Grace For The Journey
We are continuing our series of studies, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke. I believe the best way to studying and preaching is to go through Books of the Bible. That is the best way to learn what Paul called “the whole counsel of God,” studying each passage carefully in context, and unfolding the meaning and application of the passage. I believe God has a word for us each time we look into the Scriptures.
We have noted in recent weeks that as Jesus has made His way into Jerusalem He is coming up against a group of religious leaders who bristle at His authority. He has been making His way steadfastly since Luke 9:51 on a straight course to Jerusalem and He has now arrived in the city, riding on a donkey which symbolizes His authority as king, and then He cleanses the temple of the profiteers and this, too, is an exercise of His authority to rule and reign and so this little band of insecure religious leaders is now going to do something about it.
If you have ever watched brick masons work you will notice how they do not just lay the bricks but examine them very carefully before they put them in place. They have these pallets full of bricks and they will pick up the brick in one hand and chop at it with their trowel in the other hand, chipping off pieces so the bricks would fit properly in the structure, really an art form these guys have down. Sometimes I have watched them, and they would pick up a brick or a stone and they would look it over and toss it aside, rejecting it for present use. They might pick it up again later, but for the immediate task it was rejected.
This is a significant illustration because later on in our passage Jesus will refer to Himself as the Chief cornerstone. Those of you who build things know about the importance of the cornerstone or the capstone of a building. The cornerstone is the main stone that bears the weight and stress of two walls that are built upon it. Without this key cornerstone the two walls collapse and come tumbling down like a house of cards.
Jesus is the key or chief cornerstone upon which everything is built. Without Jesus, God’s building of the church collapses. But the religious leaders in Jesus’ day were blind to Christ’s authority as King, were blind to the church He was building, and so they rejected Him the way a brick mason rejects a stone, tossing it aside or throwing it away as useless.
Now we will come back to this picture as we make our way through the passage, a passage I have broken down into two main considerations.
First . . .
I. Consider The Authority And Rule Of Christ.
In verses 1-8, Luke provides for our consideration Christ’s authority and rule. We read in the opening two verses, “Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to Him, saying, ‘Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?’”
Remember that Jesus had come into Jerusalem riding a donkey, symbolically indicating His authority as King. We also read in our last study of Jesus’ cleansing the temple like a man of authority. Luke tells us in verse 1 that our Lord is teaching again in the temple, “He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel,” and you will remember how we read earlier in Luke’s Gospel that the people said Jesus taught like a man who had authority (Luke 4:32), so the chief priests and the scribes and the elders – people who were used to being in authority themselves – are like, “Hey, where do you get the authority to act this way?”
So, Jesus says in verses 3-4, “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: The baptism of John – was it from heaven (that is, from God) or from men?” Jesus is so good at answering questions with questions! This is a great question because the Bible tells us that the entire ministry and message of John the Baptist was, in essence, “I am a voice heralding, a finger pointing, pointing to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.” That was his message, so if the Jewish leaders could answer this question about John’s authority correctly, then they would have the answer to the other question, too.
Verses 5 and 6 tell us their response, “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.’” The picture is that of a football team in the huddle, whispering among themselves, trying to come up with a game plan. Verse 7 tells us, “So they answered that they did not know where it was from.” We may counter that they knew where John’s authority was from, they just did not want to believe. In any case, verse 8 says, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’”
Facing their hostility and exposing their ignorance Jesus is like, “Well, since you could not answer that question and you are all just standing around looking at one another, let Me tell you a parable that may help you out a little,” and then we have a parable in verses 9-19 as we come to the second main heading for our consideration today.
II. Consider The Abandonment And Rejection Of Christ.
Verse 9 tells us, “Then He began to tell the people this parable: “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time.”
This is the last parable recorded in Luke’s Gospel, a parable that is found in all 3 synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This parable is like a short history of Israel, the history of Israel in a nutshell. The parable describes God’s sending of prophets throughout the Old Testament period to turn the hearts of the people back to faithfulness to the One True God and how the rebellious people of Israel continually punished the prophets and, in the main, rejected their message.
Verse 9 describes Israel as a vineyard. The vineyard symbolizes Israel’s blessings of being the chosen, privileged people of God (Isaiah 5:1-7; 27:2; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 19:10-14; Hosea 10:1-4; Psalm 80:8-13). The vineyard is “leased to vinedressers” (or stewards of the vineyard), this would be the Jewish people in the main, but largely the religious leaders. Then we read that the “certain man” … “went into a far country for a far time,” which means that God the Father entrusted the Jewish people and leaders with the blessings of being God’s chosen people, and that He blessed them with this special privilege for many, many years.
Verse 10 says, “Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed.” The servant represents the Old Testament prophets. The beating symbolizes Israel’s abuse of the Old Testament prophets.
Verse 11 and 12 tell us, “Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out.” We see that this parable pictures the way the people of God mistreated God’s messengers: beating them, casting them out, and ignoring their message. Certain prophets come to mind from our reading through the Old Testament:
- The people wanted to stone David back in 1 Samuel 30:6.
- They stoned Adoram in 1 Kings 12:18.
- Naboth was stoned to death in 1 Kings 21:13.
- Zechariah was stoned to death in Jerusalem in 2 Chronicles 24:21.
- John the Baptist, also a prophet of God, was beheaded in Matthew 14;1-12.
- The writer of Hebrews summarizes the abuse of the Old Testament prophets in Hebrews 11:37-38.
The rejection of God’s prophets continues in large measure even today. In one sense we could say that God sends one prophet after another after another and yet, in the main, their message is rejected. Preachers come and preachers go, preaching the eternal truths of the Gospel and yet, society remains woefully unchanged. Churches remain – at least in current Western culture – largely unchanged.
Jesus says in verse 13, “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.’” The phrase, “My beloved Son” recalls the words spoken by the Father to Jesus at His baptism (Luke 3:22; cf. Matt. 3:17) and identifies Jesus Christ as providentially sent by God the Father to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to Israel, yet they rejected Him (John 1:9-11).
In a sense Jesus is saying, “Here is my authority. I am not all these other prophets. I am like them in one sense: I am a prophet, but I am unlike them in another sense: I am THE prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15), I am the LAST prophet, I am the Son of God.” The Jewish leaders had rejected and abandoned one prophet after another. They refused to listen to one prophet after another after another. Now here comes Jesus saying, “You asked about My authority earlier. Do you see how I am unlike these previous prophets? I am the beloved Son of God.”
Incidentally, this parable reminds us why people are comfortable with your Christian faith so long as you will go along with the ecumenical spirit of the so-called “interfaith community,” everyone just trying to improve their moral condition and improve the world situation – “Let’s all join hands and pray to our Higher Power, you pray to yours and I’ll pray to mine.” But should you respectfully raise your hand and say, “But I believe Jesus Christ is the only way, He is the beloved Son of God,” and it’s “Game Over.” Now you are branded an intolerant, fundamentalist, troublemaker.
It is the same reason Islam is comfortable with your Christianity so long as you think of Jesus merely as an Old Testament prophet. They are fine with Jesus as a prophet. They are NOT fine with Jesus’ being the beloved Son of God and LAST prophet. You cannot say Jesus is the last prophet. Oh, no! Muslims believe Mohammad – who came 650 years later – is the last prophet, and the implication is, “So he is much more important!” Without going into all of the inaccuracies of that statement and the historical problems of Islam and biblical inconsistencies ad infinitum, this parable of Jesus hits the target, doesn’t it?
Writing of the Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God, the writer of Hebrews says in his opening words, Hebrews 1:1-2. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” Jesus Christ is the last prophet. He is the last prophet because He is more than a prophet. Jesus Christ is the beloved Son of God. But what do the vinedressers do to the owner’s son, the beloved son? Verse 14 tells us, “But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.”
It is important to go from the parable to the truth being illustrated. What do the vinedressers – the Jewish religious leaders – do with Jesus, the beloved Son? They “cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.” He is condemned in Jerusalem and cast out of the city and crucified on a hill at Golgotha. Verses 15 and 16 state, “So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.” And when they heard it they said, ‘Certainly not!’”
The common people heard Jesus gladly (Mark 12:37), the Jews who believed in Christ and received the Gospel were shocked to hear that the privileged position of stewardship of the things of God would be taken away and given to others and that the vinedressers would be destroyed. This is why they gasp at the end of verse 16, “Certainly not!” But of course, this is exactly what would happen. That the owner would “destroy the vinedressers” picks up on what Jesus had said previously about the destruction of Jerusalem back in Luke 19:43-44, the destruction of the temple fulfilled in AD 70 by Roman Emperor Titus. The vineyard, then, is given to others, the vineyard of the “Kingdom of God” is now offered to the Gentiles. You may read about this in greater detail in Acts 13:44-47.
But this casting out of the beloved Son and judgment of God upon Israel in AD 70 finds a fuller sense of fulfillment at the final judgment. Verse 17declares, “Then He looked at them and said, ‘What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone?’” The builders here are Israel’s leaders and they continually reject this stone because they do not even know what they are building! And the rejected stone, the beloved Son of God, becomes the chief cornerstone, the Head of the church (Psalm 118:22; also Acts 4:11 and 1 Pet. 2:7).
Verse 18 says, “Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” The phrase in verse 18, “Whoever falls on that stone” (Isaiah 8:14–15;1 Peter 2:8) means everyone who stumbles at this stone, rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah and King. Whoever falls on that stone will be broken. And the phrase, “On whomever it falls” refers to Christ’s coming again, coming back in judgment. He will come again and fall on those who reject Him, grinding him to powder. That is certain judgment.
Now if there is any question about the interpretation of the parable in the way we have interpreted it, make no mistake: the Jewish leaders interpreted it the same way as the final verse indicates. Verse 19 states, “And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people – for they knew He had spoken this parable against them.” This verse shows us that the religious leaders “knew He had spoken this parable against them.” I i’s fascinating, isn’t it? They knew Jesus had spoken this parable against them, yet they refused to repent.
I often pray before I preach or teach, “Show us our sin, show us ourselves, and show us our Savior.” Can you back up a few steps, backing away from the chief priests and the scribes and ask yourself, “Have I repented? Am I submitting to the rule and reign of King Jesus? Do I bow before His authority?”
Here are a few take-home principles for you to ponder and live by this week . . .
- We Will Be Held Accountable For Having Heard The Preaching And Teaching Of The Word Of God.
Prophet after prophet after prophet was sent to the people of God to proclaim His message. One messenger after another, down through the ages, each one coming to preach the message given by God. The fact that God judges those for what they have heard is a stark reminder to us that God expects us to follow through with the preaching and teaching we receive every time we come together as the church to worship.
In one sense, going to a Bible teaching church is a dangerous endeavor. In a Word-saturated church every time you hear the Word, God expects you and me to align ourselves under its teaching. This is a clear principle surfacing from the parable. God will hold accountable those who have heard the message of the prophets, the preachers, the teachers of the Word. Secondly:
2) God’s Love Is Illustrated In His Patience.
The loving character of God is seen in this parable – a God who is willing to delay His judgment upon a people who deserved judgment ages ago. Despite the ill-mannered treatment of His prophets, God just continues sending one prophet after another. Why? The Bible reminds us in 2 Peter 3:9, the Lord “is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
God is a loving God and a patient God. However, this leads to principle 3 . . .
3) We Must Not Mistake God’s Patience For Indifference.
God will judge. God will execute His wrath. God will demonstrate His anger upon a people who are rebellious of heart. If that sounds unusual to you, just imagine a human analogy. Imagine having a friend who never got angry at anything. You say at first, “Well, that sounds like quite a friend. I’d like a friend like that!” Here is what I mean: he never gets angry at anything. He is never angry when he turns on the TV and watches a documentary about social injustice across the world, atrocities in Sudan, killings in Afghanistan, the senseless tragedies and sudden deaths that happen to people in automobile accidents or the collapsing of a building that kills thousands of people. Your friend just smiles and says, “Oh, that is terrible, but that is life!” What kind of a friend is that who knows nothing of injustice and whose heart is cold to the incongruities of peace, war, hunger, famine, freedom, and oppression, a friend who winks at sin.
Thankfully our God is not that way. He is a loving God, a patient God, but we must not mistake God’s patience for indifference. In the mysterious workings of His grace, providence, sovereignty, and our freedom, God has demonstrated His righteous wrath by imputing all of the sin and injustices of a fallen world upon His own beloved Son on Calvary’s cross. God has made a way for sinful humanity to be saved from future judgment. We need only receive Christ. Will we receive Him or reject Him?
This leads to the final principle . . .
4) Ultimate Rejection Of Christ Means Ultimate Separation From Christ.
If you reject Christ as Lord and King of your life today, casting him aside like a stone that just does not work for you right now in the building of your life, then know you will be separated from Him forever and ever. The Bible says in Paul 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, “… When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
Ultimate rejection of Christ means ultimate separation from Christ.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”