Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Fifth Sunday in Lent (C)
March 17, 2013
Text: Luke 20:9-20

            Talk about prodigal.  Talk about extravagant mercy.  Last week we heard of the prodigal father, who unconditionally received his son back into his household and into his love after that son had squandered the property in reckless living (Luke 15:11-32).  This teaches us about God’s prodigal love and mercy for us sinners, whom He receives into His household, the Church, and into His love as sons and daughters, for the sake of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  Today, our Lord tells us another parable about God’s prodigal mercy, the parable of the vineyard and the wicked tenants (20:9-20).  Prodigal, remember, means wasteful or reckless.  Just a superficial reading of our Gospel this morning leads us to the conclusion that God is wasteful and reckless with His mercy.  For in the parable, the vineyard owner is God.  The tenants are the Jewish religious authorities.  The vineyard is Israel, the Church of the Old Covenant.  And this is a parable about God’s patience.  God is patient with His people, prodigally so.  And in this patience, He sent servant after servant, which is to say, prophet after prophet, to the tenants that He might receive some of the fruit of His vineyard.  And prophet after prophet was rejected, persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, killed.  Elijah was relentlessly pursued by Queen Jezebel, who sought to kill him.  According to tradition, Isaiah was sawn in two.  Jeremiah was persecuted throughout his prophetic ministry, and finally taken in captivity to Egypt where he died.  Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, was murdered between the altar and the sanctuary for calling Judah to repentance (Matt. 23:35; 2 Chron. 24:20-22).  And, of course, there are many more examples.  God sends prophet after prophet into the slaughter, to call His people to repentance.  What would an ordinary vineyard owner do?  After such mistreatment of only one of the servants, he would evict the wicked tenants by force, have them arrested, perhaps even executed.  But that’s not what God does.  He’s patient.  He’s prodigal.  He keeps sending servants to proclaim repentance in His Name.  He is the prodigal vineyard owner in our text. 
            However, things can only go on this way for so long.  Finally, in the parable, the vineyard owner asks, “What shall I do?” (Luke 20:13; ESV).  Things have come to such a pass that there must be some decisive action on the vineyard owner’s part.  “I know!” says the vineyard owner.  I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him” (v. 13).  It’s like a horror movie, when the victim-to-be is reaching for the door knob and you’re screaming at the television screen, “Don’t do it!  The killer is right behind the door!”  But he does it anyway.  You know what’s going to happen next in Jesus’ parable, right?  You can see it coming.  The tenants see the son, and they say to themselves, “This is the heir.  Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours” (v. 15). “I mean, the vineyard owner has sent servant after servant, and we’ve abused them and even killed them, but he hasn’t evicted us or come at us with force yet.  There has been no judgment.  So here’s our chance.  We’ll kill the son and the vineyard owner will give up.  As usual, he’ll do nothing.  Then the vineyard will be ours.”  What they didn’t count on was the owner’s patience coming to an end.  What will happen?  What will the owner do to the wicked tenants?  He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others” (v. 16).  Through the whole history of the Old Testament, God had been patient with His people, and if you’ve read the Old Testament at all, you know that the people tried His patience at every turn.  He sent them prophets.  He sent them deliverers.  They rejected Him time and time again.  And now, God sent His Son.  God sent Jesus, born of a woman to live under the Law and fulfill it, to die for our transgression of it.  And die He did.  The wicked tenants, the Jewish authorities, handed Him over to the Romans to be killed outside the vineyard, outside the city, on a cross.  It was the ultimate rejection of the Son and the Father (note this very carefully: It is not the case that the Jews worship the Father apart from the Son.  There is no Father without the Son).  And so, what happened?  The Father took the stewardship away from the religious leaders of Israel and gave it to the Gentiles.  That’s you and me.  The Christian Church is the new Israel, the people of God.  And the nation of Israel, as it was in the Old Testament, is over.  The modern state of Israel is not the same thing as biblical Israel.  God’s Israel is His Church.  There are many Jews in the Church, to be sure… those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the fulfillment of the Scriptures.  But the Gospel is given to Gentiles as well, and thank God for that, because we’re all here in this place gathered around the gifts of our Lord Jesus Christ by grace, because God has graciously and prodigally included even us in His covenant people, the New Testament in Jesus’ blood.  The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (v. 17).  Our Lord Christ was rejected by the leaders of His Old Testament people.  He was killed.  He was crucified.  But that couldn’t keep Him down.  He’s become the cornerstone, the chief stone of a new building, the Holy Christian Church, of which the Holy Spirit has made us members by our rebirth in water and the Word. 
            But be warned.  If God’s patience with His Old Testament people came to an end, it can come to an end for us as well.  For God still sends His servants to preach in His Name, to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus, and gather in the fruits of faith in Christ.  God is patient.  He sent His Son to redeem you.  He sends His preachers to preach to you.  But finally there comes a point for those who have rejected the Son where the time of grace comes to an end and God’s patience runs out.  That point is death, or the return of Jesus to judge, whichever comes first.  At that point there is only judgment.  At that point this Cornerstone will destroy those who have rejected Him.  They’ll be broken to pieces, crushed.  That’s where rejection of the Son ends up.  That’s the route the unbelieving world is taking.  But not so, you.  Let it never be so for you.  Have no confidence in the flesh.  Trust in no righteousness within yourself, as if there is any.  Trust not the world, nor the things of the world.  They can’t help you.  Rather, heed the Word of the Father that He sends with His preachers.  Heed the Word of the Father which He sends in the Person of His Son, Jesus.  Believe Him.  Trust Him.  You see, the fruit God desires to collect in the vineyard of His Church is you, united to Him by faith, a faith given to you freely by the Holy Spirit in the Word and Sacraments.  Such faith receives Christ as its all.  Beloved, Christ is everything.  All that is not Christ is worthless.  Thus St. Paul preaches to us, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:8-9).  Faith receives Christ and His messengers.  Unbelief rejects Christ and His messengers.  Faith is counted as righteousness by God, because faith receives the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  Faith clings to the Word, and the Word imparts Christ. 
            Behold, the prodigal love of God, the love that sends preacher after preacher with His Word, the love that sends the beloved Son, Jesus, for you, to be rejected for you, to suffer for you, to bleed for you, to die on the cross for you.  And then to be raised, the Stone that was rejected to be the Cornerstone, upon which is built the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, you yourself a living stone of the building that is the holy Church.  The LORD has done a new thing (Is. 43:19).  He has given the Son to redeem you, to bring you to new life, to make you an heir of the Kingdom, God’s own child.  In the death of the Son, the vineyard is yours.  Prodigal?  Absolutely.  Extravagant?  You bet.  This is once again our prodigal God in action, for us.  For “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.              


Blogger ellen boyce said...

Thanks for your excellence in breaking the Word. I always look for your sermons here. What a joy we have in being an heir of the Kingdom.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

Thanks Ellen. God bless you!

1:48 PM  

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