I. For Jesus it meant death
II. For the Jews it meant death
Luke 20:9-19 (NIV 2011) 9 He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. 13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” 17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
In the name of Jesus Christ, the stone the builders rejected, the cornerstone on which our salvation is built, dear Christian friends,
In tomorrow night’s NCAA basketball championship game, if one player rejects the shot of another, swatting it away into the crowd, there might be a huge cheer from the crowd and a look of frustration on the face of the offensive player, but that rejection is pretty minor and will probably be forgotten about quickly. When a boy asks a girl out on a first date and she says “no”, it will be a crushing blow for the boy, but the devastation will likely be short-lived and another date will be sought soon. If you apply for the “job of a lifetime” and you are turned down, it might take weeks and months to get over the hurt, but eventually you will settle into another job and may grow to like it even more than the other.
While each of these examples of rejection will hurt, none of them is as hurtful and devastating as the ones we hear about in today’s account. These rejections result in death. These rejections are important for us to review so that we do not meet the same end. So, let’s REVIEW THE RESULT OF REJECTION! I. For Jesus it meant death II. For the Jews it meant death.
This parable recounts all of the Old Testament Jewish spiritual history in a nutshell. A man planted a vineyard— God gave the Jews his kingdom of heaven by giving them the gift of faith to believe his promises to send a Messiah who would crush Satan’s head, rule over David’s throne forever and bring life to those living in the shadow of eternal death— rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time— this kingdom was to be managed by the Jews as God looked on from a distance. They were to water it, prune it, and harvest it as necessary, knowing that the owner would return for some of what it would yield.
At harvest time [the owner] sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
Why would these wicked tenants be so hostile toward the owner’s servants? Had the tenants mishandled their responsibilities so there was no fruit and nothing to give to the servants for the owner to enjoy? Or did they not like what the servants were saying to them?
When we see who these wicked tenants were— the teachers of the law and the chief priests…because they knew [Jesus] had spoken this parable against them— we can conclude the answer is both. Throughout Jewish history, there were many who claimed to love and follow the true God, but this was only “lip service”. Their hearts were far from God. They were not bearing the fresh, ripe fruit of heaven, but rather the rotten fruit of false teachings and work-righteousness.
And they didn’t like what the faithful servants had been saying through the years. Whether it was Moses, Jeremiah or Ezekiel proclaiming from the LORD himself the deterioration or demise of Israel, the “wicked tenants” throughout Jewish history maligned the owner’s servants, mocked them, and made their life miserable because their teaching was Gospel-centered, not Law-focused. But the worst was yet to come.
“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
For thousands of years, God the owner of the vineyard was faithful and gracious, reaching out to his chosen people with the message of the coming Messiah, advising his people not to fall away and assuring them that he wanted to help, protect and save them. When the time was right to send his beloved son, it was yet another act of reaching out in compassion to his people, but the people rejected Jesus as the Messiah and thus rejected the salvation he came to bring.
At the hands of these wicked tenants, Jesus was brought up on false charges, brought before civil and ceremonial courtrooms, beaten, bloodied, and bolted to a cross. The Passion History of our Savior read at each Wednesday worship during this Lenten season describes the rejection of Jesus by his own people. Such accounts can fittingly bring a tear to our eyes, a quiver in our voice and a heaviness to our chest. How could Annas, Caiaphas, Judas and the others not see who this Jesus was and reject him as their Savior? How could they work to bring about his death?
For every one of their rejections of Jesus, you and I can find numerous rejections of our own that brought about Jesus’ death. You gave every indication to your roommate that you didn’t know Jesus when you said it was just fine to go on that drinking binge last week. You didn’t want anything to do with Jesus when you supported your son’s decision to shack up with his girlfriend. You rejected Jesus when you stole pay from your employer by showing up for work, but didn’t work.
For these and all of our sins, you and I deserve what the Jews received as a result of their rejection of Jesus. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
Death. Death in hell is what we deserve from God for our rejection of his servants and his son. Separation from him and all his blessings for all eternity is our expected punishment.
The Jews had their privileged status as God’s chosen people taken away from them because they rejected Jesus. Paul speaks about that in today’s second lesson: “branches were broken off…they were broken off because of unbelief” (Ro 11:19,20). He then warns us, “Do not be arrogant, but stand by faith. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either” (Ro 11:20-21).
As the people standing around Jesus said that day after hearing the parable, “God forbid!” And God agrees! So he has done, and will continue to do, what you need to be saved. He has sent you his Son to live without sin, to die on a cross with your sins carried on his shoulders and to rise with his, and your, victory over sin, death and the devil in hand. He has given you Christian faith which saves because it depends on Jesus alone. He has made you part of his chosen people today.
You are connected to Jesus now. You are a branch on the life-giving vine. But you can break off and die eternally unless you continue to receive your nourishment from Jesus. His faith-building Word and his soul-strengthening Sacraments of Baptism and Communion are readily available for you so you do not get cut off…or crushed.
“ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” Jesus is our cornerstone. This can depict him as a strong, stable and upright force in our lives, but he can also bring death to those who reject him.
God forbid we ever reject Jesus or God ever rejects us! Rejection hurts him…and us! Thank God that he has won forgiveness for all the times we have rejected him in our thoughts, words or actions and that he has not rejected us!