Let us pray: Dear Savior, when we consider all those who rejected You during Your ministry and all those who reject You today—may we never be numbered with them! Instead, cause us to lose our pride and selfishness and humbly submit to Your holy will in saving us for then renewal and a clean conscience will be ours. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE ROCK OF OUR SALVATION!
TEXT: Luke 20: 9-19
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
26 years ago, “Science Digest” had an interesting article on a man named: Edwin E. Robinson. It seems he was hit by a bolt of lightning, flattened to the ground, and was unconscious for about 20 minutes. When he came to, he could “hear like a kid” even though his hearing aid had been burned out by the blast. His eyes had been so bad that he had no reflex to light. But now he sees 20/20! And to top it all off, after being bald for 35 years he now sported a thick head of hair!
What does this little story tell us? It reminds us that God turns evil into good. So does our lesson as we consider the fact that:
THIS ROCK BOTH BREAKS DOWN AND BUILDS UP!
It is about Tuesday of Holy Week. Christ is in the temple area preaching to the people—many of whom applauded Him on Palm Sunday and many of whom were plotting against Him. In order to make one final attempt at reaching out to those who hated Him, Jesus tells them a parable, an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
He tells them of a wealthy landowner who planted a vineyard (which of course takes a long time to grow and return a crop). That vineyard stood for the visible church in Israel. Then God, the Owner, goes away after turning it over to renters to tend and care for. This stands for the entire Old Testament time period. Then, He decides to send servants (ministers, since that word means servants) to come and receive a crop from that vineyard. The ministers stand for the various Old Testament prophets up to and including St. John the Baptist. The tenants are awful. They think the vineyard belongs to them, even though they have no legal claim. So, they beat up one servants, add additional shame to another, and finally, when God sends a third servant they wound him and send him away. We see this played out as we study the Old Testament. Elijah, Isaiah, and countless other prophets of God Almighty were treated with contempt and physical abuse during their lifetimes—all on account of preaching God’s Word and trying to call people to repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Later on, St. John the Baptist suffers similar treatment, even losing his head to the evil King Herod.
God, the Landowner, is troubled by it all, but He’s also long-suffering and patient. “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” He sends the heir, the Prince of glory to this earth. He sent Him that first Christmas to grow up in our midst and to minister to our bodies and souls during His three-year ministry.
The tenants’ response is startling for its callous cruelty. “This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” Christ knew the hearts of the church leaders of that day. He knew they were plotting to destroy Him, to kill Him. And they would in a few short days on Calvary’s cross. His purpose in telling this parable is to provide them with a wake-up call. A call they fail to listen to.—Don’t you make the same mistake!
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’ When the people heard this, they said, ‘May it never be!’” From these words, it is obvious that the people in attendance know exactly what Jesus was talking about. They knew that Israel, God’s people, had been portrayed throughout the Old Testament as a vineyard. And they didn’t want to lose their special status of God’s beloved. Hence the very emphatic: “May this never be!”
But Jesus then looks directly at all of them and quotes from Psalm 118: “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.’”
There are many references in the Old Testament about Christ, the Messiah, being a Rock. In Genesis 49 He is spoken of as: “the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.” In Deuteronomy 32: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect.” In Psalm 18: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress.” In Isaiah 26: “The Lord is the Rock eternal.” Even Christ speaks of Himself this way, such as in Matthew 16 where He says of Peter’s faithful confession about Christ: “upon this rock I will build my church.”
Rocks, boulders, were common in Palestine. They grow rocks there like we grow trees in New England. And His point is clear: He will do one of two things in your life. Either He will break you into small pebbles, or He will build you up into a glorious monument of His love, even crowning your life with His crown of eternal life—the capstone. And this process of breaking down or building up is totally dependent upon how you view Him and treat Him.
If you’ve ever fallen upon a rock you know it’s unforgiving. It hurts. He doesn’t yield. And so, naturally, we try to avoid falling upon rocks. But this is the exact point where faith comes in! For when we give our sins, our pride, our sense of self-control over to Christ in humble faith and fall upon Him, He provides a soft landing. The softest of all—total love, complete forgiveness for all sins, and the promise of eternal life! So, today you have a choice.—Either the Rock will fall upon you and crush you, or you can trust in Him and take the leap of faith—knowing that God’s Son died on a cross for you and rose from the dead for you! One leads to eternal death and Godly rejection, while the other leads to eternal life and Godly peace and joy. Yes, This Rock Both Breaks Down and Builds Up.
There still is time to heed God’s call and honor Him. There still is time to renew your baptismal grace by repenting of the past and turning yourself over to Christ’s tender embrace. There still is time to be counted as one of His beloved. So, act! Bad things occur in this world, evil occurs. It touches all of us. But only the Christian who has had their pride crushed on Christ’s cross believes and knows that by God’s grace goodness will always prevail in the end! And so today, we praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Amen