God Sent His Son
NKJLuke 20 Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him 2 and spoke to Him, saying, "Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?" 3 But He answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: 4 "The baptism of John -- was it from heaven or from men?" 5 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?' 6 "But if we say, 'From men,' all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet." 7 So they answered that they did not know where it was from. 8 And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." 9 Then He began to tell the people this parable: "A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time. 10 "Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 "Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 "And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out. 13 "Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.' 14 "But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.' 15 "So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 "He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others." And when they heard it they said, "Certainly not!" 17 Then He looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone'? 18 "Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." 19 And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people -- for they knew He had spoken this parable against them.
Explanation of the Parable
Many Christians will recognize next Sunday as the beginning of Holy Week Ė That is the last week of Jesusí ministry before He died on the cross. However there are so many things that happened during that week that it isnít easy to pay attention to them all in our regular Holy Week services. So this morning weíll get a head start with the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers. This is a parable about manís ingratitude and Godís patient love. On the one hand it is a warning not to put God on the shelf. On the other hand it is a reminder that God has gone to the ultimate end to save us from our own ingratitude and selfishness. Iím going to begin by explaining the parable and then I work on the application this parable should have in our life.
The parable was instigated by the Jewish leaders who came to Jesus demanding by what authority He had recently cleared the Temple of its money changers and sellers. They knew Jesus had no authority from the High Priest or other earthly leaders. But they were surprised when Jesus appealed to the authority of God. At His baptism with John in the Jordan river He had been declared the Son of God and the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. But like many people today, these men were not interested in the authority of God but in their own authority Ė in human authority. Jesus had asked, "The baptism of John Ė Was it from heaven or from men?" People always go wrong when they stop heeding the authority of God, who has spoken through His prophets. In your own life, when you are struggling over right and wrong, itís worth asking, "Where is God in all of this?" Am I thinking about this from heavenís perspective or from manís?
To bring Godís word back into the picture Jesus told the parable of the Wicked Vinedressers. Long ago Isaiah had compared the House of Judah to a vineyard.1 In Isaiahís parable Judah failed to bring forth the fruit that God desired even though God had done so much for them. Jesus would build on that image and sharpen the focus. The vineyard is the people of God that He had established through His covenants to Abraham and Moses. But that vineyard never grew as it should have. It never produced the faith and good works that God expected. So God sent His servants the prophets to speak the word of God and to gather together the faithful hearers of the word. But these prophets were beaten and rejected. Finally God sent His own Son. "Surely they will respect Him!" But this one they killed hoping to keep the entire vineyard to themselves- even thinking that the owner of the vineyard would give up or eventually die. But Jesus said those vinedressers will be destroyed and the vineyard given to others. He quoted Psalm 118 which says, "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone." Neither God nor Godís Son fit into their view of things. But their rejection of God was foolish and would only result in their own destruction.
Many in Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Why? According to this parable it was because they wanted to keep Godís blessings unto themselves. Earlier Jesus had cleared the Temple of money changers and sellers. He quoted Isaiah 56.7, "For My house shall be called a house of prayer." In the Gospel of Mark Jesus went on to say the rest of the verseÖ "For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." Israel had become consumed with the idea that they were the possessors of Godís favor, and that thatís all that mattered. Worse yet, they had come to believe that they had actually earned the favor of God. To earn Godís favor is to no longer be subservient to Him but to become His partner. This kind of view could only lead to injustice, lovelessness and indifference toward others. Godís promise to Abraham, "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed"2 could never be accomplished as long as Israel thought of itself in this way.
What Does This Mean?
Jesus told this parable for two reasons. First, this parable is prophetic. It precisely predicts the outcome of Jesusí mission. Some of the most shocking words of the Bible are those describing the Jewish leaders who understood that this parable was about them and then proceeded to do the very thing Jesus said they would do! Jesus not only fulfilled the promises of the ancient prophets, He fulfilled His own prophecies.
Secondly, this parable is a warning and an invitation. It is a warning because all people are susceptible to the temptation to misuse Godís blessings. Many Christians treat their faith as though it were merely an insurance policy to protect them from hell. They use the promises of God for their own purposesóto excuse themselves for a sinful life that they have no intention of changing. There is little difference between their life and the lives of those who make no confession of faith in Jesus: They swear in His name; avoid the authority of His word; harbor hatred toward others; disregard marriage; steal, lie, and covet. And none of these behaviors cause them remorse. In fact, they become resentful if anyone points out an inconsistency in their life. If you want a careful application of this to your own personal life, Iíll just ask you this one question: How comfortable would you be if Jesus accompanied you 24 hours a day? Would He be "the stone the builders rejected"?
God sent His Son, and He invites us to live with Him 24 hours a day. At times all of us would be ashamed to have Jesus with us 24 hours a day. But the difference between the false believer and the true believer is that the true believer accepts the invitation to be joined with Christ and to live with Him day in and day out. Of course that means we are constantly being reminded of our sins and constantly being called to repentance. But the most important part of all is that Jesus is never ashamed to be with us. He hung on a cross dying between two vile thieves.3 God sent His Son even though all of us have crucified Him in our wickedness. Still God sent His Son, and still Godís Son desires to be joined to us so that we might be forgiven and released from our foolish lusts that tempt us to push Him away.
God sent His Son, and nothing will ever change that. The invitation stands. Die with Him in the repentance of sin and You will rise with Him in the glory of faith. There is an old Chinese proverb: When the student is ready to learn, the teacher will appear. As long as I think I can take care of myself, the teacher stands by and watches. I fail, and I fail, and I fail again. When I realize that I am helpless and lost, I look up to the Teacher who has been standing there all the time. God sent His Son, even though at times Iíve thought I could get by without Him. Still God sends His Son. Now I know how much I desperately need Him. I donít want to be an entity unto myself. That is nothing. I want to be Godís servant. I want to be a true worker in His vineyard bringing forth the grapes of faith and good works. That is everything. Amen.
1) Isaiah 5.1-7 2) Genesis 12.3 3) Matthew 27.38
Pastor Michael P. Walther
The Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 28, 2004
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1300 Belt Line Road, Collinsville, Illinois, 62234
Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2004
|HOME||BACK TO SERMON INDEX PAGE|