Sermon – March 13
Text: Luke 20:9-19
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.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ:
What would you do for your loved ones? I think the answer that most of us would give is anything. There are plenty of songs that talk about the unlimited amount of things that a man would do for a woman or vice versa. But there are limits. For example, you wouldn’t steal or kill for your loved ones. Those are extreme things, but I think that each one us has limits.
Today we want to talk about sin which there are truly no limits. God will do anything to turn people to Jesus and call them to His side. It is also true that people will do insane things in their rejection of God. We also will not find any limits to the power that Jesus has no matter whether people love Him or hate Him. May His Holy Spirit open our hearts to receive His message today.
1. There are no limits to God’s efforts to turn people to Jesus
This parable is very similar to Isaiah 5 in which God constructs a vineyard, clears the ground around it, builds a wall and a winepress, but the only yield is wild grapes. So also here we have a vineyard which is supposed to be worked by the servants. Yet the master finds out that there is no fruit. It would be a natural thing to expect fruit, so the owner certainly was not out of line in his expectations. It was the servants who were the problem.
In this parable it’s fairly easy to understand the players. The owner of the vineyard is God. The servants are the Jews who were given everything by God. Yet they rejected Him. Instead of producing fruits of faith and using what He had given them to glorify Him, they became spiritually lazy. When they had spiritual zeal it was for idols such as Baal and Moloch. God gave the vineyard to others and planted His spiritual kingdom with other people. The truth that remains is that He still expects fruit where He plants. He still wants people to be loyal to Him and glorify Him and work for Him.
Even with this rejection we find the Lord going the extra mile. In the parable we find that the owner sent servant after servant even though they were beat up and thrown out. This reflects the Lord’s efforts throughout the Old Testament. Look through the history of God’s people and you’ll find that he sent such men as Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah and many others to comfort and to shake up His people. In fact, in the most evil times He sent prophets who did the most miracles.
He has carried out this pattern throughout history. When there was great persecution in the early Christian Church He turned Saul from one of the worst offenders into an ally and missionary. When the Gospel was just about snuffed out in the middle ages, He sent Martin Luther, and continued to send other reformers to preserve His truth against enemies from inside and outside the Church. Above all do not forget that He sent His own Son. In the parable, the master did not seem to know what the outcome would be if he sent his son. In reality, the Father knew what would happen. He knew that Jesus would be rejected and killed, but He sent Him anyways. He knew and even foretold that Jesus would be stricken, smitten, and afflicted. He knew this and went through with it because He knew that was the only way to save lost sinners such as you and I. So He not only sends messengers out, but He created the message of salvation through the sacrificial death of His Son.
2. There are no limits to the lengths that people will go to reject God
However, these messengers that God sends – like the servants – were for the most part mistreated and rejected. Sending more and more prophets does not show that God was dumb. Rather it shows the great amount of love for His people. He wanted what was best for them. Sadly they even rejected God’s Son wanting the kingdom for themselves, doing their own thing and setting their own rules. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had become power hungry and felt that even greater than God’s spiritual kingdom was the physical kingdom of Israel. But because they rejected what God said and rejected His Son they did not end up with either kingdom.
Nothing has changed in the New Testament Church. Those who proclaim the truth are often rejected. It’s a terrible things to reject God and rebel against Him. Yet we are able to do that very thing. We’re not robots. God has given us the choice to remain in His kingdom and love Him or to turn away from Him. People make the wrong choice many, many times. We get incited to the greatest rage in defending what we think is right, or defending what we think are our rights. We want to have it both ways – belonging to God while wanting nothing to do with Him or His ways. Man wants to define Christianity on his own terms.
We can see the lengths that people go to in the rejection of God because people defy common sense and natural reason. Did it make any sense for the Jews to kill Jesus? Not in the least. He had done nothing but good. He had helped countless people not only by His miracles of goodness, but also in His teachings of love and forgiveness. Crowds were swayed from singing His praises on Palm Sunday, to turning into a mob who demanded His death all within a week. Where the old man reigns there will be foolishness.
This is still true today. Christians are persecuted around the world even though we are not making any new laws. We simply want to live in a way that glorifies our God. Christians by and large are law-abiding, loving citizens. But it goes beyond the treatment of Christians. It is really about the treatment of God. His very existence is denied by more and more people. Evolution is seen as the smart belief even though it is not even scientific. The two things that God has hard-wired into us – knowing of His existence, and knowing that there is a Creator – have been willingly cast aside and denied. That’s how strong the resistance to God is. He sent His Son. He continues to send His servants, yet there are at best mixed results.
We can see in history that though God’s love is unlimited, and though He will make every effort to win people to heaven, there is a point at which He will move on to other people. The Gospel went from Palestine to Asia Minor and Africa. From there it blossomed in Europe and America. Now we see that the vineyard is yielding great fruit in Asia. Just as some Lutherans are sending missionaries to Germany, the home of the Reformation, it is not out of the question that one day India may send missionaries to America. Do not take what you have for granted because this not only happens on a large scale with nations and synods. It also happens with congregations and individuals. It is a precious thing that God has chosen to associate Himself with you.
3. There is no limit to Jesus’ power even if He is rejected
The Jews to whom Jesus was speaking figured out that He was talking about them right away. Verse 16: When they heard it [the vineyard being given to others] they said, “Certainly not!” They knew deep down inside that over the years they had mistreated the prophets of God. Jesus continued using a quote from Psalm 118 as proof of what He was talking about: What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone?’ Whether or not people rejected Jesus as the Christ did not take away from who He really was. They could crucify Him, but they couldn’t defeat Him or get rid of Him. Jesus is not built up or torn down by words. We do this with sports figures or political people, like Tiger Woods or Brett Favre. We can make them popular or make them pariahs, but it does not change who they really are.
Jesus continued in verse 18, Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind to powder. Whether you can’t grasp the fact that God, not man, is responsible for salvation, or whether you rebel against God, the result is the same and that is destruction.
Jesus is pivotal in everybody’s life because He is the cornerstone on whom you build or the rock by whom you are crushed. You can ignore Him for a time, but eventually you will have to face Him. How much better to listen to Him, to love Him, and to receive joy and peace from Him. Thank God that you do know Him for who He really is. But remember that there is a daily battle with your sinful flesh to avoid rejecting Him. Pray for strength in these last days. Amen.