Consider in this parable that Jesus plainly indicated who He was and prophetically foretold to the religious leaders what they would do to Him—what they in fact were already planning and would carry out in a matter of days. Moreover, His words to them were in the context of their fathers having done the very same thing to the prophets—which they would not have denied but confessed to be true (see Mat 23:29-30). What religious pride must have so deluded them to suppose that they would not be guilty of the same and even greater crimes? What religious deception must have so completely blinded them to adamantly deny that His words could be true in spite of the many good works and all the signs that He had done and which they themselves acknowledged (see Joh 10:32-33, 11:47)? How hardened must their hearts have been to have done exactly what He said they would do while rejecting even the remotest possibility that He might be who He claimed to be and whom they claimed to be awaiting? In the day of judgment when the light has exposed their darkness, what remorse must be theirs for all eternity for so willfully sinning against the obvious truth?
What does the example of the religious leaders teach us about the subtle power of deception, and especially religious deception, to completely delude a person? Think: what caused them to suppose that they were different from their fathers who put the prophets to death and that the circumstances were somehow different so that they were justified in putting Jesus to death? Cf. Joh 11:48-50 and see 2Co 4:3-4. Are the circumstances that lead to such events really ever any different? Cf. 1Sa 13:5-14. In what way are the circumstances that surround any of our sins similar? Cf. Gen 3:6, 2Co 11:3, 1Ti 2:14. What do such circumstances teach us about the importance of establishing our hearts in true righteousness so as to be able to stand firm in the truth in the midst of such situations? How do we do that, and are we doing so? Cf. 1Th 3:12-13, 1Ti 6:11, 2Ti 2:22. What is the key element within a person that allows him to prevail in such situations, and why? See Heb 11:6, 1Pe 1:5. How does this help us to better understand the manner in which we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8)?
Consider too after the fact the finality of what the religious leaders had done and that the results could not be undone. At what point, like Judas, might they have come to the realization that they were wrong and that the consequences of their actions could not be turned back? Cf. Mat 26:24, Joh 19:11, Mat 27:3-5. What fear must at some point have gripped their hearts to realize that Jesus’ words were true and that not only had they followed in the footsteps of their fathers who murdered the prophets, but they had done even worse by murdering God’s own Son? See Heb 10:27,31; cf. 1Sa 28:20-21. At what point might they have begun to fear that they had erred and that the rest of the words that Jesus spoke in the parable might also come upon them in regard to the owner of the vineyard destroying the vine-growers and renting the vineyard out to others who would pay Him the fruit in its season? Although deluded by their own hardness of heart and willfully deceived from fear of the just consequences of their actions if they were wrong, might they have felt a twinge of conscience and begun to feel the worm of remorse already gnawing at their souls almost immediately, as did Judas? Would not the possibility have crossed their minds that Jesus’ words in Mat 21:41-43 were coming upon them in the weeks and months and years following His death as they saw their own authority diminishing among the people, but the bold spirit of the uneducated disciples of Jesus swaying thousands to follow Him whom they had crucified? Cf. Act 4:8-22, 5:27-33. What does this help us to understand about the nature of God’s wrath and judgment coming upon a person or nation? Although certain, is it necessarily swift and immediate? How many times might the reality of what they had done have crept into their thoughts as the political turmoil of the nation was accelerating in the years before 70 a.d., even while they observed at the same time the Samaritans and Gentiles whom they despised repenting and believing the gospel? And yet because of the unthinkable ramifications of that possibility, could they entertain such thoughts for more than an instant? Cf. Act 22:21-23. How is this like the rabid evolutionists, atheists, feminists, abortionists, and homosexuals of our own day? Might a similar reality be creeping into the thoughts of such people today as they see where their actions have led but cannot be turned back, or into the thoughts of the leaders of our own nation, or any nation, who have made politically expedient decisions that irrevocably set that nation on a path to destruction? Is it conceivable that the pangs of remorse that at various times have twinged the collective conscience of our nation in regard to evolutionary indoctrination, the removal of prayer from schools, the sexual revolution, feminist movement, abortion, and homosexuality—is it possible that these and the warnings that were sounded before they came to pass are similar to those felt by the nation of Israel leading up to its destruction? Whether as individuals or as a nation, should we be deluded to suppose that we are different and the circumstances surrounding our sins are somehow different so that we are justified in them and the outcome will also be different?