Sermon on Luke 20:9-19
Text: [Jesus] went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’
14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
When the people heard this, they said, “May this never be!”
17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”
19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
During the past number of weeks, our attention has been focused on a number of parables that Jesus told as he made his way to Jerusalem to be crucified for our sins. We studied Jesus’ parable about a fig tree that did not bear any fruit. The owner told the care taker to cut it down. The care taker pleaded with the owner to leave it for one more year. If it produced fruit, fine. If it did not produce fruit, then it was to be cut down. We learned from that parable that God looks for fruits of repentance from his people. Last Sunday we studied the parable of the Lost Son and how the father welcomed him back with open arms. We learned that, when we repent, our heavenly Father welcomes us back with open arms. These two parables taught something to be desired. The parable under our consideration, this morning, comes from a different angle. When the original listeners heard it, they exclaimed, “May this never be!”. ‘May it not happen as you said!’ So also we, as we study this parable will say MAY THIS NEVER BE 1. That We Despise God’s Word, 2. That We Reject God’s Love and 3. That We Are Crushed By God’s Judgement.
Jesus told this parable on Tuesday of Holy Week. He was in the temple, teaching the crowd that had gathered. He was interrupted by the chief priests and teachers of the law, who wanted to know by what authority Jesus was teaching. They were again hoping to discredit him. They wanted the people to stop following Jesus.
Jesus, in response to their opposition, told a parable. “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.” The situation that Jesus set up was not unusual. There were many cases where people would rent out their vineyards for a share of the crop. This was the case here. When it came time for the harvest, the owner sent a servant to collect his share of the harvest. The owner wasn’t being impatient. He waited until the harvest, before he asked for his share. He was not being unjust. This was his share, according to the agreement that he had set up.
The fault lies with the tenants. Not only did they refuse to give the share of the harvest to the owner, but they also mistreated the servants who came to collect it. The first and the second ones they beat. Literally, these two were whipped until the blood ran. The third servant was seriously wounded and then dumped outside the vineyard. It is hard to imagine these people acting the way they did.
Yet, the people who heard the parable quickly understood what Jesus was saying. God often called the people of Israel his vineyard. Isaiah 5:7 said, “The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight.” They realized that Jesus was talking about them and their ancestors. Just as the owner had been patient in sending servant after servant, so also God demonstrated his patience in sending prophet after prophet to the people of Israel. Yet, they mistreated the prophets that God sent to them. Isaiah, Amos, Micah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and Elijah were all mistreated by the people of Israel, when God sent them to collect the fruits of repentance. Instead of listening to the prophets, they hurt them. John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus. He was beheaded for speaking the truth. Indeed, the people that heard this must have cringed over such a telling review of their nation’s and their own history.
May the same never be said of us. How could I say this? We have never mistreated any of God’s servants, and we have no intention of doing so! Yet, it is not so much the mistreatment of his servants that God was bringing against Israel, but more the way that they treated the message that they brought. So, also, we are to look at our treatment of God’s Word. From the time we were baptized on, we have had opportunities to be in contact with God’s Word. There were Sunday School and confirmation classes. For some there was the Lutheran elementary school. There have been the opportunities to gather together on Sundays and Wednesday evenings. God certainly has been gracious in giving us his Word. Yet, sometimes there is the temptation to feel that these are the same old things that we have always heard. We find ourselves getting bored with what we are hearing. By these sorts of attitudes, we are acting just like the farmers in the parable. God has every right to expect things from us. He has given us everything. He has made so many promises to us. But, if we neglect his Word, we will never feel comfort. May we make a renewed effort to stay close to God in his Word. May this never be that we despise God’s Word.
Jesus continued with the parable: “the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” The father had unusual patience. However, that he should even think of sending his son to those people, who had acted as they had, is even harder to understand. The father thought that this might work. There was this chance, so he was going to take it.
When the son approached, the tenants decided to kill him. After all, the Law stated, if there was no heir, the property would go to those on the land. Somehow, they fooled themselves into thinking that the owner would overlook their actions. This, of course, would never happen. As Jesus said, the owner will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to someone else.
When the people heard this, they exclaimed, “May this never be!”. Jesus was talking about taking the vineyard away, that is, the nation of Israel would no longer be God’s special nation, a position they had enjoyed from the time of Abraham. Jesus’ meaning was clear. He had often referred to himself as the Son of God. The son in the parable was Jesus. He knew what lay in the hearts of the chief priests and teachers of the law. They wanted to kill Jesus. Jesus warned them about the consequences of their actions. They refused to heed the warning and did kill him. And, indeed, God’s special care had been taken from them. The message of God’s Son and salvation has been given to the Gentiles, which was just what the Jews had expressed in horror. May this never be!
May it never be that we reject God’s love. When God sent his Son to the people of Israel, they crucified him. They put him to death. Why? It happened so that our sins would be taken away, so that our debt of sin would be paid in full. This was the extent of God’s love, that he was willing to sacrifice his Son, so that we would be saved.
May it never be that we reject God’s love, by continuing to willfully sin. There will be times, whether in ignorance or weakness, that we will sin. What I am talking about here is knowing full well that something is wrong and doing it anyway. This shows no respect for what Jesus did on the cross for us. Hebrews 6:6, in speaking of willful sins, says, “to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” We don’t, literally, re-crucify Jesus. However, when we willfully sin, we are saying that Jesus’ sacrifice really wasn’t so important. ‘I can live life the way that I want, because I can always go back to God and ask for his forgiveness.’ We need to be very careful about this attitude, for it may well be that we lose the faith that gives us forgiveness.
Rather, let us live lives that shun all those evil things. We do so because of the great love that Jesus showed to us. Let us not take that love for granted. Rather, let us feel its effects as we strive to live for God. As the hymnist wrote, “Grant that I your passion view with repentant grieving. Let me not bring shame to you by unholy living. How could I refuse to shun every sinful pleasure since for me God’s only Son suffered without measure?”. How could I live in any other way than this? To live in any other way would be to despise the love that God has shown to us. May this never be!
The chief priests and teachers of the law knew exactly what Jesus was talking about. They knew he was talking to them. To drive the point home, we are told, “Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.’” Although they didn’t answer, we can be sure that they knew what Jesus was talking about, because verse 19 tells us, “The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them.” They were the builders who were rejecting the stone. The stone was Jesus. They rejected him because he did not fit their idea of what a Messiah should be. Some looked for one to lead them in revolt against the Romans. Others looked for the Messiah to bring the nation back to the glory it had enjoyed under David and Solomon. Jesus didn’t fit their picture. He was humble, having no army. Worst of all, he continued to associate with those “sinners.” Because of this, they rejected him.
Jesus goes on to show that the stone that was rejected was all important. It was the capstone, the stone that held an arch together. This word could also be thought of as the cornerstone, the stone from which the rest of the foundation was laid. If either stone was missing or imperfect, the results would be disastrous. The building would fall. The arch would collapse. Because they rejected this most important stone, Jesus, they, too, would meet with disastrous results. “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” Jesus is speaking of Judgment Day. These leaders of Israel would then see Jesus for whom he truly was, namely, the Son of God. Because they rejected him, because they refused to heed his warnings, they will be crushed, that is, they will spend an eternity in hell separated from God’s love. The crushing that is spoken of here means a grinding into fine powder. This awaits all who reject Jesus.
May this never be for any of us. May we not be crushed at God’s judgment. It is true that this is what we deserve because of our many sins. We deserve but grief and shame. All on our own, this is what we would have for all eternity. However, while those who reject Jesus as their Savior will be crushed, those who have been brought to faith in him will be made whole when we reach heaven. Those who believe in Jesus do not need to fear the Judgment, because Jesus paid for all of our sins. Our debt has been paid in full. Rather than hearing Jesus’ condemnation, we will hear words of invitation, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” This awaits us. May we never reject Jesus, for to do so would mean eternal punishment. On our own we would quickly stray. For that reason, let us ask God to keep us strong in the faith. We can and will remain strong, if God is in control of our lives. Don’t push him out or aside, but invite him in. Without God, there is only darkness and suffering. With God, there is the light of eternal salvation.
There are many horrible things that can happen during our lifetimes. We pray that God would keep them far from us and our families. This morning, we have looked at three of the worst things that can happen to us, and we pray that God would keep them from us, for they will have a direct bearing on where we will spend our eternity. With God’s help, may we never despise his Word, for it is only there that we find out about the way to salvation. With God’s help, may we never despise his love, for there we see our salvation, which was accomplished for us by Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we will not be crushed in the judgment, but, rather, be with God forever. May God keep us all faithful until the end. Amen.
St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches ©2024 All rights reserved.