Monday, October 03, 2011

Sermon on Matthew 21:33-46, for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, "The Vineyard"

Sermon Outline

1. Jesus’ several vineyard/vine/fruit parables. Recent parable about a vineyard—hiring workers for the vineyard (kingdom of God/church) and rewarding all equally. Compassionate employer. Different angle today. Retelling and adaptation of Isaiah 5. Condenses OT history of Israel. Servants (prophets) killed and beaten and ignored. Obvious parallel to son sent and killed, with Jesus’ life.

2. Fruit that is desired: obedience to God’s law. Good works (described as fruit in many places). In Isaiah 5—fruit is bad (wild grapes), finding bloodshed, violence, and injustice. In Matt, no fruit is given back from the renters. The vineyard of God’s kingdom will bear fruit. Prepared, ready, planted, all the “prep-work” done—only tend and give back the fruit it bears. The kingdom will bear fruit, but God will give the stewardship to those who bear fruit, and take it away from those who do not. We’ve been given the source and the blessing of all fruitfulness, Jesus, the Vine.

3. Do we obey? Are we bearing fruit? Not an onerous task, but in a vineyard already prepared and fruitful. God has mercifully and generously given His vineyard out to us, but we’re not to despise His grace.

4. Strange features: most is normal up until the master decides to send His Son—after the treatment the other servants received. Irrational. Great risk to son. Expect instead an immediate show of force against the murderous tenants—not to be so vulnerable as to send His Son. Teaches about God sending Jesus—God made Himself vulnerable to injury, insult, and death. Incredible action of mercy and amnesty—extending one last offer of peace, to those who should have been destroyed long ago. Incredible that God overcame the anger of receiving that abuse and rejection to offer yet another undeserved chance for amnesty and forgiveness. There will be a time when the judgment will be final.

5. Amazing in the parable that the Son could be so violently rejected from His Father’s own vineyard. This is a tragic and terrible divorce between the right relationship that should have existed between the master and tenants. This is the divorce and alienation of sin—that people who have been privileged and gifted with God’s blessings, would reject Him and deny Him His fruit, abuse and kill His servants and even His Son. Sin so blinds our eyes that we see Jesus who comes for our help and our good as our enemy instead. Master thought they would “have shame” before His Son. They were utterly shameless, and had no shame even before the son, to kill Him and cast Him out. This is the result of sin. Fills with pride, defensiveness, abuse; unwilling to serve under God our master. Reject authority to correct and discipline.

6. Strange plan of tenants to kill the son to gain the inheritance. Laws about squatters’ rights: 3 years occupation. Assume the master is dead. Jews though they could kill Jesus and keep their homeland and the rulers could keep their authority in the Temple. Parable is largely about the Jewish leaders’ mismanagement of the “vineyard” and repeated rejection of God’s emissaries (prophets and finally Jesus). Discusses what the just fate is for the murderous tenants. The people pronounce their own judgment: a miserable death, and the transfer of the vineyard to others. In our hearts we know the just penalty for our sin and wrongdoing. Plan to get inheritance backfires terribly—strike against the stone and be shattered, falls on you and get crushed. Rejection of son was rejection of the chief cornerstone.

7. Rejection of Jesus, stumbling against Him: path of judgment. Should be the rock on which one builds an immovable foundation—instead struck against it. The rejected stone is nevertheless greatly honored. Workers rejected Jesus, but God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, and every knee will bow and tongue confess. Life built on that solid cornerstone which is Christ will be firm and steady. It is life rooted in and flowing from the Vine that is Christ. Life in Him is fruitful because God is bearing fruit through you.

8. It is only in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can begin to comprehend the parable, and how Jesus made the incredible move to come to us in our sin, to give us help and aid, to preserve us in His inheritance, the vineyard of the Kingdom of God. That He risked certain death, stood in the line of the prophets who had been rejected and killed before Him, but now came as the Son of God with every right to first destroy His enemies, but first sought to win them, even through His death, to the forgiveness of sins. He even grants to us the source of the very fruitfulness that He expects. Built on this chief cornerstone, lay hold of His mercy and forgiveness, and joyfully work in His vineyard till He calls us to our rest.

Sermon Talking Points
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1. What is the background of the vineyard imagery so common to Jesus’ parables? Isaiah 5:1-7; 27:2-6; Deut. 6:10-19; John 15. In what way was the vineyard prepared and ready for the people, without their effort? What was expected in return? How were God’s servants, the prophets, treated by the Israelites (tenants)? Jer. 26:20-21; 2 Chron 24:20-22; Mt. 23:34-37; Lk 13:34.

2. Do we obey God’s commands? Are we bearing fruit that shows we have repented of our sin? Should bearing fruit be difficult if we believe? John 15:5. Why is it dangerous to despise God’s grace?

3. What is so unbelievable about the master of the vineyard’s final plan to collect the fruits of his vineyard? How does this parallel the incredible love and vulnerability of God in sending His Son?

4. The tenants had the astonishing thought that they could take squatter’s rights of the vineyard if they killed the heir, the son. How does this parallel the thoughts of the Jewish leaders who recognized they were the subject of the parable? Matt. 21:45-46; John 11:45-53

5. Though Jesus was rejected and killed, how did God honor Him and crown Him with glory? Matt. 21:42; Psalm 118:22-23. What is the consequence of rejecting God’s offered mercy in Christ? Mt. 21:43-44. Isaiah 8:14-15; Dan. 2:34-35. Why is the cross a stumbling block to people? 1 Cor. 1:18-25

6. Those who receive instead God’s mercy in Christ, and bear the fruit of His kingdom, gratefully receive the gift of His inheritance, and share in the fruit and blessings of the vineyard. They are built on the sure foundation of Christ.

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