He then began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But the tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven't you read this scripture: 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes'?" Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.
Mark put this parable into his story of Jesus to show us, his readers, how Jesus exposed the unbelief of the Jewish leaders, those who would later have him tried by the Romans and executed.
… they knew that He had told this parable against them.
They were not only angry with Him but frightened of the crowd too. In John's gospel, John tells us of those who did not confess Him out of fear because
they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God …
The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders showed they were more concerned about gaining crowd approval than being made right with God. Jesus saw He had to give clear guidance to the crowd. The Scribes and the Pharisees were just confusing the people about their true obligations. Jesus says they will reject the very despised elements of human society from which God raises His new people, the one's who will sing in fulfilment of His Promised Mercy.
The stone rejected by the builders
Now a capstone fitly placed.
God the Lord Himself has done it,
Wondrous sight our eyes amazed.
Thus the Lord this day has made,
We rejoice with thanks so deep,
Aid us Lord give us success,
Since our safety's yours to keep!
Jesus knew David's Psalm 118:22-24, another one of those Psalms to be sung on the road leading to Jerusalem. It would resound in the ears of all the different groups among His hearers. And as they sang it, the teachers of the law, the high priests and the elders perceived that they were being targeted. He had them in mind when He told this parable - and they were right. Jesus knew that though they may have been out to get Him, any murderous desire on their part would not thwart God's eternal purposes. He was aware of their scheming. He kept on teaching as much for them as for His own disciples. After all, in the story the owner of the vineyard had employed the farmers, giving them the privilege of caring for his property. That was their station in life.