Q: I don’t quite understand how the parable of the vineyard relates to the Pharisees…
This parable is a direct attack on the chief priests and Pharisees who opposed Jesus and were looking for a way to kill him.
Building on the “Song of the Vineyard” of Isaiah 5, Jesus likens the nation of Israel to a vineyard God (the landowner) has painstakingly cultivated.
When the time came for God to benefit from the “fruit” of the vineyard – faith in the promised Messiah – he didn’t find that fruit in those to whom he had entrusted the vineyard (the Jewish leaders). Even though he sent the prophets to lead his people to repent and believe, they refused to listen. Finally, God sent the greatest messenger of all – his Son – but they only sought to kill him.
So the parable predicts that the “vineyard” will be taken away from the Jewish leaders and given to others who will produce the fruits of faith (i.e. the Gentiles).
The parable is a strong warning against all who would reject God’s Son, the “cornerstone” of the kingdom (v. 42).