The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
October 8, 2017
Sermon Text: Matthew 21:33-46
Peace be unto you from our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
In last week’s Adult Bible Class, we reviewed the glorious Creation account as recorded in Genesis, chapter one. What an amazing world God created. And in regard to all that He made, He saw and it was good.
Today, in our Gospel lesson, Jesus says to the chief priests and the elders, “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. (Matthew 21:33)
The “vineyard,” my friends, is the world and the people of the world that the Lord our God created. And you and I know that a vineyard is planted, managed and maintained for one reason… to bear fruit, produce fruit. Fruit that will then go to the winepress which the “master of the house” also includes on site.
He even protects this vineyard, putting up a fence around it. Fences are also built for one reason… to separate. In this case, to keep those on the outside from coming in and doing damage… and to keep those on the inside from wandering away from the vineyard and putting themselves and the vineyard in peril.
And then… then, the master of the house leases this beautiful vineyard to tenants. After all, a “tenant” does not own the property, but is given the opportunity to live there, reside there and enjoy all the blessings of the same.
But we need to be careful in regard to the use of the word “tenant” used here in our text because it does not simply refer to a person who just lives on the property… someone who just occupies space there. No, the word in the Greek is far more specific. It refers to a “tiller of the soil” or a “vinedresser.”
With this in mind, our Lord’s parable is best understood by picturing the master of the house leasing the vineyard to those who are going to work the vineyard, take care of the vineyard. Such is their calling… their charge… their duty and privilege.
In this regard, Adam and Eve were the first tenants, the first tillers of the soil, the first vinedressers of the land, if you will. It is interesting, however, with the progression of sin, how mankind has become so lazy and lethargic where, as a whole, we want to get out of work or do the least amount of work… expend the least amount of effort and energy. For too many, their idea of paradise is lying around, lounging around in the lap of luxury. On a beach would be nice!
“Work” may literally be a four-letter word, but it is not a “four-letter word” … that is, a derogatory word… in God’s sight. Thankfully, joyfully, it will be something we will do in heaven with great joy and gladness throughout eternity… loving every minute of it, no longer producing fruit by “the sweat of our brow” which, you will remember, was one of the consequences of sin.
Adam and Eve, the first of the workers in God’s vineyard, with all who followed them were likewise given the same privilege and charge right down to this very day with you and me. We are the tenants, the tillers of the soil… the vinedressers.
We are the tenants of God’s “vineyard” here on earth and all that He has made… and yes, tenants of the “House” … the “Master’s House” mentioned that is often overlooked in this text… that is, the place where the Master resides… namely, God’s Holy House… the Church.
Going on in our lesson, you heard how the tenants behaved. You heard what they did to the Master’s servants… each and every one of them… those who were called and ordained to go and gather the MASTER’S fruit, not theirs. On this note, may we never forget for a moment whose vineyard this is… that we are in… and the fruit there of.
Our Lord is speaking here of all of the Prophets of the Old Testament that were divinely sent to the people, to the tenants… to gather the spiritual fruit that is righly due the Master. And again, to a person, how each of them will be abused and mistreated… how their message, the Master’s message will be either ignored or rejected.
Jesus tells the chief priests, the elders, the world and all of us, “The tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” (Matthew 21:35-39)
We know what our Lord is referring to. We know Who our Lord is referring to… Himself! That which, in short order, the wicked tenants will do to Him… He who is the very Son of God. And Jesus even foretells that He will be killed not in the vineyard… in this case, Jerusalem… but outside of the vineyard… at Golgotha.
Caught up in the parable as if it were just a parable, the chief priests and elders even admit what the Owner of the vineyard will do to these tenants. “They said to [Jesus], ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.’” (Matthew 21:41)
Very perceptive! And even more, our text goes on to say that the chief priests and elders come to realize that all that Jesus was sharing with them… talking to them about, had to do with them… directly with them.
To each, our Lord was saying, “You’re the man!” And to all of them collectively, “You’re the ones!” And they knew it. Which, ironically leads them to do the very thing Christ said would be done by the tenants to the Master’s Son.
The question is, dear brothers and sisters… how spiritually perceptive are we? To see… really see and know… that all of this pertains to us as well. That you are the man and so am I!
That we have not been faithful tenants of God’s vineyard and God’s house. That even though we have been chosen by God’s grace and good measure to dwell here, to live in the Master’s house and among this beautiful vineyard… where we are wonderfully provided for, protected and secure by a fence of His building, all out of love for us… where we can enjoy the fruit of this vineyard now and always…
… and yet refuse to give the Master what is truly due Him, fully due Him, in regard to the fruits of our labor, our life… all that we have… all that HE has given to us.
… and where we likewise mistreat His servants, ignore His servants… who come in the name of the Lord to gather the Lord’s harvest.
… and where we, too, had a part in the killing of the Master’s Son… where we had a hand in it… a hand on the whip that scourged Him… a hand on the crown of thorns thrust violently on His head… a hand on the hammer that nailed our dear Savior to the cross… a hand on the spear that was thrust into His side… a hand in laying His lifeless body in the tomb.
Indeed, how perceptive are we… how understanding and fully aware of our guilt… our complicity… in the deplorable state of our Lord’s vineyard here on earth… of the embarrassingly meager yield of fruit – collectively and individually… of our sin against the Master of the House and His Son… of our sin against our fellow tenants?
“Well, that’s certainly something to consider Pastor.” If that’s it… if that is our response with who knows how much consideration and soul-searching to follow… than this has been pretty much all been for naught. The last ten minutes or so.
If any consideration does not lead to action… on our own individual part… as well as collectively… we need to realize the ramifications of the same… the vineyard being turned over to those who will tend to it and give of its fruit properly and fully. And we will find ourselves on the other side of the fence.
My friends, how perceptive are we of the real situation involving and surrounding us? How perceptive are we of the forgiveness that is ours for all the ways that we have failed and fallen… all the ways that we have sinned against the Master of House and His Son and that in that Son, our Savior, Jesus, all of our sins have been blotted out?
How perceptive are we that His Holy Spirit is upon us that we can take action and now, from this moment forth, truly work in His vineyard, tend to His vineyard and bear the fruits of faith, love, mercy and compassion and so much more… and this, in great abundance all to the glory of God?
How perceptive? Very perceptive. And this by the Lord our God working mightily in us and through us. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Very Perceptive” 10/8/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lock