Matthew 21:33-46 – The Parable of the Vineyard


Matthew 21:33-46


Shortly after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus teaches about his impending death through a parable about tenants who seize and kill the landowner’s son. These events are interpreted as fulfillment of prophecy about rejection and vindication.


In the midst of his controversy with the leaders of the temple that accompanies his teaching just before the passion, Jesus tells this parable of the vineyard as a thinly disguised allegory of his passion and death. Matthew has taken over this parable from Mark (12:1-12), which clearly begins with reflection on the vineyard of God in Isaiah 5:1-7 and interprets Jesus’ messianic death in terms of prophecy about a rejected stone that has become the chief cornerstone (Psalm 118:22-23). However, he has thoroughly modified it, by expanding it, making it more clearly allegorical of the passion, and linking it more pointedly to Matthean themes.

Among others, this may be seen in the added double reference to “hearing” that begins and concludes the parable (21:33, 45). This places the parable alongside other examples of the disciple call to hear and respond. The impression is further strengthened in the explicit double reference to the “kingdom of God” as belonging to those who produce its “fruits” (21:43), which picks up the theme of bearing fruit already present throughout the parable. Finally, in noting that the chief priests and Pharisees recognize the parable to be about themselves, the parable anticipates the following attempts to trap Jesus in argument (22:15-46) that lead to their becoming silent (22:46) and Jesus’ lengthy denunciation (23:1-39).