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Tenants of God's Vineyard

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Lectionary leads us through another parable
Before look at parable - need to understand its context
beginning Matt 21 - Jesus entered Jerusalem for last time - Triumphal Entry
Final week Jesus life - goes straight to temple - becomes angry at what sees...
Physical drives out all those making profit from people - selling animals and exchanging money
Temple authorities & religious leaders - angry - confront Jesus
Ask him what authority he had forcing people out of temple but Jesus refuses to answer...
Because leaders refused to acknowledge John Baptists ministry as coming from God
So instead Jesus directs 2 parables in response to religious leaders challenge
This parable is 2nd one - aimed at religious leaders - specifically those in charge of temple
So parable = metaphor or picture of how God viewed Jewish religious leaders...
And their failure to care for people and produce spiritual fruit
Its hard parable to apply to us today as Christians in church (slide)
But I think it does say somethings do relate to us as Jesus followers...

We’re invited into the vineyard

Now couple things religious leaders / temple authorities would understand about Jesus parable
Landowner = God; vineyard = often represent Israel; tenants = God’s people; servants = OT prophets
In parable - tenants working for landowner in vineyard so...
Jesus specifically referring to religious leaders & Temple authorities essentially work for God (slide)
Matthew 21:33–34 NIV84
“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
OK what’s important in first scene of parable?
For me - God carefully creates vineyards, provides everything needed to produce fruit, & makes it secure
Then invites tenants farm vineyard on his behalf - they get compensated but profits go to landowner
Landowner’s expectation = vineyard provides fruit benefits both tenant farmers & owner
Originally God invited religious leaders & temple authorities to care for his people
They were responsible for teaching, pastoring, cultivating faith amongst people
As Christians God invites us to do same - as pastors, ministers, leaders yes...
But as individually as Christians too - God has invited us all to produce fruit together (slide)
John 15:5 NIV84
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Jesus invites us to become connected to him, to be part of his vineyard
If we connect ourselves to Jesus - or put it another way - if we place faith & trust in Jesus & follow him
Then we will be fruit producers (slide)
Illus - Picture of property in Katikati that’s for sale
Description; Rural horticulture property - $1,350,000 - 3.57ha rural property - productive avocado orchard with a tidy residence
Mature avocado orchard features 1.9 hectares - good tree health throughout orchard
plentiful crop currently hanging, ready to pick later this year
Now if you spending almost $1 1/2 million on avocado orchard - expect return on invest
Expect crop of avocados could sell - right… ?
no one would buy developed orchard operation & expect trees to not produce...
Be waste money, time, energy without fruit... (slide)
So God has same expectation for us
1 Corinthians 6:20 NIV84
you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Bible tells us number places God has paid price for saving us through Jesus death on cross
Jesus paid ransom we owed for our sins so we could be free from our sin debt
No God wants us to produce fruit - to be fruitful (slide)

We’re responsible for producing fruit

Ok so in parable what happens in scene 2? Landowner sends servants to collect vineyards fruit
Remember Jesus speaking directly to religious leaders (slide)
Matthew 21:35–39 NIV84
“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Can see tenants turn out to be nasty violent evil people - treating servants horribly
All climaxes with tenants taking landowners son & killing him & then stealing vineyards profits
Now religious leaders would see tenants representing evil people - immediately think - Romans
They were occupying God’s land, oppressing God’s people & treating them horribly
They would never consider themselves as the ones Jesus was talking about
However Jesus knew religious leaders & specifically temple authorities - stealing money
Taking from temple taxes, tithes / offerings, money from sale of animals, exchanging Roman coins for temple shekels
Charging higher & higher prices, pocketing profits for themselves, getting rich off it
Also Jesus inserts himself in Parable - son of landowner - only time blatantly does this
knowing religious leaders would do same thing as in parable - kill him
God sent His servants & then his Son to those responsible for producing spiritual fruit amongst God’s people
God expect tenants - religious leaders - to be fruit produces, to be spiritual productive
They were given responsibility to produce fruit yet they failed
They believed could live their lives how they wanted avoiding their responsibilities without consequences
But God consistently remind Jewish religious leaders over generations - expected them to bear fruit...
But they ignored God & messengers & eventually Jesus…
God will eventually call them to account for their sin
God also expects us to be spiritual fruitful too
as ministers, pastors, leaders - we’re responsible to nurture God’s people to bear spiritual fruit
But as individual Christians - God expects each of us to bear fruit too (slide)
John 15:16 NIV84
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
God holds us responsible for growing & producing spiritual fruit in our lives
The fruit Jesus is talking about is primarily love - love for God first & love for others
As well as fruit comes out of love - joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control etc
Illus - Responsibility is something we often think we have...
But when put into situation where have to be responsible - easy to avoid it & fail
For example caring for animals - hard work! Dependant on you to car for their wellbeing & safety
Yet have terrible history abusing animals in NZ from domestic pets to farm animals
Many shrug off responsibility & abandon animals, dump them, starve them, or main & kill them
They wash hands of responsibility & don’t both considering consequences of actions
As Christians & members of God’s Church - we’re also answerable to God like Jewish religious leaders
Like them - we’re also God’s people who’ve been saved, received God’s grace, gifts & blessings...
So God expects us to respond in love / treat life as opportunity to respond back to God in obedience & faith
Which brings us to punchline of parable… (slide)

God patiently & expectantly awaits fruitfulness

In parable - landowner shown great patience - sending so many servants - even though badly treated
& Then sending own Son with all landowners authority as last resort to generate positive response
But when that fails landowner hardly going just give up & forget about it - is He? (slide)
He’s invest time, money, resources - all without any return - now He’s forced to take serious action...
Matthew 21:40–41 NIV84
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
Notice how religious leaders answer Jesus when asks what landowner do in response to tenants
He will bring those wretches to a wretched end - they still hadn’t realised Jesus talking about them!!!
They still thought he was referring to Romans or some such evil group of people
Never occurred to them He was talking about them!! (slide)
Matthew 21:42–44 NIV84
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”
That’s why Jesus then hits them with his quote from Psalm 118
Jesus is capstone or cornerstone = first stone laid at corner when constructing building
Considered most important stone / foundation stone ceremoniously laid on which rest building sits...
So Jesus = cornerstone - most important stone in God’s House / God’s Kingdom
And Jewish religious leaders had rejected him as well as all God’s past messengers & prophets
So Jesus tells them their place in God’s Kingdom as leaders of God’s house has ended (slide)
And God will ultimately judge them for their lack of fruitfulness
Matthew 21:45 NIV84
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.
So religious leaders knew what Jesus was saying & it made them mad!!
This was beginning of their anger & hatred driving them to plot to kill Jesus
That’s pretty heavy right! So what can we draw from this…?
Firstly the parable shows us how God = gracious, merciful, forgiving, & of course patient
He’s not expecting us be perfect… but expects us to change / be more & more fruitful over time
Jesus calls all Christians regardless of age/gender/ethnicity/status to bear fruit
And how we respond to Jesus call to be fruitful will determine...
how involved we are in God’s Kingdom; how connected we are to God & His people...
And ultimately will reveal how important our faith in God really is - whether God is #1 or #5 or 10 or…
God wants us to fruitful because it makes him happy to see us become more like Jesus & better people
Let’s not fall into trap religious leaders did & believe aren’t responsible to anyone...
& live life how we want without consequences…
instead let’s set our minds & hearts towards being fruitful people.
So I want you to take a moment & do a quality check on your life...
How fruitful is your life right now? Are you closer to God today than you were 5 or 10 years ago?
Are you more loving, patient, kind, gentle, forgiving than you were 5 or 10 years ago?
Let’s pause for a moment as we reflect on God’s Word
Let’s Prayer
Heavenly Father - we confess we’ve been selfish - we’ve thought our lives were ours to do what we like with...
that what we say & do doesn’t matter, that all that counts is our own happiness...
And we ask for you to forgive us
Through your Holy Spirit help us to be mindful everyday of our thoughts, words & actions,
And give us the strength to be more loving, kind, patient, gentle, forgiving, peaceful, merciful
That we may bear fruit in our lives that lasts for eternity
In our saviours name we pray, Amen
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