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Sermon for Lent 5

April 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Sermon for Lent 5 – Luke 20:9-18

Augustana, 2010

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon this morning is the Gospel lesson for today, the parable of the wicked tenants.

I don’t normally do this but I want to go through the lesson verse by verse in an expository way this morning making application along the way.  There is a reason and hopefully you will have discerned it by the end, if not, don’t worry, I’ll tell you.

Keep in mind as we begin to hear this parable, this is chapter 20.  Jesus is in Jerusalem, the triumphal entry, what we celebrate as Palm Sunday next week has already happened.  Jesus is in Jerusalem teaching in the temple precincts.  The scribes, the experts in Jewish religious law are trying to find a way to trap him and Jesus is confronting them directly and they are frustrated because the thing they think he is doing, blasphemy, they can’t catch him doing.  Immediately before our reading Jesus challenged them with the question of the authority of John’s baptism.  Later in the chapter he will confront them with the question concerning whose son is the Christ and then in the hearing of all the people warn them against the scribes and their displays of religiosity.  This is the occasion for this parable.

And [Jesus] began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard.”  Presumably, this kind of thing happened all the time in Jesus’ day.  Absentee landlords expected the fruit of the vineyard.  It seems completely fair for the owner to expect to get the fruit of the vineyard.  Right?  Of course.  I do want to make one comment on the word for time here.  “When the time came, he sent a servant…”  Presumably what time are we talking about?  Yeah, sure, harvest time.  The time when the produce would be ready, right?  When is that?  When it’s ready and not a moment too soon.  There was a wine maker that used to use this tag line in their ads, “We will sell no wine before its time.”  There are two different kinds of times.  There is four o’clock on October 3rd, and there is harvest time.  And the two are completely different.  We use the same word for time, but the Greeks, of course did not.  Chronos is the time that can be measured, October 4th, at four o’clock.  This is the other word for time and it’s kairos.  And it is one of those words that speaks of God’s timing for things.

Dr Just, in his commentary on this passage writes:

“Every time God sent a prophet to Israel, it created a “critical time,” a “right season” (καιρῷ; 20:10), because prophets speak for God… Jesus has just wept over Jerusalem “because you did not know the appointed time of your visitation” (τὸν καιρὸν τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς σου; [19:44] ) … Jesus exhorted the crowds to “examine the critical time” (καιρὸν; v. 12:56). Now this parable tests the ability of the people and the religious establishment to discern whether the “critical time” is upon them in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Are they able to see that Jesus is speaking this parable about his own rejection in Jerusalem?  Will this parable’s indictment of their participation in that rejection lead them to repentance?  The critical time is now, in this final week in Jerusalem, where Jesus is destined to die.” (Just, Luke, 762)

God’s time is not our time but when says it’s time, it’s time.  We’re obviously talking about God’s time in terms of the broad scope of salvation history but I think this holds on a personal level for us too.  There is some cross pollination for me because of the sermons of the last two days but if Jesus is truly concerned with each of his disciples as he clearly showed he was in John 14 as I preached at Don’s memorial service, and if Jesus truly knows us in the deepest and perhaps even most intimate way akin to how He knows the Father and the Father knows him, which he clearly does because he says so in John 10.  If all that holds, and I’m sure it does, then what time is it for you, for each of us?  And I mean, what kairos is it for you?  What is God doing in your life right now?  Have you been listening?  What kind of tree in his vineyard have you been?  By the way, the vineyard is Israel.  And while we’re starting here who is the vineyard owner?  Right, God.  Who are the tenants?  Be careful.  Maybe we’re not ready yet.

“But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”  Who are the tenants again?  The scribes.  Jesus is picking a fight with them in the hearing of the people.  Who are the servants of the vineyard owner?  Right, the prophets.  Who is the son?  Right.  Jesus.  And there’s that line, “This is the heir.  Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.”  What is Jesus saying about the tenants in that line?  That’s right, that Israel is not God’s but theirs.  As the interpreters of God’s law, the vineyard, Israel, is theirs, not God’s.

There is in this reading a strong lesson for pastors.  The scribes were the religious leaders of the day.  People looked up to them, honored them, and the scribes were leading the people down the wrong path, down the path of religiousity, rather than faith in God through his Messiah Jesus.  The lie is in thinking that the ministry is done by the servants, the lie is in thinking that the grapes come from the work of the tenants.  But this is not true.  This is God’s church not mine.  I did not have two funerals this week.  Oh at the beginning of the week, I did.  But yesterday afternoon as I was thinking about everything that had gone on and thinking about this text and, really, thinking about where the Lord was challenging me as a religious leader.  It dawned on me that I did not have two funerals this week, the Lord did.  We did.  I merely brought what was mine to bring, what I hope was words of comfort in midst of death.  But you all did too.  You all made it happen.  You gave up time at work and time with family and time for yourself to honor these two men who meant so much in the life of this congregation.  The chairs, the food, man, we have good food.  Many of you must have been keeping me in prayer too, and I truly appreciate it because together, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his victory over death and the hope of the resurrection was proclaimed in this place loudly and clearly.  And we gave glory to God to a host of friends and relatives and people in our community and outside our community.  We were a productive vineyard to the glory of our vineyard owner and I repented of my nearsightedness.

Jesus continues, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone’?

So there is a case of shifting metaphors here.  We have to shift from vineyards to construction.  So let’s make sure the shift happens clearly.  Who are the builders now?  They are the tenants, that is, they are the scribes.  The son has become, a cornerstone, or the keystone, there seems to be some confusion in translating this word.  If it’s a cornerstone, then in the construction methods of Jesus’ day it serves the same purpose as foundations and footings of buildings serve today.  The most important step is a sure foundation.  If it is the keystone or capstone, it is the stone in the very top of an arch that with its downward pressure keeps the arch in place and actually distributes the load above it down through the vertical supports of the arch.  Either way, it’s the most important part of the building.  With out it, the building crumbles.

The last line is a word from Jesus, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”  It’s worth nothing here that everyone will be either broken or crushed.  Disciples will be broken by repentance.  Unbelievers will be crushed by God’s judgment.  So Lent, then, is that time to listen more closely to the Lord, to listen to what he is calling us, to listen to what he is returning to us, to prepare to rejoice all the more in the joy of Easter Sunday as individuals and as a community of faith.  It is all part of God’s timing, his kairos.  Amen.