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Not Stolen, but Given

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Introduction

Megan and I have always viewed our home as a tool for ministry. So, when I was a youth pastor, it was a very common occurrence for us to have teenagers in our home for small groups or events or whatever. Well, several years ago, after having teenagers in our home, I noticed that one of them started using a cell phone that looked a lot like an extra cell phone that Megan and I had. It was a phone that we kept on standby in case one of ours stopped working. So, I went home and checked, and sure enough, it was gone. So, the next time that I saw this particular student at church, I was like, “Hey, that’s a nice looking phone you’ve got there!” And, you can imagine how red and guilty he looked. Quickly, he confessed to taking it, and he didn’t think that we would miss it or even notice that it was gone, since we had new phones. But, here’s what I remember thinking and saying to him: “Man, why didn’t you just come to me? I would’ve given it to you! It would’ve given me joy and you joy, and you wouldn’t have felt guilty, and I wouldn’t have felt hurt.”
This morning, Jesus is going to tell a parable that’s a lot like that. He’s going to tell a parable about a group of wicked tenants who are keeping a vineyard for their master who attempt to steal an inheritance that would have been given to them. Turn with me to .

God’s Word

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Parable Number Two

Now, it’s important for us to remember where we are. It’s still the Tuesday before Jesus’ Friday crucifixion. Jesus has been teaching in the outer court of the Temple complex when He is confronted by the leaders of the Temple because of the things He’s done and the things He’s teaching. They are filled with a murderous indignation against him, and they want their Jesus problem resolved sooner rather than later. So, they’ve confronted Jesus and asked him, “Who do you think you are?” And, He’s telling them in great detail by telling them three successive parables. We’re in the second of those parables this morning, as Jesus continues to reveal to these authorities more and more about who

The Longsuffering Master

The Longsuffering Master
“There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard” So, Jesus tells us a parable using rich OT language about a master that plants a vineyard. I say rich OT language because this very closely parallels a a prophecy in , and so from that we can be confident that Jesus intends for us to understand here that the vineyard He’s referring to is Israel, the tenants are their leaders, and the Master is God. The picture that He paints is of a very wealthy master. He was so wealthy that he was able to fully plant and outfit a vineyard at one time, fronting all of the money. It would typically take somewhere around four years for a new vineyard to become profitable, but this is no concern for a master as wealthy as he is. He makes sure that they have absolutely everything that they need. They’re protected with a fence and tower. They have a brand new winepress ready to go. Everything at the vineyard is state-of-the-art and ready to go.
It is the master’s full expectation that the vineyard will be fruitful. He has given them every resource and every ability necessary. He has done all of the painstaking work of preparation. He has provided the funds. He has made the sacrifices. And so, he hands it over to his tenants with the full expectation that he will return in a few years to receive part of the fruit back as what He is due for all of his kindness and diligence. So, at the appropriate time, the master sends his servants to collect what he is due, but the tenants ‘beat one, kill one, and stone another.’ Now, at this time in the Roman empire, it was actually common place that if you had tenants on your land that refused to pay what they owed, they you could actually hire ‘help’ to make your problems ‘disappear.’ But, this landowner, this master doesn’t do that, does he? No! He sends another groups of servants, even more than the first to collect from these tenants the fruit that He is rightly owed. And, the same exact thing happens again. And again, he doesn’t evict them and he doesn’t have them Al Picino’d. He reasons with himself. “They know how good that I’ve been to them. They know that I have provided for them and resourced them. They know that I am a mighty man worthy of much respect. So, I will send my son, and they will respect him and give him what they rightly owe me.” But, these men instead reveal just how wretched their hearts really are. Rather than respecting the owners son, they suppose that the master must’ve sent his son because he was afraid or because he was sick or because he was dead, and so they take the son outside of his father’s own vineyard and they murder him, even though his father had spared their lives when he had the right to kill them, because they wanted to steal from him his inheritance.

God is Not a Mobster

Do you see the picture that Jesus is painting here? He’s looking at these leaders, and He’s saying: “Stop spitting in the face of such a kind and loving God!” For centuries, the leaders of Israel were constantly leading Israel astray. They were leading Israel toward unfaithfulness. God had handed over to them such a beautiful vineyard, and He had said, “I will be your God, and you will be my people. Keep my commands, and it will go well for you. You will reap where you did not sow. You will always have my protection and my power and my provision.” But, they were not fruitful. They were not obedient. They led them astray. They led them to worship false gods and to corrupt even the worship of the true God. And, so God would send to them his servants, the prophets. And, they would preach God’s word to the priests and to the kings and to the people. Repent! Turn back to God! Turn away from your false gods! Turn away from your self-centeredness! Turn away and produce the fruit of godliness!” But, the kings and priests would take prophets like Zechariah into the very Temple where Jesus was now teaching and they would stone him. Jeremiah would be put into stocks. Elijah chased for his life right after the mass execution of the other prophets of Israel. John the Baptist has just been beheaded. God should have removed them. God should have killed them. They broke the covenant. They were unfaithful to him. But, again and again, He would send him servants, and again and again, they would turn them away. And now, finally, God in his great mercy and kindness has sent his very own Son, and what are they to do, they are even as He tells this very parable plotting how they will take him outside the city to murder him on a cursed tree.
APPLICATION: If you talk to enough people about Jesus, you’re going to come upon the person or the professor or the friend, that tries to paint the picture of the OT God as though He is a mobster of heaven inciting wars and conflict and wrath and hatred. But, brothers and sisters, let me tell you, God is not a mobster; He is a longsuffering master! He should’ve wiped this planet clean long ago in light of our cosmic betrayal, but instead He has sent us his Son so that we might know his kindness even light of our persistent wickedness. To believe that the God of the OT is an angry mob boss always trying to get even is fundamentally misunderstand how impossibly uneven we are. He should have killed us, but He sent the prophets. He should have condemned us, but He sent us his Son! God’s patience is historically documented and personally offered to you.

Wretched Tenants Facing a Wretched End

“what will he do to those tenants?” So, Jesus looks at the very leaders that He’s talking about, and He asks them: “What do you think will become of those wretched tenants?” And, the priests and Pharisees answer him: “They will receive a death that is just as wretched as they are.” What was clear to all who heard the story that day was that a day of reckoning was coming. A day was coming in which these tenants who had so abused the kindness and grace and patience of their master would have to answer to him, and they would have to answer severely.
You see, these tenants bore fruit, but it was a wretched fruit. They received their master’s kindness and repaid him with wickedness. They received his provision, but repaid him by rejecting his servants. The received his resources, but repaid him by murdering his son all while attempting to keep for themselves to enjoy his benefits.
APPLICATION: Today, there are a lot of people as I mentioned earlier, who want to dismiss God as being this angry mobster of the OT, but there are just as many who seem to want to invent a new Jesus that will let them enjoy all of the benefits of God’s kingdom apart from any actual obedience in the kingdom. They want to receive God’s salvation, but reject his commands. They want to receive God’s grace, but dismiss his prophets. They want to live inside of his love but outside of his authority in their lives. Their lives bear wretched fruit. I ask the question that Jesus asked: What do you think will happen? A day of reckoning is coming, and it is coming through the Son who was sent. For God judges the fruit of the vineyard, not merely your intentions or your professions. Your fruit all the way down to the root.

The Builders Reject the Cornerstone

“the stone that the builders rejected” So, we see Jesus do the exact same thing that we saw him do last week. He turns the conscience of the priests and the pharisees and he turns it on themselves. They’ve just said, “These men must be destroyed! These wretched men must find a wretched end!” And now, Jesus turn to tell them, “And, you are these men!”
“Have you never read in the Scriptures” Jesus confronts them directly by asking them, “Have you never read?” These are the experts in the law! The very brightest theological minds of his day, and He’s confronting them on the very basis of their expertise. And, I want you to catch something that you may not see with the naked eye. You’re Bible is probably indented in verse 42. The type is probably offset. That’s because it’s a quote from the OT, from , which is the same Psalm that the people quoted when Jesus was coming into town and everyone was shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” This was the last of the Hallel psalms, which were literally being quoted verbatim by all of the worshippers that had come into town for passover. They were everywhere. This is not an obscure passage for the elite scholar. This is among the very most common passages. This was a hymn of praise, a prayer of thanksgiving offered to God by the people of Israel at the same times of year every year, and it just so happened that it was happening right now. This was like quoting from Amazing Grace or from How Great Thou Art. This is learning your 'ABC's'. So, when Jesus asks them, “Have you never read?” this is like asking a mechanic if he knows how to change the oil or a Paula Dean if she can make pancakes. So, when Jesus asks them, "Have you never read?" He's really asking, "Are you so blind as to not see what's in front of you? Are you so spiritually blind as to be oblivious to the very presence of God in your midst?"
The R

The Resurrected Stone

So, he refers to the leaders as the ‘builders.’ And, these ‘builders’ are going through the pile of stones, and they are selecting the ones that they see as worthy to use and build with. When they find a defective stone, they throw it to the side to get it out of the way. And, who is Christ? He is the stone that the builders saw as defective and rejected, but the Lord will use as the very pinnacle, the capstone, the cornerstone of his Kingdom. He was cast out, but He will be vindicated. He will be slain, but then, He will be raised from the dead! He was laid in the tomb lowly, but He will be made 'marvelous in our eyes' by the Lord! The very Stone that the builders rejected will become the Cornerstone that replaces the builders entirely! He has come to establish his kingdom held together by his resurrection power!

The Kingdom Will Be Taken Away

“will be taken away from you” Therefore, as a result of their blindness, because they had for generations rejected God’s authority and God’s prophet and now God’s Son, because they had not obeyed God and bore the fruit of God, the Kingdom of God would be taken away from them. These men saw themselves as irreplaceable in the Kingdom of God. They believed that God's universe revolved around them, and the Lord extinguished them. The cornerstone that holds together some crushes others. Those who reject him will be crushed by this Stone.

BUT the Kingdom of God would not go away

“and given to a people producing its fruit” But, brothers and sisters, just because the kingdom was taken away from these leaders of Israel, don’t believe for one second it was going away. You see, the Master who comes in judgement of the wretched tenants comes, even then, in his grace. He comes and judges those wretched tenants not to destroy the vineyard, not to destroy the Kingdom, but to save it and to restore it and to flourish it.
You see, those leaders of Israel are the tenants who tried to take the inheritance of the Son of God by force. They tried to take it by living up to their laws and inventing new laws and by the judgements they passed and by all of the people they judged. They tried to take it by force by the rejection of the prophets and of John the Baptist and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The tried to take by force the birthright of Jesus as their own. But, here’s the glory of the Kingdom. Here’s the glory of Christ. Here’s the glory of this marvelous Cornerstone. That which they tried to take by force is freely given! They tried to steal what Jesus came to give away! And since they rejected him, it would be given away. The Master would receive his due! He would receive his glory! His church will bear her fruit! The Kingdom of God would be taken away from them, but the Kingdom of God would not go away!

Jesus Makes the Most Wretched the Most Fruitful

APPLICATION: Who would Jesus give it to? Who are these people who will produce the fruit of the Kingdom of God? It’s the ‘tax collectors and prostitutes’ that He’s just said will go into the Kingdom before the priests. This is the gospel: Jesus came to take the most wretched to make them the most fruitful so that God would get the most glory. There’s a promise and a warning in this for us to hold on to church. A warning: We must be fruitful. A promise: we will be fruitful. We must be fruitful for God will receive his due. But, we will be fruitful if we are in Christ and Christ is in us for He has come to give that which we cannot steal and cannot take by force. He has come to take us who were the most wretched and to use us to bring about the most good so that God would receive the most glory.
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