From The Gospel of Matthew, by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, commenting on Matthew 21:33-43
The confrontation becomes explosive when Jesus says directly to the chief priests and elders that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you. If they had not caught on so far, Jesus makes his allegory clear: they are the wicked tenants who will be removed from leadership over God’s people. Care over God’s kingdom will be given to a people that will produce its fruit—a new people of God (1 Pet 2:9), whom Matthew’s readers would understand to be the Church (see 16:18).
Continuing to use the stone imagery, Jesus’ words about one who falls on this stone alludes to Isa 8:14–15, where the Lord becomes a stumbling stone for the unfaithful. The image of a stone that will crush anyone on whom it falls and that person being dashed to pieces recalls Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of a statue signifying a series of pagan kingdoms that was shattered to pieces by a stone. In the vision, the stone represents a new kingdom that becomes like a mountain filling the earth (Dan 2:35, 44–45).
These two Old Testament stone images come together in Christ. As the stone of Isaiah, Jesus is the one over whom the unfaithful Jewish leaders stumble. As the stone of Dan 2, Christ’s kingdom—despite the opposition in Jerusalem—will become like a large mountain, toppling pagan empires and becoming a great worldwide kingdom.
Hearing Jesus challenging message, the chief priests and the Pharisees (who also were present) want to arrest Jesus, but they did not want to upset the crowds, who view him so favorably as they did John the Baptist (22:26). The crowds consider him a prophet.