To the people of Jesus’ day, Herod’s lavish temple looked like a fulfillment of God’s promises. Yet the same principle holds true for Herod’s temple as it did for Solomon’s: no amount of gold or precious stones will save a people from wickedness. Inside the temple, we see rich men giving lavish gifts. Over and against these rich flatterers, over and against the scribes, over and against the ostentation of Herod’s temple, Jesus holds up a poor widow as an exemplar of true sacrifice.
God’s promise of seven-fold vengeance seems odd to us until we recognize the larger patterns of mercy and forgiveness at work in the story of Cain.
Unlike other parables, this one is meant to be understood. The vinedressers–the rulers of Jerusalem–are so drunk on their desire to lord over the vineyard that they imagine the death of the Son can secure their lordship.