************ Sermon on Luke 20:17b ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on March 13, 2016

Luke 20:9-19
Luke 20:17b
"The Rejected Stone"

I The Authority of Jesus Questioned
A "The Authority of Jesus Questioned." That's the heading to Luke 20. The chief priests and the teachers of the law questioned the authority of Jesus after He cleansed the temple of those who were selling (Lk 19:45ff). The cleansing of the temple was a dramatic event that captured the attention of the people and aroused the anger of the Sanhedrin. After this, Jesus made the members of the Sanhedrin even more indignant by using the temple as His headquarters for teaching and ministry (Lk 19:47). So they decided to question Him. "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things," they said. "Who gave you this authority?" (Lk 20:2).

B Authority was very important to the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin. The chief priests claimed their authority from the Law of Moses which set the tribe of Levi apart to serve in the sanctuary. The scribes were the students of the Law and claimed their authority from the rabbis whose interpretations they studied. The elders of Israel were the leaders of the families and clans, chosen usually for their experience and wisdom. All of these men were sure of their authority and were not hesitant to ask Jesus about the source of His authority.

C Authority is important in any organization. President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk, "The Buck Stops Here." That was his way of saying his was the final authority (and responsibility). Authority is important in the church as well. In pastor's class one of the questions we always discuss is, "Who is the foundation, builder and owner of the church?" In other words, "Who has the final authority?" To date, everyone has correctly answered with "Jesus." Then I challenge the class. "What about the pastor? Does the pastor run the church?" "Does the congregation run the church?" "Do the biggest donors run the church?" So far they have all chorused back with a resounding "NO." Then we talk about how Christ rules His church through the elders.

As we observe Lent and celebrate the Lord's Supper let us remember that the church and its sacraments belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.

II God's Word Spoken
Jesus answered the question about authority by stating the parable in front of us this morning. Now, some parables have one main point and all of the details are used to support that point. In other parables, there is a major point, but the details all have significance in and of themselves. Such is the case with the parable in front of us on this Lord's Supper morning.

A man planted a vineyard. Everyone listening to Jesus knows he vineyard in the Old Testament is a common symbol for Israel. Thus, the man who planted the vineyard represents God. God had planted this vineyard by creating a covenant people.

The vineyard was rented out to some farmers. According to verse 19, the leaders of Israel knew Jesus had spoken the parable against them; therefore, the farmers represent the religious leaders of Israel. They were put in charge of God's covenant people.

The owner sent a series of servants to the vineyard to collect his rent, but the evil farmers beat up and abused each of them. Here we see a summary of the history of Old Testament Israel. For generation after generation, the people of God were led by dishonest priests and false prophets. God did not receive from them the fruit He desired. God sent prophets to bring about reformation, but Israel abused and killed the prophets.

The owner decided to send his son, the son he loves. Clearly, this refers to the coming of Jesus. Clearly, Jesus was proclaiming Himself to be the Son of God, the much loved Son of God.

The evil farmers decided to kill the son in order to take control of the vineyard. Here Jesus points ahead to His coming crucifixion and death. In this story, Jesus gave His own death announcement.

Finally, the owner avenges the death of his son and gives the vineyard to others. This is a prediction of the coming destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the Gentile mission of the church in the book of Acts.

III God's Word Rejected
A When we look at the parable we see that the rejection of the message and the messenger is harsher each time. The first servant is beaten. The second servant is not only beaten but also treated shamefully. The third servant is permanently wounded. And, none of the servants were able to collect the rent that was due.

The owner of the vineyard asks, "What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him." But the evil farmers kill even the owner's son.

Opportunity after opportunity is given to the evil farmers to repent. There is opportunity after opportunity for them to give the owner His share of the crop.

Don't we see here the history of Israel? And, don't we see here current history? God, like the owner of the vineyard, is so patient. God, like the owner of the vineyard, gives endless opportunity to repent. As Peter puts it,
(2 Pet 3:9) The Lord is ... patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
What does God want? He wants every person here to repent of their sin. He wants every person here to give Him fruit of repentance -- which means living for Him and His glory.

B In the parable the evil farmers decide to kill the son so the inheritance would be theirs. I have always wondered about the logic of these farmers. Why would they think the inheritance would be theirs by killing the son? I am confused because I am thinking of this in terms of our culture and our laws. Under Jewish law, any man could lay claim to ownerless property. The farmers must have concluded that with the death of the heir, they could claim the vineyard for themselves.

Remember, the parable was spoken against the leaders of the people. They wanted to kill Jesus so the vineyard would be theirs. They wanted Jesus out of the way so the nation and the people would be under their authority.

Here we see one of the major differences between the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. In Matthew, it is the people who yell, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" (Mt 27:22). In Luke, it is the leaders who shout for His crucifixion (Lk 23:21). Why this difference? From Luke's perspective, it is the leaders of the people, the religious leaders of Israel, who are responsible for the crucifixion. They, don't forget, are the evil farmers who kill the heir so the inheritance will be theirs.

IV God's Chosen Stone
A We've been talking about the Jewish leaders. But what about the Jewish people? When the people heard what Jesus said their response was, "May this never be!"

We are talking about the Jewish people. They knew their Scriptures. They knew that the vineyard is a common symbol for the nation of Israel. They knew that their leaders hated Jesus. They knew that the parable was spoken against their leaders. And, they loved Jesus. According to the last verse of Luke 19, they "hung on his words" (Lk 19:48).

"May this never be!" Jesus' message in the parable scared them. They did not want Jesus to be killed. Nor did they want their leaders to be killed because they realized that the death of their leaders also meant the destruction of Jerusalem and the nation.

B Jesus looked directly at them. At the people. He was speaking to them. He was answering their concern. He asked,
(Lk 20:17) "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone '?
This verse from Psalm 118 concerns a stone thrown away by the stone masons that became the capstone.

When Solomon's temple was being built, massive stones were chiseled miles away from the building site. When the stones arrived, one stone didn't fit and was thrown down the hill into the Kidron Valley. Later, it was discovered that the cornerstone was missing. Turns out the stone that had been rejected was the one that fit perfectly.

Jesus applies this to Himself. He is the stone rejected by the builders. He is the stone rejected by the leaders of the people. He is the stone that has been cast away. He is the son killed by the evil farmers. As you all know, He suffered and died on the cross. But everyone will soon find out that He is the capstone.

What is a capstone? When a stone arch is built, a stone is placed in the center at the top, holding the arch together. It is the focal point of the arch. It is what holds the arch together. Without the capstone, the arch would crumble.

Jesus, the rejected stone, becomes the capstone. How this must have shocked the leaders of the people. I can see the disbelief in their eyes. I can hear their snorts of denial: no way is this going to happen.

Yet, as we know, that's what Jesus is. Jesus is the capstone of the church. He is at the top and in the center. His is the authority (remember, the parable is said in response to a question about authority). He holds the church together. Without Jesus, there would be no church. Without Jesus, the church would crumble.

What is true for the church is also true for the individual Christian -- Jesus is our capstone. He is at the top and in the center of our lives. He holds us together -- mentally, physically, and spiritually. Without Him, we are nothing. Without Him, we have no hope. Without Him, life is meaningless and fruitless.

Is Jesus your capstone? Does He make you complete and strong? Is He your primary focus in everything you do? Is He the most important person in your life? Is He what holds you together? Is Jesus your cornerstone and foundation on which you build your life and values? Is He your hope, your salvation?

C We are celebrating the Lord's Supper today. If Jesus is not your capstone, we don't want you taking the bread and the cup. Why not? Because if Jesus is not your capstone, you will be eating and drinking judgment on yourself. Jesus talks about this judgment. He says,
(Lk 20:18) Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."

Telling us what? Telling us that if Jesus is NOT your capstone you will experience judgment. Telling us that if Jesus is NOT your capstone you will experience destruction. Telling us that if Jesus is NOT your capstone you will be crushed and broken to pieces.

The Pharisees had a choice. The people had a choice. On this Lord's Supper Sunday, you and I have a choice. Jesus either is the stone the builders rejected or He is the capstone. I invite you, by the grace of God, not to be like the evil farmers who rejected the owner's servants and son. I invite you, by the grace of God, not to be like the leaders of Israel who refused to listen to the Lord's prophets and killed His Son. I invite you, by the grace of God, to come to Jesus as the capstone.
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