The Fifth Sunday in Lent March 9, 2008
153, 348, 37, 315 (st. 15)
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. 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. Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty‑handed. And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out. 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.’ 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.’ So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.” And when they heard it they said, “Certainly not!” 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’? Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” 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:
“It’s a sure thing.” That phrase is used quite a bit if somebody has a hot stock tip or when a football team is evaluating a draft prospect. But we know that the phrase is not always true. It’s not too long ago that the dot.com stock bubble burst, and any number of professional sports teams chose a “sure thing” that wasn’t.
This is not to stay that there aren’t any sure things. I can say with certainty that until the end of time the sun will come up everyday. The Lord says that seedtime and harvest, day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22). I can also say with certainty that God will continue to reach out to lost sinners. It’s a sure thing that there will be resistance to that love. It’s a sure thing that people will either go to Heaven or to Hell based on nothing more than their relationship with Christ.
The parables that Jesus told illustrate spiritual truths that are timeless and that is why today we will take some time to examine The Parable of the Vinedressers. May God’s Holy Spirit focus our hearts and minds on His Word which reveals several truths that are A SURE THING. I. God’s persistence in reaching out to lost sinners, II. Man’s resistance to that great love, and III. The consistency of the truth of salvation
Before we get too far into the application we’ll take just a moment to gather the basic meaning of this parable. The owner of the vineyard is the Lord Himself. The vinedressers who were working the land represent the Jews. The servants who were sent by the owner are prophets that God sent to His people throughout the Old Testament. The son in the parable is Jesus Himself.
With this parable, Jesus illustrated for the scribes and the elders how God had reached out to them, but they would not recognize Him in His prophets or even in His Son. The chief priests and scribes knew that Jesus was speaking of them because by the end of our text they became quite upset with Jesus.
The act of the Lord reaching out to lost sinners has been an ongoing effort. He declared multiple times His intent to send a Savior. He then caused this promise to be written down. He gave His Law to His people in order that they would be protected from outside influence and would be reminded day to day of the coming Messiah and their need for Him.
Even when God’s people rebelled against Him this didn’t stop Him from sending prophet after prophet to warn them to repent and to give additional information about the coming Savior. When the times were the worst He sent even more powerful prophets. We think of Elijah coming on the scene just when Ahab and Jezebel—possibly the two most wicked people in the Old Testament—were on the throne in Israel. He even reached out to the enemies of His people—sending Jonah to Nineveh and sending Daniel and Ezekiel to Babylon. Jesus’ parable accurately describes the general reaction of the people to the prophets who were sent to them. There was for the most part rejection, but that did not get in the way of God’s love.
God followed through with His plan and sent His one and only Son onto the scene. It is noteworthy that the master in the parable would send His Son into such a violent area with such a potential for danger. Yet, that is exactly what He did with Jesus. Jesus came with the same message as the prophets before Him. The reaction was even more violent. Numerous times the Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus. There was such venom and hatred toward Jesus it is even hard to imagine. Many thought that they were actually pleasing God by crucifying Jesus. They viewed Him as a blasphemous man.
Jesus allowed that scorn to be heaped upon Him because He had the larger goal of salvation in mind. He knew that through His death the inheritance would belong to God’s people. It would belong to all who believed in Him. The Father knew full well the circumstances into which He was sending His Son. But He did it as a loving God who was seeking lost sinners.
In these New Testament times the sending out of servants continues. God sends His servants out with the message of “mission accomplished!” Day after day people speak in the name of God telling of what has occurred. It is a sure thing that as long as time remains, God will seek out lost sinners and invite them into His Kingdom. If that weren’t the truth we wouldn’t be here today.
Unfortunately, we can also count on the fact that there will continue to be a reaction to God’s message that is similar to the reaction in the parable. By nature we resist God and His love. How often in sinful stubbornness have we pushed Him away even after we have become Christians. We have that reaction even with the New Man working within us. How much more so when we were spiritually dead would we resist the Holy Spirit and resist God’s love?
It is a genuine miracle that anybody becomes a Christian or remains a Christian. By nature we are enemies of God. By nature we consider the Gospel of Jesus to be foolishness. By nature we are spiritually dead. In Peter’s second letter we read about the danger of neglecting our faith and becoming spiritually blind and deaf. The Lord says to us, “I’d like to pull you out of this mess,” and we defiantly say that we’d rather stay in our own stench of sin. God has done nothing but good for us and yet we’ll rail against Him and against His servants.
Consider for a moment the “servants” whom God has sent to you. These include the pastors that you have had in the course of your life, Christian Day School teachers, your parents, your children, friends—God’s servants are anyone and all who bring the Word of God to you. How do you react? You have had the same Word of God brought to you by many people and yet there have been repetitions of the same sins. It’s a sure thing that this will continue because this is our nature.
We need to recognize the fact that we can be stubborn and that we have this resistance to God’s love. It’s very easy to say that the vine-dressers in the parable were in the wrong. It’s easy to pick on Old Testament Israel, or the Pharisees. It’s not so easy to take a look in the mirror and admit that the person staring back at us has at times resisted the message of God and mistreated the very people that He has sent in our lives to help us.
We are thankful that the means of salvation remains the same—salvation through an unchanging Christ! Somehow, the power of God’s love is able to overcome the hatred of man. Salvation can always be found in Christ and His work. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” [v.17] Even though Jesus’ divinity has been questioned and will continue to be questioned, He is able to save. It is safe—a sure thing—to build your hope upon Him. The Lord tells us quite plainly that whoever believes on Jesus will not be put to shame.
Here is where we have to filter out the lies of Satan and the lies of the world and go to what our God says. The Lord in no uncertain terms tells us the value of Christ and His redemptive work. From the days of Adam and Eve until the end of time Christ is the sure thing. Forgiveness can always be found in Him. His blood will always be sufficient to pay for sin. His resurrection is always to be the connection that we have to our own personal resurrection. The fact that Christ is the chief cornerstone will always be true. Salvation in Him will always be true.
By the same token we read in verse 18, “Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” Many have stumbled over Christ. They have learned about Him, but they find something lacking in Him. They don’t think that He has enough pizzazz or enough power. Others think that He is weak and that they can stand up to Him and find a way around His judgment. None of this is true. It is a sure thing that if you do not build on the rock of Christ that same Rock will crush you.
While people change and opinions change, what a relief it is that there are things that we can count on. Even though one of those sure things is our resistance to God, thankfully the power and love of God have been proven to be stronger. Count on it! Amen.
Editor’s Note: This week’s sermon is the last we will receive from Pastor Michael Schierenbeck. Pastor Schierenbeck has asked to be relieved of his writing responsibilities for Ministry by Mail and to not be considered for reappointment to the Ministry by Mail staff at this summer’s CLC Convention. Pastor Schierenbeck made this decision in view of health concerns and a desire to serve his congregation as fully as his health will allow.
We thank Pastor Schierenbeck for his service to Ministry by Mail during the past six years. We pray that the Lord will grant him strength and good health and that all of his service in the work of God’s Kingdom will be richly blessed.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.