171022 Matthews 21:33-43

Last Updated on Sunday, 22 October 2017 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Text: Matthew 21:33-43
Theme: By God's Grace We Produce Fruit!

In our Gospel lessons for the past few Sundays, we have read some of the parables Jesus used during his three year earthly ministry. The definition we give is that a parable is "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning". Parables were a teaching tool used quite often by the Savior to teach about such topics as the Last Day and his return, what it means to live as a child of God, who will be included in the kingdom of heaven and so on. In God's Word before us this morning, we have a parable of Jesus which he uses to teach about God's grace and that BY GOD'S GRACE WE PRODUCE FRUIT. I invite you to listen now as I read the Gospel Lesson assigned for our worship today. We read from Matthew 21:33-43:

"Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? " Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

As we look at the parables of Jesus, we need to be careful that we don't say more than the parable says to us. There are some details in a parable which don't always have an exact meaning. However, here in this parable we are able to make several conclusions. The landowner who planted the vineyard refers to God the Father. The farmers or tenants refers to the Children of Israel, God's once Chosen people. The servants are the messengers the Lord had sent to his people. The son in the parable is God's one and only Son, Jesus. And the vineyard is a reference to the Kingdom of God.

Just as the landowner took great care of his vineyard, so also the gracious heavenly Father took great care of his chosen people, the Children of Israel. Year after year, generation after generation, the Lord sent his servants, messengers, who would proclaim the Word of God to his people; prophets such as Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah. But as the Children of Israel walked farther and farther away from the Lord, the less they wanted to hear from him. As they rejected the Lord and his Word, they also rejected the Lord's servants, the prophets, who proclaimed that Word. As we read in Hebrews, chapter 11, some of God's prophets, "were tortured . . .some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two, they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated . . . they wondered in deserts and mountains, and in cave and holes in the ground."

Despite their rejection, the Lord did not give up on his people. Finally, moved by his grace, God the Father sent his one and only Son, Jesus, to the Children of Israel. But just as they had rejected the prophets, so many of the Children of Israel rejected Jesus as the promised Savior. They sentenced him to death. They led him to the cross and killed him. So, as Jesus says in the parable, since the Jews rejected him, many other people would be brought into the Kingdom of God.

There are several applications that we are able to take home with us from this parable. The first is just how serious a matter it is to reject Jesus as the promised Savior. As those who rejected Jesus themselves said, those who turn their backs on the Savior, the almighty God "will bring those wretches to a wretched end." God's judgment against unbelievers is a life that will not end in the fires of hell. That judgment is spoken of in our Old Testament Lesson for this morning. We read in Isaiah 5, "Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned or cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it."
This parable also brings out for us God's amazing grace in several ways. The greatest proof our God's amazing grace is found in his one and only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Jesus willingly came to this earth to pay the price demanded for your sins, my sins and the sins of the whole world. As the Savior himself says at the end of this parable, "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.'" While many reject the message of the Gospel, it is Jesus Christ who has opened the gates to eternal life for all believers, including you and me. Because of his perfect life and his innocent suffering and death, you and I know without any doubt that the price for our sins is paid in full. Heaven is our home. As we read in our Second Lesson earlier from Paul's letter to the Philippians, "Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."

This parable also teaches us about the care and the patience the Lord has as he deals with us in his grace. Our Father in heaven wants to see you and me working in his harvest field. He wants to see you and me living in his eternal vineyard. So, he gives us his Word which plants faith in our hearts. It is that Word of God which strengthens our God-given faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Yet, how much time do we actually spend in that Word? Do we offer all kinds of excuses why we aren't able to be in God's Word more? Do we ever find ourselves checking the time if a worship service goes on for more than an hour? When you and I are tempted to have this attitude towards the Word of our God, we do well to remember that the Bible is much more than a neat book to read simply when we have time. It is in the pages of the Bible that we have the Word of our living, gracious Savior-God. It is the Word of God which points out your sins and mine. It is the Word of God which points you and me to our one and only Savior. In Hebrews chapter 4 we read, "The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edge sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." And in Isaiah chapter 55 we read these beautiful words of our God, "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is the word that goes our from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Not only does God's Word proclaim the Good News about Jesus and give you and me faith in Jesus as our only Savior from sin, but, by the power of that same Word, the Holy Spirit leads you and me to produce fruit. That is, by God's grace each one of us has been blessed with the gifts and the abilities we have to be used for the good of God's kingdom. There are two sections in particular from God's Word that I would like to read for you at this time that speak about some of the many gifts God's grace has given to you and me. As I read these sections of Scripture, it is important for us to remember that while not all of us have the same gifts, each one of us does have at least one gift that the Lord has given to us by his grace.

Led by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul makes this very point when he writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good...All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."

Then there is this list of gifts mentioned in Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 12, "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."

The grace, that is the great, undeserved love of the one and only Savior-God, is a wonderful gift for you and me to enjoy. Through the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ, you and I enjoy full and free forgiveness of all sins. By that same grace, our loving God produces in you and me the fruits that he needs in his Church. Empowered by the Word of God, use the gifts his grace has given to you! Use them for the good of his Church! Use them to the praise of his name! Amen.

 

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