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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 5, 2018
Introduction – Review of Matthew 21:23-32
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 in succession 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 disparaging Jesus.
After Jesus and the disciples had spent the night in Bethany, probably at the home of Mary, Martha & Lazarus, they have come back into Jerusalem and into the temple. As we saw last week, the Chief Priests have recovered 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. They have now approached Jesus to publicly challenge Him by asking, “by what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” (Mt. 21:23). They could not deny that Jesus had the power to do these things including the miracles, teaching and kicking out the merchants and money-changers, so they are challenging His authority to do it. They are seeking to show that Jesus is either a usurper of Judaism or a blasphemer in claiming authority directly from God.
Their scheme did not work and instead resulted in their own shame when they dishonestly claimed ignorance in answering Jesus’ question about whether John’s baptism was from heaven or men. Never think you can entrap God with your arguments. You will lose every time and He will use your very words to reveal to everyone your foolish heart. Jesus then went on to tell them a parable about two sons asking at the end which did the father’s will. The one that said “no” to his father but then changed his mind and did what his father has asked. The other said “yes” and then did not do it. They quickly answered the former because it is obvious that it is action that demonstrates obedience and not words. Jesus rebuked them for their hypocrisy telling them the tax-gathers and harlots would get into heaven before they would. (See: Who Does the Father’s Will) . 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 resulting in further condemnation.
Turn to Matthew 21:33. I will read the parable from there and add what is included from Mark and Luke when we examine it in detail.
33 “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. 34 “When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35 “The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 “Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 “But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 “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.’ 39 “They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 “Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” 41 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 seasons.”
This is one of the few parables recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospel accounts which demonstrates its importance to all three writers and the audiences to whom they were writing. It again demonstrates that Jesus knew what was being plotted against Him with a warning to those who would carry it out. Please note that Luke specifically states Jesus told this parable to the people He had already been teaching and not just the religious leaders that had come up to challenge Him. In this parable the characters are analogous to God’s dealing with Israel, so I want to point out the characteristics of the people mentioned to enhance the parable’s point.
The first person mentioned in the parable is a landlord who sets aside one of his tracts of land and plants a vineyard in it. This would be a common practice. Vineyards were a good crop for an investor to plant since it makes good use of the hilly and rocky land in Israel and can make a good return on investment. 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 protect it from intruders – 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 and lime. 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. The sediments in would settle out there and then the wine could skimmed off and put into containers of either jars or wineskins.
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 is the evidence that this landlord has made a sizeable investment to prepare a first rate vineyard.
Next we find the landlord follows another common practice. He rents the vineyard to vine-growers who would have been experts in the cultivation, harvesting and processing of grapes. They agree on a contract in which growers and the landlord will split the harvest. This would be a form of share-cropping in which both parties can do well, for 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. This landlord then goes away on a journey. Luke 20:9 points out that he was away for a long time. There would be very little to harvest the first year, so this most likely refers to the time of the first production harvest which would be about three years.
Eventually the vines mature and the grapes are harvested to be made into wine. This is when the landlord can begin to collect some return on his investment, so he sends slaves to collect what is owed to him by the vine-growers. This would be some of the produce or the wine made at the vineyard.
As the story unfolds about what happens to these slaves, 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 could occur in life with which they would be familiar. The parable is told to illustrate an issue and drive that point home. The details of the illustration are only provided to further illustrate the point, so they do not have to be probable in real life. What we find in this parable is a landlord with an incredible amount of patience beyond any possible expectation.
Matthew condenses the parable with the slaves being sent in two groups. Mark and Luke both detail what happens to individual slaves. The first slave to arrive is beaten (devrw / derō – to skin, thrash, whip) and sent away without anything, possibly referring to also having what he did have stolen from him. The second slave that comes is also beaten, this time receiving head wounds, and also treated shamefully (ajtimavzw / antimazō – with dishonor, mistreat). He is also sent away without anything. The third slave that is sent is wounded (traumativzw / traumatizō – wound causing a mark or permanent scar) and then cast out (ejkbavllw / ekballō – throw out of an area). Apparently his beating was so severe he was not able to walk out on his own. A fourth slave that is sent is killed. Other slaves were also sent with some being beaten and others killed (Mark 12:5).
You might 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 an extreme amount of patience. That kind of forbearance is so incredible that 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 this landlord now sends his son. Mark and Luke makes this even more stunning noting that this is the man’s beloved son, his heir. 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 himself to be 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 the fact that he went, we know this son must be extremely unselfish. Tell me, if you were this son, would you have gone? Your father’s slaves that have gone before you have been humiliated, beaten, stoned and murdered. Now dad says, it is your turn to go. Would you have gone? And if per-chance you would go, how would you prepare yourself for what lay ahead? Would you go alone or would you get an armed group to go with you?
What does this son do? He does not take his friends or armed slaves. Apparently he does not even go armed himself because he does undergo 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 they threw him out of the vine-yard like the carcass of an unwanted animal.
If you are thinking that this story is incredible, inconceivable, incomprehensible, unbelievable and that this man and his son could not be human, 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 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.” 2 Peter 3:15 adds that we are to regard the patience of God as salvation. This patience is part of God’s very character. Psalm 86:15 states, “But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” God is longsuffering even toward those that hate Him and refuse to repent that will eventually come under His judgment. 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 this for quite a few weeks in our study of the life of Christ. Jesus told the disciples several times before arriving in Jerusalem that He would suffer many things at the hands of the hypocritical religious leaders there, eventually be crucified, and then raised from the dead on the third day. That crucifixion is now only two days away, and here we find that in this parable that Jesus is telling the very people that will crucify Him what they will do. Jesus is the selfless son. He said it best Himself in 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 selfless son in the parable, but what about the wicked vinekeepers?
Matthew and Luke make it clear that the landlord’s son is killed outside of the vineyard. Mark’s account may indicate he was killed in the tower and thrown out. This detail is important because murdering him in the vineyard would defile it, and their purpose was to steal the land. The Talmud indicates that tenants might claim the land of an absentee landlord if he had not made a claim within three years. Their reasoning would be that if the heir was dead, they could make a claim on the land. The landlord was far away and had not yet taken any action to bring justice upon them.
People today often presume upon God’s longsuffering patience with some assuming that He will not punish the wicked. It has become popular again to claim that there is no Hell, and if there is, then it will not be bad since you will be there with your friends. That is the opposite of the conclusion of this parable and of Jesus’ teaching on this subject. God’s patience will come to an end and there is a real Hell (Matthew 24).
Jesus throws the question to the people what they believed the landowner would do to the vine-growers when he found out they murdered His son. They quickly responded with the obvious answer that he would bring the wretches (kakovV / kakos – bad, evil) to a wretched end, or as Mark and Luke more simply state it, “He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” Matthew adds that the new vine-growers would be of better character and would “pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
Luke 20:16 records the additional reaction, “When they heard it, they said, ‘May it never be.’” When they understood the implication of the parable, they were shocked in recognizing the prediction Jesus just made about the judgment of these hypocritical religious leaders. They respond in the strongest Greek terms available, mh gevnoito / mē genoito, may it not be! The old KJV translates this as “God forbid,” but this is exactly what God would do, and Jesus makes that plain.
Jesus begins with a prophecy of hope for the world but which will also seal the condemnation of these religious leaders before applying the parable to them and pointing to another prophecy about their doom. Matthew 20:42-46 gives the more complete account. 42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in 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’? 43 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. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23 and applies it to Himself. Jesus Himself is now the rejected cornerstone. 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.
These religious leaders have examined Jesus and in their eyes He does not qualify. 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 and too independent. He does not fit their system of Judaism and so must be rejected. Jesus is rejected by man, yet He is the perfect cornerstone of God, and upon Him God will build a new temple – the Church.
Psalm 118 is a Psalm of praise and 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.
That is the point of Matthew 20:43. 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 that neither they nor anyone else actually 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. Elijah was constantly being chased by wicked king Ahab and evil 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. He was even kidnapped 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 (Hebrews 11:37). Jesus tells us that Zechariah was even murdered between the altar and the Temple. He was killed by wicked religious leaders in the House of God! (Luke 11:51).
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. Jesus said we should consider ourselves blessed, for not only will the reward in heaven be great, but we are in the company of the prophets before us who were treated in the same way.
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 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 1 Peter 2:9-10 states it, 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 in 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 facing a terrible judgment. The first part of the verse is a reference to the prophecy of Isaiah 8:14-15. Jesus would be a sanctuary for the righteous, but the stumbling stone of the self-righteous and those stumbling over Him would fall and be broken. The second part of the verse is a reference to the stone in Daniel 2 that was cut out without hands and crushed the idol and then became a great mountain that filled the earth. Their rejection of Him would result in their condemnation and judgment in which they would be pulverized and scattered as dust.
Verses 45-46 makes a great contrast between these religious leaders that were supposed to lead the people to God and the people themselves. The people had hope, but they had only condemnation.
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 priests, 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 landlord is God, our longsuffering Creator, 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 (Romans 12:1). Are you bringing to Him what is due Him? Have you marveled at the selfless Son whom God sent to redeem man with His own life as the payment for your sins? He was crucified on a cross outside the gate of Jerusalem, just as the landlord’s son was murdered outside the vineyard, but then Jesus rose from the dead as the rejected stone that became the cornerstone.
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 you are 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 forth that fruit of righteousness. 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?
The ______________ between Jesus and the religious leaders continues to escalate on Wednesday
Jesus’ first parable ____________them for their hypocrisy, and His second parable will be a strong warning
It is significant being in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and it is ______________with God’s dealings with Israel
The landlord makes a considerable ________________to establish a first-class vineyard
He makes a ___________________ agreement with vine-keepers – a common practice
The vines would mature within three years, so the distant landlord sends slaves to __________what is owed
Mark & Luke detail what happens to each slave – the 1st is ____________and sent away with nothing
The 2nd slave is also beaten, received __________________, treated shamefully and sent away with nothing
The landowners patience and forbearance are _______________
The son goes ____________the terrible treatment of the slaves sent, and apparently alone and unarmed
The landlord is representative of _________ whose longsuffering of man’s sins is incomprehensible
The son is representative of ________- selfless and facing persecution and crucifixion to ransom mankind
The landlord’s son is killed __________the vineyard which would keep it from becoming defiled
The vine-keepers are thinking that with the heir dead, they could gain __________ of the land
________________ on God’s longsuffering patience is foolish because it will end unexpectedly
The people give Jesus the ____________ answer that the landlord will bring the wretches to a wretched end
In recognizing the ________________of the parable, they were shocked and exclaimed, “May it never be!”
Jesus applies Psalm 118:22-23 to ____________
The religious leaders have rejected Jesus, but God makes Him the __________ chief corner stone
God was ___________with Israel though the nation mistreated, abused and murdered the prophets He sent
Count it a privilege and ____________ if you are treated as the prophets – Matthew 5:10-12
The parable informs the religious leaders of God’s ____________ on them
1 Peter 2:9-10 – _______is given to mankind as God calls a new people to proclaim His name to the nations
Isaiah 8:14-15 – Jesus would be the stumbling stone over which the self-righteous would fall and be ______
Daniel 2 – Jesus is the great stone that fills the earth and ________________ the wicked
They recognize the parable applies to them – and they would have seized Jesus except for ____of the people
What is the application of this parable to your life?
If you have been rejecting God’s authority like the wicked vine-growers, then ___________!
If you have repented to receive God’s forgiveness in Christ, then rejoice and ______Him as a good steward!
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the words “landlord” and “Vine-grower are used. 2) Discuss with your parents how the landlord reveals the nature of God.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the context of the parable in Matthew 21:33-46? Why is it significant that this parable appears in Matthew, Mark and Luke? How does the previous parable rebuke the religious leaders? Who is present to hear this parable? Detail the preparation the landlord makes in creating his vineyard? How is the sharecropping arrangement good for both the landlord and the vine-keepers? How long does it usually take for a new vineyard to begin commercial production? What does the Talmud teach about those living on the land being able to gain control from an absent landowner? How do the vine-keepers treat the successive slaves sent by the landowner? Why would the landowner be so patient? How does that reflect the character of God? Why does the landowner send his son? What personal characteristics would son have to posses to go as he did? How does that reflect the character of Jesus? Why do the vine-keepers murder the son? Why is it foolish to presume upon God’s patience and longsuffering? The people conclude the vine-keepers will be severely punished – why then is there an additional reaction of “May it never be!”? What is the context of Psalm 118? How does Jesus apply verses 22-23 to Himself? Trace God’s patience with Israel and Judah in how they treated the prophets He sent to them? Jesus refers to both Isaiah 8:14-15 and Daniel 2 in warning of the judgment to come upon the wicked religious leaders. Explain both in this context. Why did the religious leaders what to “seize” Jesus? Why didn’t they do so? What should have been their reaction if they were actually godly? How are people like those religious leaders today? What is your reaction to God’s patience with you? Are you one of “the people of God’s own possession” referenced in 1 Peter 2:9-10? If not, what do you need to do to become one? If so, go tell someone else how they can be forgiven and adopted into God’s family!
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