Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Words on the Loose in the Vineyard of the Lord

Sermon Text: Matthew 21:33-46
October 5, 2014


Here is the audio for this sermon:


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 sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the 21stchapter.

Beloved in the Lord,

A.      The Lord’s Vineyard

Steadfast Sermons GraphicIsrael was a vine out of Egypt brought forth by her beloved and planted in the land promised to her fathers.  She was planted in good land, land flowing with milk and honey, land tilled by the Lord Himself.  The rocky soil was turned over, the gentiles with their gods of stone cast out.  There was nothing she lacked.  Everything was provided.  Her cities were built up.  Her borders were expanded.  Her God was in the midst of her sharing Himself through the temple.  Her king possessed the favor of her God and all was good, right and salutary.

But Israel’s vinedressers strayed.  Her teachers sought after other gods. Her land was divided.  Her kings were distressed.  Her borders collapsed.  Her people neglected their Lord.  But the Lord did not forsake them.  Love does not surrender His beloved so easily.  Time after time He sent Word.  Prophet after prophet brought to them His heart.  “Return to the Lord your God!” was their cry.  But she would not listen.  She would not repent.

This is the parable of the wicked tenants who led Israel to such depravity.  It is more than a story of her past it is a Word against them, against the Pharisees listening in, against the scribes taking notes, and against all those who refuse the Lord’s heart sent to them in Jesus.  It is told them to condemn them.  It is told us to condemn us.  We are no different than these.  Though we are separated by time and space we are united together by nature.  We are by nature sinful and unclean.  We have sinned in thought, word and deed.  We are all descendants of Adam and as such we suffer the consequences of Adam’s sin, Adam’s rebellion, Adam’s quest for more than God has given us.

B.      Wanting more than what God gives (wanting to be more)

What More could have been done?

This is the crux of our humanity.  In our fallenness we want more than what God has given us.  Israel’s leaders wanted more that what God had given them.  You want more than what you have right now.  And what you do have you are slow to surrender on His behalf.  Giving, tithing, offering, you wrongly believe you are suffering loss.  What you have is not enough and if you give some away you’ll have even less.  O You of little faith.  Hear the Master of the vineyard through the prophet Isaiah, “What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it?”  In other words, what more could have been given?  How much more do you need to be content with the Lord’s heart toward you?

But humanity searches for more because humanity doesn’t believe.  Adam did not believe he had everything the Lord wanted him to have, so he took the fruit and ate of the wrong tree.  You do not believe you have everything the Lord wants you to have.  So you take the fruit of the wrong tree.  What is sex before or outside of marriage if not taking what has not been given you?  What is disobedience to parents and government and other authorities if not taking and assuming such authority for yourself though it has not been given you?  What is laziness if not taking rest when you should be working in your vocation?  What is stealing if not seizing what is not yours?  What is coveting if not wanting what is not yours to have?  What is any sin, if not considering yourself equal to God?

Thus even in the church our discontentment thrives because we are encouraged by the culture around us.  We are taught to go after what we want and “seize the day.”  But such lifestyles, alternative and traditional, leave the heart empty because our wanting and our grasping and our seizing and our taking has gotten us nothing. So when we come to Christ’s Church we find ourselves wanting more than His Word, more than a splash of water, more than a bit of bread and sip of wine.  So we chase away the prophets and we silence the messengers.  We exchange what has been handed down through the centuries for the latest and greatest on the New York times best sellers list.  Fads replace standards.  Novelty subverts tradition.  Excitement fuels covetousness.  And all the while we exhaust ourselves impersonating the God we can never be.  We want more.  And we keep going because we don’t feel right.  What we fail to realize is that we don’t feel right because we are not right.  Our desire to be right or feel right is not satisfied with our works, our emotions, our songs, our acquisitions of more, our novelties or our innovations.  We don’t need more.  We need to repent!

C.      God Gives His Son

Jesus tells the parable so that the scribes and the Pharisees and you and me repent.  God has not surrendered you so quickly.  Love does not give up His beloved without a fight.  The God of the Bible, the God who is Love, does not fight for His beloved as you and I would suppose.  His fighting for us is manifested in the sending of His Son.  To fight for us God sends His Son.  His Son fights for us.  And though you would think the Son would fight with all His strength to defeat our enemies, doing so would mean our own destruction.  The enemies of our eternity are not outside of us, they are in the depths of our heart. So to save us and win the fight, the Son does not exalt Himself.  He does not approach with fist and sword, with arms swinging and feet stomping.  He does do what we expect the Son of God to do.  No, the Son humbles Himself.  Jesus humbles Himself.  He does not consider equality with God something to be stolen, taken, seized.  No, Jesus submits to His Father in heaven.  He obeys.  He surrenders.  He suffers.  He gives Himself totally and completely into the hands of our enemies, into sin, death and hell.  That’s what Love does.  He loves you first.  He loves you into death even death on a cross.

And so Jesus is crucified because Jesus loves you.  Jesus bleeds out His blood because Jesus loves you.  Jesus gives up His life and bears the wrath of God in your place because Jesus Loves you.

Behold what great lengths the Lord goes to bring you back to His heart!
Behold the great depths of His heart given on your behalf!
There the savior fights for you.
There the Savior takes on your sins and wrestles them into the grave.
There Holy Blood is shed to cover your shame!
There are the holes to prove His devotion.
There is His riven side pouring forth His heart!

There is your God, the master of the vineyard doing more, going greater, giving everything for you!  What more could be done that He has not done? What more could He give to prove His devotion? What more do you want? There is Jesus, the God of Salvation for you.

B’.      Receiving more than we could imagine.

That cross is just a symbol of what was once given for you so long ago. But what was given for you so long ago is here for you today in His Word, His absolution, His baptism and His Supper.  These are not mere signs or symbols like the cross on that wall.  These have God’s promises.  And when the heart has God’s promises the heart has God himself. For our God draws near to His people through His Word.  And His Word has commanded these to be given out to His people.  To give anything more is to go beyond His Word. We Christians are never to seek beyond His Word but rather to take the Lord at His Word.  The Word is our life.  And the Word gives what Jesus has purchased through His death and resurrection.   Where absolution is pronounced, as it was this morning, there is Jesus forgiving sinners.  Yes it is the voice of the pastor, but it is Jesus’ words.  And Jesus’ words give what they say.  When one is baptized. That water is holy water.  It is blood bought water, blood filled water.  And that water gives what God has promised, namely the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The same is true of the sermon when preached in accord with Christ’s word and doctrine and most especially the supper.  Jesus’ body and blood are there because Jesus said so.  And if Jesus says it, it must be true.  His Words do what they say and give what they offer.  Thus He is here, in the midst of His people today doing what He has always desired to do – love you with an undying love, forgive you on account of the blood poured out on Calvary and to be near you today, tomorrow, and forevermore.

A’.      The Lord’s Church

Beloved in the Lord, washed, pronounced clean, and nourished by the blood of Jesus, you are now grafted into this holy vine because you have been grafted into Christ. He is vine and you are the branches.  Everything has been done that could be done for your good.  There is nothing lacking.  You have all that God wants you to have so long as you are here, connected to the vine, receiving His Words and therefore also His life for your life.  Israel then is the church today.  And in this Christian Church the Holy Spirit daily and richly forgives you all your sins.  What did you do to receive this?  Nada, nothing, not a single thing.  Christ our Lord has done it all, done it in your place, on your behalf, for you.  Do you believe this?  That is the crux of Christianity! Do you believe this?  If you believe this then you will be where Jesus is for you, namely at His feet, hearing His words, receiving His supper in His Church.  You will be here.  You who are loved by God receive His love in this place.  And having received His love you then return His love to your neighbors in your vocation. In this way His vineyard bears fruit all flowing from the vine which the Father planted in the cross of His Son.  Everything hangs on the cross of His Son.

When Jesus had concluded his parable the scribes and Pharisees got it. They knew he was speaking against them.  They got it but they didn’t really get it.  Instead of repenting they hardened their hearts against Jesus – they still wanted more than Jesus was offering them.  This morning I pray you see in Jesus enough, enough for your salvation, enough for your joy and gladness.  In other words I hope you get it.  AMEN!


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

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