The triumphal entry is about the people’s continued expectation of Jesus to be an earthly Messiah overthrowing the state and bringing a glorious new age. Jesus allows them their praise – He is after all God! As we continue we see, as we have seen leading up to today’s reading, that Jesus is a very different Messiah.
As he arrives (v41) he weeps over Jerusalem. The city and people who should get it, have not got it.
The temple is a mess – the largest section, called the court of the Gentiles, is meant to be for Gentiles to come to hear about the Lord. Instead it is being used to rip people off to buy necessities for worship. After Jesus clears it His authority is challenged by the profiteers-in-chief, the chief priests, scribes and elders. Jesus deftly answers their question with a counter conundrum – see the notes for Mark 11 “Under whose authority” for more detail.
Jesus follows up with another story, because stories cut to the heart and allow us to be incredibly confrontational in a gentle way. Everyone in the crowd would know the owner is God, the farmers are Israel and the messengers were the prophets. So far so good. But the owner sends the beloved son. Jesus is thus the rightful heir to the ancient prophets, come to complete their work, challenging Israel one more time to give their God the honour and obedience He is due.
Tom Wright puts it like this “Israel was charged with bearing the fruit of justice in her own life and showing God’s grace to the world around. But Israel has insisted on keeping grace for itself, practicing injustice in its own life and seeking to repel and resist the world around by whatever violence might be necessary. Israel has rejected the way of peace and will now reject its final messenger.”
Eventually the vineyard owner will return at last and when he does will judge Israel, destroying the farmers and giving the vineyard to others. Jesus the stone the builders refused, will be the most important stone, the cornerstone; the quote from Psalm 118.22 ramming it home. They may reject Jesus now, but He will come back vindicated.
The religious leaders want to kill him there and then, but fear of man stops them. So instead they send insincere spies to ask questions and trap Him.
Praise God that the Son has come to win for the Father a people made up of every tribe and tongue to enjoy His presence forever and ever. Amen.