Of all the parables of Jesus, this one is perhaps the most pointed. It doesn’t take a great deal of insight to identify the target, as the ones against whom Jesus spoke figured it out immediately (cf v 19)!
The owner of the vineyard is the Lord, and the vineyard is the nation of Israel. His vineyard was planted when he chose Israel from among the nations to be His special people. As a vineyard must be planted and then tended to maturity, so it was with Israel from their infancy. God did not select the mighty Egyptian empire when it came time to bring forth a people, neither did he wait until another world power arose. He began with a ragtag bunch of slaves. Moses reminded the people of this fact in his farewell address, saying, “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number that any other people, for you were the least of all peoples” (Deut 7:7).
God matured his people through the capable leadership of Joshua and the judges. He blessed them abundantly, disciplined them appropriately, and restored them lovingly after the captivity. Along the way He sent His prophets to call His chosen people to maturity. Generally, the people were stubborn and rebellious.
Then shortly after the return of the exiles, God went silent for four hundred years. When the time was right, God expected His people to bear the fruit of maturity. Sending John the Baptizer was another attempt to receive the fruit of His labors, as John was sent to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers (Mal 4:6).
But the Jewish leaders of the day rejected John and his message (cf Luke 20:5; Matt 3:7-12). They also rejected the preaching of those sent on the Limited Commission (cf Luke 10). As a last resort, the vineyard owner sent His Son. Coveting the “fruit” of God’s people for themselves, they purposed to kill the Son that the inheritance might belong to them. Which thing they also did but did not take into account the fact that the Son would not remain in the grave, nor would the Father turn a blind eye to their treachery.
Finally, the owner determined to take the vineyard from the wicked vinedressers and give it to others, namely the Gentile, who would bring forth the fruits intended from the beginning (cf Matt 21:43). We are the blessed recipients of the Jewish rebellion against God (cf Rom 10:19-21).