The Cornerstone
Matthew 21:28-46

The story of the final week for Jesus continues, we left him last week after he had 1) cleared the temple and been
questioned by the religious leaders, and 2) cursed the fig tree on the road to Jerusalem from Bethany. Back at the temple
his authority is challenged – who said you could do that – he answers with these two parables. They are not well received
by the religious leaders. Jesus is disturbing the status quo, their “world,” the “place” these leaders had for themselves.
GOAL: We are going to work to understand these parables in the “big story,” the narrative that Matthew is presenting.
Then we are going to think about, somewhat like these religious leaders, the worlds/places we create for ourselves.
V23 When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They
demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”
Review from way back: Who were these leading priests? They were also called chief priests. They were the high
officials in the temple. BUT, at this time in Israel’s history the Roman authorities appointed these leaders – notice! – the
occupying force was appointing “religious” leaders for Israel. These leaders were part of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council
of the Jews. They were politicians. The elders were evidently non-priests who represented the leading families of Israel.
We also find out that Pharisees were there, too. They were the purist, who mostly had moved up north where Jesus spent
most of his time. Pharisees and Sadducees were basically opponents – usually.
So that’s who Jesus was talking to, Pharisees, Sadducees and the elders of Israel – all of the power brokers, secure in their
stronghold-like positions.
28 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard
today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. 30 Then the father told
the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. 31 “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They
replied, “The first.” Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get
into the Kingdom of God before you do. 32 For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you
didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to
believe him and repent of your sins.
33 “Now listen to another story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out
the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. 34
At the time of the grape harvest, he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop. 35 But the farmers grabbed his
servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 So the landowner sent a larger group of his servants to collect for
him, but the results were the same. 37 “Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’ 38
“But when the tenant farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on,
let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ 39 So they grabbed him, dragged him out of the vineyard, and murdered
him. 40 “When the owner of the vineyard returns,” Jesus asked, “what do you think he will do to those farmers?” 41The
religious leaders replied, “He will put the wicked men to a horrible death and lease the vineyard to others who will give
him his share of the crop after each harvest.” 42 Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?
‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.’
43 I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit. 44
Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on. 45 When the leading
priests and Pharisees heard this parable, they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked
farmers. 46 They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet.
1) V28-32 Retell the story in the parable and Jesus’ explanation.
Father sends two sons to work. One says I will go but doesn’t. The others says he won’t go and work but does. The
question is, who obeyed? The answer is the one that changed his mind and went and worked.

The son that didn’t go and work (said he was of God but didn’t follow Jesus) represented the leading priests and elders.
Then son that did represented the sinners, those who weren’t following God but changed their minds and followed Jesus.
The question is, SLIDE why didn’t religious leaders follow Jesus? (don’t answer this now, but take answers) They
thought they would lose power, etc.
2) V33-44 Retell the story in the parable and Jesus’ explanation.
V33-39 Farmer builds a “grape farm” and “grape processing plant”, leases it, moves, sends servants back to collect rent,
farmers killed and stoned servants, send more servants – same results, sent son – murdered him.
QUESTION: Why did the owner give the evil farmers three chances? God is incredible patient.
V40-44 Listeners say the owners should put the wicked men to death. And lease the vineyard to others.
V42 Jesus explanation: First he references Psalms 118:22-23, but also look at 24 (he changes the imagery)
22 The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see. 24 This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Basically – SLIDE Do you not see who I am? That is the question I want to stop and ask right now. Do you see
who Jesus is?
V43 Religious leaders, because you don’t believe and follow me – you’re ultimately out. Out of your “stronghold”
position. You are going to be replaced (by the church – started by a ragtag band of followers – still hard to imagine when
you put it in perspective.) He’s notifying the leaders for the first time their “political and power stronghold” is about over.
V43, This verse is a key verse in the entire book of Matthew: I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit. (Jewish leaders thought they were entitled to the kingdom of
Heaven – because they were Jews.
V44 The cornerstone – we think of it positively song – “Jesus is the cornerstone” – but Jesus has hard things to say about
those who reject him – Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.
3) V45-46 What was the reaction?
They are mad – he’s threatening our world – our stronghold – let’s arrest him – oh, but we can’t – the people think he’s a
Of course, this is not the end of the story, is it?
We’ve accomplished our first goal – understanding the story, the narrative. Now for the second goal: like these religious
leaders, the worlds/places we create for ourselves. Framed as STRONGHOLDS.
QUESTION: SLIDE Are strongholds good or bad? Look at the following verses and decide.
1 Samuel 23:29 (NLT) David then went to live in the strongholds of En-gedi. GOOD – protection
Psalms 18:45 (NLT) They all lose their courage and come trembling from their strongholds. APPRAENTLY DIDN’T DO
Proverbs 10:29 (NLT) The way of the Lord is a stronghold to those with integrity, but it destroys the wicked. GOOD

Jeremiah 48:41 (NLT) Its cities will fall, and its strongholds will be seized. Even the mightiest warriors will be in anguish
like a woman in labor. AGAIN, DIDN’T WORK
2 Corinthians 10:4 (NLT) We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human
reasoning and to destroy false arguments. BAD
Psalms 9:9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. GOOD
CONCLUSION: A stronghold can be good or bad. Also, it’s not just a physical wall.
DEFINITION: Strongholds are protective structures created by humans to insulate us from external threats and reduce
our anxiety.
Sounds good – BUT – many of the times in scripture the strongholds built by people become an ALTERNATIVE to God.
TABLE TALK: SLIDE What is your stronghold? Is it a good place for you or a bad place? How long have you
been in your stronghold? Addiction-bad, etc.
What about those who have your own home/apartment. What is your home? (Protection from the world, place for
Follow-up: For me > US good part of world > Arkansas – good part of US, still conservative, fairly safe > my
subdivision > walled and gated.
Get the picture. (oh, and just about everyone has cameras. I know this because there was an uproar when a cat was
roaming the neighborhood.) (And our gate is hard to operate if you don’t live there.)
Anthropologists, people who study people, say in prior centuries people sought strongholds, built real walls for what?
And in modern society people’s goal is what? TO BE COMFORTABLE.
So, again, are strongholds good or bad? Notice this, we didn’t talk about God the last couple of minutes. Here’s where
the world is, which can influence us: SLIDE THE MODERN WORLD PROMISES PROGRESS and MOVING
You go to church? Believe in God and all that? Cool, but I don’t really need it.
SLIDE TO DO: Give some thought and prayer to your life, especially in light of any strongholds, good or bad.
One more question: Slide What do you do when you find your stronghold blown up/gone?
Anxiety is typically low when we are in our stronghold. (With the exception of addiction-where anxiety can rage)
If we find ourselves with our stronghold gone, how does it feel? Scary, Anxious. The lack of our stronghold now
causes us anxiety. Where are we now? We are in the “wilderness.”
I have some gospel – good news – when you find yourself in the wilderness:
– We find out we can’t shape reality to our wishes. Our faith in ourselves “handling it” is shattered.
– It reminds us how bad/rough/sinful the world is.
– It reminds us of our brokenness and weakness, and NEED FOR GOD.
– It reveals the direction of our heart? **Do I just want to return to my stronghold, return to Egypt/**

– It’s a place of testing.
Deut. 8:2-3 Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and
testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by
letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it
to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Jesus was tested/challenged for 40 days.
Good News: When we are in the wilderness, possibly by our own bad decisions/straying from God, are you left to die of
thirst? No, the opposite is true. God uses the wilderness to win us back. To refine us. The metaphor is “streams of living
water” will appear in the desert for us. That’s God.
The wilderness is where God does his best work to win our hearts back to Him. Another metaphor, “He turns a valley of
trouble into a gateway of hope.”
Back to our lesson, these leaders – Jesus was challenging their stronghold – he was pushing – they had a decision to make
– remain in their stronghold or position and power – step into the wilderness for a time and be brought into a good
stronghold – the Kingdom of God.
Same for us – The second thing to leave you with, after you consider were you are now – SLIDE will we step out of
our strongholds of comfort, strongholds of the addiction, whatever it is – or will we trust God, be brave – move
through our wilderness experience or experiences – and live and rest in the best place there is – life in the Kingdom
of God.

Thanks to Bill for recommending a book to me written by Mark Sayers.
Next week: Everyone needs to read & STUDY chapter 22. Lots of territory to cover.