Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost (A)
October 5, 2008
Text: Is. 5:1-7; Matt. 22:33-46

The chief priests and Pharisees had greatly mismanaged the things of God with which they had been entrusted. They were the spiritual leaders of Israel, and God had entrusted His people into their care. But these spiritual leaders had failed in one important point, the most important point… They had not pointed the people, Israel, to God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. And so we have here one more example of the rebelliousness of God’s chosen people, and one more example of God’s longsuffering with them, as Jesus calls them once again to repentance and faith in the one true God.

Israel is God’s vineyard. He loves His vineyard, so much so that He even writes a song about it by the pen of His prophet, Isaiah: “My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes… for the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting” (Is. 5:1-2, 7; ESV). So greatly does the Lord God love His vineyard, Israel, that He plants it in a very fertile land where grapes can hardly help but grow. He removes every impurity, every stone, and plants the choicest of vines. He protects His vineyard against every enemy from without, any person or animal that might harm the vineyard or steal its fruit. And all He asks of the vineyard is that it do what comes naturally to a vineyard, produce grapes… grapes that God can take and make into delicious wine. In other words, God is looking for faith and obedience on the part of His people Israel, His beloved vineyard. But something goes desperately wrong. While God looks for choice grapes, His vineyard yields only wild grapes, unusable grapes. But what more could God have done for His vineyard? He planted only the choicest vines in the most fertile soil. He protected it from within and without. No more favorable growing condition is to be found. “(H)e looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!” (v. 7). “And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard,” says the Lord God. “I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it” (vv. 5-6). God will remove every protection. He will remove every blessing. If the vineyard will not produce grapes, God will tear it apart in judgment. We know the story of Israel, how God led them out of Egypt with His righteous right hand and planted them in the Promised Land, driving out the Canaanites before them. Not by their might did they come into possession of this land. They were cowards in the wilderness. No, God alone planted them in Canaan. Yet time and time again, Israel rebelled against God. Time and time again, God sent His prophets to Israel. And His prophets were shamefully mistreated and killed. The people did not heed the Lord’s warning. They did not repent. No one can blame God if He obliterates His vineyard. But so great is His love for His vineyard, even though all the prophets have been shamefully mistreated and even killed, God says to Himself, “I will send my Son.” And of course, we know what happens next. The chief priests and Pharisees, the spiritual leaders of Israel, deliver the Son over to death. They stir up the people before Pontius Pilate. “Crucify Him!” they cry. And they take Jesus outside of the city, outside of the vineyard, and they put Him to death.

Jesus’ parable in our Gospel lesson this morning is nothing less than a description of Israel’s history. The prophets are the servants whom the owner of the vineyard sends to the wicked tenants to gather His fruit. The wicked tenants are the spiritual leaders of Israel who mismanage and make shipwreck of the things of God with which they are entrusted. And these wicked tenants beat and kill and stone the prophets sent to them. It’s enough to make you weep. In fact, Jesus did weep over His vineyard, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matt. 23:37). No one could blame God if in His justice He had wiped these wicked, murderous tenants off the face of the earth. But instead God does something unimaginable. He sends His Son! He sends Jesus! And even more unimaginable, He does this knowing the outcome. He knows, in contrast to the owner in the parable, that the wicked tenants will not respect His Son, as they should. He knows that they will throw Him out of the vineyard and put Him to death. The Son knows this, as well. Yet Father and Son are perfectly willing. For they love the vineyard. And mystery of mysteries, they love even the wicked tenants, and desire that the wicked tenants repent.

What wondrous love is this? “O love, how deep, how broad, how high, Beyond all thought and fantasy, That God, the Son of God, should take Our mortal form for mortals’ sake!… For us by wickedness betrayed, For us, in crown of thorns arrayed, He bore the shameful cross and death; For us He gave His dying breath” (LSB 544:1, 5).

There is a judgment for the wicked tenants, however, when even after the Father sends His Son they do not repent. “‘When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’… ‘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’” (Matt. 21:40-41). The judgment is this: the wicked tenants are cast out. The chief priests and Pharisees are no longer the shepherds of God’s flock. In fact, the vineyard has been given to others. The people of Israel are no longer God’s chosen nation. The Gentiles have been brought into God’s vineyard, you and I, made into the new spiritual Israel, the holy Christian Church. But take warning from the parable. If God has so dealt with His chosen people Israel, casting out the tenants and delivering the nation to judgment, how will He deal with us if we are unfaithful? The stone rejected by Israel is the cornerstone of the New Testament Church, even Jesus Christ. But He is still a stone. Anyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush Him. There is a judgment, the great Day when Jesus returns, and all who are found faithless, unfruitful, outside of Christ, will be cast into hell with the devil and his evil angels.

Then again, we need to be broken to pieces. We need to be crushed. We need to be crushed now, before Judgment Day arrives, which is to say, we need to be crushed by the Law, to repent for all of our unfaithfulness; for our flippant attitude toward the Word of God, our despising of His gifts, our living for self, our breaking of every one of His Commandments, and our refusal to bring forth fruit for God. For God also sends His Word to us, not just to the people of Israel. His prophets are also sent to us. His apostles are sent to us. His Son is sent to and for us. They are sent to call us to repentance. They are sent to call us to faith, faith in the very Son who was cast outside the vineyard and killed, killed for the very wicked tenants who put Him to death, killed for the nation of Israel, killed for you and for me and for all people. He is killed for our forgiveness. How remarkable! “For us he prayed; for us He taught; For us His daily works He wrought, By words and signs and actions thus Still seeking not Himself but us” (LSB 544:4). And then for us He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. For us He shed His holy, precious blood. As one dear saint who is now in heaven always loved to remind us in this congregation, “Imagine how He could do that for us. What great love the Savior must have for us.”

Indeed, God loves His vineyard. He loves His people. He loves you. Therefore repent. Be fruitful once again. Trust in Christ Jesus alone for salvation and every grace and blessing. Receive His gifts. Give thanks to God. Be the people He has called you to be, forgiven, redeemed, and fruitful. Love and serve your neighbor. Be a little Christ to your brothers and sisters throughout the world, sacrificing yourself for their benefit. For God loves you. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). So great is God’s love for you, He has even written a song about you by the pen of His prophet Isaiah: “My beloved had a vineyard…” (Is. 5:1). He planted it on the fertile hill of the Christian Church. He watered it with baptismal waters. He nourished it with His Word and Supper. He made it holy, digging out every stone. He fenced it in and watched over it. And this time, God Himself brought forth great fruit, by the power of His Holy Spirit. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Anonymous Julie R. said...

Thank you Jon. I needed this sermon as the one I heard at church today was without nourishment.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

Thank you, Julie. The Lord be with you.

12:09 PM  

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