What if Jesus Told a Story about Your Life?
What if Jesus Told a Story about Your Life?
The Gospel of Matthew
Sermon by Rick Crandall
(Prepared December 31, 2022)
*Please open your Bibles to Matthew 21:33. Today we will study another of the Lord's parables. But what is a parable? My favorite definition is "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." And depending on which Scriptures you include, the Bible gives us about 40 to 50 of these short stories.
*Most of you know that by this time, Jesus was less than a week away from dying on the cross for our sins. This chapter began with Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. And in Matthew 21:9, "The multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: 'Hosanna to the Son of David! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' Hosanna in the highest!''' That word "hosanna" was an emotional expression that means, "Oh save us!" They were crying out for Jesus, the promised Son of David, to save them.
*But many people lining those crowded streets of Jerusalem were crying out for Jesus to save them from the brutal Roman army. Those people did not understand our urgent need for Jesus to save us from our sins. So, they cried out, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" But later that week, many of those same people cried out, "Crucify Him! -- Crucify Him!"
*They did not know that Jesus is the eternal, only begotten Son of God, who humbled Himself to become a man and die on the cross for us. That's why vs. 10-11 say, "When He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, "Who is this?'' So the multitudes said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.''
*Then in vs. 12-13, Jesus went into the Temple of God and drove out all the money changers and merchants. Jesus told them, "It is written, 'My House shall be called a House of Prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" Next in vs. 14-15, Jesus healed the blind and lame people who came to Him in the Temple. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things Jesus did, they were greatly offended. Their anger over people being miraculously healed was awful, but it helps us understand how much they hated Jesus. They had been craving and plotting to murder Jesus for over a year.
*A day or two later, the chief priests, scribes, and elders confronted the Lord again in the Temple. Luke 20:1 tells us that this happened as Jesus taught the people and preached the gospel to them. And this time, those temple rulers questioned the Lord about the source of His authority.
*Jesus refused to answer their question directly, because it wasn't quite time for His death on the cross. Instead, the Lord used a question and some parables to help expose the evil that motivated most of those religious leaders.
*Take the chief priests for example. They were a small group of wealthy aristocrats called the Sadducees. And they were happy to cooperate with their Roman conquerors, if that allowed them to keep their wealth and privilege. On top of that, the Sadducees rejected basically everything supernatural in God's Word.
*GotQuestions.org gave this list of their beliefs that radically contradicted Scripture:
-The Sadducees denied God’s involvement in everyday life.
-They denied the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18–27; Acts 23:8).
-They believed that souls perished at death, and there was no afterlife.
-They also denied the existence of angels and demons (Acts 23:8).
*The shocking thing is that the Sadducees were the chief priests in that day. They also held the majority of seats on the Supreme Court that would soon condemn Jesus. No wonder that in Matthew 3:7 John the Baptist called the Sadducees and Pharisees a "brood of vipers." (1)
*Last time in vs. 23-32, we studied the first parable Jesus told to expose those wicked Temple rulers. It was the story of two sons. The first son refused to work in his father's vineyard, but later, he repented and went. The second brother committed to go, but never did.
*And in vs. 31-32 Jesus asked:
31. "Which of the two did the will of his father?'' They said to Him, "The first.'' Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.
32. "For John (the Baptist) came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him."
*That parable helped us see how all of us should respond to Jesus Christ. And today's parable will help us see our lives from God's point of view. Let's read about it in vs. 33-46, and as we read, please think about the story of your life.
*What if Jesus told a story about your life? That's what He did in today's Scripture, and these religious leaders knew it. Sadly, it was a story of their rebellion against God, rejection of His Son, and their eternal ruin.
*But what if the Lord walked in here, and started telling a story about our lives? I know we all would want it to be the exact opposite of this story. And the good news is that it can be!
1. BUT FIRST WE MUST KNOW THAT GOD RECOGNIZES THE STORY OF OUR LIFE.
*The Lord surely knew the story of these men's lives, and He told it with a parable. In vs. 33-39, Jesus said:
33. "Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.
34. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.
35. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.
36. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.
37. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'
38. But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.'
39. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
*William Barclay explained that the chief priests and Pharisees knew very well what Jesus intended to say to them in this parable. "The Jewish nation as God's vineyard was a well-known picture in prophecy. For example, Isaiah 5:7 says, 'The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, weeping.'
*So, the vineyard is the nation of Israel, and the owner is God. The vinedressers are the religious leaders of Israel, who were responsible to God for the welfare of the nation. The messengers who were sent were the God-sent prophets who were so often rejected and killed. The Son who came last was the Lord Jesus Himself. And here in a vivid story Jesus set out both the history and the doom of Israel." (2)
*Jesus knew the story of their lives, and Jesus knows the story of our lives too. Hebrews 4:13 tells us that "there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."
*God sees everything about us past, present and future. And He is always looking into our hearts and minds. In 1 Samuel 16, the LORD sent Samuel to anoint one of Jesse's sons as the new king of Israel.
6. So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the LORD'S anointed is before Him.''
7. But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.''
*That's why God chose the youngest son, David, to be the new king. God sees us inside and out. Everybody needs to know that.
*Sometimes we are like Gary Huckaby's daughter, Nikki. When she was about 3 or 4, Gary caught his little girl eating jelly out of the jelly jar. And Dad asked her, "Nikki, are you eating out of the jelly jar?" "No sir," she answered. Dad asked again, "Are you sure you are not eating out of the jelly jar?"
*Church: She had jelly all over her face, on her fingers and in her hair! But again, she said, "No sir, I'm not eating jelly out of the jar." Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that God can't see us. But the evidence of our sin is more obvious to Him than the jelly on Nikki's face. (3)
2. THE LORD RECOGNIZES THE STORY OF OUR LIFE. HE ALSO REVEALS THE STORY OF OUR LIFE.
*In vs. 33 Jesus started by telling those men to "hear another parable." Jesus didn't just know the story of their lives. He wanted them to know the story, and He wanted them to know that He knew their story.
*Today, the Lord wants us to know our story. He wants us to know who we are, and where we stand with Him. God wants us to know the truth about our lives. And this is one of the main reasons why He has given us His Word.
*Hebrews 4:12 tells us how effective God's Word can be in revealing the truth to us about our lives. That verse says, "The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
*God reveals the truth about our lives by His Word, and by His Holy Spirit. In John 16:7-11, Jesus said:
7. "I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
8. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9. of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
10. of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
11. of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."
*God will reveal the truth to us, mostly through His Word, and the Holy Spirit, but also through faithful Christian witnesses, through circumstances, and even through heaven-sent dreams. He will reveal the truth to us. But are we willing to listen?
*As far as we know, the vast majority of these chief priests and elders were not willing to listen. Are we willing to listen to the Lord? God is here, wanting to speak to us. And He can do amazing things when we listen, even for a moment.
*Bruce Howell told an old story that demonstrates this truth. It was about a most ungodly bartender. Now this man really hated the gospel, but he liked music. And this was back in the 1700s, hundreds of years before we had music apps, radio, and TV. One day this man wanted to hear some music, so he decided to go to one of John Wesley's evangelistic meetings to hear the singing. But he stubbornly decided that he would not listen to the preaching.
*There he sat like an angry kid, with his head down and his fingers in his ears. But God sent a fly at just the right time. It landed on the man's nose. And when he tried to swat it away, he heard the 9 words that changed his life forever.
*It was Wesley quoting the Lord Jesus saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" Amazingly, that was all it took. From that moment on the man had no rest in his soul, until he came back the next night, really listened, and got saved. (4)
3. GOD REVEALS THE STORY OF OUR LIVES. AND HE DOES IT SO WE CAN RECONSIDER THE STORY OF OUR LIVES.
*In these verses, Jesus gave those hard-hearted men another opportunity to see how wrong they were. The Lord wanted them to realize what a terrible, fatal mistake they were making by rejecting their Messiah.
*Jesus started in vs. 40 by asking those men a question:
40. "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?''
41. They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.''
*Jesus asked that question, because He wanted those men to reconsider their lives. Luke 20:16 shows us that the Lord repeated their answer: "He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.'' And when they realized Jesus was talking about them, they said, "Certainly not!''
*Jesus told them these things because He wanted those men to reconsider their lives. And yes, the Lord knew that most of them would never trust in Him, but Jesus wanted them to take a good look and see the ugliness of their sin. Jesus also wanted them to see the terrible danger of their rebellion and rejection.
*So in vs. 42-44:
42. Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?
43. Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
44. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.''
*We must understand that Jesus Christ is the stone in these verses! He is the one and only Rock of our salvation!
*Moses sang about our Rock in Deuteronomy 32:1-4:
1. "Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
2. Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass.
3. For I proclaim the name of the LORD: ascribe greatness to our God.
4. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He."
*Four hundred years later, King David sang about our Rock in 2 Samuel 22:2-4:
2. "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
3. the God of my strength, in Him I will trust, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence.
4. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies."
*Later in 2 Samuel 22, David continued to sing about the LORD our Rock. And in vs. 31-33, David said:
31. "As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; he is a shield to all who trust in Him.
32. For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?
33. God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect."
*Jesus Christ is the one and only Rock of our salvation! The New Testament confirms this truth in Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. There Paul was speaking about the Children of Israel, and he said:
1. Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,
2. all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
3. all ate the same spiritual food,
4. and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
*Jesus is the Rock! And it is a terrible thing to fight against the Rock of our salvation!
*Here in vs. 42, we see the Lord's first reference to Himself as "the stone." This came from Psalm 118:22: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone."
*William MacDonald noted that the chief cornerstone was the most essential stone in a building, and it was held in the place of highest honor. John Phillips said the chief cornerstone "formed the bond between the two most important walls of a building. All of the lines of a building were determined by the chief cornerstone, so if that stone was out of square, the whole building would be off. The chief cornerstone was always cut with greatest care and was laid with a special ceremony." (5)
*Then in vs. 44, the Lord spoke again about Himself as "the stone," and He said, "Whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.''
*This prophetic reference is from Isaiah 8:13-15, and William Barclay explained: "This is the picture of a stone which breaks a man, if he stumbles against it, and which crushes a man to powder, if it falls upon him. All of these Old Testament stones point us to the promised Messiah and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the foundation stone on which everything is built, and the corner stone which holds everything together. To refuse His way is to batter one's head against the walls of the Law of God. To defy Him is, in the end, to be crushed out of life." (6)
*Jesus spelled it out so clearly to them. He was giving them another opportunity to reconsider their lives, and God wants us to do the same thing.
*Dan Fowler said, "This parable gives us a good time for self-examination. Do our lives reflect Jesus Christ in what we say to others? In how we treat our family members? In how we respond to people in need? Are we close enough to Christ in our hearts, minds, and wills that we can be guided by Him in a consistent way? Are we growing more and more into the likeness of Christ? Or have we settled into a nice comfortable spot?" (7)
4. GOD WANTS US TO RECONSIDER THE STORY OF OUR LIFE. AND HE DOES THIS SO THAT HE CAN REWRITE THE STORY OF OUR LIFE.
*Those hard-hearted men made the worst mistake anyone can ever make. They refused to listen to the Lord. They should have come to their senses, rejected their evil ways, turned to the Lord, and trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That's why the Lord gave them this very strong warning in vs. 43-44: "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.''
*But in vs. 45-46, these men dug their heels in, and stubbornly continued to reject the Lord: "Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet."
*Sadly, it is too late for them. But it's not too late for us! And it's not too late for people all around us. God wants us to live and speak in ways that will help them receive the Rock of our salvation!
*Jesus loves them too! He died on the cross for their sins too. And He rose again from the dead! People need to really hear that when we put our trust in Jesus Christ, He forgives all of our sins and gives us His eternal life.
*Jesus Christ can completely rewrite the story of the rest of our lives, and that's what He wants to do. Peter explained how it works in 1 Peter 2:1-6, where the Apostle wrote:
1. Therefore, laying aside all malice, all guile, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking,
2. as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,
3. if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
4. Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious,
5. you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, "Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.''
*Christians: Thank God that we have received the Rock of our salvation! And Jesus Christ is rewriting the story of our lives. But we have to keep growing in Christ. We must let God make us more like the faithful servants we see in this parable, willing to do what He wants us to do, go where He wants us to go, and say what He wants us to say.
*We can be like John Newton who said, "I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I thank God I am not what I once was, and I can say with the great apostle, 'By the grace of God I am what I am.'" Praise the Lord! (8)
*Let's ask God to help us keep growing, and if you have never believed in Jesus, if you have never received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, call on the Lord to save you now, as we go back to God in prayer.
(1) Adapted from:
-BARCLAY'S DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES (NT) by William Barclay, Revised Edition (C) Copyright 1975 William Barclay - First published by the Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - William Barclay - "Blind to the Signs" - Matthew 16:1-4 - https://bibleportal.com/commentary/chapter/william-barclay/matthew/16
-Adapted from GotQuestions.org - "Who were the Sadducees?" - https://www.gotquestions.org/Sadducees.html
(2) Adapted from BARCLAY'S DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES (NT) by William Barclay, Revised Edition - Copyright 1975 - First published by the Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - "The Vineyard of the Lord" - Matthew 21:33-46 - https://www.primobibleverses.com/view/william-barclay/the-vineyard-of-the-lord-matthew-2133-46
(3) SermonCentral illustration contributed by Gary Huckaby
(4) SermonCentral illustration contributed by Bruce Howell
-BELIEVER'S BIBLE COMMENTARY by William MacDonald - Edited by Arthur Farstad - Thomas Nelson Publishers - Nashville - Copyright 1995 - "Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers" - Luke 20:9-18 - Downloaded to e-Sword by Rick Meyers - Copyright 2000-2019
-Adapted from EXPLORING THE GOSPELS: LUKE by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "Condemnation" - Luke 20:1-19
(6) Adapted from BARCLAY'S DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES (NT) by William Barclay, Revised Edition - Copyright 1975 - First published by the Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - " The Symbol of the Stone" - Matthew 21:33-46 - https://www.primobibleverses.com/view/william-barclay/the-symbol-of-the-stone-matthew-2133-46-continued
(7) Online sermon "A Special New Year's Resolution" by Dan Fowler - John 3:1-21 - Jan. 9, 2005 - http://www.fortbraggpresbyterian.org/html/sermons/sermon1-9-05.html