Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s message is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 20th chapter (Luke 20:9-20).
Beloved in the Lord,
Tenants, Israel, Us
When Jesus speaks this morning the God who is for us speaks His divine Word against us, not to frighten us away nor to hurt and harm us forever. But the Word spoken against us is spoken against our sin that the God who is for us may then bind up the wounds of our heart and bring health and healing. This morning Jesus speaks against the chief priests and the scribes and all who reject His Word. He speaks against old Adam and his heritage, old Adam in them and Old Adam in us. That we may hear these words and that His Words may work its wonders bringing forth a much desired fruit, Jesus speaks a parable.
He tells of a vineyard, certain tenants, and a vineyard owner. The Vineyard is Israel, the people of God, the Church and her Christians. And a beloved vineyard it is for the Owner of the vineyard, the Lord our God, has planted it in good soil and lent it to tenants who’s vocation is to tend the vineyard and return the fruits to its rightful owner. The tenants are the chief priests, the scribes, the pastors of the people. Pastor and people, tenant and vineyard are always accountable to the owner and creator. They are accountable for their labors, their fruit, their life and their works. The owner seeks good fruit. The Lord wills a faithful people bearing the burden of love and suffering the fruit of the Spirit towards one another. He desires a righteous people, a holy people, a people formed and fashioned in the likeness and image of the one Who bent low to plant us in this world, this life.
Rejecting the Word of those Sent (stealing the inheritance)
But where is His fruit? What of faith and good works? The tenants have neglected their task and pampered old Adam. They work hard, but they work hard having confidence in their flesh. Thus the vineyard is defiled with false food receiving from their tenants that which leads to death instead of life. The vineyard is barren. The landscape is a wasteland.
What shall the owner do? He shall send his servants! He sends the first to gather the fruit. And he is beaten. He sends the second seeking righteousness and he is treated shamefully. He sends the third calling for fidelity and he is wounded and cast out. Thus the Owner’s claim is rejected. The Creator’s creatures have rebelled. The Lord’s Word is refused.
These Words Jesus speaks, He speaks against us, against pastor and people who pamper the old Adam, who work hard and have confidence in their flesh. These words He speaks against sin, our sin and most especially unbelief. For where there is unbelief sin, shame and vice reign supreme and the Lord is not pleased. For without faith it is impossible to please God. God is pleased with faith and faith is not a dead faith, in inactive faith, but faith expresses itself in love towards our neighbor.
Faith must have an object, something to cleave to, something to receive and hold dear, and that object must the Word of God. To reject the Word, to comfort the comfortable is to bring desolation to the vineyard, the church, the one who would be called Christian. The desolate soul has an empty heart and the empty heart suffers the consequences of sin: loneliness, despair, death, and if unrepentant – eternal torment.
The tenants of the parable sought the owner’s vineyard and fruit for themselves. They cheated and they stole and they were quite confident in their ability to seize what was not theirs. Thus it is with Old Adam, with our sinful nature, with you and me as we are always tempted to take what is not ours, to seize what hasn’t been given and to reject anyone who would challenge the desires of our heart. The sought the inheritance apart from the will of the owner. Those confident in their flesh, those seeking to work hard and earn a way in are merely masking their thievery. All sin is thievery. All unbelief is idolatry. We deserve the Owner’s wrath. Here Jesus speaks against us that we be turned away from ourselves and towards the Creator’s heart for us.
Behold I will do a New Thing (what shall I do?)
Though we deserve the Owner’s soldiers, fire and brimstone, wrath and judgment, He does not surrender so easily to our destruction. NO! He asks Himself, “what shall I do?” He wants to do more, more for the vineyard, the church, us Christians, and more for tenants, the chief priests and scribes and pastors. He wants to do as much as is necessary to save both, to save all. “What shall I do? . . . “Behold, I will do a new thing . . . I will send my son.” The owners answer to rebellion is more sending. The Lord’s salvation for sin is the incarnation. The owner sends his Son, the Lord his only-begotten. “They will respect my son.”
No they won’t. “The tenants saw him, and they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ “So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.” And, no they didn’t. “He came unto His own, but His own did not receive Him.” Jesus was rejected – unbelief has no bounds. In their rejection of Jesus Jew and Gentile sought Old Adam’s survival. Killing Jesus they assumed they could press on in the flesh, steal away the inheritance, take what was not theirs to steal. Yet, Jesus did not get in their way but rather used their rejection of Him to work salvation for all who believe on His Name.
Rejected, beaten, mocked, striped and crucified, Jesus bears away the sins of the world. Taking away sin He takes away death. Thus He suffers the shame. He endures the mockery. He bears the scorn. He does this because He is sent of the Father to save the vineyard, the tenants, the church and the world. He is sent to suffer, to die, and to rise again, not for himself, not for the only a few, not for just the good Jew and the pious gentile, but for the chief of sinners, for murders, abortionists, adulterers, fornicators, sodomites, molesters, tyrants as well as those who sin as much but not as bad, for the liars, the ones who covet and who lust, for the haters and the deceivers and the cheaters and the grumblers. He goes to the cross to bear it all, to bear it for you, to bear it for the world.
Hail Thou Once Despised Jesus – receiving the Word (receiving the gift)
“Behold, says the Lord, I will do a new thing. I will make a new covenant. I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sins no more.” The owner is not like the tenants. The Lord is not like his rebellious creatures. He is “ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and does not forsake his people.” (Neh 9:17 ESV) He does not turn away from the sinner. He does not abandon us. He does not surrender us so easily to destruction. But the Lord forgives. He stretches forth His hand in mercy to seek and to save to help and to heal to find and forgive.
Thus the Word goes out this morning. The first word is against us, calling us to repentance, revealing to us the merits of our flesh. The Word is against un but so that another Word may be for us. This Word is the good Word, the gospel Word, the Word of mercy through faith in Christ. Faith must have an object and when false faith is torn from false words and false objects, the Lord provides through His Word, the Word of the Cross, the Word of Absolution, forgiveness, Jesus. The Good Word, the Gospel Word, is Jesus Himself. Though He was rejected long ago, though stubborn hearts reject Him today, the Father continues to send Him out. Jesus is always the sent one, the one sent by the Father, the One whom we Christians and all who would be saved are to respect, honor, and worship by faith. “They will respect my son.” Indeed, the Father has given His Son and raised Him from the dead. He is worthy of not only our undying devotion and adoration and love, but also and most especially faith.
Tenants, Israel, Us – Repent or Perish
Beloved in the Lord, faith receives the Word of Jesus and surrenders to the will of the Father. Faith receives the Word of Jesus and is forgiven of all sins, big ones, little ones, well known ones and even the ones only we know about. Faith receives the Word of Jesus and then puts that word into action, expressing itself through love, love toward God and love toward our neighbors. You see beloved, we still have our vocations. We are still the Lord’s vineyard, still planted in our stations. Thus we still have fruit to bear and the burden of love to suffer. We still are accountable to our owner, our creator, our God and our Savior. Thus we are still, today and every day, called to repent and believe the Gospel. When Jesus speaks against us, He speaks against our sin. Revealing our sin, it is not left for us to wrestle to the tomb, nor is it for us to fix it ourselves having a false confidence in our flesh, but it is for Jesus to take away and forgive. It is in His flesh and His blood that we have a sure confidence. Nourished by faithful pastors the people of God receive good food, food unto eternal life. Here the Son is given under bread and wine, His true flesh to eat and His true blood to drink. It is for us Christians, for the holy vineyard of the Lord, that there be good fruit upon the day of judgment to glory of God the Father. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!