Luke 20:9-20 (Fifth Sunday in Lent—Series C)
“Now It’s Getting Serious”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
April 7, 2019
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel Lesson recorded in Luke 20:
And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And 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 destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” 19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.
Good morning and thank you for tuning in to our program. We have some breaking news out of Jerusalem today. Hostilities against Jesus of Nazareth have escalated again. Things are getting serious. A few days ago, Jesus rode a donkey colt into the city, following the road from the Mount of Olives. “A multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’” (Luke 19:37-38). There were some Pharisees in the crowd who ordered Jesus to rebuke his disciples for claiming him to be the promised Messiah-Savior. But Jesus refused, saying, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40).
The next day as Jesus entered the temple, he began to drive out those who sold, declaring that “It stands written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers” (Luke 19:45-46). Despite this, Jesus was daily teaching in the temple. Our sources tell us that the “chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy Jesus,” but they didn’t find anything they could do because all the people were hanging on his words (Luke 19:47-48).
Next, they directly confronted Jesus. The chief priests, scribes, and elders faced off with him, “Tell us, by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things” (Lk. 20:3-8 ESV).
And then Jesus told a parable about some wicked tenant farmers who would not give the vineyard owner his portion of the fruit. In fact, these tenants beat, treated shamefully, and sent two slaves home empty handed and killed the third. Then, the Lord of the vineyard sent his beloved son. They threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Moral of the story: The Lord of the vineyard will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. And the people who heard it gasped, “May this never happen!” Truly, the people understood what the story was all about. The scribes and chief priests understood what the story was all about—they realized that Jesus spoke the parable against them. Now, they wanted to seize Jesus right then and there, but they couldn’t because they were afraid of the people who supported Jesus. Sources tell us that the religious leaders have now sent hypocrite spies to keep watch on him to see if they can trap him in his words in order to hand him over to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.
As you can see, things have gotten very serious regarding Jesus of Nazareth. If the truth be told, I would not be surprised that if, by the end of the week, Jesus was dead and buried, killed by the religious leaders in one of their plots against him. That’s the point we’re at. The situation has escalated to this most serious moment in time. Either you are for Jesus or you are against Jesus.
And to be against Jesus is to be against God, who sent His beloved Son into the vineyard. To be against Jesus is to seek to steal the inheritance for yourself. After all, shouldn’t the Kingdom of God be yours? Shouldn’t you be in complete control of your eternal destiny, live the way you want to live, do whatever it takes to be first and in charge? Shouldn’t it be “my way or the highway”? Forget about all the “rules and regulations,” having to contribute some of the fruit of your life to the owner’s storehouse. You worked for it; it’s yours. It’s all about you. It’s all about your happiness, your control, your wants, your needs.
And when the Lord of the vineyard sends His prophets, apostles, and pastor-teachers to proclaim His Word of Law to you . . . will you listen? Or will you beat them, treat them shamefully, send them away empty-handed, or kill them? What will you do when you are confronted by the Word of God that condemns you as a sinner? What will happen to you, O sinner, when the Stone falls on you and breaks you to pieces? Have you not already had that experience, falling on that Stone (Jesus) and being broken? You have stubbed your toe, so to speak, and it hurts. Christ pulls you up short with His Word of Law that condemns you in your sins of thought, desire, word, an action. Christ has stopped you in your path with the message that you are not god, you are not in control, you are not what you think you are. Like looking into a mirror, the Word of Christ’s Law has caused you to see the shoddiness of your thinking and the ugliness of your living. His Word, sharper than any two-edged sword, has cut you to the quick. It hurts. It condemns. It kills.
And under the condemnation of the Law, Jesus was killed outside the city of Jerusalem. But He is the sinless One! He is true God and true Man. He is in control. He is exactly who He said He is, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior. But that means that He is also the substitute for every sinner who has beaten, treated shamefully, and send God’s Word and His messengers away empty-handed. Jesus took His place under the condemning Law of God in order to suffer its punishments of death and hell for you. In the fullness of time, God the Father sent His One-of-a-Kind Son to people who would reject and despise and ultimately kill Him so that the real vineyard, the whole Kingdom of God, mighty truly belong to you.
“Look, this is the heir,” the wicked tenants conspired, “Let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.” They were thinking “hostile takeover.” God the Father was thinking “the gift of adoption.” The heir, the Son, comes and is killed on a cross according to the Scriptures so that you and I and all people, even the wicked tenants, might be made heirs according to the promise of God. Yes, the inheritance of salvation is theirs too—for the asking! This inheritance of eternal life and salvation was won for all people because this was the plan of God. Jesus the Son willingly allowed Himself to be handed over to the rule and authority of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, in order to be crucified, to die, and to be buried, and on the third day, to rise again, purchasing for all people the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Today, God keeps sending and sending for the benefit of people. He raises up pastors and teachers, deaconesses, and other professional church workers; He appoints in our midst Sunday School teachers, Bible class leaders, and people just like you who have been made Christ’s heirs by Baptism and who now share the Word in both Law and Gospel with others, ultimately pointing them to Jesus and His cross where they find forgiveness of sins and new life.
Why does God continue to send His Word among us and through us? Because things have gotten serious. Jesus, who died and rose and ascended, is coming again. God is patiently waiting for His Christian people to share the Gospel with others so that they might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. That Lord wants them to know by faith that they too are heirs of Christ’s perfect life and salvation through the forgiveness of sins. For we who take seriously the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus understand the seriousness of sin and how it separates people from life with God forever. We understand and believe that’s why we have a Savior from sin, the beloved Son of God, who suffered the punishment for sin on the cross so that you and I and all people might no longer fear God’s punishment. Through faith in Jesus, we have everlasting life as heirs of the Kingdom. And this is the message that we, as heirs of the Kingdom, are sent to proclaim each and every day before Christ returns. As the hymnwriter penned:
Let none hear you idly saying,
“There is nothing I can do,”
While the multitudes are dying
And the Master calls for you.
Take the task He gives you gladly,
Let His work your pleasure be;
Answer quickly when He calleth,
“Here am I, send me, send me!” (LSB 826:4).
In the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, go forth this day as heirs of life and salvation through faith in Jesus. You are members of His Kingdom and you are His messengers of life and salvation to our community. Things are serious, so proclaim His Word of Law and Gospel. Share the hope that is in you as a child of God and an heir of the Kingdom. Amen.