In Matthew 21, Jesus spoke of his death in the parable of the vineyard. The Lord of the vineyard had sent many different servants and they were all mistreated and killed by the wicked husbandmen (the caretakers of the vineyard). Eventually, the Lord of the vineyard sent his Son and they did the same to him and put him to death as well.
And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that
they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. ~ Matthew 21:34-39
As we can see in this parable, the Lord of the vineyard was not the one condemning his
Son. Instead, it was the husbandmen who mistreated and killed the Son. They did to the Son as they had done to the other servants who were sent before him. This is an important point to remember in righty understanding how the prophecies concerning the sufferings, and death of Christ were fulfilled. Unfortunately, many have embraced a theological view of the cross that creates a narrative in which Jesus was condemned by God rather than sinful men. Yet the New Testament says otherwise.
According to the New Testament, the rejection of Jesus by those who condemned him was the culmination of their rejection of all the prophets and righteous men God had sent to them and their ancestors. They became guilty and the blood of all the righteous men and the blood of prophets whom God sent by their rejection of Jesus ~ see Luke 11:46-52, Matthew 23:29-39
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. ~ Matthew 23:29 -38
And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute. That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him. ~ Luke 11:46-54
These two references above in which Jesus reprimanded the religious leaders in Israel is exactly what is being referred to in the parable of the vineyard, and it is exactly what played out in the narrative of how Jesus was condemned by them. They rejected Jesus because he was the truth borne witness to by the righteous men and prophets who came before him. In fact, Jesus was God’s own Son whom God had sent to bear witness of the truth.
To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. ~ See John 18:37
Like many of the righteous men and prophets who came before him, Jesus would die a martyr’s death, but unlike those before him, Jesus’s death would make atonement for the sin of the world, for only Jesus is the Messiah, and only his precious blood can save us from our sins.
In the gospels, Jesus likened his own death to those who had died before him for the glory of God. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus likened his death to that of John the Baptist:
But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. ~ Matthew 12:12-13
John the Baptist was not condemned by God, he was a martyr who died for the glory of God.
Jesus also describes his death as a martyr in the parable of the vineyard referenced above. As we can see in this parable, the Lord of the vineyard was not the one condemning his Son. Instead, it was the husbandmen who mistreated the Son and killed him. They did to the Son as they had done to the other servants who were sent before him. This is the narrative according to Jesus and his apostles with regards to the nature of Christ’s sufferings. Jesus died at the hands of sinful men who unjustly condemned him.
As we continue reading the parable of the vineyard, Jesus says the following:
When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, he will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, did ye never read in the scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? ~ Matthew 21:40-42
The significance of Jesus as the Stone the builders rejected and the ONE God has chosen is abundantly clear throughout the gospels, the book of Acts, and the entirety of the New Testament.
Jesus never once attributed the things he suffered in death to the justice or wrath of God, or as condemnation from God. He always attributed things he suffered in his death to the hands of sinful men.
Likewise, in the book of Acts, the apostles never interpret the death of Jesus as condemnation levied against Jesus from God. The apostles always held the people responsible for Christ’s death. Conversely, they attribute the resurrection to God in opposition to what the people had done in condemning and crucifying Jesus.
The message preached by the apostle Peter on Pentecost, was that Christ, whom the people had condemned, had been raised from the dead and enthroned at the right hand of God. By this message, Peter exhorted the people of Israel to repent and to believe all that the prophets had foretold of the Messiah.
Stephen, who was not an apostle, testified of the death and resurrection of Jesus while on trial before the Sanhedrin. Stephen did not preach that Jesus had been condemned by God. Instead, Stephen held the Jewish leaders responsible saying to those who were about to stone him that they had been the betrayers and murders of Jesus, the Just One.
Their forefathers had persecuted the prophets who had showed beforehand the coming of Christ, and they had followed in their footsteps by their rejection of Christ. Stephen says that what they did to Jesus was that of resisting the Holy Ghost!
Because of his bold testimony for Jesus, Stephen was murdered by those to whom he testified of Christ: Stephen was martyred, just as his Lord had been martyred ~ Acts 7:52
Following in Christ’s footsteps, Stephen laid down his life for the glory of God. Stephen was not condemned by God, but rather was a chosen vessel who suffered martyrdom for the gospel and for the glory of Christ.
It is in this way – martyrdom – Jesus suffered and died. The nature of sufferings of Christ, according to the will of God, should be understood in the same way in which we understand others, who according to the will of God, suffered for the glory of God. Job and Paul are also examples. Both suffered for the glory of God, but it was not God opposing and afflicting them. Yet in their sufferings they were completely in the will of God and the purposes of God were accomplished through them. Likewise, it was the will of God for Christ to suffer for us to redeem us with his precious blood.
Because Jesus obeyed God’s will to give his life for the redemption of sinful men, God exalted him in righteousness in the resurrection, and delivered unto him the Kingdom. The stone the builders rejected is the precious cornerstone on which God has chosen to build his house and kingdom. Now all men are commanded to repent and serve him!
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. ~ Acts 17:30-31
Jesus laid down his life according to the will of God, dying unjustly at the hands of sinful men to redeem us with his precious blood. In his resurrection, God overturned the verdict of sinful men by raising Jesus from the dead and exalting him at the highest place of honor.
It is in this way that scriptures, such as Isaiah 53:10: it pleased the Lord to bruise him: he hath put him to grief, were fulfilled. Not by God personally afflicting him from Heaven, but by the surrendered obedience of Jesus to the will of God, he was bruised and put to grief for us. In the parable of the vineyard, Jesus says, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?