Saturday 3 October 2020

 Matthew 21 v 33/46

Before we look at Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard, we need to understand the setting in which it occurs in the Gospel.

Jesus has finished his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem and has made his triumphal entry into the Holy City. The entry provoked those who were inclined to deny his spiritual authority. The stage was now set for the telling of the parable.

Jesus was being interrogated by the chief priests and the teachers of the law as He arrived in Jerusalem on the final stage of His journey to the Cross.  He had caused a sensation when He threw the money changers out of the Temple and was defeating His interrogators when He told them this parable.  The Jews knowing the Old Testament would have clearly understood what Jesus saying was based on a passage from Isaiah

It was a common practice for wealthy Jews or foreigners to own farms and then rent them out to tenant farmers. The land would be fenced in to set boundaries and to keep out intruders. 

Jesus spoke about a master who rented out his vineyard in which there would be a winepress and a watch tower.  The grapes would be crushed and the juice would run through a pipe into a deep compartment and then put into jars.  The watchtower was for a man to keep watch for impending animals or thieves.

At harvest time the owner sent his servants to collect his share of the yield which the tenant was expected to have ready.

The tenants proved to be wicked men, dishonest and cruel and when they arrived to collect the fruit they were refused and one servant was severely beaten, another was killed outright and a third was stoned to death.

It may be thought the master would have acted equally as violent in response to the death of his servants, but he did not rather giving the tenants another chance.  He sent further servants and they were similarly treated.

In desperation he finally sent his son believing they would not kill him but they did.  The chief priests listening knew that Jesus was getting at them.

The vineyard in the story represents Israel and the master to be God. The servants are the Old Testament prophets who God sent to guide Israel into lives of righteousness and obedience to God,.  The Son of course was Jesus.

 On the occasion before us the Lord Christ explained to the people what was going to happen in Jerusalem.  He had previously spoken to them in brief language about why he had come into the world. It was to give his life as a ransom for many. He had come to seek and save that which was lost. He had come to be lifted up in order to draw all men to himself, what we have before us is the ultimate explanation of Jesus’ death. The event was about to take place in Jerusalem, just a few days after these words were spoken. God the Son, lovingly sent into the world by God the Father was going to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin.

This parable is a portrait of the loving God who had taken the initiative in choosing people, preparing for them a land flowing with milk and honey, and sending his prophets to speak his word to them. The Lord Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus is here telling them that they- the people he is speaking to-are going to treat him as wickedly as their fathers treated the prophets before him. The Kingdom of salvation will then be taken from them and given to the Gentiles. Jesus is the chosen but rejected stone of God’s building. In other words, this parable told the people how God viewed them, as his defiant rebellious people who had taken for granted all the privileges he had given them, the covenants and promises and his shepherding care. The parable told them of their responsibilities which they had dismissed. Finally, it told them of the consequences facing them of killing God’s Son.

 The Bible throughout reveals that God chose Israel out of nations to be His specially chosen one and this can be understood by the way Israel has prospered down the ages.  Just in our lifetime we saw how the combined military might of all the surrounding Arab nations attacked Israel, a country only the size of Wales, yet within seven days Israel triumphed and defeated her attackers.  Military experts have agreed that it is beyond human experience and understanding that this could have happened without divine involvement.

In addition most technological, medical, and agricultural discoveries and inventions have originated in Israel and been made available for the benefit of people across the world.  More noble prizes for science  and arts have been awarded to Jews than any other nation.  But still they have abandoned God and often suffered the consequences.

God has also given advantages and blessings to other nations, which Jesus indicated would happen in the parable.  He said the hand of God which was first intended for the Jew would be extended and given to both Jews and Gentiles.

Jesus said the answer is simple; the tenants were not satisfied with being tenants they wanted to be owners.  A tenant is someone who is accountable to someone else and pays rent.  Jesus is pointing out the same is true of human beings generally, we are accountable also to God.  We owe Him a debt of moral obedience who gave us such a beautiful world to live in and we have to pay the debt.

Jesus pointed out that responsibility involves two people.  Our moral nature demands that as we were put on this earth as tenants, we owe God our creator. We are often not content to be just tenants in the vineyard and to give some fruit back to God

Jesus said the corner stone was the most important stone for the building and is central to the building, now Jesus himself; the builders are the leaders of Israel, and they are about to crucify him, and they assume that they can get away with that. Jesus says the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. He is actually talking about his resurrection when He overcomes the death they thought they had accomplished.

Finally Jesus shows us the patience of God who has given rebel human beings the opportunity one after another to repent only to be treated with neglect.  But God is full of grace and mercy and is always ready to offer, but His patience is not infinite.

The passage end with the chief priests wanting to arrest Jesus so as to silence Him, and this is what is happening in this and other Western countries; an attempt to silence Jesus.   All Christians must unite to make sure they don’t succeed.

Whilst the parable was told many years ago to Israel it would be a mistake to think it has no meaning or lesson for us.  The words of Jesus are everlasting and apply to our lives equally. We learn how the generosity that God shows can be rejected and not appreciated, and the response that He expects be avoided.

The United Kingdom has had experience of God’s concern with many blessings. We have however allowed the secularists to exercise their agenda, which is to drive Christianity right out of the public arena, and create an atmosphere where any criticism of the most minor kind, or to an alternative opinion, of the oppressive political correctness, is to be labelled bigotry or one of the many kinds of phobia which now exist. The Bible is so little known by people under the age of 40 years that we are no better than a pagan nation.

This is why so many things have gone wrong and will continue to do so and dreams of a better society are just a fantasy. What the country will be like in twenty years is just too horrific to imagine, unless there is a spiritual and moral revival. 

Clergy in all times and places are put on notice by the Parable of the Vineyard.     Jesus is the owner of the vineyard, the Lord of the Church.  All clergy are appointed to be faithful servants, but we see instances where the leaders are acting more like the chief priests and failing to fulfil their responsibilities to the owner of the vineyard.

A most relevant problem to the Church, and one of the reasons for such low attendances I believe, is the lack of credibility of the current Church. 

We have the opportunity through the ministry of the Bible to be close to God, but the Church, with the exception of the (black) Pentecostal Churches, has largely turned from the original writing of the Bible to follow an adapted version which caters for the culture of society.  This has happened with the approval of some bishops. .  The Bible seems to have become a rough guide, to be applied when it is convenient. God has the right to expect a less rebellious attitude and more obedience to His given Word.

Ministers in the Church must accept their first duty is to teach God’s Word, as it is written in Scripture, not as they might like it to be written. But even more; by their life and action to live the Bible.

It is a sad fact that there are those in ministry whose priority is to further their own careers and consequently steer away from giving answers and guidance on moral and social issues.

Lay people have an essential part to play .In daily living to remember the responsibility of acting worthily of the Lord and not succumbing to the inevitable pressures faced by the majority who will be unbelievers.

This basic and fundamental rejection of God tells you what is wrong with human nature. Whilst we accept there are those who are sinful and blind to their sinfulness, there are far too many people who claim  to be religious without there being very much credibility to their claim.  They attend Church, profess to be holy and good people, sing enthusiastically and listen to the Bible being read, but it means so little to them because they have their own ideas and desires as to how much they will accept.

We see how human irresponsibility can get out of control when activists in the political scene call for widespread civil disobedience to bring down a democratically elected government just because it doesn’t please them or satisfy their personal ambitions, which is very wrong, even if the government is lacking somewhat.

The moral bid for autonomy has led to us throwing off our debt to God, doing what we like with His creation causing ecological problems which the Green Party are fond of telling us about.  The greed of humans, the selfishness and the concern for without responsibility, and the resentment against authority has led to political rebellion, combined with the obsession for so called equality without realising we can be perfectly equal without all being robotically the same.

Remember the words of God, ‘if my people, who are called by my name, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will heal their land.’


My God bless you





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