Sermon for Pentecost 18 – October 4, 2020
+ 18th Sunday after Pentecost – October 4th, 2020 +
Series A: Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:1-14; Matthew 21:33-46
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
“God Loves His Vineyard”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
After hearing Jesus’s parables off and on these past few months, one thing is certain, Jesus’s parables are challenging. Sometimes his parables are hard to understand. As in the disciples asking Jesus to tell them the meaning of the parable of the sower. Other times, Jesus’s parables are understood perfectly – and that’s the problem.
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.
The problem isn’t that they misunderstand Jesus’s story. No. They understand exactly what Jesus is saying. Jesus is comparing them to the wicked tenant farmers. And you can just imagine their body language as they listen to Jesus tell this story. Scrunched faces. Crossed arms. Clinched fists. Waiting for their chance to arrest him. But not yet. First, the crowds. They had to be turned against him.
The chief priests and pharisees were right. Jesus is a prophet. The prophet. The One greater than Moses. The One who is the very Word of God made flesh. Israel’s true King. Israel’s long-expected Messiah. The Son and heir of the vineyard Owner has come to reign in grace and mercy. And yet the religious authorities want none of it. They oppose, confront, and reject Jesus. So, Jesus sends a laser-guided missile straight at their unbelieving hearts in the form of this parable.
There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. The master spares no expense for the care of his vineyard. He plants. Provides. Protects. The master loves his vineyard with an everlasting love. Just as YHWH loves his people.
The tenant farmers, on the other hand, have no love for the master. When the season for fruit drew near, the master sent his servants to the tenant farmers to get his fruit. And the tenant farmers took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them.
That right there, is a pretty good summary of the Old Testament. Israel’s religious leaders have a long history of rejecting YHWH. Yet, YHWH has a longer history of love for his vineyard, for his people. YHWH sent Israel priests, judges, prophets and more prophets. And yet the religious leaders rejected YHWH’s messengers, His Word, and ultimately YHWH himself.
Finally the master sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ Perhaps you’ve noticed by now that this master of the vineyard is a strange businessman. His patience towards the wicked tenant farmers is astonishing. He sent not one, but two groups of servants to the vineyard despite the actions of those murderous tenants. I don’t know about you, but if I was the master there would be no mercy. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to jail. Or worse. And yet, the master sends his own son to the wretched tenant farmers.
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
This is where things get interesting. First, there’s the tenants. “Really? That’s your plan, kill the heir?” “Yea, if the son is out of the way, we can be our own masters.” Think about how crazy that is. It’s an insane, absurd thought. That’s not how inheritance works. But that’s exactly how the warped, sin-darkened, twisted hearts work.
Second, if they haven’t figured out already, the chief priests and Pharisees start picking up the beat that Jesus is laying down. He’s talking about them.
Jesus finishes his parable with a set up question. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” And once again, the religious authorities bring down the gavel on their own heads. They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Just as the religious leaders of old rejected YHWH’s prophets, they are now rejecting YHWH himself in the flesh. The master’s Son is standing right in front of them and they’re plotting his murder.
Jesus’s parable ends with the son of the vineyard owner dead, certain punishment for his killers, and new tenant farmers chosen to care for the vineyard. But Jesus isn’t done yet. Jesus adds a little extra hot sauce. “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
Jesus quotes Psalm 118. A messianic psalm. A psalm full of explicit promise and vindication and exaltation of the rejected stone. The religious authorities may reject Jesus. They may put him through a sham trial. Beat him. Spit at him. Mock him. Even crucify him. But the stone the builders rejected will rise again on the third day. Nothing will come between the master and his vineyard. Nothing.
So, what does this parable mean for us? After all, we’re not the religious authorities. Jesus’ parable is still his Word to us. A word of warning and promise.
Jesus’s warning is this. Never come between the Master and his vineyard. This is what the religious authorities had done. Wedged themselves and their authority between God and his people. YHWH and his Christ and his promises were no longer at their center. Like Peter, we’re tempted to cry out, “I will never fall away.” I will never let anything come between me and Christ and his good news.” Really? We never let fear, politics, pandemics, money, anger, greed, lust, or our selfish desires come between us and our Lord? Of course we do. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.
And you know what? Here’s the remarkable thing about God the Father, the Master of the vineyard. God loves us with an everlasting love. God will let nothing come between him and his people. God will let nothing – nothing – come between himself and you. God has promised. God is faithful.
Even when His Son is killed. Especially then. God’s love looks like Jesus crucified for you. Jesus risen for you. God spares no expense for your care. God sends His own Son, Jesus, to be rejected so we are redeemed. What a gracious irony. Jesus is beaten and we are blessed. Jesus is thrown out of the city and crucified to make us heirs of eternal life. Jesus is killed and in him we are alive forevermore.
God loves his vineyard. God loves you. You are God’s planting. God’s beloved, redeemed, baptized people. He has given his own Son to heal, sustain, and save you. Today in simple water and words, bread and wine. And tomorrow, and every day after that. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.