Proper 22 - 8 October 2017 – Matthew 21:33-43
A Vineyard for Rent
“Lord Jesus, you have endured the doubts and foolish questions of every generation. Forgive us for trying to be judge over you, and grant us the confident faith to acknowledge you as Lord.”
It’s possible to rent an amazing variety of things. From housing to automobiles. From furniture to farm land. From carpet cleaning machines to apartments and cottages on a lake. In our text for today we see that God too has a rental arrangement
God also has a rental arrangement. For centuries the sign has been out, it reads, “VINEYARD FOR RENT.” Our question for today is what sort of tenants are we.
I. The terms of the agreement are specified.
A. As in any rental situation, we realize that there needs to be terms spelled out in the form of a rental contract. If there is going to be any safeguards to the tenant and the owner. The Lord Himself has placed the vineyard in excellent condition. The landowner planted the vineyard Himself. He put a wall around it. He dug a winepress. He built a tower. He brought it all up to code. He was s stickler for details.
What all this means is that from the beginning the Lord has given us the means and the resources for us to come to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. The Lord did so for Israel. (Isaiah 5:1-7) He did this for His people in the Old Testament and today He continues to do the same through the good news of the Gospel.
A. Through the Gospel the Lord gathers and preserves us as His people. In the message of salvation which is found in Jesus Christ our Savior you are not only brought to faith you are also preserved as God’s very special people.
B. When you rent something there is an understanding or an agreement about who is the rightful owner of the thing which is being used. When you rent you have that object for your own personal use. But you will always remain the tenant. You do not own it. You never will own it. So it is that God is the owner of the vineyard. He rends it out to us. The message of His love and forgiveness is God’s message. Not ours. And the faith which we have. It is not ours. But God Himself is the One who has worked saving faith in us. We cannot claim ownership to the blessings of God. All these are His. Which He gives to us by His grace.
God “rents out” the vineyard by giving it to us. Through it, supplying us with faith and strengthen us by the power of His Holy Spirit.
C. In this rental agreement, there are terms of payment. The rent check is to come in on time. At the same time. Every time it is due. The landlord expects to be paid. The same principle holds true with the Lord. God expects to be paid. God expects us to pay Him rent.
1. He demands that the fruit of faith be demonstrated in our life. St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians lists the fruit of faith which include; “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control” (Galatians 5:22)
2. Because of the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Bearing fruit is not a chore for us. Rather it is a spontaneous outpouring which is the response to the benefits which God has worked in us.
Transition: The terms of the rental agreement have been spelled out. However this is not to say that from time to time difficulties may occur.
II. The difficulties encountered.
From time to time there can be problems when there are renters. The payment might be late or become delinquent. A tenant can say to himself “this isn’t my property; I am free from any responsibilities. I don’t have to take care of this dump!” I’m sure you have heard of or have known of problems which can result with careless delinquent tenants.
A. Even God Himself had difficulties with His renters.
1. The renters of the Old Testament. The previous tenants. Killed the prophets which came delivering the message of God’s mercy and grace.
2. Finally they killed the Son of the landowner– Jesus Christ. Jesus was killed because the people refused to accept Him. They refused to believe that He was God in the flesh the only Savior from sin and so they had Him executed by crucifixion.
B. The problem with delinquent tenants can still exist today.
1. God can still have difficulties with His renters when we fail to see God’s mission to the world. When we fail to share with others the message of salvation which Christ has offered. If we do this we become delinquent and careless tenants.
2. We can become guilty of failing to hold up our end of the renter’s contract when we fail to love God’s people. As God has forgiven us. We in turn forgive others when they sin against us. As Christ has shown His compassion to us we in turn extend mercy to others. Refusing to deal with others on the same terms as God has dealt with us results in our failing to part of the rental contract. If we do that we have become delinquent and careless.
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. But 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 come to an 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 we are living in what many refer to as a Post-Modern or Post-Christian society where the center of World Christianity shifted has? Back to the continent of Africa. 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.
Words – 1,500
Passive Sentences – 10%
Reading Level – 5.2
Image "The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Vineyard" © Ed Riojas Higher Things