Let us pray: Dear Savior, when we walk in your footsteps through faith, just like You we’ll be rejected and scorned by lost human beings. Our love and kindness toward them will be mocked and branded as hypocrisy. Lord, remind us today not to give in to such abuse. Remind us to still heap burning coals of love upon such hateful heads. For in the end, that is the only way to let our light shine and the only way to stay faithful to Your boundless love for all lost souls. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO TRIES TO GIVE KINDNESS TO ALL!
TEXT: Matthew 21: 33-43
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Recently, Minnesota Gov. Jesse (The Mind) Ventura said this about traditional Christianity in a magazine interview: “religion is a crutch for the weak-minded.” Supposedly Gov. Ventura reads a lot. Perhaps he picked that thought up from Karl Marx who said: “Religion is the opiate of the masses”? In any case, it’s clear that he rejects both Christ and His message of salvation. Why? Because he’d rather live life for himself instead of bowing to God. Here’s another quotation which also lays out a rejection of Christ. H. L. Mencken, the quick-witted thinker who lived earlier this century stated: “As for religion, I am quite devoid of it. The act of worship, as carried on by Christians, seems to me to be debasing rather than ennobling. It involves groveling before a Being, who, if He really exists, deserves to be denounced instead of respected.”
Such views are sad and troubling but they shouldn’t surprise us. After all, they’re not new. Christ experienced such rejection, too, as He sought to save souls during His ministry. Today, we see such rejection laid out in our text in the form of a parable, an earthly story with a very specific meaning. And as we consider this text, I want to remind you:
DON’T LET REJECTION DISCOURAGE YOU FROM YOUR GLORIOUS TASK!
IThe time is shortly after Palm Sunday when Christ entered Jerusalem to a happy chorus of hosannas. Then He goes to the temple and drives out the money-changers, the cheaters of the common people, for a second time. Obviously this does not endear Him to the powers that be. Later, He’s again in the temple and the chief priests question His authority and try to trip Him up.—They’ve already decided to kill Him, but they want to hide their hatred of Him by getting Him to say something that they can use against Him. It is in this context that Jesus utters the words of our parable. And what powerful words they are! Obviously the landowner is God the Father. The vineyard He planted and took great pains with is His holy Church which He planted way back in Old Testament times. The current tenants are the children of Israel, or the visible Jewish church of Christ’s day. The Lord expects His Church to bear a glorious crop of holiness and works of love. In Old Testament times, He sent prophets to “collect his fruit.” And what did those hateful tenants do? They beat, killed, and stoned those prophets. They rejected them. However, God is patient and kind. So, He sent more servants. John the Baptists was one such servant. And we know how they treated him—they cut off his head!
But finally, God decided to send the heir, His Son, Jesus Christ. “They will respect my son,’ he said.” But, alas, no. “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” Jesus knew that that was exactly what they were plotting to do to Him. He warns them here of the outcome of their rejection, too. But, they don’t get it. Hateful, spiteful people never really do want to listen. And they end up condemning themselves with their own words: “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ Jesus asks. ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,’ they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” Then, after uttering those prophetic words about Himself, the Capstone, being rejected and the marvelous outcome of His upcoming death on the cross, namely, the salvation of countless lost souls through His precious blood, Jesus goes on to pronounce judgement upon them. “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” Of course, the recipients of those words are us! The gentiles, the non-Jews, have now been given God’s truth and God’s love. The only question is: how are we using it?
Whenever you’re given a Godly blessing, the natural inclination is to start to regard it as something you own. Intelligence, physical ability, a job promotion, the ability to communicate well, literally any and every gift we have comes from God. Yet, we’re all tempted to think: “Look at what I’ve achieved on my own! I got the new job, I made the money, I bought the house, I’m healthy because I worked hard at taking care of my body, and I have all kinds of friends because I’m so wonderful!” Soon God gets left in the dust. Pride puffs us up to the point where we begin to view Him as an afterthought. That’s what happened to those tenants in our text. And finally it led to them rejecting God outright.
Now, I hope and pray that you’ll watch your life carefully so that such a thing won’t happen to you! But, you also need to know that when people like Jesse Ventura and others reject Christianity, it’s because they’ve been unduly influenced by human pride to the point where pride takes over and the 1st commandment: You shall have no other Gods.”–gets tossed aside, replaced with: “I’m my own god!” And then comes their rejection of your personal Christianity along with the hurt that always accompanies such rejection.
My friends, Jesus uttered this parable out of love for those who would soon reject Him and take His life. He tried to reach them and prick their consciences one last time. Yes, even while hanging on the cross and dying for the sins of their rejection and our occasional lapses, Christ said: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” He uttered those words not just to those who stood at the cross mocking Him, no, He uttered those words to you and me and even toward the Jesse Venturas of the world. Rejection didn’t discourage Christ from the glorious task of saving our souls and by His grace it shouldn’t discourage you, either, as you try to reach the unreachable and love the unloveable.
The final point is this: God’s kingdom has been taken away from some hateful humans and given to a “people who will produce its fruit.” With those words in mind, don’t get down on life or yourself. Instead, get busy harvesting holiness by living Christ’s loving forgiveness! Amen