************ Sermon on Luke 20:14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 24, 2019
"Let's Kill Him"
It is the week of Good Friday. It may surprise you to learn Jesus is thinking about more than the cross and the grave as He teaches the people in the temple courts and preaches the Gospel (Lk 20:1).
The people are listening. They are listening eagerly. The leaders, the chief priests and teachers of the law and elders, are also listening. They, too, are hanging on to every word Jesus says; but they are listening for a reason to kill Him (Lk 19:47). They want Jesus dead because He threatens their authority, their religion, their position. Jesus knows their hatred so He speaks three parables about the leaders (cf vs 19). Matthew states all three of them, Luke states only one.
I The Parable Itself
A "A man planted a vineyard." Easy to understand. The country of Israel has two kinds of agricultural land: flat ground where grain is planted and terraced hillsides where vineyards are planted. Terraced hillsides planted with grapes are a very familiar image.
The vineyard is "rented to some farmers." Again, something familiar to Jesus' audience. These farmers are sharecroppers who look after the vines. They have a contract with the owner to pay a certain percentage of the crop at harvest time.
The owner, we are told, "went away for a long time." An absentee landlord. He took a trip. A long trip. This owner is gone for such a long time that he doesn't come back between the time he rents out the vineyard and the time of harvest. Again, this is something ordinary and common.
"At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard." The servant is an authorized representative of the owner. He goes to the farmers to get the owner's share. Again, nothing unusual. This is normal and common, even today.
B But now we come to something that is not ordinary and common, something surprising and shocking in the story of Jesus. "But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed." It is illegal to break a contract by not paying. It is criminal to beat the servant. The word for "beat" is a strong word; it means a full body beating, from head to toe, with bruises and cuts and scrapes everywhere.
Verse 11 tells us the owner's response: "He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed." The owner then proceeds to send a third servant "and they wounded him and threw him out."
The behavior of the tenants is amazing and shocking.
Just as amazing and shocking is the behavior of the owner. After what happened to the first servant he has the right to call in the authorities to punish and to take his share. He doesn't. Instead, he displays amazing patience and kindness and mercy. He sends a second servant and then a third servant. He gives the tenants every opportunity to do what is right, to live up to the agreement.
He asks a question in verse 13: "What shall I do?" Everyone in Jesus' audience knows what he needs to do: vengeance, revenge, justice, retribution. After servant number one. Even more so after servant two and three. "What shall I do?" That's easy: call the police, call the governor, call out the army. But the owner is so patient, so incredibly patient, and decides to go another route: "I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him."
C Does this work? "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.'" They recognize the son as son; they know who he is. They talk, they dialogue, they discuss with one another. Recognize this as thoughtful planning. As pre-meditated.
A question I have always had: How can they possibly think the land will be theirs if they kill the son? The tenants wrongly assume the presence of the son means the father is dead. They further assume there is no other heir. Now, according to the Jewish Talmud, if the owner and heir are dead and no one claims the land, then after three years it becomes the property of those who work it. "Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." So they throw him out of the vineyard and kill him. What a shocking story designed to generate outrage against the evil tenants.
Jesus asks, "What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?" "He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others." Of course this is what will happen. That's exactly what should happen. According to Matthew's version of this parable (Mt 21), it is the people who say these two things. "He will come and kill those tenants." And, "give the vineyard to others."
II The Explanation of the Parable
A When the people heard this, they said, "May this never be!" Understand this as the strongest possible negative. "No, no, no, no. Absolutely not. Never. This can't be."
When the people "heard" this. That is, when they grasp what Jesus is saying, when they understand what Jesus is saying, when they comprehend what Jesus is saying. A light comes on and they suddenly see the meaning of the parable. "May this never be!" "No, no, no, no. Absolutely not. Never. This can't be."
Let's go through the parable again and see what they understand.
"A man planted a vineyard." The man is God. The vineyard is Israel. The people know Isaiah 5. According to Isaiah, God did everything possible for His vineyard. It is now 600 years later and Jesus says nothing has changed. Israel continues to be God's vineyard.
Who are the tenants, the farmers? They are the religious leaders. Before the time of Jesus they are the patriarchs, judges, prophets, priests, and kings of Israel. At the time of Jesus they are the chief priests, teachers of the law, elders, Pharisees, Sadducees, and high priests (vs 19). It is their job to care for the vines. They are the ones responsible for the spiritual welfare of the people.
B "At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants ..." Here we have the history of the Old Testament prophets, true prophets. There are so many of them: Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Amos, Malachi, John the Baptist, and others. How were they treated? You know: criticized, beaten, wounded, cast out, killed, stoned, imprisoned, rejected, mistreated.
One of the most shocking features of Jewish history is the hostility of the kings, priests, and people to every true prophet of God. Listen to what God says through Jeremiah as an example of this:
(Jer 7:25-26) From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. (26) But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers.Listen to what Jesus says about this:
(Lk 13:34) "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you ...And, remember what Stephen said:
(Acts 7:51-52) "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! (52) Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?
Equally shocking is the response of God. God is patient, so very patient. He sends prophet after prophet after prophet. Each is mistreated but He keeps sending them with a message of repentance and salvation. So prophets come and prophets go.
To finish interpreting the parable we need to go back to the question of the owner in verse 13: "What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love, perhaps they will respect him." We all know what this refers to -- the coming of Jesus, the ministry of Jesus. Because Jesus is the beloved Son.
Jesus is different from all the other messengers. He is not a servant. He is the Son. His is divine authority. His is the right to obedience and honor and respect. So they should show Him reverence. They should submit to Him. They should listen to Him.
But they don't. When they see Him they hate Him. They know Who He is. His birth, His life, His miracles, His teachings all proclaim Him to be the Son of God. Like the tenants, they know He is the heir. They know. It is never a question of a lack of evidence. They know He speaks the words of God. They never deny a single of His miracles. Yet they hate Him, despise Him, reject Him, and plot His death. "This is the heir," they said. "Let's kill Him."
See what Jesus is saying in this parable? He is predicting His rejection. He is predicting His suffering. He is predicting His death. At the hands of the leaders.
C Now back to what the people say: "He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others." What have they just said? They realize they have just condemned their nation, their religion, their spiritual leaders. "May this never be!" "No, no, no, no. Absolutely not. Never. This can't be."
Earlier, in Luke 19, Jesus describes what will happen:
(Lk 19:43-44) The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. (44) They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.Jesus is predicting the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans. At that time, thousands of Jews were slaughtered and the city and the Temple were destroyed. From that moment on no priesthood existed in Israel, no sacrifices, no ceremonies, no Sadducees, no Pharisees, no chief priests, no high priests, no genealogies to identify the line of the Messiah or the priestly families. The leaders are gone. That's what Jesus is saying in the parable.
When the people understand the story they panic. "May this never be!" "No, no, no, no. Absolutely not. Never. This can't be."
III The Replacement Tenants
This brings us to the second part of verse 16: "He will ... give the vineyard to others." What does this mean? The leaders of Israel are wolves dressed in sheep's clothing. So other spiritual leaders will be appointed. People who guard the truth of God. People who protect the Lord's vineyard. Apostate leaders will be replaced. You know who the new leaders are: the apostles and disciples of Jesus.
At the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts we see 11 men, 12 after the addition of Matthias. Most of them fishermen, unskilled by the standard of the Pharisees, unimportant in the view of the world. Jesus says to them, "You are the new tenants of my vineyard. You are appointed to look after my vineyard. You are appointed to guard my people."
It starts with the apostles. Then the associates of the apostles. Then the pastors and elders who follow them. Their stewardship, our stewardship, is pretty simple: "Preach the Word. Teach sound doctrine. Explain and apply the Scriptures." That's how we are to look after the Lord's vineyard.
IV The Cornerstone
In verse 17 Jesus applies the parable -- but in an unexpected way. The parable has ended. It is tragic for the servants sent by the owner. It is tragic for the tenants. It is tragic for the son. At this point we would expect Jesus to talk about the death of the son and state clearly, "The Son is me. It is my death I am talking about." But He doesn't. Rather, He talks about His coming glory.
Do you hear what Jesus is saying? He is saying the death of the son is not the end of the story. As proof, He refers them to Psalm 118:22 -- "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone."
In ancient times a building starts with a cornerstone. The cornerstone has to be perfect. It has to be perfect on every plane. It has to be perfect on the bottom so the building is flat. It has to be perfect on the sides so the walls are perpendicular to each other. It has to be perfect on the top so the walls don't tilt in or out. The cornerstone sets every angle for the building. Builders know they need an absolutely perfect cornerstone. So stone after stone is rejected before they find the perfect one.
Jesus has shifted to another image. He is talking about a building instead of a vineyard. The religious leaders are builders instead of tenants. He is a perfect cornerstone instead of a son collecting rent. But the result is the same: He is still rejected. The builders say, "You are not perfect. We can't accept you. You won't do as the cornerstone."
Jesus points the leaders and the people to Psalm 118: "the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." Jesus will be killed on Good Friday. But Jesus will also arise from the grave, ascend into heaven, and sit at God's right hand. The stone that did not measure up to their standards becomes the most important stone in the church of God.
We end with Jesus' word of warning. "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."
Be careful, congregation, because the stone can destroy you. Whether you fall on the stone or the stone falls on you, you will be broken. Look at the tenants, the builders. They fall on the stone and they are destroyed and Israel and their religion is no more.
So, what about you? Do you submit to the Son and honor Him and reverence Him? Do you stand on Him as the cornerstone? Or, will He destroy you as He destroyed the tenants?
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