October 2, 2011
TEXT: Matthew 21:33-46/Isaiah 5:1-7/Phil 3:4b-14
THE LOVE OF THE LANDLORD IS EXTRAORDINARY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Dear Hearers of the Word made flesh: The Parable of the Two Sons you heard last week, the Parable of the Vineyard today, and the Parable of the Wedding Feast next week go together.  They reveal that the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament and that His Kingdom is graciously given through His Son!

Jesus directed the Parable of the Two Sons to the Jewish leaders.  They had issued a blunt challenge to Jesus.  “By what authority are you doing these things?”  They refused to answer His question about John the Baptizer so He spoke of the Son who said “no” but repented and of the son who said “yes” but refused the Father’s bidding.  Jesus aimed His conclusion at the chief priests and elders.  “Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him.  And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.  This was Old Testament ground – focusing on the Messiah’s way preparer – John the Baptizer!  His preaching and baptizing caused a division in Old Testament Israel between self-righteous confidence in the flesh and repentant sinners receiving righteousness as a gift from God.

October 2, 2011
TEXT: Matthew 21:33-46/Isaiah 5:1-7/Phil 3:4b-14
THE LOVE OF THE LANDLORD IS EXTRAORDINARY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Dear Hearers of the Word made flesh: The Parable of the Two Sons you heard last week, the Parable of the Vineyard today, and the Parable of the Wedding Feast next week go together.  They reveal that the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament and that His Kingdom is graciously given through His Son!

Jesus directed the Parable of the Two Sons to the Jewish leaders.  They had issued a blunt challenge to Jesus.  “By what authority are you doing these things?”  They refused to answer His question about John the Baptizer so He spoke of the Son who said “no” but repented and of the son who said “yes” but refused the Father’s bidding.  Jesus aimed His conclusion at the chief priests and elders.  “Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him.  And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.  This was Old Testament ground – focusing on the Messiah’s way preparer – John the Baptizer!  His preaching and baptizing caused a division in Old Testament Israel between self-righteous confidence in the flesh and repentant sinners receiving righteousness as a gift from God.

Then Jesus spoke this Parable of the Extraordinary Landlord!  It explodes with detail about the Kingdom of God.  First, the longsuffering love of God is seen in the patient sending of His prophets, again and again.  Second - is the incredible resistance of His people to God’s longsuffering love.  Third is the centrality and finality of the sending of His Son   Fourth is the awful judgment on those who reject His Son.  Fifth is the transfer of the Kingdom of God from Israel to a mysterious “nation” a new vineyard people.  

While the Parable of the Two Sons focused on Old Testament Israel, Jesus’ now transitions to the coming of God’s Son in the flesh to His vineyard.  As He does so, notice who is doing the verbs in God’s Kingdom.  A treasured professor would often ask seminarians “Who is doing the verbs?”  When it comes to conversion and confidence and comfort from the Scriptures he would admonish careful attention to “Who is doing the verbs.”  

In this parable, it is the Master who plants and digs and builds and leases and goes and sends and sends and sends – just as in the hymn we just sang God is doing all the verbs!  God’s care for His Old Testament people was extraordinary.  He rescued them from slavery in Egypt.  He cut a covenant with them and gave them His commandments.  He gave them an altar and the Day of Atonement and the sacrifices for guilt and sins.  He planted them in the Promised Land with victory over their enemies.  He gave them the Sabbath Day for rest and refreshment in His Word.  He gave them His temple and promised to be in their midst.  “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?” His piercing question sounds forth through the prophet Isaiah.

Yet Israel often seemed to have a better plan.  She let God’s Word fall into disuse.  The people failed to return to God the tithe – giving him leftovers and crippled animals.  They went through the motions of worship – of sacrifice – not trusting God’s gifts therein.  They looked for help in politics and in pagan idols and in pursuit of earthly positions and possessions.  The grass always looked greener outside of God’s holy will.  They refused to give the owner of the vineyard His fruits of faith and love and trust.  Time and time again He called them back.  Through the centuries He sent prophet after prophet crying out “O my people!”

From Moses to John the Baptizer, from the Major Prophets to the Minor Prophets, none of the men God sent fared very well in Israel.  Moses endured constant complaint and attempted revolt.  Elijah was persecuted after defeating the prophets of Baal.  He was never popular – followed by only a remnant (a tiny fraction of Israel).  Isaiah was ignored in favor of slick political plans.  Jeremiah was viewed as a mental basket case and was beaten and imprisoned.  Jewish tradition details the stoning of Jeremiah and the sawing in two of Isaiah.  This is what happened to the prophets that God sent His Old Testament people.  God’s searching love was extraordinary but so was their obstinate rebellion and repeated rejection of His word through the prophets. “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?”

Much more in fact, for God’s love was not at an end!  God is patient!  God is gracious!  God is not like us!  Last of all, in undeserved, un-measurable love, He sent His Son.  “They will respect my son” He said.  But you know the rest of the story.  You know what happened a few days after Jesus spoke this parable.  It was Holy Week!  They took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  And we are moved to ask “Why?”  Why keep on sending?  How could God send His dearest treasure to such rebels as these?  With their track record how could God be so free with His sending and so reckless with His giving?  And how could those in the vineyard be so blind?  

The staggering result of rejecting and killing the Son is spoken!  When…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.”  As God expressed it through Isaiah, I will remove its hedge and it shall be devoured…I will break down its wall and it shall be trampled down.  Forty years later Rome did break down even the physical walls of the old vineyard, leveling Jerusalem.  I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.

This astounding transfer of the kingdom to a new nation – to a different people took place on the three days that shook the world – Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.  The vineyard has been given to a new people – a strange singular nation – the Church of Jesus Christ - including Jewish and Gentile believers.  God protect us from throwing stones at Old Testament Israel for such stones surely strike us also as the New Israel.  Circumcision is now of the heart.  Abraham is the father of all those who believe in Christ.  The blood that determines who the people of God are is not now Abraham’s blood but the shed blood of the Son of God.

By God’s grace, the Extraordinary Landlord has now given to you a place in His vineyard!  He has built a wall around you and planted you in your baptism!  He is your tower, crying out the dangers of sin and protecting you from enemies by means of His Word.  He has dug a winepress for you, and fills it with the happy new wine of His Holy Supper.  And yet, the foolishness of the wicked vinedressers is not far removed from each of us.

We may be astounded at their apparent foolishness, but in truth it boiled down to two simple things!  First, they rejected the rule of the Landowner through His sent ones – that is they rejected God’s proclaimed Word and Will.  Second, they rejected God’s Son.  In other words, they rejected the Law of God and the Gospel of God.  Dear Christians, the denial of either one leaves us with no hope - yet the temptation to do so is constant.  

The law that God’s pastors are to proclaim today is still easily rebelled against.  Some sins seem too attractive, too addictive, and too precious to turn from.  The sin of not forgiving from the heart – but wallowing in self-pity and self-pride and bearing grudges!  The sin of despising the Sacrament – seeing no need for it week after week!  Cohabitation outside of marriage thereby dishonoring God’s gift!  Tax evasion – refusing Caesar what God says is his!  Showing partiality to the rich while idolizing our own possessions and privileges!  Tearing others apart with the sharp tongue of gossip!  The list is really endless!  We are daily tempted to say, “I will be a Christian but I will indulge this sin.  I can do both.  I will believe in Jesus and yet beat up and throw out the words He sends me to live by.  I want the vineyard and its blessings – I just don’t want God to rule over me too closely.  Our chief sin everyday is trying to do God in and take over as the owner of our own little vineyards.       

Why else would we avoid the study of God’s Word or neglect the gift of daily prayer?  Why else would university students be tempted to think that youth is wiser than age and that their generation a (“now is our time”) has all the answers those older generations missed.  Why else would we not acknowledge all that we have is God’s pure gift and return the first and best of our treasure cheerfully and insistently for the sake of the Gospel?  Why else would we worry?  Why else, with St. Paul, would we not count everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus?

Should not the owner remove the hedge, break down the wall, and command no rain to fall on us?  Should He not put us wretches to a miserable death?  Yes – as we confessed in this very service!  Yes – if our reason for confidence is in our flesh and our performance!  You see, wild grapes pop up aplenty!  God wants us to recognize that very truth!

Yet Jesus said, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”  How can rejection be marvelous?  Because God’s glory is revealed in the rejection of His Son!  Jesus is the icon, the perfect picture of reversal!  He is the stone that if anyone falls on He will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.  

You see, everyone is broken or crushed!  Not one person will come out of this world as a rock unto themselves!   Those who believe must fall into the brokenness of repentance in order to be raised again as new being, living stones in Christ!  This repentance is daily and lifelong!  But upon unbelievers comes the crushing blow of judgment.  

The fact that God’s demand for fruit crushes you is not evil, it is essential!  The true Christian Church is not made up of do-gooders, who are pleased as punch with their wonderful fruit.  Quite the opposite!  The vineyard of Christ is made up of those who know they are the branches who bear good fruit only in Christ (Jn 15:5).  

They will respect my son, He said and by God’s miracle of faith you do!  He sent His Son not because He is foolish but because He is forgiving!  While the renters were scheming to kill the Son and illegitimately claim the inheritance, God was planning to sacrifice his Son and lovingly give them and us the inheritance.  The Son came not to cast the former tenants out of the vineyard, but to include others in the vineyard – including you!

The Son knew the danger!  He knew exactly what awaited Him as He spoke this parable on Tuesday of Holy Week.  He knew that it was only in the killing of the heir that we could have the inheritance.  As He came to collect fruit from the vineyard an amazing exchange took place.  Jesus became the wickedest tenant the vineyard has ever seen (2 Corinthians 5:19-21) – becoming sin for us!  He was put to a miserable death!  God the Father removed the hedge around His Son, breaking down the wall between life and death for Him who is the Creator of all life!    

Beloved tenants in the vineyard of Christ, the final, last-of-all sending of God is the sending of His Son.  By the Grace of God that sending continues today!  It is the living Christ who comes to serve you again this morning!  Death and grave could not hold Him!  He comes to serve you with heavenly food!  As He feeds you and forgives you, His fruit is credited fully to you!  Not only do you have an extraordinary Landlord, but in Christ, you are an extraordinary tenant!  He is preparing you for the eternal marriage feast of the Lamb!  Oh love, how deep, how broad, how high – beyond all thought and fantasy!  As God does all His verbs He  now even lets you participate in His doing!

Therefore, as He holds you in His hand on this day and has promised that nothing can snatch you out of His hand - Press on (better “follow on” like a sheep follows the voice of the Shepherd) to take hold of that for which Christ has taken hold of you… Forget what is behind…Press on (Follow on) toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus.

In His Name, Amen.


Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a