Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
The Stone the Builders Rejected - March 17, 2013 - Fifth Sunday in Lent - Text: Luke 20:9-20
Our text for this morning follows Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were pretty upset that Jesus allowed the people to put up such a commotion for Him, (you remember, the waving of the palm branches, the placing of their coats on the road, the sing of Hosannas and so forth) certainly there was a lot of jealousy and envy going on, and so, they are now trying even harder to discredit Him before the people. Luke tells us that after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem that Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. And he tells us, “Every day [Jesus] was teaching at the temple” (Luke 19:47a).
In the verses right before our text Luke relates to us the fact that Jesus’ authority is being questioned. As Luke relates the story, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders asked Jesus, “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things? Who gave you this authority?” Jesus’ answer was a question back to the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders concerning the authority of John the Baptist, because, you see, His authority was from the same place as John’s. Thus, if they could answer His questions concerning from where John received his authority, then they would have to admit the same for Him. That is why the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders answered as they did, “We don’t know,” and that is why Jesus answered as He did, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” As if it would have made any difference anyway.
Our text then, really is Jesus’ response to these chief priests, teachers of the law and elders. His response is in the form of this parable. His parable is taken right out of Isaiah 5:1-7. And while He is at it, Jesus also quotes from Ps. 118:22, but we will get to that later.
Jesus tells the parable, we begin at verse nine (v. 9b-15a), “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”
Now let us break this parable down. The owner of the vineyard is God the Father. He built a most wonderful vineyard, and here we need to read Matthew’s account of this parable because he does a better job of describing this vineyard. Matthews tells us, “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower” (Matt. 21:33). In other words, God the Father is the one who planted the vineyard of the children of Israel. He did everything imaginable for the children of Israel. He chose them, out of all the nations on the earth. By His grace, not because of anything within them, He chose them. He made them His people. He put His name on them. He blessed them. He promised to make them a great nation and that through them He would save the world. Again, through them, He would save the world. It was not just them that He would save, but the world. And He expected them to bear fruit, to live as His people, to share the message of salvation with others, so that through them He could save the world.
When harvest time came around, the vineyard owner sent His servants to gather His share of the harvest from those who had rented out the vineyard. Jesus’ reference is to the prophets whom God sent from time to time to proclaim His message to His people. However, the leaders of the people, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders of the people continually beat, maimed, abused and even killed these prophets.
Finally, the vineyard owner, God Himself, decided to send His beloved Son, Jesus. The reaction of the tenants was that if they kill the Son, then there will be no one to claim the vineyard, thus, possession being nine tenths of the law, perhaps the vineyard might then be theirs, and all the profits of the vineyard. So, they plotted to kill the Son. Interestingly enough, Jesus has spelled out the plot against Him by the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders, completely, although they do not realize it. They were secretive in their plans just like the tenants of the vineyard. Yet, they forgot one important part of the equation, Jesus is God, thus He is omniscient. Jesus knew their plans and here He is spelling out their plan to them, but they do not get it.
Jesus’ then asks and answers what amounts to a rhetorical question (v. 15b-16a), “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” The crowds response, (v. 16b) “When they heard this, they said, ‘Surely not!’”
The renters thought they could beat the owner, however, the owner was still the owner, in other words, there will be a day of judgement. The vineyard owner will judge the evil tenants and will give the vineyard to more responsible tenants. This is a warning from Jesus that the Jews will be disenfranchised and the Gentiles will be made a part of the kingdom.
The crowd understood what Jesus was saying and their response was one of disbelief. How can this be? Surely not! May this never be! Certainly more than the chief priest, teachers of the law and the elders, the crowd understood what Jesus was saying and they knew He was talking about their eternal inheritance.
Jesus then explains by quoting Ps. 118:22 (v. 17-18) “But he looked directly at them and said, ‘What then is this that is written: ‘“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” The reaction of the teachers of the law and the chief priests (v. 19), “The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.”
The fact of the matter is this, that Jesus is a stumbling stone. He is a stumbling stone in order to get their attention so they will believe. A person may stumble over Jesus and be hurt, but this is not a fatal wound as a matter of fact, this might be a saving wound, if it does get their attention.
Jesus is the stone that was thrown away, that is, He is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant has passed away. Not because it was just tossed, but because Jesus fulfilled all its requirements. Now He is the corner stone for a new covenant. The New Testament Church is built on Jesus and faith in Him.
And there is the warning for those who continually disown Jesus. He is the stone that will fall on them and crush them. This is a permanent crushing, a fatal crushing, an everlasting life in hell crushing. In other words, for all those who continually reject Jesus, all they can expect is eternal spiritual death.
As we hear this parable today we are reminded that we are the renters of the new vineyard, the new covenant. So we might ask ourselves the question, “How are we doing?” “Are we producing fruits by the power of the Holy Spirit, or are we thinking that if we get rid of the owner we can have the vineyard all to ourselves,” in other words, are our eyes focused on all we can get in this world, “the one with the most toys wins,” or are our eyes focused heavenward?
How do we react when we stumble over Jesus? How do we react when we are reminded of our sin and the fact that if we remain in our sin then we will ultimately reap eternal death? Are we grateful, learning to love Him more, because it is when we know our sins that we can confess our sins and be given forgiveness? Or do we despise Him, thinking He is only in our way? Do we perhaps think like the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders, that we, somehow, deserve something from God, an eternal inheritance, perhaps? Or do we realize that it is only by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone that we have forgiveness of sins and the gift and promise of eternal life in heaven?
For us, Jesus is our cornerstone. He is the base of our New Testament faith. He is the one who has chosen us, put His name on us, given His life for ours, put faith in our hearts, given us forgiveness of sins and the gift and promise of eternal life. And He expects that we bear fruits of faith. As He had chosen the children of Israel to be His people and that through them He would save the world, so He continually chooses us to be His people and through us He continually works to bring the message of salvation to the world, so that through the proclamation of His Word, His Holy Spirit will work faith, life and salvation and that is how we bear the fruits of faith, by, with His help, living lives of faith as a response to His good gifts and blessings.
After hearing these words of Holy Scripture for this morning, we cannot help confessing with Paul, from the words of our epistle lesson, “8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—10that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8-14). To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.