Jesus reserved some of his strongest words for the religious leaders in Jerusalem.
Many of them are recorded in this section of Matthew’s gospel, in the week leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
While these very strong words are directed at one group of people in history, they serve as a warning to all people in all ages: those who reject Jesus in this life will be rejected by Jesus in the next.
We saw last time that the Chief Priests and elders directly challenged the authority of Jesus.
In return, Jesus made clear that his authority was from heaven but that they had failed to accept it.
We saw the first of three parables (story with a meaning) in which Jesus denounces the Chief Priests and elders.
We’re looking at the second and third this morning.
For anyone who hasn’t yet accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, there is a serious warning about the consequences of rejecting him.
For anyone who is already a Christian, there is a serious call to serious evangelism - the job of offering Christ with others and calling them to repent and believe.
All of us are called to give to God what is rightfully his and to accept from God what he freely offers.
Give to God what is rightfully His
…or face his judgement.
That’s the straightforward message of the parable of the wicked tenants.
This is a provocative parable, because it draws on OT imagery familiar to Chief Priests and elders:
Isaiah was denouncing the leaders of his day.
The outcome was similar:
So there could be no doubt that the CPs and elders understood who Jesus was talking about in his parable.
Both in Isaiah and in the parable, the Lord planted and nurtured a vineyard but no fruit came from it.
What was the fruit that the Lord looked for?
It was faith in his promises, trust in his character, exclusive worship untainted by idolatry.
But it never came.
Jesus adds one further detail: the landowner sent his Son.
The tenants did the unthinkable: they killed him for their own selfish gain.
Jesus is really telling the CPs what they are going to do to him.
Perhaps they don’t know it yet, but that’s what will happen!
But the CPs can’t deny the outcome of the parable:
They have described their own judgement.
cursing of fig tree]
But now Jesus makes it even clearer that judgement comes from God because people reject his Son.
Comes from .
Jesus is the rejected cornerstone/capstone who will be lifted up as the most prominent figure in history and eternity.
Jesus pulls no punches in saying to the leaders: “because you have rejected the most prominent stone you will have no part in the building, while others will take your place.”
The key to being included in the house God is building is to accept the cornerstone - His Son Jesus.
Only through Jesus can anyone produce the fruit that God is looking for.
God created this world and those who live in it so that we may know him, enjoy him, worship and adore him.
That is why we’re here!
But like a landowner planted a vineyard that produces no fruit, so God looks out and finds that the world doesn’t know him, doesn’t enjoy him, and won’t worship or adore him.
We have ultimately rejected him because we have chosen our own path, chosen to use his vineyard for self ends.
And the reality is that God will not bear with a fruitless world forever.
He will one day judge all that does not give to him what is rightfully his.
Which is exactly why he has sent his son!
To rescue the world by suffering God’s judgement in our place, showing how much God loves the vineyard he has planted and how much he is willing to give in order to see it flourish.
But still many reject the Son, and many are therefore still heading for judgement and destruction.
The warning is obvious: pay close attention to what this parable is saying.
If we reject Jesus in this life, God will reject us in the next.
Which is why it is so important that we give to God what is rightfully his, and also...
Accept from God what He freely offers
…or face his judgement.
Or face God’s judgement forever
It’s really the same message put a different way round.
Instead of a landowner seeking his fruit, God is cast as a King offering a great banquet.
The invitation goes out widely and liberally.
The king is generously offering a place at the banquet.
Notice that there is a son involved again: Jesus is making this plain as day!
It is our response to the son that matters most.
Here, those invited essentially reject the son and his wedding banquet by refusing to come.
Again there is violence in that rejection, with the servants of the king being mistreated and killed.
A terrible insult to the king himself.
And the result is the same:
And instead, the invitation goes to others:
Jesus is telling the CPs and elders, and the nation that they have represented, that God’s invitation is being withdrawn from them, that they are to be cast aside while others are brought in to enjoy his banquet.
Historically speaking, Jesus is saying that the Jewish nation is about to be replaced by a global Church as the focal point of God’s activity and plan in the world.
He is pointing forward to the New Covenant with the Church of Christ as the fulfilment of the Old Covenant with the nation of Israel.
All this is seen to be fulfilled in Acts and the rest of the NT.
But although we can point to specific historical events, the warning still stands for all people in every age: if you reject the invitation God has made through his Son you will ultimately be rejected.
It is a serious warning.
Which is why Christians are called to make the invitation widely and liberally, calling people to hear the good news about Jesus and to respond in repentance and faith.
Christian, you are like one of the servants in the parable!
You are called upon by your Master and King to take his invitation into all the world.
Sometimes you will be mistreated for it!
There will be plenty of rejection.
But you must make the invitation regardless, because the message needs to be heard.
The message needs to be heard because judgement is real.
There will come a day when everyone will stand before the judgement seat of God.
Everyone will have to account for their response to his invitation.
Our mission is to give everyone the opportunity to respond to that invitation before the offer is withdrawn.
That should sober us, it should stir us, it should drive us out into the world to make Christ known.
Because we don’t want anyone to face the horrifying consequences of refusing God’s invitation.
This is strange.
We’re used to shopping for our own wedding outfits!
Here a certain garment was expected, perhaps even provided.
But this chap had decided to do his own thing and show up in jeans and t-shirt.
Another insult to the king, because this guest is saying that he’s good enough on his own.
What I bring is better than what you offer.
But in the kingdom of heaven the opposite is true.
I’m not good enough on my own.
My God offers me is infinitely greater than anything I could offer him.
And if I try to come to God on my terms, without accept what is offered, the results are disastrous...
This is a common description that Jesus uses to speak of hell - eternal judgement.
It is the alternative to the celebration of the Son’s Wedding Banquet.
Instead of joy there will be weeping.