There are three, different sermons on this page...
Year A : Sunday 27/Proper 22/Trinity 19
MATTHEW 21:33 "Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit 35 "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. `They will respect my son,' he said. 38 "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, `This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' 39 So 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 tenants?" 41 "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." 42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: " `The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes' ? 43 "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
Jesus told this thinly veiled parable of how the religious leaders persecuted and killed the prophets, followed by Jesus.
Servants who were beaten and killed = prophets
Son who was murdered = Jesus
Vineyard = God's people.
Tenants = religious leaders.
We need to ask the question, "Why did the religious leaders kill Jesus?"
Jesus' life, miracles and teaching threatened the religious leaders. It not only threatened the religion they held so dear, it threatened to upset their comfortable place in society. They were so troubled by this Galilean they ignored the "You shall not murder" command that they claimed to hold so dear, ( Exod 20.13 ).
I wonder what picture Jesus would use to describe the leaders of his vineyard, the church today?
What type of tenants would he liken them/us to?
It reminds us, challenges us, as clergy and laity, that we have a responsibility to and for the church. This involves following the ways and teaching of Jesus even when this goes against popularity, common practice, or people's feelings.
We live in an age where people are desperate to be popular. Young people who are tone deaf cry and abuse those who tell them that they what is patently obvious. Others will go to humiliating lengths to become "famous".
Jesus says his followers will be persecuted and abused, and they should rejoice about this! Yet there are church leaders who do not want to offend people so they water down Christian teaching. There is no cross in their Christianity. No denial and self-sacrifice. Perish the thought that we could offend someone by suggesting that they cannot follow their feelings!
We live in a "quick fix" age. Instant meals, drinks. The hope of instant wealth illustrated by the many people who gamble money they probably cannot afford in the vain hope it will change their lives for the better.
Jesus says we are to live with an eternal perspective, to build up treasures in heaven.
We live in a consumerist culture, where, until the credit crunch at least, people felt they had a right to have what they wanted.
In the church today some people pick and choose what they want to believe about Jesus, discarding difficult teachings about holiness, sin, repentance, and judgement. Instead they focus on the love and forgiveness of Jesus. They come up with a version of Jesus that is deceptive and incomplete.
Obviously, there is a sense in which people are free to believe what they like, but this does not mean that this is right. We can believe something that is incorrect without it affecting us. For example, I can believe that Bradford is the capital of France, but this will not affect my life very much, unless I go to France or Bradford! Yet some beliefs are crucial.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ( John 14:6 ). Jesus claimed to be the only way to God and "the truth".
Pilate said , "What is truth?", so the idea that truth is negotiable or subjective is not new. But discovering the truth about Jesus is the most important thing that we can ever do. If his claims are true it will affect us for ever, even if we decide not to trust in Him.
The alternative is that we fabricate our own, false image of Jesus.
Today, many good things are happening in the church. Things like "Fresh Expressions", people coming to faith through courses like Alpha, Christianity Explored, and Emmaus.
But, there is also a need for the church to hold on to its prophetic calling that challenges "pick and mix" beliefs, following feelings, seeking popularity, and a quick fix.
Today church leaders who hold on to traditional teachings are being persecuted. For example, in North America. There is a witch hunt of traditional clergy and churches who will not agree to bless homosexual unions. The church leaders are even threatening legal action against those who will not comply. The U.S. House of Bishops has just voted to depose the Bishop of Pittsburgh because of this.
Jesus said, verse 43, "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
The church in North America and the West is not growing. The church that is growing dramatically is to be found in Africa, where traditional teaching on holiness and sexuality is followed.
Jesus referred to himself as the capstone, rejected by the world but the crowning glory of God. His way involves death to ourselves, and denying our own will and feelings. It will lead to pain, suffering and rejection. Yet is the only path to resurrection. There is resurrection for those who die to themselves and live for God. And a personal relationship with God, knowing true love, joy and peace. Having the promise of new resurrection bodies and praising, worshipping and serving God forever.
Perhaps the best way to see if we have a correct picture of Jesus is to ask the question. "Would they have crucified the Jesus I believe in?"
1 Timothy 2:4-5 "God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth, which is, There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us."
Do you ever feel like you are not in control of your life? That the pace of life is carrying you along like a strong river to an unknown destination?
Today's gospel shows that God rules the world, even though things may seem random and our of hand. It shows that God has a purpose and he will bring that to fruition, even in the midst of apparent failure and defeat.
Jesus told this parable during the week before his crucifixion. It is the second parable he told against the religious leaders that Matthew records. The parable of the tenants is a thinly veiled story about how the Jewish religious leaders had persecuted and killed the prophets, and how they would murder God's son.
This was all part of God's plan to save the world. A plan devised outside time and revealed in time. A plan revealed in a Psalm written about one thousand years before the birth of Jesus.
Jesus quotes from Psalm 118 in verse 42. This speaks of Jesus -" `The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'I?. The image is of building something. You can imagine a bricklayer building an archway. He discards a stone because it is uneven. Yet when he gets to the final stone in the archway he needs one that is uneven to finish it. Without this last stone the arch is incomplete and will collapse. So he picks up this discarded stone which has the triangular shape to complete the arch.
God has a habit of reversing people's status. The poor and needy end up satisfied, while the rich and arrogant lose their position. As Jesus said, "many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first" (Matthew 19:30). This psalm expresses the concept with an image: a stone builders considered unusable ends up holding the whole building together. The builders, the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus and crucified him. Yet this was actually God's crowning glory ! The place God reveals his love to us. The place where we are put right with God. Not by force, or laws, but by love.
A few days later the disciples would see God's plan for the salvation of the world take place s Jesus hung on a cross. They would feel out of control, helpless, scared, inadequate, without hope. Perhaps we feel some of those emotions today.
The fact that Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him and that this what part of God's plan brings us comfort and hope. It shows us that God knows everything and He is in control of everything, even though we may be unaware of this at the time. I am sure many people can think back to a difficult time in their life when it first appeared that things were out of control, yet looking back we see the purpose of God.
A young boy traveling by airplane to visit his grandparents sat beside a man who happened to be a university professor. The boy was reading a Sunday school paper when the professor thought he would have some fun with the lad. "Young man," said the professor, "If you can tell me something God can do, I"ll give you a big, shiny apple." The boy thought for a moment and then replied, "Mister, if you can tell me something God can't do, I"ll give you a whole barrel of apples!"
God has a purpose for your life and for mine. We are called to respond by trusting in Him. There is a sense in which it is an easy and sensible option. It is easier to trust in the one who loves us and who has the power to order our lives than to trust in ourselves, in others, the stars, or whatever. It makes sense. But it is also difficult because it goes against our pride and self-centredness. We like to be in control. We like to think we have the power to control our own destiny. Following God is also difficult because he calls us to take up our cross and follow Jesus every day ( 16:24 ). This way is one of rejecting the ways of the world and accepting the backlash for that.
Jesus made it clear that experiencing the rule of God in our lives depends upon our response... 43 "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
The Jewish religious leaders thought they had God neatly packaged in their rules and their religious services. Jesus said no. God's kingdom will be given to the tax collectors and prostitutes who respond to me in penitence and faith. Those whose lives are messy and disordered but who come to God through me.
We are called to respond by trusting in Jesus. Trusting in God's ability to save us. Trusting in his ability to make sense of our lives. Will you do that today? It may be the first time you've really done this. It may be the hundred and first time.
C.H. Spurgeon; "There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God's sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought to more earnestly contend to than the doctrine of their Master over all creation--the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands--the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne...for it is God upon the Throne whom we trust."
6/10/02 Trinity 19/Proper 22 Matthew 21:33-46
33"Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. 35"The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. `They will respect my son,' he said. 38"But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, `This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' 39So 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 tenants?" 41"He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." 42Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: " `The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'I? 43"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
How do you deal with someone that you do not like, especially someone who embarrasses you, even makes you look and feel foolish? This is the predicament that the Jewish leaders were in. The Jewish leaders felt threatened by Jesus. He had attacked their way of life, their security in the rules and regulations that justified their very existence. I am sure that many people here have heard of the two reactions shown to danger. Fight or flight. Confront the danger head on, or run away from it. The Jewish leaders decided that this man was such a threat that they had to fight. To kill him. They were desperate to kill Jesus, but feared that if they did this in the wrong way it could lead to a riot.
At the start of Chapter 21 Matthew records how Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem on, what we now know as Palm Sunday. The day after this Jesus had cleared the Temple, prompting opposition from the religious leaders who decided to kill Jesus (21:12 ). Jesus had then embarrassed the religious leaders when they had tried to discover by what authority he acted upon. The Jewish leaders were fearful of the crowds who were gathering in Jerusalem, verse 26. Crowds who had a high opinion of Jesus ( verse 8 ), and John the Baptist ( verse 26 ).
I would like you to think of the most embarrassing moment that ever happened to you. Can you imagine how you would feel if I was to tell everybody here of that incident, without divulging your name. You would cringe, hoping desperately that no-one would guess that I was talking about you.
Having embarrassed the Jewish leaders by refusing to answer their question, ( 21:24 ), a passage we looked at last week, Jesus goes on to antagonise them further by telling a parable that revealed that he knew of their wishes. The crowd would have heard the parable and had no idea what Jesus was talking about. Yet the chief priests, teachers of the law and elders would have known that Jesus was talking about what they wanted to do to him. They probably were squirming in their seats !
A few years ago there was a great deal of opposition in Wales to people who were not Welsh and who owned holiday properties, or who worked away and only returned at the weekends. Many such properties were set on fire because of the bad feeling this created.
The story that Jesus told picked up on a similar situation in Israel. In some areas, such as the hills near Galilee, there was land owned by foreigners. The landowners lived far away and demanded a proportion of the produce for the rent. Tenant farmers would have to work the land for a number of years before they could start to think about earning a reasonable living.
We see from verse 33 that this is the one of a number of parable that Jesus told. Matthew only records this one because it helps in building up the picture of the confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. This happened on the Tuesday before Jesus was crucified.
In this story the man who planted the vineyard is God. The tenant farmers the Jewish leaders. The servants the prophets. The son is Jesus. The vengeance of the man is the judgement of God.
As he told this story the religious leaders would have known about the similar story in Isaiah 5. They are like the bad fruit that Isaiah referred to. Produced from a vineyard lovingly tendered by God. The vineyard represents Israel.
Jesus compares them to tenant farmers. Who had agreed to farm the land for a proportion of the crop. But who then decide to rebel against the landowner. They want the land without paying the price for it. The religious leaders wanted to be able to use their position to justify themselves and to control others. They did not want the true, radical interpretation of the law that the prophets and Jesus brought. They thought that they were right with God because they possessed the law and the prophets. Yet they needed to be possessed by God's word. To let it control them, rather than seek to control others through it.
After he had found Dr Livingstone in 1871, Stanley spent some months with him. Stanley watched the old man who never talked about the Christian faith. Stanley could not understand Livingstone's sympathy for the Africans. The missionary Doctor was patient, untiring, eager, spending himself and being spent for his master. Stanley wrote: "When I saw that unwearied patience, that unflagging zeal, those enlightened sons of Africa, I became a Christian at his side, though he never spoke to me about it."
The owner sent servant upon servant to collect the rent that he was entitled to. This represents the prophets who suffered and died at the hands of the Jewish leaders. They did not like the message so they shot the messenger.
This shows God's patience. Again and again he gives us a chance. To obey his ways. To turn back to him. Like a loving patient parent, waiting for their child to see sense.
Jesus shed tears at a people who would not recognise who he is, and turn to him in repentance and faith.
As Christians, called to do the work of God, we will suffer. We will experience the frustration and hurt of God for people who do not turn to him.
The farmer sent his son just as God the Father sent Jesus. God knew that the Jewish leaders would have no respect for Jesus. God the Father, and God the Son knew what was going to happen. Despite this Jesus did not avoid the cross, but steadfastly went to it because it was part of the plan for the salvation of the world. Devised before Adam let sin loose into the world.
The tenants probably thought that the landowner was dead because he sent his son. At this time if someone died the property had to be claimed by his next of kin. If the property was left without an owner for a specified period then the first one to claim it after that period would lawfully own the property. That is why they said, verse 38, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.'
They didn't even give the son a decent burial. Just threw him out of the vineyard.
Imagine their surprise when the owner of the vineyard turns up, and kills them before giving the vineyard to others.
When Jesus returns he will surprise people, like a thief in the night. People will not be prepared. God, in his patience and mercy will have given them every opportunity to turn to him, yet it will be too late. They will have made their choice. Either to come under the Lordship of Christ in this life, and into eternity. Or never to have come under it at all. God will honour the choices that people will have made.
Those who claim to be followers of Christ must produce the fruits in keeping with their profession of faith. Like the farmers should have produced the fruits or harvest that they had agreed with the landowner.
Verse 42 speaks of Jesus -" `The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'I?. The image is of building something. You can imagine a bricklayer building an archway. He discards a stone because it is uneven. Yet when he gets to the final stone in the archway he needs one that is uneven to finish it. Without this last stone the arch is incomplete and will collapse. So he picks up this discarded stone which has the triangular shape to complete the arch.
God has a habit of reversing people's status. The poor and needy end up satisfied, while the rich and arrogant lose their position. As Jesus said, "many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first" (Matthew 19:30). This psalm expresses the concept with an image: a stone builders considered unusable ends up holding the whole building together.
The quotation in verse 42 is from Psalm 118, 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
The builders, the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus and crucified him. Yet this was actually God's crowning glory ! The place God reveals his love to us. the place where we are put right with God. Not by laws, but by love.
There are occasions when playing snooker that you take on a shot and you know that if you succeed you could score well. But if you fail you could leave your opponent an easy red and the chance of a good break. The alternative is to spurn the chance and leave things safe. But with the prospect of looking unadventurous.
Jesus was giving the Jewish leaders that type of choice. He was saying "I know what you want to do to me. You have a choice. To follow that way, or to follow my way."
They were in too deep, and continued looking for an opportunity to kill him, even though this was clearly contrary to the commandment, you shall not murder.
Note the contrast between the crowd and the Jewish leaders. The crowd who had welcomed Jesus clearly continued to be behind Jesus because the Jewish leaders feared their reaction to Jesus' death, verse 46,46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet..
In view of the millions of people in Jerusalem at this Passover time it is likely that the crowd who were encouraged to cry "crucify him" by the leaders were not the same as those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem.
This story encourages each of us to examine our own response to the cross. Are there areas of our life where we don't want to let Jesus in ? To tell us what to do ?
Do we rebel and seek to push Jesus out ? Are we in too deep, like the chief priests, teachers of the law and elders ? We may feel that, but we are never too far away from God's love. He is patient, willing to forgive us through Jesus death for us on the cross. And he wants us to produce fruit for him. Lives changed to be more like Jesus. Lives devoted to serving Jesus.
A certain man wanted to sell his house for £40,000. Another man wanted very badly to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn't afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: He would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.
After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So the first owner went out, found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned. Soon the house became unliveable, and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.
If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ's habitation.