Sermon Text: Luke 20:9-19
Date: March 12 & 13, 2016
The Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C
Luke 20:9-19 (EHV)
9He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, leased it to some tenant farmers, and went away on a journey for a long time. 10When it was the right time, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect his share of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenant farmers beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed. 11The man went ahead and sent yet another servant, but they also beat him, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12He then sent yet a third. They also wounded him and threw him out. 13The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What should I do? I will send my son, whom I love. Perhaps they will respect him.’
14“But when the tenant farmers saw him, they talked it over with one another. They said, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, so that the inheritance will be ours.’ 15They threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. So what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16He will come and destroy those tenant farmers and give the vineyard to others.”
When they heard this, they said, “May it never be!”
17But he looked at them and said, “Then what about this that is written:
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?
18“Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush the one on whom it falls.”
19That very hour the chief priests and the experts in the law began looking for a way to lay hands on him, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
May It Never Be!
1. That we reject God’s Word
2. That we be crushed by God’s Judgment
There are somethings that are too awful to think about, some tragedies that, should your mind wander to think about them happening to you or your loved ones, that they cause your whole body to shudder. We don’t need to give examples this morning; you know the things that would personally cause you great distress and anxiety even just thinking about the possibility of those things happening.
We don’t need to dwell on those things either, because Jesus in our Gospel for this morning gives us the absolute worst case scenario. Jesus’ parable gives us a picture of people who reject his Word and thus are crushed by God’s judgment. With the people listening to Jesus we say “May it never be!”
Jesus spoke this parable on the Tuesday of Holy Week. He’s already made his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and the heat on him from the Jewish leaders has never been hotter. They want to rid of the earth of him; he is making very direct and pointed calls to them to see the error of their ways and repent.
Jesus tries to illustrate their history of rejection by telling the parable of tenant farmers in a vineyard. A man bought a vineyard and then leased it to tenants who would take care of it, in exchange for a portion of the fruit. The owner of the fruit sent his servant to collect what was due him only when it was the right time. But the tenants completely rejected the servants the owner of the vineyard sent. Not only did they reject them, but they treated them horribly, abused them, and hurt them severely.
It doesn’t take long for us to connect the dots. If the vineyard owner is God, and the tenants were the children of Israel, then the servants that God sent were his prophets. He sent them time and time again with his Word, yet the people didn’t want to have anything to do with God or what he said or what he thought. They wanted to do their own things, so they, at best, largely ignored the messages God sent through them. At worst, though, they abused the prophets and even killed them. We heard just a couple of weeks ago Jesus say, dripping with irony, that he was in no danger in Galilee, because “surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem.” Time and again the children of Israel had taken God’s servants and abused them.
Haven’t we done the same? Haven’t we taken God’s Word and run roughshod over it? We often live like a thankful Christian here at church, and then things change when we leave those doors. We change our language around our coworkers so that crass joking and foul language is on our lips. We nod along with God’s law and gospel here and set it all aside in our lives, because we’re really just going to do what we want to do anyway, regardless of what God says. Perhaps we’ve had a run in with a pastor or teacher, and dismissed what they said or trampled all over them because we didn’t think the way they thought. We want to just blend in, look like good little tenant farmers, but then when push comes to shove, we beat down God’s servants and the message they bring from him.
So what’s the solution to that? We stop dismissing God’s Word and actually listen to it. We might not like everything that he says, but much of the message is positive for us. And even the things that we might initially view as negative, we realize that, in the end, they are all for our eternal good. Why does God expect a share of the crop, as it were? Why does he expect a life of thanksgiving? Because of all he’s done for us.
Jesus, God’s own Son, died for our sins. He took our insubordination on himself and paid the debt we owed because of it. Jesus perfectly listened to God’s commands, even when it meant that he had to die, so that you and I would be forgiven of all the times we haven’t listened. Jesus took the punishment that we vile tenant farmers deserved on himself so that we do not get what’s coming to us. God will not come and destroy those tenant farmers and give the vineyard to others; he will bring us to eternal life because our sins are gone.
And thanks be to God for that! May it never be that we ever treat God’s Word with such contempt as we have in the past. But may it also never be that we fall under the punishment that our sins truly deserve. Jesus warned the people listening to him, especially those who rejected him and his mission of mercy as God’s chosen Messiah, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone[.] Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush the one on whom it falls.” To set ourselves up against God and his plan of salvation will be disastrous.
And that’s the natural conclusion of that rejection of God’s Word if it goes unchecked. Sure, perhaps we think that in this one aspect of our lives, we don’t need to listen to God, and that’s that. But it doesn’t stay there. If we reject one part, we slowly begin to reject all of it. And that unrepentant sin leads to a life of outright rejecting everything that God has done for us. And that leads us to see Jesus not as Savior but as a breaking and crushing stone. He, as our eternal judge, will condemn us to hell if we have not taken refuge in him as Savior. May it never be!
And it doesn’t ever have to be. In fact, it won’t be. Because you and I are changed, now. Our sinful nature may try, at times, to get the best of us, but by God’s grace we can stomp that to the curb. By God’s grace, we are not rebellious tenant farmers, but grateful children of God who rejoice in all that he’s done and will continue to do for us, physically, spiritually, and eternally. By God’s grace, we say “no” to sin and rejoice in doing what is right to thank him.
God’s grace means that his judgment will not fall on us, because it already fell on Jesus. His wrath will not crush us, because it already crushed Jesus. We are freed from our sins. Now, as thankful tenants in our Master’s vineyard, we work for him and serve him with every aspect of our lives, not because we have to, but because we want to. That is the change that God has worked in us.
So as we look to what is ahead for us in the next two weeks, as we see other opportunities to worship and meditate on what our salvation cost our God and Savior, we rejoice. We’ll rejoice to see him willingly take our sins upon himself. We’ll rejoice to see him bear the full brunt of hell on the cross in our place. And we’ll rejoice to see that, though our salvation cost him his life, he truly lays down his life only to take it up again.
May it never be that we scorn and reject God! May it always be that we rejoice in his constant love and forgiveness! And by God’s grace, that is what will happen! Amen.
Scripture quoted from the The Holy Bible: Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV). © 2016 The Wartburg Project, www.wartburgproject.org