One day when the priests and elders of the Temple were asking questions of Jesus, He told them this parable.
There was a certain man who had a vineyard which was hedged or walled round, and had a tower. But he was going away into a country far off, so he let the vineyard to a number of husbandmen, or labourers, who were to give him part of the fruit of the vines. When the time had come that the fruit was ripe, he sent his servants to the husbandmen that he might receive his share. But the wicked husbandmen took his servants, and slew one, and beat another, and stoned the third. Then he sent other servants, more than before, but the husbandmen served them as they had done the others. Last of all he sent his own son, saying, “They will reverence my son.” But when those wicked men saw him coming, they said among themselves, “This is the heir to all the vineyard’ come, let us kill him and seize on his inheritance.” So they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
Then Jesus said to the priests and elders, “When the Lord of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto these husbandmen?” And they answered, “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard to others, who shall render him the fruits in their season.”
In this parable the owner of the vineyard means God; the vineyard Canaan, and the husbandmen are the Jews, who had promised to obey Him, but had not done so. He had sent His prophets among them, to warn them, but these had been killed. At last He sent His only Son, but they would not own Him as such, and soon they would kill Him. When the priests heard this they knew it referred to them, and they were very angry and would have taken Him and killed Him, but they were afraid of the people, who took Jesus to be a prophet.