Incredible Love & Mercy!
Fifth Sunday in Lent Trinity Lutheran Church
13 March 2016 Murdock, NE
+Jesu Juva +
Here we go again! Leave it to Jesus to tell another scandalous story like this one. Only He can pull this off week after week. Some call it the “Parable of the Terrible Tenants.” Others name it “The Irresponsible Landlord.” All depends on how you look at it, I guess.
Nonetheless, the parable is a story of JUDGMENT. A JUDGMENT based entirely on the person and work of Jesus. Will the people of Israel receive Jesus in faith as her Messiah? As her Savior? As her God? Or will they reject Him in unbelief? This is also the question that the parable puts to you as well.
God is the owner of the vineyard. Israel and you are the tenants. As His tenants you have a stewardship – a responsibility – to use His gifts wisely and faithfully. And the biggest gift is His Son Jesus. The harvest God wants from you is the fruit of faith – trust in Jesus as God FOR YOU and for your salvation as well as love for one another that comes quite naturally when you trust Jesus above all things.
Three times God the Father sends servants at harvest time to gather the fruit of faith. Each time the tenants revolt and rebel. Each time the tenants beat the living-you-know-what out of the servants and send them back empty handed. Imagine if you’re one of the servants. You’d say to yourself, “I pray that the Landlord doesn’t chose me to collect the harvest from those nasty and cruel tenants.”
Imagine if you’re the landlord. What would you do? You’d pull a Donald Trump. You’d hire a team of Manhattan lawyers. Litigate up! Sue the pants off those good-for-nothing-loser-tenants! Put them behind bars! Let them rot in jail! That’s what you’d do.
But this Landlord is the Lord Himself. He hopes against hope. He wants to receive a harvest of faith not the harvest of hostility and unbelief. So He does the unthinkable! The remarkable! What everyone would call reckless! “I will send … my beloved son. Perhaps they will respect him.”
What ever gave the Landlord that idea? Certainly not the tenants’ track record! In addition, what kind of Father would think about, let alone send His Son, the Son He loves so much, to a mob of bully anarchists that have already beaten the bloody pulp out of his servants? Most would call this divine child abuse and would call the authorities to have the Father/Landlord arrested and put away for good!
However, this part of the parable is all about … God’s incredible patience. His relentless mercy. His unfathomable grace. His outstanding passion to save sinners at all costs.
What sort of Father would send His beloved Son to a mob of deadbeat thugs with murder on their mind?
This one! This Landlord. Listen.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life,” (Jn 3:16).
“God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us,” (Rom 5:8).
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins,” (1 Jn 4:9-10).
Yes, brothers and sisters, this is precisely God’s cup of tea. He sends His beloved Son Jesus into His rebellious world. To go after the world. To go after Israel. To go after you. Even though Israel herself had repeatedly beaten, stoned and killed God’s servants, the prophets who prepared the way for the Landlord’s Son. This is the nature of the Father’s mercy. He keeps coming back again and again. Again and again. Again and again. Seeking the fruit of repentance and faith. And He risks everything for that!
When the tenants saw the Landlord’s Son, they assumed the owner was dead. So the plot thickens. “Let’s kill the son! Then the inheritance will be ours.” Sounds crazy – but it could work. If the Landlord is dead and leaves no heirs, then the tenants could claim title to the vineyard free and clear! Provided, of course, that they could get away with the cold-blooded and premeditated murder of the Landlord’s Son. That’s precisely why they “threw him out of the vineyard” and then proceeded to slit his throat and bash in his head.
Of course, all this is a picture of Jesus’ impending suffering and death. A few days after speaking this parable the religious authorities of Jerusalem call for Jesus’ crucifixion from the hands of Governor Pilate outside the city on the hill called Golgotha (Skull). The parable becomes reality! God the Father sends His beloved Son Jesus to His vineyard, His Israel. His Son is despised, rejected, beaten, and murdered outside the city gates of Jerusalem.
To reject Jesus is to reject the Father’s will to save you. And that will end hellaciously for anyone who does that whether it was people in Jesus’ day or people of today. Reject Jesus as God FOR YOU and for your salvation and you will receive God’s judgment of wrath / condemnation / damnation of hell.
This is very serious. Salvationly serious. The parable is a warning shot across the bow to the religious leaders of Jesus day. Better not reject the Father’s Son and His gift of salvation for them. The parable also serves as a word of warning to the church of every age and especially here at Trinity.
What is the warning? DO NOT REJECT THE SON WHO COMES TO YOU in the name of the Father. Do not despise the Son and what He has mandated and instituted for the delivery of His Good Friday forgiveness. He has instituted the preaching of His Word so that you would be repented and faith. He has instituted holy baptism to give you the divine saving Name of the holy trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He has seen to it that the gospel gets preached and that sins are forgiven in His name. He has arranged a meal in which He gives His Body and Blood for you to eat and drink with the promise that He really forgives you. Blow all that off and you’re in some seriously salvation trouble. To reject what Jesus institutes and gives is to reject Jesus Himself. That is unbelief. And unbelief is a one way ticket straight to hell.
Do not be deceived by appearances. Jesus appears so weak and useless. His servants appear as fools, wimps, and losers of the world. The church looks like she’s dying. But here is the truth. Jesus speaks it loudly and clearly: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the capstone.” Jesus is the rejected stone. He is the despised and yet the cornerstone of salvation.
The full weight of your life, here and now and forever, rests on Jesus. “Everyone that falls on that stone named Jesus will be broken to pieces.” Strange. But absolutely true. You need to be broken. You need to be broken if you are going to be made whole again. Just as Psalm 51:17 says: “A broken and contrite heart, O Lord, You will not despise.”
Yes, you must die daily. You must die daily to your sin and sinful nature in repentance if you’re ever going to really live. Either receive the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won FOR YOU on the cross, trust in Him to be God FOR YOU, or be crushed to bits by resisting and refusing His death and resurrection.
Here is the good news. Every sin of yours has been spoken for in the Good Friday death of Jesus. Every sin of yours has been forgiven in the Blood of Good Friday Jesus. Every sinner, including you has been died for. Only unbelief is the unforgiveable sin.
So, trust in the Son, that rejected Stone. He is the cornerstone of your salvation. Fall on Him with all the brokenness of your life for He was broken FOR YOU. He will raise you up and give you life “just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns eternally.”
In the Name of Jesus.