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Worship Theme: Human Rejection Is Crushed By Divine Exaltation
- Remember Your Love
- CW 407: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
- CW 560: Your Works, Not Mine, O Christ
- CW 564: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less
Watch the livestream beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.
Message: Human Rejection Is Crushed By Divine Exaltation
Pastor Jake Schram
I’ll never forget the time I watched a football game at a nearby school. Some kids who didn’t know each other had agreed to play football in a nearby field. To decide teams captains picked who they wanted one kid at a time. It went as expected as the kids who looked biggest and strongest were picked first. As the pool of players dwindled, it became apparent one kid was going to be left behind. Sure enough, no team wanted the last kid. He was a scrawny little thing. After an argument, one team was forced to take him, but this kid remained the only one not officially picked. I was so happy to be there for the next part because as soon as the football game began this scrawny kid started dominating the game. He was moving so fast that people were running into each other and falling over just trying to catch him. He absolutely crushed the rejection people had for him. In our text for today, people are going to reject Jesus as the Savior. They are going to pick everyone but him, but the human rejection will be crushed by Jesus’ divine exaltation.
Jesus is teaching in the temple. His enemies have been slowly becoming more aggressive. Here they are among the people in the temple, challenging Jesus’ authority, challenging his right to preach and teach at the temple. It’s the Tuesday of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem before his crucifixion and in front of his enemies he boldly proclaims this parable.
Jesus begins by telling us about a business deal. An owner of a vineyard agrees to rent it to some farmers. They agree on a price, which includes a share of the crops, and the owner goes away for a long time. When the vineyard was producing, the owner sent someone to pick up his share, the share that was originally agreed on when the farmers rented the field. There should be no problem at all. After all, everyone agreed to the price. The owner is completely fair and righteous in asking for his portion. The servant is sent, but is beaten by the farmers and sent away with nothing to bring back to the owner. Imagine being the servant! You are supposed to be doing an easy pick up of goods and instead you receive a punch to the face! The servant goes back to the owner and tells him what happens.
The owner decides to try again. He sends another servant so that there can be no misunderstanding at all. Now imagine being the servant. Maybe there’s a little bit of fear, anxiety, but perhaps your sense of duty, loyalty, and righteousness shines through and you go forth at the owner’s bidding. The servant goes to the farmers and the same thing happens. Except this time the farmers take it a step further. They beat the servant just like the last one, but they also treat this servant shamefully and then send him away empty handed. The servant returns to tell the tale and the owner has yet another decision to make.
The owner decides to send a third servant. This is one patient owner. Again, put yourself in the servant’s shoes. This must be some owner for the servant to go into danger. This owner has to be an incredible guy worthy of loyalty. The servant goes to the farmers and guess what happens? You may sense a pattern here. The servant is beaten, but this time to the point where he is wounded and thrown out of the vineyard. He limps back, badly injured and faithfully tells the owner.
If you were the owner at this point, what would you do? Go ahead and think about it and tell the person next to you. (Give a couple seconds for people to do this). The owner thinks it over and comes up with the idea that he will send his son whom he loves. Maybe, just maybe, they will respect his son. Now, I don’t know what idea you told the person next to you, but I’m willing to guess it wasn’t to send your son or daughter in the midst of these farmers who had just mercilessly beaten his three servants.
The tenants see the son coming and they recognize him as the owner’s son. They deliberate what to do and after talking the matter over, they come to the conclusion that they will kill him. They have the “bright” idea that if they kill the son they will be able to take the vineyard for themselves. They think it will be theirs forever. So, they kill the son.
The owner has the power to eject those farmers, he has vast amounts of power and riches at his disposal. He has influence and an army full of servants. He has the law on his side and gave the farmers every single possible opportunity to repent. And remember, they killed his son. What do you think the owner is going to do to them? I would hate to be one of those tenants. Our text tells us, “He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
So now that you have heard the parable, let’s reveal the cast. The nation of Israel is the vineyard. The Israelites would have known this from Isaiah chapter 5 which compares them as such. The owner is God the Father. God wants his people to bear spiritual fruit. Therefore, he provides them with everything they need. God had planted the hedge of his law among them. He had given them kings and kingdoms, and of course the Word of God flowed around them at all times. In fact, God even sent his servants, the prophets, to share God’s Word with them, but they were rejected. He even sent his son, Jesus, whom he loved, to them. Surely they would respect him. They put him to death. The farmers in the parable are many of the Jewish people and especially the leaders of the Jewish people. They were rejecting the prophets, rejecting the Son, rejecting God in general, and refusing faith and the good works that come from it. The religious leaders, the experts of the day were missing the blessings God was trying to give them.
They were rejecting God’s Word and currently plotting for a way to kill God’s Son, Jesus. They were trying to usurp his glory and pretend that they knew better than God. Did they really think they could get away with it? Did they really think they could put God’s servants and Son to death, never repent, and expect no repercussions whatsoever? Did they really think they could pull a fast one on the owner of creation in his own creation? God is not going to stand for this! Just like in the parable the Jewish leaders are planning to kill the owner of the universe’s Son and Jesus is giving his enemies one last chance to come back to their senses and repent.
The owner is just and fair. He is patient and reasonable. He is owed the payment, but these tenants fail to give God his due. The question now is do you? Everything good which you have in this world has been given to you by God. Your land, your family, even your very life. It’s yours for a short time. What will you do with them? We know what we ought to do. We owe everything to God. Because it’s really all his, we should be good stewards of all that we have. But instead of using these things wisely, we squander them. We often invest in our retirement, but forget to invest in our spiritual lives or the lives of others. We could praise God as the loving God who redirects us when we sin and leads us away from danger, but often we see ourselves as the victims and God as unfair because he doesn’t give us everything we want. We want our kids to be happy here and so we give them everything we can, but we forget to prepare them for a life afterward that is so much happier in Christ. We often waste everything given to us on entertainment and comfort, and when Christ tries to enter our lives we kill him out of our lives in exchange for our short-term pleasures.
The point of this parable is not just to serve as a warning for God’s judgment. That’s part of it, but there is good news in it too. This parable is also to remind people what is to come because of God’s plan of salvation. The parable is spoken to those who are faithful to remind them that this was God intervening in all of history, giving up himself for us all. We see the God of love in the patience he has even for the wicked tenants to turn it around. He sends servant after servant with his Word. Even when anyone else would have long since given up, he sends his Son in the midst of danger for you and me. Would any father or mother take a chance like that? No. Yet God does because it was the only possibility that remained. Because he doesn’t just love his Son, he loves all of us too. And though great numbers would reject God through unbelief, God would also crush the sinful hearts in many of us and bring us to saving faith in Jesus.
When the people heard Jesus tell the parable, they exclaimed, “God forbid”! The original Greek words used here are the strongest way to wish something would never ever happen. Perhaps the people are dreading the killing of the Son, the killing of the farmers, the transfer of the vineyard to others, or maybe all three combined. But it’s all going to happen. Jesus doesn’t give them a completely straight answer because they will see it for themselves over the next couple of days. The perfect son of God would be crucified in their place, many would see Jerusalem and their religious leaders be destroyed in 70 AD, and the kingdom of God would not just be among the Jews, but would continue spreading throughout the world.
Jesus asks people to consider their own place in this all. He looks at them and says, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The cornerstone was the first stone that was laid in a new building. Everything else was lined up according to it. If the cornerstone wasn’t right, the whole building would be wrong. If the cornerstone was good, the rest of the structure would be solid. Jesus is the perfect cornerstone! Set in line with him we are built up into a solid structure of faith, unbreakable by the devil, sin, or death. As soon as someone rejects Jesus as their cornerstone, faith and everything else falls apart into shambles.
Jesus is such an important cornerstone that “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” There is an old Jewish proverb that says, “If a stone falls on a pot, woe to the pot. If the pot falls on the stone, woe to the pot. Either way, woe to the pot.” That’s how it is with Jesus, anyone who dares to reject the stone which is Jesus, will be shattered. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). ”Those who reject Jesus don’t get the benefit of heaven. Instead, they get the just and deserved punishment for all of us bad tenants, an eternity in the fires of hell.
Just because Jesus isn’t picked by everyone, doesn’t change what he is able to do. Just like the kid at the beginning of the sermon, rejection doesn’t change who Jesus is. He crushes the rejection. As Jesus died on the cross, he died for the sins of the world. As he rose from the dead, he proved his victory not just for himself, but for all of us who believe in him. He crushes all rejection with his divine exaltation.
Unfortunately, even after showing himself to be the Messiah, people are still going to refuse Jesus. The end of our text gives us some sad examples of this truth. The teachers and the chief priests were deeply offended by the warning Jesus had given them. And instead of responding in repentance, they sought to arrest Jesus. In fact, the whole parable deals with people rejecting Jesus and refusing to bear fruit. They will be crushed. Even though it’s not shown explicitly in our text for today, I hope you’ll permit me to show you the other side to this implied here and obvious in other parts of the Bible.
God has called you to be good stewards of his kingdom. This isn’t meant to be a chore. It doesn’t mean it’s easy either. Let me show you. Throughout life, following Christ will require sacrifices. You will give of yourself to do things. Or perhaps it’s better to say, you will use the things God has already given you in this life. You are like this cup. And everything in it is something God has given you to use to show God’s love in your life (show the cup is filled). As you use things, your talents, your money, your love, it might feel for a moment like you are losing something (keep taking little bits out of the cup). But here’s the thing: While those who reject Jesus become broken, those who he has given faith to become filled. It may not be with money or stuff, but he will fill you with more than enough. (Show a giant bag of something and just start filling the cup beyond overflowing). He fills you with his Word and what he’s done for you. He fills you with his Spirit. He fills you with his love. He fills you with victory. And he fills you with the knowledge that he has crushed all rejection with his exaltation. Amen