finally, showing extreme patience, the owner decides to send his own son to collect the harvest, thinking the tenants will certainly show him due respect. But the result is tragic:
“When the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” (verses 38-39)
Jesus asks His audience what they think the owner is bound to do, and they answer in verse 41:
“He will put those wretches to a miserable death and [rent] the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
Here is the analogy Jesus is delivering: God set apart His vineyard, Israel, as His own choice property, and He entrusted the nation to the care her religious leaders. When God sent prophets to warn them of their greed and unfaithfulness, they killed God’s messengers; and now they are about to kill God’s own Son, the Lord Jesus.
Just in case the Lord’s audience does not get the picture, Jesus quotes from Psalm 118. This is the same psalm the people were chanting as they waved their palm branches and welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, shouting, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The words Jesus quotes from this messianic psalm are these: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The Son who will be killed will be honored by God as “the cornerstone.”
But what are the consequences of rejecting the Son of God? Jesus says, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (verse 43). In other words, the kingdom that was offered to this unbelieving generation of Israelites will be taken away from them and given to a future, believing generation of Israel, who will repent and follow Christ as He returns to set up His kingdom on earth.
But there is another consequence here. The stone that is rejected—Jesus Christ Himself—will become a stone of judgment, crushing all who reject Him.
The last two verses of chapter 21 record that the chief priests and Pharisees fully understood that this parable applied to them. There is no way they can get around the truth of their rejection of Christ. But instead of reflection and repentance, they are moving ahead with their plans to arrest Jesus. In fact, the only reason they are delaying His arrest is because they fear the crowds, who consider Jesus a true prophet of God.
Jesus now goes on with the second parable in Matthew 22. This time there is a king giving a wedding feast for his son. However, when he sends servants to tell those previously invited that the feast is ready, the servants are ignored; nobody comes to the wedding feast.
So, the father of the groom sends another round of servants to invite everyone to the wedding feast. Jesus describes the response this time in verses 5-6:
But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.
The graciousness and patience of the king is met with hatred and murder. The king sends his soldiers and puts to death all of these killers and sets fire to their city. He then sends his servants out to invite to the wedding feast anyone they can find along the road so that the wedding hall is eventually filled.
Now here in verse 11 a rather peculiar element is introduced. Among those who come to the feast is a man who does not have on the traditional wedding garments the king had given to everyone as gifts. This man did not want to come dressed in the king’s gift; he wanted to come in his own way.
And Jesus declares that the king says, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (verse 13). This is a picture of eternal judgment.
At the end of this parable, Jesus does not provide any explanation—He does not need to. The meaning is clear: If you choose to enter the kingdom in your own clothing of good works, you will be cast out; but if you arrive wearing God’s gift of salvation, you will be welcomed into the wedding feast.
What about the Lord’s warning implied by the king’s burning the city to the ground? That is actually a prediction of the destruction coming on Jerusalem because of their unbelief. Their city would be judged by God as a reminder that they had rejected the Son of God. Sure enough, in AD 70, the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem, burning much of it to the ground. And to this day, it is nothing like it once was. But in a future day—in the kingdom of Christ—the Bible describes the rebuilding of the city and the temple in unbelievable splendor and glory.
In the meantime, do not forget this: whether the world wants to believe it or not, you cannot sneak into the kingdom on your own terms; you have to accept the King’s invitation by way of Jesus the Messiah. You cannot arrive at the kingdom feast wearing your own clothing—what you have made with your own hands. You must be wearing His gift of salvation.
And let me tell you, if you will accept the King’s invitation today, He will robe you in the garments of salvation, and you will never be turned away.
 See, for example, F. F. Bruce, History of the Bible in English (Oxford University Press, 1978), 108.