Embracing God's mercy is important.
Matthew(18) (Part of the Liturgical Calendar(9) series)
by Stuart Johns(198) on October 8, 2017 (Sunday Morning(281))
18th Sunday after Pentecost
“Thomas A. Edison was working on a crazy contraption called a "light bulb" and it took a whole team of men 24 straight hours to put just one together. The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young boy helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs. Step by step he cautiously watched his hands, obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work. You've probably guessed what happened by now; the poor young fellow dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs. It took the entire team of men twenty-four more hours to make another bulb. Finally, tired and ready for a break, Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs. He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one. That's true forgiveness.”
James Newton, Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel and Charles Lindbergh, 1989, p.22.
Ford Bronco II
My father did not react how I thought he would
He was very gracious and merciful
With my boys
Harsh with my boys
Had to apologize to them and ask for their forgiveness
Affair – Physical or emotional
Some of us have experienced at least an emotional affair with another coworker and especially pornography
When our spouse found out about it, we were hoping for grace and mercy and a second chance
Some of us have been given third and fourth chances
Failure at work
Depending on the circumstances of our mistake at work, our boss has given us a second chance
They’ve extended grace toward us
Failure at school
Our teachers or professors will sometimes give us a second chance
Maybe we failed a test or didn’t complete a project the way that we were supposed to
The teacher or professor can extend grace by allowing us to retake the test or have more time to complete the project the correct way
All of us can probably say that we are grateful for second chances
Jesus continues to teach the religious leaders in Jerusalem and the crowds about God’s plan. He exhorts the religious leaders concerning their failure to lead God’s people like they were supposed to. In this second parable of three He wants the religious leaders and us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Embracing God’s mercy is important.
GOD (Matthew 21:33-46)
The Parable (vv. 33-39)
Landowner = God
Tenets = Jewish religious leaders
Vineyard = Israelites
Servants = Prophets
Landowner’s son = Jesus
Landowner’s provision (v. 33)
The language found in this verse is very close to the language found in Isaiah 5:1-7 (read Isaiah 5:1-7 [#1])
We see here that the landowner provided everything that the tenant farmers needed to be successful is producing a harvest
Winepress to extract the juice from the grapes to make wine
Watchtower for shelter and burglar control
Wall to keep out wild pigs and other trespassers
God had provided everything for the Jewish religious leaders to be successful in leading the Israelites spiritually
He had provided the law and the sacrificial system
Unfortunately, they added to the law and disobeyed some of the law
Instead of producing good fruit, they were producing bad fruit
They continually went their own way
God has given us everything we need to be successful in producing good spiritual fruit for Him
PRINCIPLE – God equips His people to do His work.
Holy Spirit – guides, prompts, convicts, protects, teaches, and gifts us
The Bible – we know God’s will for us as followers of Jesus Christ (read Matthew 28:18-20 [#2]); we know His plan of salvation for humanity – the Gospel (Romans road, John 3:16, etc.)
The body/church – to encourage and be encouraged; to hold us accountable
“Has he not planted us in our lands, whatever they may be? Has he not fenced us in? Has he not watered and cared for us? Has he not built a watchtower for us?” [Boice, 461]
God has placed us in the job where we are to be a witness for Him
God protects us as we gather together as the church
God feeds us and takes care of us through small group Bible studies and through His messages on Sunday morning
He has provided the Holy Spirit to watch over us as we serve Him
Sometimes we do just what the religious leaders did in the 1st Century
We add to the Bible or take individual verses out of context to justify our beliefs
We time and time again go our own way instead of following God’s leading
We give God excuses as to why we can’t do what He is asking us to do
We explain that we can’t make the sacrifices He is asking us to make to be a true follower
We express our fear in sharing the Gospel with our neighbors, coworkers, and family members
What kind of fruit are we producing?
Since God has equipped us to be successful in producing good spiritual fruit, the question we have to ask ourselves is what kind of fruit are we producing?
If we are not being obedient to what God is asking us to do, then we are producing bad fruit
My Next Step Today Is To: Recognize that God has equipped me to do His work and to be obedient to what He is calling me to do for Him.
The idea behind the landowner going on a journey is that he was not present during the growing and harvesting time
God is not present with us on earth in a physical sense
He has given us the Holy Spirit that lives within us as another Counselor/Helper, but again not in a physical sense
There is a harvest coming and God has expectations for us as His tenets or workers
Since the landowner had provided everything for the tenants to be successful, he expected to receive his portion of the fruit
Landowner’s expectation (v. 34)
While the landowner was not present for the harvest, he was not unaware of when the grapes were supposed to be ready
So he sent his servants to the tenets to collect his fruit
There were certain servants, in wealthy households, who were highly trusted and put in positions with great responsibility
They represented the master or landowner in his absence
To mistreat one of these servants was to mistreat the landowner
This information will be important when we talk about the tenants actions in vv. 35-39
This would have been the rent payment required from the tenets for the vineyard
The landowner had put up the capital to plant the vineyard, wall it in, build the watchtower, and dig the winepress
The fruit was the return on his investment
God’s expectation for the religious leaders that He would receive a good return on His investment in a spiritual sense
He was looking for Israelites who were dedicated to Him, because the religious leaders had carefully tended to their spiritual needs and pointed them to God
He was looking for Israelites who were obedient to His commands and laws
He was looking for Israelites who had a repentant heart and were seeking forgiveness through the sacrificial system
God has the same expectations of us as followers of Jesus Christ – He looking for a good return on His investment
He is looking for individuals who dedicated to Him, because we have been carefully sharing the Gospel with those in our sphere of influence
He is looking for individuals who are growing in their faith, because we are mentoring and discipling those who have repented of their sins
He is looking for individuals who are not just fans, but rather followers – who recognize that a relationship with Jesus requires more than just admiring who He is and what He came to do, but are willing to sacrifice everything for Him
God has expectations for us as His workers just like the landowner had expectations for the tenants of the vineyard, but we see that the tenants did not live up to those expectations
Tenant’s actions (vv. 35-39)
The landowner sent three different groups to the tenants in an attempt to collect the return on his investment
He sent, what appears to be, three servants
Next he sent a larger number of servants
Finally, he sent his own son (his son was sent with all the father’s authority)
The tenants mistreated all of the landowners representatives
They beat some of them
They killed some of them
They stoned some of them
The tenants were not loyal to the landowner
Even after the landowner had provided everything they needed to be successful, they were not loyal to him
They did not respect him, his son, or his servants
They had a false sense of entitlement over the vineyard
“On my side of the family there has been a steady arrival of tiny nieces and nephews. When we gather for holidays or other occasions, it is interesting to watch the toddlers handle the toys. My little nephew Bryan is about two years old, and his cousin, Kate, is four. One day Bryan and Kate were playing at my parents' home. Suddenly I heard those adamant words, "mine, mine." They were at both ends of a toy pulling with all their might. "Mine, mine," they would repeat as though no one got the point. After two days I began to understand "toddler property laws:"
1. If I like it, it's mine.
2. If it's in my hand, it's mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it's mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
5. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
6. If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it looks just like mine, it is mine.
These rules are easily observed in the lives of children. They seem to continue in force even among us adults.”
[The Rev. Dr. Robert G. Moore; https://soundfaith.com/sermons/61694-matthew-21-33-43-(sermoncentral)]
Amazingly, the landowner shows incredible grace and mercy to the tenants by giving them more than a second chance to do what is right
PRINCIPLE – God is infinitely gracious and merciful toward His people.
God gave the religious leaders multiple chances and opportunities to lead His people correctly, to repent of their sins and turn to Him
He sent prophets time-and-time again to call them to repentance, yet they mistreated them and even killed some of them
Jeremiah 20:1-2, When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the chief officer in the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and pout in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord’s temple.
1 Kings 18:4, While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in tow caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.
2 Chronicles 24:20-21, Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: ‘Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you.’” But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple.
God gives us multiple chances and opportunities to pursue, grow, and multiply disciples
There are family members, coworkers, and neighbors who are looking for the meaning of life
God has equipped us to share the Gospel with them
He also gives us multiple chances and opportunities to share with those around us
Sometimes we are so focused on ourselves that we miss the opportunities that God brings our way
There are times we’re simply content with the fact that we are saved and it doesn’t matter about anyone else
God may be sending opportunities our way to disciple new believers, but we find excuses not to get involved
God gives us multiple chances and opportunities to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ
It’s been said that it can take as many as five times of hearing the Gospel for someone to understand the Gospel and make a decision for Jesus
God sent Jesus to earth the first time to take our punishment for sin
The son in the parable represents Jesus
Jesus is alluding to what the religious leaders will do to Him in the not too distant future
God is patiently waiting to send Jesus back to earth the second time, because His desire is that no one will perish
2 Peter 3:8-9, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Admit – Rom. 3:23; 6:23
Believe – 1 Cor. 15:3-4
Call – Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
My Next Step Today Is To: Call on the name of the Lord and be saved.
Jesus finishes the parable and immediately asks the religious leaders a question concerning the landowner
Explanation of Parable (vv. 40-46)
Landowner’s actions (vv. 40-41)
The question that Jesus asks them would have been easy for the religious leaders to answer
“Drawn into the movement of the story by its sheer power, they blurt out, almost against their will, the obvious answer: they knew what happened to bad tenants on estates – it was not an uncommon situation in those days.” [Green, 228]
The religious leaders are basically pronouncing their own sentence when they tell Jesus what the landowner will do when he comes
The religious leaders had been leading God’s people astray and abusing them for personal gain
They had killed the Lord’s prophets – the most recent one being John the Baptist
They were going to eventually kill the Son of God
Their punishment would be complete destruction
“A literal translation of the passage would be, ‘The bad ones, he will destroy them badly.’ Destroy here is an amplified verb meaning ‘to destroy utterly.’” [Weber, 349]
The responsibility for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ was no longer going to be in the religious leaders hands
God would use the Apostles, Messianic Jews, and Gentiles to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to a dying world
He would use them to produce spiritual fruit that they would return to Him as an offering to Him for His glory
Jesus’ self-identification (v. 42)
Jesus asks the religious leaders a rhetorical question about Psalm 118:22-23
He is questioning whether or not they have every read that Psalm before
It’s fairly likely that they had, but they perhaps didn’t understand that it was speaking of Jesus
They had misunderstood or misinterpreted other OT scriptures that prophesied about Jesus, so it’s not improbable that they never made the connection in Psalm 118
We know that Jesus was rejected by His own hometown as well as the religious leaders and many of His own disciples
Luke 4:24, “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
John 10:30-33, “I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles form the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
When Jesus started teaching hard things about His death, burial, and resurrection and what would be required of His disciples, we learn from John that many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer followed him (John 6:66)
They did not realize Jesus’ importance in God’s plan
“Back when the Old West was being settled, pioneers flocked across the country to California and Oregon. In one particular spot on the Eastern slopes of the Rockies there was a large, dirt covered rock protruding in the middle of the trail. Wagon wheels were broken on it and men tripped over it. Finally someone dug up the odd stone and rolled it off trail into a nearby stream. The stream was too wide to jump over, but people used the stone as a step to cross the cold creek. It was used for years, until finally one settler built his cabin near the stream. He moved the odd stone out of the stream and placed it in his cabin to serve as a doorstop.
As years passed, railroads were built and towns sprang up. The old settler’s grandson went East to study geology. On a visit to his grandfather’s cabin, the grandson happened to examine the old lump of stone and discovered within that lump of dirt and rock was the largest pure gold nugget ever discovered on the Eastern slope of the Rockies. It had been there for three generations, and people never recognized its value. To some it was a stumbling stone to be removed. To others it was a stepping-stone, and to others it was just a heavy rock. But only the grandson saw it for what it really was--a lump of pure gold.
Jesus is the precious rock God has given us to be both the cornerstone and the capstone of our lives. Will you come to the rock today? Will you build your life upon Him? One day, you will discover Jesus will either be a stepping-stone that gives you access to God, or He will be a rock over which you stumble…so close and yet so far. The choice is yours.”
[David Dykes; https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-sermoncentral--stories-jesuschrist-83678?ref=TextIllustrationSerps]
Jesus is the foundation stone on which He would build His church
Jesus is the capstone that holds the building together
The religious leaders did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior of the world – they rejected Him and would suffer the consequences of their rejection
Punishment explained (vv. 43-44)
The kingdom of God was taken away from them and given to a people who would produce fruit
We’re not told who this people group is
A better translation of the Greek for “people” is “nation”
Jesus is probably referring to the church universal, which encompassed Jews and Gentiles
PRINCIPLE – God will accomplish His plans even when His people reject it.
Jesus then refers back to the stone imagery again
Jesus is the stone in this metaphor and depending on whether or not they reject or accept Him will determine how they see Him as the stone
To Israel, Jesus was a stumbling stone
Isaiah 8:14-15, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”
To the church, Jesus is the foundation stone, the head of the corner
Ephesians 2:20-22, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
At the end of the age, Jesus will come as the smiting stone, destroying Gentile kingdoms
Daniel 2:34, While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them.
Read 1 Peter 2:4-10 [#5]
PRINCIPLE – God will punish those who mistreat His messengers and reject His plan.
Rejecting God’s mercy (vv. 45-46)
The religious leaders knew that Jesus was talking about them
Instead of repenting of their spiritual pride and entitlement, they harbored bitterness in their hearts
They wanted to arrest Him, but were afraid of the crowd
The crowd understood who Jesus was even when the religious leaders refused to accept it
Embracing God’s mercy is important for the believer
He has been infinitely gracious and merciful toward us
He has given us many second chances to fulfill His plan through pursuing, growing, and multiplying disciples
We need to make sure that we are obediently following what He has asked us to do
Embracing God’s mercy is important for the unbeliever
He continues to patiently wait to send Jesus back to earth for the second time
He loves everyone so much that He is continues to woo us until the very end of time
VIDEO – “Mike Foster – Second Chances” [https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/VideoElement/114091].