Proper 22 (2–8 October)
Gracious God, You gave Your Son into the hands of sinful men, who killed Him. Forgive us when we reject Your unfailing love, and grant us the fullness of Your salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Evil Confidences – Confidence in one’s own faith or the lack thereof. - Matthew 21:33-46
The parable of the vineyard and the wicked servants is another parable of the kingdom. It is an allegorized parable. The vineyard is Israel. The tenants are the religious leaders. The servants are the prophets. The son is Jesus. The murder was the cross. Jesus is saying that time after time God has sought to redeem his people through the prophets, but each effort was in vain. In desperation, he sent his Son whom they crucified. This is in accord with the psalmist who says the rejected stone became the cornerstone. The outcome of it is that the religious leaders of Israel will lose the kingdom, which will be given to those who produce the fruit of righteousness. Because of their rejection of Christ, the Jews lost, but the Gentiles gained the kingdom.
The modern person has lost sight of whose world this is and who she is in relation to the world. The popular opinion is that the world belongs to humanity who is in control of it? Scientific knowledge and technology have put the world at our command. In the light of this, we have forgotten our place in relation to the world. If this is God’s world, we are responsible to God for what we do to and with the world. The practical implications deal with ecology, energy, and conservation. God, the world, and us —
1. The world is God’s — v. 33. God is the “householder” who owns the vineyard, planted the vines, built a hedge around it, prepared a wine press, and erected a tower. In this parable, God is the householder (owner). It is his vineyard. His planting the vineyard, setting a hedge around it, digging a wine press, and erecting a tower, shows his care and concern. Then he turns the vineyard over to his people. The vineyard is God’s people. He has planted and equipped it. Then he leaves us on our own and we are responsible to respond.
Because man refuses to respond, he suffers death. The vineyard is given to others. God’s judgment comes to the disobedient and unfruitful. If the chosen are not responsive, God will find replacements.
2. We are the tenant — vv. 33-41. As the tenant, we are responsible to God, obligated to return “rent” to God. Owners do not pay rent. Who are we? We act as though we are the owners of our world and the masters of our lives. We are “tenants.” We do not own the place. We are not permanent residents. We are renters who are obliged to pay rent for the privilege of being on this earth. We are tenants who are expected to share the harvest with the owner. As humans, we have a responsibility to return to God his just desserts as owner of the vineyard.
The owner has a right to receive fruit from the tenants. People owe something to God. Time after time God comes for his due until finally he makes the ultimate appeal in his Son, Jesus. Rebellious tenants kill the Son in hope of taking over the vineyard. Here can be seen the patience of God, trying repeatedly to get the tenants to respond; here can also be seen the greed of people.
III. The Action of God.
So what do you do when you run across a problem with a troublesome renter? In most cases, you demonstrate patience – but ultimately and finally, patience has a limit. So also, with God.
A. God shows patience.
1. When a prophet was killed God kept on sending other prophets and servants. What a remarkable contrast to what most would have done under similar circumstances. Again, here is the patience of God demonstrated to us.
2. The Lord went so far as to send His only Son. Through Christ’s death, He atoned for the tenant’s selfishness. Here we see the great lengths the Lord went to show His love and patience.
3. The Lord continues to demonstrate His patience for us. He is still giving us time to bring forth fruit of faith. He continues to love and seek our love. He continues to provide is those means which we need to receive His mercy and care.
B. And yet, the patience even of God has a limit.
1. When the Jewish nation finally rejected Christ, God’s only Son, God gave the Gospel message to the Gentiles. You and I believe in Christ because the Father gave us His grace and turned the vineyard over to all who would come to faith.
2. The patience of God will also run out with this world. Eventually the world will end and then there will be a final judgment. We must see from these words of the Savior that if people reject the Gospel, then the Gospel will be taken from one group and given to others.
How can we apply these words to our day and time? It seems as if the Gospel of the kingdom has moved full circle. At one point in time, the center of world Christianity was found on the continent of Africa. But when people finally rejected the Gospel and turned to other religions such as Islam the world center of Christianity shifted to Europe. Over time as people in Europe resisted the Gospel message the Church grew in North America. As Christianity begins to wane, where is the Gospel spreading? Yup! We’ve gone full circle. The world center of Christianity is back in the continent of Africa.
As we are living in what many refer to as a Post-Modern or Post-Christian society where there has been a shift to what is now the center of World Christianity. The point Jesus makes in this parable of a people reject Christ, the Gospel can and will be taken from one and given to others.
Again, we come back to the initial question – what sort of tenants are we? It is our duty to be good stewards, faithful tenants, and good renters. We must continue to share this message of the kingdom with all that we meet, and with all that, we know.
God’s sign is still out for all to read and see. It says “VINEYARD FOR RENT.” The terms for the vineyard are as generous as they can be. In His marvelous love, God has considered all of the difficulties renters can give Him and yet He allows us to rent this prime ground. How wicked we would be if we would ever spurn His love.
What a privilege it is to be a tenant in God’s vineyard. What an honor it is to bring Him the fruit of faith with joy. My the Lord so move us to be good tenants until that time in which we move out of that rented ground into a new home, one which has been purchased by the same Landlord we are renting form now – Jesus Christ the righteous one.