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Pentecost 18, 2020 Proper 22
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilbert Kamps 
Oct. 4, 2020
Isaiah 5:1-7, Phil. 3:4b-14, Matt. 21:33-46

                                   

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            It was early in the morning. Just the day before, Jesus had turned over the tables at the temple, as He drove out all who were buying and selling in the  temple area. He then went to Bethany where He spent the night, likely with Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary. We can't be sure, but He may have gotten up very early seeking not to disturb His hosts.  Matthew tells us that Jesus was hungry. Did He get up early and slip out so that Martha and Mary would not need to make Him breakfast?

            In any event, it is on His trip from Bethany back to Jerusalem that Jesus will curse

the tree which had nothing but leaves to offer His hunger. Now you talk about being bold! Jesus not only goes back to Jerusalem, but to the temple where He had created such a stir with the whips, tables, and such. Immediately He is met by the chief priests and  the elders of the people who demand to  know by what authority He is doing these things.                                  He sets up a situation where He forces the Jewish authorities  to back down  or  get  in trouble with the people over John the Baptizer's ministry. Then He begins a  series of parables, the first of this series we had last Sunday. Today our Lord speaks of the Landowner, vineyard, evil tenants, righteous servants and Son, and the stone rejected by the builders.

As the Lord Jesus talks about a vineyard, all of the Jewish leaderswould immediately start thinking of Isaiah 5. The prophet Isaiah was inspired to speak of Israel as a "vine," tenderly cared for by God, and yet it produced no fruit.  Let's just stop here for a moment and consider.... The disciples had just that morning watched how the Lord responded to fruitlessness: He curses it! As Jesus started this parable of the vineyard, just picture it........ the disciples looking around at each other with knowing looks and nods... they knew that something really big was being said.... They knew that the Jewish leaders had no idea what they were up against in Jesus.... the Son of the Living God.

            The vineyard described by Isaiah was not only fruitless, it produced in its place

injustice and bloodshed. Therefore, just as Jesus cursedthe fruitless tree,so God curses fruitless Israel by removing its protection and stopping the blessings of rain and strength to the ground.

            Here we see a spiritual principle at work, one that we see over and over again in the

Book of Judges. God will not bless a godless land. He will  not favor a nation which practices injustice and takes innocent human  life. Such a nation God will not protect, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!"Hebrews 10:31

            Dear people of God, how about our own nation? How much security in God's favor do you think that our nation can expect....... when Planned  Parenthood can legally kill innocent, preborn human life? Or when our streets are running red with blood coming from the nations 'thin blue line' of those whose job it is to protect us? Do you feel safe from our enemies when the institutions of law tell us that   (Isaiah 5:20 (ESV) 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, …[1])  evil is good, and good is evil, and seeks to  silence us when we dare to speak-out against sin on the  street  and human vice in the  public square?  God tended to our nation when it was formed as an infant, blessing it with very Godly, Christian leaders. In our Lord's words today, God's care for Israel is suggested by the meaning of the parable itself. When God cared for ancient Israel, He took care of all the details. There were very precise horticultural procedures involved in caring for a vineyard.

The hedge was carefully measured and trimmed. There were measurements for the trenches, the voids spaces, and the size of the winepress.  Careful descriptions outlined how to prune the vines, including directions on where and where not to plant vines.

            Ancient authorities even noted which were the best, and the worst, varieties of vines to plant or not plant. A lot of care went into the vineyard, even as God so carefully tended to His dear people, Israel. But....what did God get for all His loving care?

Injustice! Unrighteousness!  Bloodshed!  Shouts of disobedience! God could have cursed Israel to death even as our Lord cursed the barren tree, but no! Israel was not merely some sort of a thing to God. Israel embodied the children of God. God wanted the vineyard to prosper!                                       So He sent the prophets to His servants.

They beat one.....killed another..... stonedanother.....

BEAT ONE- figurative of any number of the early prophets who were faithful, but when the people received them, sometimes it was with a whipping.

            KILLED ANOTHER- Amos is believed to have been killed by the use of a club.

Isaiah's martyrdom took place under the evil king Manasseh who sawed the prophet in two.

            STONED ANOTHER- Tradition says that Jeremiah was killed by stoning.

            As Jesus spins out the parable, the priests and people are beginning to recognize that they are the tenants who persecuted the past prophets of God. They know that the Nazerene has claimed to be the Son of God... and in several passages from the Bible we are told that they want to stone Jesus for that claim!

            Jesus continues with His parable as He turns their attention to the Son of the

Vineyard. Mark's Gospel points to the "son's" preexistence when Mark writes, "He  had still one other, a beloved son.Mark 12:6 God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son

There is something unreal about the story Jesus tells in the parable. How likely is it, that a man whose servants have been mistreated and killed by his tenants will then send his beloved son to try to collect his share of the harvest? But this unreal story illustrates the incredible patience of God. It is truly mind-boggling that God would send His Son into the world after He had seen how his people treated the prophets.

To our ears it also sounds unreal that the tenants who  murdered the son should expect to take possession of his inheritance...... especially while  his father, the vineyard owner, is still alive.  But selfish ambition and  greed all too often and all too easily cause us   to forget God's presence.

            Did the tenants- the rulers of Israel- recognize that Jesus was the Son of God? The suggestion here is that they DID! So why did they crucify Him? Why do people continue to crucify Christ today through their sins that put Him on the cross! 

            Many today don't want the King's Son! They don't want the Lord of Life to be the lord of their lives! We continue to live in a public square where the wants of the individual are valued to the exclusion of moral decency and justice. An increasing number of our leaders want Jesus and His followers out of the way, so that they can build America according to a godless standard.

            With many lies, and then even more lies, they failed in their attempts to ruin Brett Kavanaugh: as being morally unfit.  Now, they are determined to try and argue an opposite accusation. They also will most certainly fail in their efforts to paint Amy Coney Barrett as too dogmatic in her Christian faith to claim her rightful seat as a Supreme Court Justice.

            Some weeks ago in my sermon to you folks, I mentioned  the New York Times 1619 project. The project appears to be another attempt to reframe our countries history while at the same time making jabs at Christianity.

As I said then; this has become Public School Curriculum in thousands of school districts across  our country.  I got good  news last week from my daughter, who teaches 7th  & 8th grades in Central WI.; and has become my sleuth on the 1619 project. As of last Saturday anyway, she had heard absolutely  nothing  regarding this foolishness.  I told her to prepare by utilizing Bob Woodson's 1776 project information instead. Woodson says...."(The 1619 Project) is a very corrosive and very dangerous challenge to the nation and her founding principles;" while, "1776 Unites is an aspirational and inspirational alternative to this diabolical message."

            People of God, you know as well as I do, that it is not justthe Liberals of Washington DC; or just the Public Schools that are working 24/7 to erode Christianity. And it didn't just start with my generation back in the 60's. The Son of God is daily being rejected by our culture. By any secular standard, Jesus is the dominant figure of Western culture. Like much of what we now think of as Western ideas, inventions and values finds its source or inspiration in the religion that worships God in his name. Art and science, the self and society, politics and economics, marriage and the family, right and wrong, body and soul- all have been touched and often radically transformed by Christian influence."

            Like the Jewish leaders standing before Jesus as he told this parable, a growing

number of our leaders want to get Christ out of the way. Note that our nation's leaders are permitting all religious art and icons that speak of our Christian heritage to be systematically removed from our public buildings- get Christ out of the way!

            Jesus knew that then, and always, the multitudes with its leaders, would reject Him and His claim over the totality of their lives within the vineyard- God's creation. He is the stone rejected!

            There was a tradition well known at the time of Christ that speaks about the building of the second temple. According to this tradition, a stone was brought to the builders and sent back again and again, until finally it was discovered to fit perfectly in the corner.

            The servants of Jesus in the Old Testament were rejected.... Jesus was rejected... Jesus is rejected today.... the servants of Jesus are rejected today... The Bible says that as the end of time draws close, the majority of people will reject Jesus as they also persecute His followers.

            But, not all.... there are many people today who have come to faith in Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit has moved year after year through the Word and through the Sacraments. Yes, you have suffered rejections... yes, you may suffer worse in the future....But one thing the enemies of Christ cannot do is to remove how perfectly God fits you into His eternal plan and Kingdom. Jesus, you see, is the cornerstone that knits us all together- so we are told by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. Eph. 2:19-22

            Jesus is the Servant King who came into the vineyard of this world, suffered and died for our sin, and then rose bodily from the grave so that He could prepare a place for us in heaven. May the Living Lord continue to inspire each of us not to push Him out of our lives, but to receive Him and all  His  benefits, so that we might have forgiveness of  sins, joy, life and salvation.

            For YOU, the workman of God, the way may be hard in this world. Never forget,

however, that what we are building will outlast the sands of time. To God in Christ Jesus be the glory and the honor and the dominion now and forever! Amen.


 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001