Home > Bible Study, Matthew, S. Lewis Johnson > The Parables of Rejection: Matthew’s Gospel

The Parables of Rejection: Matthew’s Gospel


As many know, the gospel of Matthew is arranged topically, with all related material together in one section of the gospel, followed by another section for a few chapters, and so forth — in contrast to Luke’s gospel which follows a more chronological pattern.  In my study through the gospel of Matthew with S. Lewis Johnson, I now come to the section dealing with events of the last week before the Crucifixion, and particularly to chapters 21 and 22 — which introduce a series of three parables containing the theme of the rejection of Christ by His people Israel.

The first parable (Matthew 21:28-32) tells of two sons asked to go work in the vineyard. One said he would not go, but afterward repented and went.  The other said he would go, but did not go.  By direct application this parable contrasts the rulers of the people (the second son) with the common people (the tax collectors and harlots), and by extension applies to the overall nation of Israel as compared to the Gentiles.

The second parable (Matthew 21:33-45) tells of a householder, a very wealthy man who planted a vineyard and prepared it for fruit and then went off to a far country, expecting his fruit to be given in its season.  This parable has much in common with Isaiah 5:1-7, and therefore familiar terminology to the Jews; but here Jesus adds the element of the man sending his servants (the prophets), and finally his son, to the tenants to collect his fruit.

The third parable (Matthew 22:1-14) is that of a Marriage Feast. Those who had been invited are now called to come, but they refused — and so the king extended the invitation to many others out on the main road, to fill the house with guests.

These parables have different emphases, but all teach the same main points:
1.  The empty profession leads to judgment:  the man who says, I will go and work — but does not go, can expect only judgment.  The judgment theme is further developed in the second parable:  the man who does not respond to the owner of the household, to give Him his fruit, is likewise exposted to judgment.  The third parable shows a man at the wedding feast, but without the wedding garment:  an empty profession is not enough.

2.  God’s Program for the Nation Israel and the Gentiles shall undergo a dramatic change–by virtue of the fact that the Nation Israel, to whom the promises had been given, has now evidently refused the Son at His coming.

The first parable teaches that the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you — and likewise, the Gentiles shall precede this generation into the kingdom of God.  Note that even here God is still very gracious and leaves the door open:  they shall enter “before you.”  The door has not been permanently shut, and there still is opportunity for you.  Thus has been the case down through history:  the church has been composed of a majority of Gentiles, but still some Jews.  Even in the book of Acts we learn that some of the Pharisees, and some of the priests, did indeed come to faith in Christ — one of the evidences we see for answer to Christ’s prayer from the cross, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The second parable is even more clear:  the kingdom of God shall be taken from you (those who did not bring forth fruit to their master) and given to the Gentiles.  Then in the third parable, the chosen people do not even want to come, and so the servants of the king go out to the highways and gather as many as they can find.

Those that have been invited to the feast, the Nation Israel, because of their rejection of the Son did not come, and so he goes out into the highways and selects all, as many as they find, both bad and good, and they come to the feast.  That’s His way of telling in a simple illustrative story that there is a tremendous transformation taking place in the program of God at the first coming of the Lord Jesus.

The parables also have different emphases:  work for God in the first parable, stewardship and the particular relationship of trustee in the second parable, and the joy of a marriage feast in the third parable.  Yet each of these parables convey great truths, in the illustrative way that only our Lord Jesus Christ can relate these things to us, for our greater understanding.

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  1. Paris Lover
    February 20, 2017 at 2:41 am

    ohhh thank you so much!! I have a test today and couldn’t find these answers on many websites, but, luckily you saved me!

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