GETTING THE MESSAGE/Matthew 21:33-46
Thursday, September 4, 2014 4:00 AM
In this passage Jesus teaches the parable of the tenants. He tells a story of a landowner who planted a vineyard and made all the necessary preparations for it to be a productive vineyard. He rented the vineyard to some farmers then went on a journey with the expectation of returning to collect his fruit at the harvest. But when he sent servants to collect his fruit, the tenants abused one, killed another, and stoned another. When he sent other servants, they were treated the same. Last of all, he sent his son, expecting at least they would respect his son. But instead they reasoned that if they killed the son, they would take his inheritance. So they killed him.
The parable has allegorical references. The landowner is God. The vineyard represents Israel. The prophets often spoke of God viewing Israel as a vineyard he planted for fruitful service. The servants are prophets and teachers God sent to turn Israel from rebellion and idols to the one true living God. The tenants are the Jewish leaders and the Jewish people who rejected God's word down through the ages (there was always a remnant that was faithful). The son is Jesus Christ, who the Jewish leaders are soon going to reject and have killed. Obviously, the parable is a serious condemnation of the Jewish leaders, and in verse 45 we see that they understood this.
There are a lot of application and doctrinal considerations in this parable. We will just look at two.
First, God's patience with sinners is on display here. Though Israel continually rebelled against God, he sent prophet after prophet to warn them of judgment and to encourage them to turn back to God. And some of the people listened. But most did not. The "fruit" God looks for in people to whom he sends his word begins in the heart. The heart must be humbled to the point it is no longer resistant and hardened to submitting to God. Every time we hear the Scriptures it is God's summons to turn from our ways to his ways. And God is aware of how many times we are exposed to his word, and what we do with it when we hear it.
Paul in Romans 2 says to stubborn Jews and Gentiles: "Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath on the day when God's righteous judgment will be revealed."
All of us have ignored God's word; would have been glad not to hear it at times. If it was not for God's persistence none of us would be saved. But there is a point where a refusal to submit to God's word hardens the heart in such a way there is no longer any sensitivity to the weightiness of eternal consequences. And this is what Paul is warning of. Take advantage of God's patience and hear his word while today is still today.
The second thing we can learn here is we cannot obtain life with God on our own. We are in absolute need of Christ. Jesus says in verse 42; "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone." This means we are only acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. If you reject this "stone" you cannot enter the kingdom of God.
The entire world can't procure eternal life for us. If all the men in the world should offer to be crucified for the sake of one man, it would be absolutely to no purpose; instead of satisfying for all our sins, they could not satisfy for one of them; instead of procuring eternal life, they could not procure one drop of water for us in hell. Christ as an infinite person was able to endure the wrath of God against sin and take away the guilt of sin according to God's righteous justice. You must have this Savior. There is no other.
If you don't come to Christ or don't rest in Christ alone, consider what you intend to do with God. If you don't intend to ruin yourself, what can you do except come to Christ (as God has made very plain you must). Will you just leave yourself alone and be unconcerned about eternal life? Where can you go? In Christ, God freely offers light, life, and salvation. But the offer is also a command.