February 26, 2012
INTRODUCTION – One of the great dangers in Jesus’s day and in ours is that it is possible to be playing the religious game, and even being looked up to by some, but our hearts are miles away from where they ought to be with the Living God on a day by day basis.
In today’s passage, we’re going to hopefully learn some valuable lessons from the sad example of the chief priests, elders and Pharisees – on how to avoid falling into this trap; and/or how to get out of it – if that is where we find ourselves.
Let’s read our first passage together to see the problem; and then we will look at how Jesus chose to deal with it. Matthew 21: 23-27
I. Jesus’s Authority Challenged vs. 23-27
So after cleansing the temple, spending the night in Bethany, and zapping the fruitless fig tree in front of His disciples, all of which we discussed last Sunday – – Jesus is ready to re-enter the temple. While He is teaching the folks – gathered there in the temple, the chief priests and elders came up to Him and asked a question – that might appear harmless by reading it; but in fact was another one of their backhanded rejections of Him and His ministry. Knowing this, Jesus agreed to answer their question if they would answer his simple question, which was – Was John’s ministry inspired by and called of God, or was he just another enterprising religious opportunist. Evidently the crowd was listening to this interchange; and the chief priests and elders knew they were trapped. For if they answered, John’s authority and inspiration was from heaven, then Jesus was going to counter with – why they didn’t believe him and respond to his message. If they said it was not from heaven, then the people who revered John greatly as a prophet sent from God – would rise up in protest. So they refused to answer – as did Jesus.
Jesus Christ didn’t come to condemn, but rather to save. He was not satisfied with winning a tit for tat argument or interchange with these guys. He wanted to give them every chance to repent of their hardness of heart, and see their sin for what it was – specifically their hardness of heart – which led them to reject John’s ministry and message. So He began to tell them a parable.
Let’s read it and then discuss it’s lesson.
A. Parable of Two Sons – vs. 28-32 (read it)
1. John the Baptist preached the same message to all (whether noble or paupers). He as a person – was absolutely selfless. He solely sought to fulfill His calling to prepare the way of the Lord. There was no guile or pretense or partiality or self will at all in his ministry or message. He came as Jesus said in “the way of righteousness”. It was obvious to all.
2. The chief priests and scribes rejected him and his message.
3. The tax collectors and prostitutes on the other hand received him and his message.
4. The chief priests and scribes watched these tax collectors and prostitutes turn to God through John, which should have broken their hearts and humbled them, and even thrilled them. But instead it further hardened them.
5. Basically Jesus is saying – – it was bad enough that you rejected John in the first place. But if after doing so; and then seeing the response of everyone else – – you repented and had a change of heart, I would have forgiven you, and you would have been on your way to entering the kingdom of God; and being like that first son.
I’m sure at this point, the 12 disciples were hoping Jesus would just let this thing die. But Jesus knows until we see our sin for what it is; our repentance will be weak and fruitless. So while He has the attention of the chief priests and scribes (and I’m sure everyone else); He begins to tell another parable that is another chance for their eyes to be opened; and their hearts to be changed.
B. Parable of Landowner – vs. 33-41 (read it)
1. First we had a father; now we have a landowner, who planted and prepared a Vineyard and all its trappings; and who needed to go on a journey; so he rented it out to Vinegrowers or laborers.
2. His agreement with them was they would receive a fair wage for their work; and he in time would receive the fruit of the vine.
3. When that time came, he sent some slaves, who had evidently accompanied him on his journey – to receive his produce.
4. The vine growers – instead of fulfilling their agreement and doing what was normal and reasonable – – apprehended the three slaves and beat one, killed one, and stoned the third one.
5. Perhaps word got back to the landowner. Perhaps so much time lapsed that he knew something bad had happened. So he sent a larger group of slaves this time. But the renters or workers did the same thing to these slaves.
6. Judging by what the landowner said in vs. 37, it’s obvious that he knew by now what had happened. His great hope was that while they did not respect his slaves, surely they would his son. So he sent him to get the produce or fruit of the vine that was rightfully his.
7. But when the vine growers realized this guy was the owner’s son, they reasoned that by killing him – they could have his inheritance. So they murdered him for no reason other than wanting what He had and doing away with their competition.
8. By this time the chief priests and scribes were getting worked up at this terrible injustice. So Jesus asked them what they thought the landowner would or should do to these vine growers or laborers when he returned to his vineyard.
9. The chief priests and scribes answered that these scumbags would get the severe justice and punishment they deserved. They added that the landowner would also rent out the vineyard to other vine growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons and do what is right and just and reasonable.
At the height of their enlightenment, Jesus brought their attention to a passage from Psalm 118:22f, that they obviously had read; but never understood.
C. Psalm 118:22 Expounded – vs. 42-44 (read it)
1. After Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22, 23, He then proclaimed that these builders that had rejected the chief corner stone were in fact the chief priests and scribes. God offered them His kingdom. But because they rejected His prophets and now His Son; He was now taking the offer away from them. And granting it to those who have not rejected this stone who ended up being the chief corner stone. The One Stone around which or on top of everything else was built and based.
2. Then Jesus says, not only will the kingdom be taken away from them and given to others; but they will be judged severely by the very stone they rejected.
Well after that pronouncement, the light bulb went on, and the chief priests and the Pharisees realized all of this was aimed at them. And they wanted to seize Him and kill Him right then; but they restrained themselves because they feared how the crowds would respond. Let’s read vs. 45,46
D. Response of Chief Priests & Pharisees – vs. 45-46
CONCLUSION – So Jesus sure put the Chief priests and elders and Pharisees in their place didn’t He? Well that was 2,000+ years ago. What does this have to do with us today?
Well let me suggest several things as we prepare our hearts to come to the Lord’s table.
1. Jesus Christ is a realist. While He is worthy of our absolute and total obedience; He knows we are going to falter from time to time. His great concern in this parable about the two sons – is how we feel about our faltering? Is there immediate regret? The first son’s initial response was one of obstinance and defiance. But he quickly saw his foolishness, and turned away from his rebellion, and obeyed his father.
Someone once said, “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” And that it is. But delayed obedience is far better than ongoing disobedience. Jesus Christ was grieved and angered that there was not a hint of regret or remorse in these religious leaders………
There ought to be plenty of it in this room when we come to His table and seek to commune with Him. The ultimate hypocrisy and mockery is when we come to the Lord’s table – which reminds us of the pulverized body and poured out blood of our Savior – – and yet we feel no regret or remorse for our many acts of disobedience that were the cause of His suffering.
Thomas A Kempis in his book “The Imitation of Christ” speaks to this when he wrote,
“Because our hearts are frivolous and because we ignore our faults – we never discover the sickness in our souls, but idly we laugh when we have full reason to weep. The only true liberty or honest joy is in fearing God with a good conscience. Blessed is the man who can set aside all sources of distraction and perfectly recollect himself in holy repentance. Blessed is he who shuns all that soils and weighs down his conscience.”
The good news is: where there is regret and remorse – – His blood is ready to wash and cleanse and heal and deliver. The apostle John put it this way – “If we confess ours sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
One of the great hymn writers of a century ago never got over this amazing provision of forgiveness and cleansing by the precious blood of Jesus.
Just as I am, with-out one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me. And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God I come. I come.
Just as I am, and waiting not To rid my soul of one dark blot. To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God I come. I come.
Have someone thank God for the cleansing blood of Jesus.
2. One of the ways Jesus Christ helps us to see our sin and foolishness is by leading us to illustrations in real life that are meant to open our eyes to our blind spots. When Jesus told the chief priests and elders about the landowner they immediately saw the horrible injustice done to the landowner’s slaves and to his son; and they were quick to recognize how a severe punishment was their just reward. But they couldn’t see that they were in the same boat. Or that this was a gift from Him to help them see their sin and foolishness. Often God has used the amazing obedience of my two dogs (Purdy and now Boaz) to rebuke me for my flaky obedience. Often when I have had to rebuke or correct my children for something, He has helped me see similar areas in my own life that weren’t what they ought to be. These are gifts from the Holy Spirit. We dare not miss them. We dare not lose the opportunity to make necessary adjustments because of them.
Someone who has experienced this phenomena – pray for us all to have eyes to see and hearts to quickly repent.
3. Finally, another way He helps us see what our heart attitude ought to be is by bringing us in to contact with the rejects of society,…. who while they may have truly made a mess of their lives – – sometimes have a sincerity of heart and a brokenness of spirit in their response to Christ – that can be a reminder to us of what we once had, but perhaps have lost, or perhaps never had, but desperately need to have. This is what should have happened to the chief priests and elders when they saw the responsiveness of the tax collectors and prostitutes; …… but sadly it had no effect on their hard hearts at all..…
Long time Christians in this room – beware of burrowing into your safe and comfortable Christian ghettos. The rejects of society in our community need you; and you need them! They can and should be one of God’s reminders to us of that brokenness He is looking for.
That brokenness that Max Lucado wrote about when he said, “God’s delight is received upon surrender, not awarded upon conquest. The first step to joy is a plea for help, and acknowledgment of moral destitution, and admission of inward paucity. Those who taste God’s presence have declared spiritual bankruptcy and are aware of their spiritual crisis. Their pockets are empty. Their options are gone. They have long since stopped demanding justice; they are pleading only for mercy.”
King David proclaimed – after he had committed the double sin of committing adultery with Bathsheba and then covering it up by having her husband killed on the battlefield – – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise.” Psa. 51:17
COMMUNION – “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong!….” II Cor. 7:9-11
Prayer for the Holy Spirit to bring about godly sorrow that leads to repentance from our rebellion and obstinance;
Prayer for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to these modern day parables;
Prayer for us to not be isolated from the sick that jesus came to save..
Communion – Encourage listening to the Holy Spirit and ministry to one another afterwards