Sermon from Sunday March 17th 2013 / 5th Sunday in the Season of Lent
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / March 17th / 5th Sunday in the Season of Lent, Luke 20:9-20.
And [Jesus] began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” But He looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on Him at that very hour, for they perceived that He had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched Him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch Him in something He said, so as to deliver Him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.
(Luke 20:9-20 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed” These words were spoken to Mary about Jesus, her new born babe in arms, by Simeon; when Simeon blessed the Holy Family eight days after Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Now some thirty three years later Jesus stands in that same temple and looks the wicked tenants directly in the eyes and asks His question about these words from Psalm 118, “What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
It was a Thursday, and it had been a dramatic week already. Sunday Jesus had ridden into town on the back of a donkey to the sounds of loud Hosannas, crowds waving Palm Branches, but He didn’t head straight to Pilates Governors Palace to overturn the Roman Authorities dominion over the people, No He’d went straight to the Temple and tossed out the money changers and rocked the boat so very hard just as everyone was preparing for the big Passover celebrations. Then each day He’s gone up to the Temple to teach and each day the Scribes and the Pharisees and the Lawyers and Levitical Priests and the Herodians were there. They were all there along with the sinners and the tax collector and the Jews who’d traveled a long way to come for Passover, it was a big melting pot of the rich and the poor, the powerful and the week, the strong and the silent, the listeners and the big talkers. Every eye was on Jesus and while the powers that be might not have minded when His Star was burning bright out in Galilee, they weren’t all too crazy about Jesus gathering the crowds around Him within the walls of the Temple, within the walls of Jerusalem the Holy City: and they were even less crazy about how pointed this Jesus was in His Parables. They suspected that Jesus was pointing at them ... and truth be told, there were lots of time that first Holy Week where Jesus was indeed pointing right at them with His parables, today’s reading tells us of one of these times. The Jewish leaders were hoping that this Jesus’ star would be a falling star, a shooting star, and that His light would fade away. Even still they didn’t leave these feelings to wishful thinking and they weren’t opposed to the idea of speeding the process of Jesus’ fall from public grace and fame. In fact Luke’s Gospel tells us that in the days leading up to that particular Thursday, the day when Jesus told the parable of the wicked tenants, “The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy [Jesus], but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on His words.” The thought of doing something about this Jesus was on their minds.
One more thing about this particular Thursday in Holy Week; remember that this actually was no regular Thursday, at least it’s not counted as a regular Thursday when we look back on it; you see while His disciples didn’t know what was coming next Jesus did: it would be that same Thursday in the night of that evening that Jesus would first sit with them in that upper room and break bread and say “take and eat, this is my Body,” That very night after the meal He would take up the cup and say “take and drink, this is my blood of the covenant shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.” That night Jesus would be betrayed by one of the disciples and all of them would abandon Him and He would be lead off to trial and to death by crucifixion on the very next day. On that Thursday Jesus knew all this was coming; the crowds, the disciples did not.
There are a couple of “No Way [!]” moment in this parable. One of these moments is when Jesus says that, the wicked tenants, seeing the Son of the Owner coming to collect the fruit of the vineyard, say to each other ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ What man, after experiencing the tragic loss of his beloved son by the hands of murders, would then turn around and change his last will and testament so that the inheritance would go to the ones who plotted and savagely murdered his son? No one would, no one would change their will in this way. This is what makes the words of the wicked tenants in the parable laughable, this plan of theirs is just so flawed, so dim-witted that it’s impossible to believe: but then there’s this peculiar thing that happens. If you read this parable in the context of that Thursday, in the context of the crucifixion and in the context of Salvation History, then the son of the vineyard owner is most certainly Christ Jesus, and the owner of the vineyard is God the Father, the wicked tenants are not just the Scribes and the Pharisees and the other religious leaders of the day but the wicked tenants are the whole of the children of Israel, and by extension the wicked tenants are all the sinful people of the world, from the beginning of time to the end of time; these are the wicked tenants who selfishly want to hold onto what isn’t theirs; these are the wicked tenants who wish to kill God and everyone God sends to them (even His own Beloved Son), these wicked tenant are everyone. Which means that (on the one hand) this parable is about selfishness, greed and coveting: Selfishness in the face of Authority, Greed in the face of God’s good gifts and Coveting in the face of the gifts given to others? The wicked tenants want everything to themselves, just as we do in our darkest moments. With each of these sins, with each of our sins, whatever they may be, we drag Jesus out of the vineyard and we kill Him, we nail Him to the cross just as surely as the Roman Soldiers did. So, on the other hand, this parable is also a prophetic parable about what will happen to Jesus.
When it comes to Jesus’ death St Peter, one of Jesus twelve disciples, makes no distinction between one group or another when fifty days following Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, on the Day of Pentecost Peter says to the crowd: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Everyone is included: He doesn’t even single himself out in this. For he along with all the disciples ran away as Jesus was arrested in the garden. He personally was guilty of denying Jesus as the rooster crowed, denying that he even knew who Jesus was while Jesus was being falsely accused, beaten and crucified. The blood of Jesus was on Peter’s hands too. Just as Jesus’ blood was on everyone’s hands. We also see in 1 John that “[Jesus] is the [atoning sacrifice] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Not some sins, all sins, even the sin of murder, even the sin of murdering the beloved Son of God. Jesus forgives the blood on Peter’s hands; Jesus forgives the blood on yours. In fact it is His blood on your hands that, in a twist of fate, brings you your forgiveness.
“By the grace of God [Jesus was made man in His incarnation and] taste[d] death for everyone.” Not some People, not a select group, not a handful, no Jesus tasted death for everyone. His death was for all, His death was for the atonement of all the wicked tenants: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son,” not for God so loved some People in the world, not for God so loved a select group people in the world, not a handful, but rather God loved the world. His death is for everyone, the death of the Son paved the way for adoption to everyone. His death made sons and daughters out of God’s enemies. His death extended His personal inheritance, as God’s beloved Son, to you. St Paul tells us that, “while we were enemies,” while we were still those wicked tenants from Jesus’ parable, “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by [Jesus’] life.” The peculiar “No Way[!]” part of Jesus’ parable has come to pass at the cross, at the empty tomb, in this we see that God’s ways are not man’s ways. Christ that would leave the ninety-nine to save the one, Christ who would walk alone into the jaws of death for you is not like other people, God is not like us, and we as Christian seek to be like Him. Ironically His blood on our hands makes us heirs of the vineyard. This is an unexpected outcome of the crucifixion. And it is what had to happen to bring us to God.
As Jesus tells the parable today, Jesus ends the parable saying, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” At this the people say, “Surely not!” or more accurately “Let it not happen!” This is fear, and distress, shock. “This comment probably refers to all three events: the killing of the Son, the killing of the [tenant] farmers, and the transfer of the vineyard to others.”
Lastly, remember that Jesus give this parable on the day He will later give His Supper for the first time, and Jesus chose for the setting of this parable a vineyard, and a vineyard produces wine. We spoke of how the blood of Christ and His death is upon everyone, on account of their sin, and we know that in Holy Communion we receive the forgiveness of our sins. So keep this in mind concerning this parable and its context of that Thursday. Saint Paul says this about the Lord’s Supper, “ Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”The blood of Jesus’ and His crucifixion is on everyone, the person who comes to it without faith will be broken into pieces by Jesus the one who comes with faith will have that same blood as forgiveness of their sins. And dear ones if you’re worried that your faith is weak, or poor, or too little or even gone, than you are in no danger of taking on judgment for if you have such worries you still have the saving faith as a gift from God. The danger is for those who have rejected Christ outright, for those who hate Him and want Him dead, and gone, and buried forever, for those who want Him to be forgotten, for the wicked tenants who desire no forgiveness from the owner of the vineyard. What is God’s desire for these wicked tenants? The desire is for them to repent. There is hope for them: Amongst the ones counted as a Pharisee on the day that Jesus told this parable (whether he was present in the crowd or not) was a young Pharisee named Saul, he was changed by God and brought to faith in Jesus and we know him as St. Paul, and we have heard from him today. God desires all people to return to Him and to put their hope and faith and trust in His Son Jesus.
For You Jesus is your cornerstone, the Rock of your salvation, the One upon who you stand, the One who will never fail you, the One who’s blood, and death has ironically set you free, and made you a son, made you a daughter of God your Heavenly Father, the vineyard is now yours and you are free to live in it without Murder, or Selfishness, or Greed, or Coveting, these sins are forgiven and on the last day there will be no more sin, not even one. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy, Lord Have Mercy, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Luke 2:33-34
 Luke 19:47-48
 Luke 15:4-6
 Acts 2:22-23
 1 John 2:2
 Nicene Creed
 Hebrews 2:9
 John 3:16
 Romans 5:10
 Isaiah 55:8
 Romans 3:23
 1 Corinthians 1:23
 Isaiah 8:14-15
 1 Corinthians 11:27-28
 Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-25