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Faith Bible Church, NY
October 2, 1994
Results of Rejecting the Son
THE PARABLE AND ITS SETTING
This morning we continue in our examination of Jesus’ initial confrontation with Jewish religious leaders on Wednesday morning of Passover Week. The conflict between them is escalating and will result in His crucifixion in just two and a half days. On this particular day there will be confrontation between Jesus and several groups as they each come determined to somehow discredit Him. Before the day is out Jesus will deal with the Pharisees, the Sadducees and even the political Herodians. But at this point in time, it is the Chief Priests and Elders that are trying their hand at denigrating Jesus.
After Jesus and the disciples had spent the night in Bethany, probably at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, they have come back into Jerusalem and into the temple. As we saw last week, the Chief Priests have recovered somewhat from the shock and fear of the day before when Jesus had cleansed the temple by casting out of God’s house of prayer the merchants and money-changers that operated under the permission (and for the benefit) of the Chief Priests. (See: Who Does God’s Will? – 9/25/94) Now they come challenging Jesus’ authority to do all the things that He does such as preaching, teaching, performing many different miracles, and kicking out their business partners from the temple. They could not deny that he had the power to do these things, they are challenging His right to do them. They are seeking to show that Jesus is either a usurper of Judaism or that He is a blasphemer claiming authority directly from God.
Their scheme did not work, and instead resulted in their own condemnation. Never think you can pull one over on God. You will lose every time and He will use your very words to reveal to all your foolish heart. You would think they would have wised up fast and left, but in this morning’s text we find their pride leads them into hearing another parable, and receiving further self condemnation.
Turn with me to Matthew 21:33f.
Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey. And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance.” And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore when the owner of the vine-yard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers? They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end. and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper season.”
This is quite a parable, and the first person we meet in it is a longsuffering landlord.
A LONGSUFFERING LANDLORD
We first meet this landlord when he sets aside one of his tracts of land and plants a vineyard in it. This would be a common practice. Vineyards were a good cash crop and so a good crop for an investor to plant. This landlord made a sizeable investment in this vineyard making sure it was equipped with all that would be needed. Not only was the ground prepared, but he put a wall around it to protect it from intruders, including both people and animals. He then dug a wine press. This would be either hewn out in the bedrock itself, or dug and then lined with stones. It would consist of a main vat where the grapes would be “pressed” by the feet of people walking around on them. At the low end of the vat there would be either a pipe or a trough that would allow the juice to run into another vat. Here the sediments in the wine would settle out and the clear wine skimmed off and put into containers that were either wineskins or jars.
This landlord even went to the additional trouble of building a tower in the vineyard. A watchman would be stationed in the tower to look out for enemies or for animals that might want to get into the vineyard. All of this points out that this landlord put together a first rate vineyard.
Next we find another common practice. The landlord rents out the vineyard to vine-growers. These people are experts in the cultivation, harvesting, and processing of grapes. They agree on a contract in which growers and the landlord (who goes away), will split the harvest. This would be share-cropping. Both parties make out, because the landlord gets experts to work his land, and the growers, who do not have any land, get a good percentage of what they can produce.
Eventually it reaches harvest time. The grapes are being brought in and made into wine, so the landlord send some of his slaves to collect what is owed to him by the vine-growers.
As we see what happens to these slaves of his we become aware of something highly improbable. We have to remind ourselves that this parable, like any parable, is simply a story made up from the kinds of things that would occur in life with which they would be familiar. The story is told to illustrate an issue and drive that point home. The details of the illustration are only provided to further illustrate the point and they do not have to be probable in real life. And so we find here a landlord that has an incredible amount of patience.
In Mark’s account we find the story of each slave sent, here we find Matthew condenses the story. One slave is beaten, another is killed outright, and a third one is stoned and probably left for dead. Now we would think that after the first slave is beaten and certainly after the first slave is killed that this owner would retaliate against these wicked growers and bring them to justice. Yet we find that he continues to send more slaves in an effort to simply receive what is rightfully his. This demonstrates and unusual amount of patience to say the least, and verse 36 shows his longsuffering to be unbelievable in that he sends still more slaves.
Anyone with that kind of forbearance is incredible. Indeed, some have questioned whether Jesus really even told this story because it seems so implausible. But the incredible tolerance of this man is brought to the inconceivable limit when we see in verse 37 that this landlord now sends his son. Mark makes this even more stunning when we find out that this is the man’s only son, his beloved son. His hope is that these men who have not respected his slaves, though they came with his authority, will respect his son.
This man’s son shows that he is of the same essence as his father for in going, he shows that he is a selfless son.
A SELFLESS SON
Our text does not say anything about the son other than the fact that he is seized by these wicked men and murdered. Yet, in going we know this son must be extremely unselfish. Tell me, if you were this son, would you have gone. All your father’s slaves have gone before you and they have been humiliated, beaten, stoned and murdered. Now dad says, “there is no one left to go, it is your turn.” Would you go? And if per-chance you would go, how would you prepare yourself for what lay ahead? Would you go alone or would you get a bunch of your friends to go along with you? All of them armed to the teeth perhaps?
Yet here we find that this son does go, he does not take his friends, and apparently he does not even go armed because undergos the worst treatment possible upon his arrival. He is brutally murdered, and I say brutally because these wicked vine-growers not only plotted his murder, but then threw him out of the vine-yard like the carcass of an unwanted animal.
You say, “this is incredible, inconceivable, incomprehensible, unbelievable, this man and his son could not be human,” if that is what you are thinking, then you are beginning to understand the parable. The landlord here is representative of God the Father, and the son is representative of Jesus Christ Himself, God the Son. For God the Father’s longsuffering of sinful man is incomprehensible and the God the Son’s willingness to come to earth is astonishing.
1 Peter 3:8 tells of the Lord’s patience. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. This patience is part of God’s very character. Psalm 86:15 telling us, But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth. Even towards those that hate Him, refuse to repent and who will eventually come under God is longsuffering. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 9:22, What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? In other words, though God is not hesitant to demonstrate both His wrath and power, yet He willingly endures with patience even those who by their refusal to repent are now prepared for destruction.
When we think about this parable in terms of God’s incredible patience with mankind, then we see that the landlord in this story is not so implausible after all. He is a representative of God the Father. And his son is a picture of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the selfless son. Jesus knew what was to happen to Him from the beginning. We have seen for quite a few weeks now in our study of Matthew that Jesus has been telling the disciples over and over again that He was now on His way to Jerusalem where He would suffer many things that the hands of the hypocritical religious leaders there, eventually being crucified and then raised from the dead on the third day. That crucifixion is now only two days away, and here we find that Jesus Himself in this parable is telling the very people that would have Him crucified what they will do to Him. Jesus is the selfless son. He said it best Himself in the passage we looked at several weeks ago, Matthew 20:28, The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many. Jesus came knowing that He would die at the hands of wicked men, yet he was not deterred.
That is the longsuffering landlord and the self-less son in our parable, but what about these condemned contractors?
The chief priests and elders condemned themselves again when they answered Jesus question about the parable, what will the owner of the vineyard do to those vine-growers? Again, the answer was so obvious that they answered before they thought about the ramifications of their answer. Of course the landlord would take those wretched vine-growers that he had contracted with and he will bring them to a wretched end. Justice will be brought to bear and they will pay the full penalty of their guilt. Then other men who are more noble and will fulfill the terms of their contract will be given charge over the vineyard.
Their own answer condemned them and Jesus brings that condemnation to light starting in verse 42. Jesus said to them, “Did you never read i the Scriptures, ‘The Stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; This came about from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
A cornerstone is extremely important in a building. If it is flawed or set incorrectly then the rest of the building will be off. The stone had to be of high quality, of the right size, shape and cut. A builder may examine quite a few stones before finding the one that satisfies him. The rejected ones might be used in some other application or just thrown in a pile.
The quote Jesus gives about the corner stone is from Psalm 118 which is a psalm of praise & thanks to the Lord for His goodness to Israel. Within that Psalm, the rejected stone is Israel. A small nation considered unimportant by the surrounding nations, a nation to be discarded as worthless. Yet God, in His marvelous grace takes Israel and makes it the corner stone of His redemption plan for the world. No wonder the Psalm busts into praise of God.
Jesus now takes this well known Psalm and applies it to Himself. Jesus Himself is now the rejected cornerstone. These religious leaders have examined Jesus and in their eyes He does not have what it takes to be useful. Jesus does not adhere to their system of authority. Jesus does not follow their traditions or interpret the Scriptures the same way they do. Jesus is a rogue, too independent, He does not fit. He must be rejected as useful to Judaism. Rejected by man, yet Jesus is the perfect cornerstone of God, and upon Him God will build a new temple, the Church.
This is the point of verse 43. The leaders of Israel had been given the very special privilege of working in God’s vineyard. They were supposed to be a nation that would proclaim God’s glory to all the rest of the nations of the world, but instead they became ego-centric and thought themselves to be something neither they nor anyone else is. The world does not revolve around man, but around God.
God was patient with Israel. Very, very patient. Prophet after prophet was sent to bring the people back into a proper relationship with the Lord, and prophet after prophet was rejected. Jesus told us to “rejoice and be glad” when men cast insults at us, persecute us and say all kinds of evil against us falsely, on account of Him. We should consider ourselves blessed, because not only will are reward in heaven be great, but we are in the company of the prophets before us who were treated in the same way. Elijah was constantly being chased by the wicked king Ahab and Jezebel. Elisha was insulted over and over again. Jeremiah was treated severely by the king, those in the royal court, the religious leaders and even the people ignored his message. He was abused on many occasions including being thrown in to an empty water storage pit and allowed to sink in the ooze. His was even kidnaped and taken to Egypt where he died. Isaiah had some respect during the reign of Hezekiah, but under Manasseh he was abused and finally murdered by being sawn in two (Heb. 11:37). Jesus tells us that Zechariah was even murdered between the altar and the Temple, killed by wicked religious leaders in the House of God! (Luke 11:51).
The wicked vine-growers in the parable represented these treacherous religious leaders who while claiming to lead the nation in the paths of righteousness were so blind to the truth that they could not recognize that the man standing before them was sent from God. Jesus tells them directly that God was not going to take his kingdom away from them and give it to another nation that would produce the fruit of it. This would be a new nation, one made up of many peoples. Those who would follow after God would be made into, as Peter puts in 1 Peter 2:9,10, a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
A hope would be given back to mankind as a new people would be called out to tell the nations about God’s mercy to those who repent. The church would be born and the kingdom of God would go forth in a new way to bring forth the fruit of righteousness of humility and holy lives.
But as for these wicked men, not only would the kingdom of God be taken away from them, but they were in danger of a terrible judgement. A warning is given to them in verse 44. They could neither resist nor ignore Him for to do so would result in being broken into pieces, crushed into powder and pulverized to be scattered by the wind. Quite graphic language for the judgement that would come upon them. Much like the language we find in Daniel 2, which we be examining in this evenings service, in which a rock comes and destroys the statue, pulverizing so that the wind blows it away.
THE HOPE OF MANY
It is quite a contrast we find in verses 45, & 46 between these men that were supposed to lead the people to God and the people themselves. The people had hope, but they had only condemnation. In verse 45 we find that they realize that they parable has been directed at them and instead of repenting, they desire to strike out against Jesus.
And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. And when they sought to seize Him, they feared the multitudes, because they held Him to be a prophet.
Notice that the Pharisees have joined the Elders and chief priest, and they too recognize that this parable is about them. They are the wretched vine-growers who have acted so wickedly. This could have been the point of their salvation if they would have repented of their sin and sought Jesus forgiveness, but instead the commitment of their hearts to do evil is confirmed in their plot to somehow seize Jesus. And if the crowds had not been there, they would have. But these men were cowards. They feared the people would not follow their lead and might turn against them, because the people at least held that Jesus was a prophet, a source of hope that God would remove them from their bondage to Rome. The people were still largely ignorant, not understanding the Scriptures or God’s plan for their redemption from sin, but even so, they understood more than their leaders.
Where do you stand today in terms of this parable and its application? Have you recognized that the longsuffering landlord is God who has equipped you to serve Him, and that in view of His manifold mercies to you that is only right that you present yourself as a living sacrifice to Him (Rom 12:1). Are you bringing to Him His due? Have you marvelled at the selfless Son whom God sent but was crucified on a cross outside the gate of Jerusalem as the payment for your sins?
Are you one of the wicked growers who refuses to yield to God and tries to usurp Him and His authority over your life by trying to run things yourself? If so, then today is the day to acknowledge that, repent of it, turn away from it, and to start following God’s will over your own.
Or maybe your one of the new nation that God has created to bring forth the fruit of His kingdom. If so, you should not only rejoice over the privilege, but also make sure that you are bringing for that fruit. Are you fulfilling the purpose of your life? Are you living in holiness while telling others of God’s mercy to the repentant, humble sinner?
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