The Fifth Sunday in Lent April 7, 2019
Text: Luke 20:9-19 ILCW Series C 19:2122
Theme: Who Would Willingly Send His Son to Die?
Do you realize that next Sunday is Palm Sunday already? Hard to believe, isn’t it? It seems like we just began Lent, but pretty soon it will be over for another year. Time marches by us so quickly.
Since we are almost at the end of the Lenten season, it’s time to ask a direct question. How seriously have you thought about all of this the past 5 weeks? Have you taken the time to really think about Jesus’ suffering and death — not just a passing thought, but a daily, introspective look, deep within your heart? Or have you taken Lent for granted and allowed it to slip by without much thought?
I. A God of incredible grace.
What must it have been like for God to knowingly, willingly send His Son to die for us who, at times, take matters of faith and salvation for granted? Who would sacrifice his son for people who don’t care? The answer to that is found in the parable Jesus told.
A man planted a vineyard. Everywhere one could see signs of the loving care that he put into that vineyard. He picked a spot ideally suited for growing grapes. All the stones in the field he picked up, carried to the edge, and there built a wall to protect the grapes from predators – whether they had two legs or four. He situated a watch tower in the middle of the vines, a place where one could see for miles and guard the ripening fruit from thieves.
There was even a winepress built in the middle. That was a little unusual for most of the farmers had to carry their fruit to the village press and wait their turn to tread out the juice. It was most evident that no expense and no trouble had been spared to make this the finest vineyard possible.
Rich returns were expected. Yet something went wrong. Not long after everything was completed, the owner went away. He rented his vineyard to servants he had chosen to be trustworthy. He arranged with them their share of the profits, gave careful directions for the cultivation of the grapes, then left.
Sad to say, there are people who can be trusted when the boss’s eye is on them, but few who work with equal faithfulness when he is far away. So it was in the owner’s carefully constructed vineyard.
When harvest time came, the owner sent servants to collect his
share of the profits. By then the workers had quite forgotten who owned the field. They forgot who it was that bought and cleared the land, planted the vines, built the wall, the watchtower and all other things. They looked on the vineyard as their own property. So they refused to receive the servants whom the owner sent.
They beat them, treated them shamefully, wounded them, and threw them out empty-handed. The owner could hardly believe it. Could the tenants be so unfaithful? Would they not gratefully respond to the master? “What shall I do?” He thought. “I know,” he said. “I will send my son to them. When they see my only, my dearly loved son, they will surely honor him and not mistreat him!” But when they saw the son coming, they huddled together and drew up a plan to kill him so that they could take the land as their own. After killing him, they threw His body outside of the vineyard wall.
At that point in the story, Jesus turned to those listening and asked, “What do you think the owner will do to these workers when he himself comes back to his vineyard?”
The priests shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. They uneasily suspected that Jesus was talking about them and what they had done to God’s people Israel, for the Bible referred to Israel as “the Lord’s Vineyard” (Is.5:7) and to the prophets, whom they had abused, as God’s servants. Yet, they replied, “He’ll destroy those wicked servants and give the vineyard to others” (Mt.21:41). Even as they spoke, the priests, like the workers in the story, were plotting in their ungrateful, rebellious hearts how to get rid of Jesus, God’s dear Son. Jesus looked at them in sorrow for they refused to recognize the one Person who could save them – Himself.
“Do you know the verse,” Jesus said, “‘God has made the very stone which the builders discarded into the cornerstone of His house? The man who stumbles over it will be broken to pieces and the one on whom it falls will be crushed.’”
There is an old proverb that says: “If a stone falls on a pot, woe to the pot. If the pot falls on a stone, woe to the pot. Either way, woe to the pot.” So it is with anyone who dares to reject God’s Son, Jesus. The priests didn’t answer. They only stared at Jesus with cold, bitter hatred. Yes, they were the ones who stumbled over Jesus and would be utterly destroyed in hell if they did not repent. And they went out immediately to plot how to get rid of Jesus.
Now, if God knows all things and so easily accused these priests
and people in this story of their unfaithfulness to Him and refusal to
acknowledge and receive Him, why would God send His Son whom He dearly loved to them? Who would willingly send his son to die? Would you send your son knowingly and willingly to people whom you knew were going to kill him? Who would do that?
A God of astounding patience…A God of incredible grace…A God who loves us even more than His Son whom He was willing to sacrifice to pay for our sin! This is the One who at Jesus’ Baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration called out: “This is my Son whom I love!” God loves His Son Jesus so much. Yet there is a way that God loves us sinners even more. And we see it when He willingly sent His Son to die so that He could redeem us to Himself. Who would do that? A God of incredible grace!
II. A God who would raise His Son again.
But this is not where the story ends. It does not end with the death of the Son. Oh, God’s Son would die, and those who reject Him will be destroyed. But the story would not end at the grave. It would continue with the open tomb of Easter as God would raise up that Son to life and make Him the cornerstone of the Church.
When you think of a cornerstone, you perhaps think of a stone like the one we have in front of the church that lists the date when this building was dedicated. Kind of strange isn’t it? We call it a cornerstone, but it’s not even at the corner of our building.
In earlier times cornerstones or capstones were exactly what the words said. They capped off the corner. They were not decorative stones. They were crucial stones at the corner where walls interlocked, or arches were braced. They gave direction, stability, and support to the entire structure. A building couldn’t stand without them.
So Christ, God’s Son, rejected by the priests, rejected by many in our own day, sent by His heavenly Father to death, became the cornerstone for the Church when God raised Him up again to life. Kill His Son? Yes, God would allow that. But that was by no means the end of the matter. We do not have a dead Lord, but a risen Savior who through the forgiveness He won for us gives direction, stability and support to our lives now and in eternity. Who would willingly send His Son to die? A God who would raise Him up again.
So, what does this parable and its truths about the leaders of the Jews who crucified Jesus have to do with us? It serves as a warning of unfaithfulness and of taking the Savior for granted. There are no two ways about it. This is a Law text meant to stop us in our tracks and think deeply this Lenten season. What are we doing with Jesus? This is serious stuff – eternally serious.
God still loves people, ready to receive anyone back. It’s part of the reason Jesus told this parable, not only as a warning against the leaders for what they were about to do, but as an invitation to put their rebellious ways aside and cling to Him who still loved them.
Yes, God still loved them and wanted them back. And He loves us too. His Gospel promises are meant for all people. But where do you see it here; where do you see the Gospel promises that uplift us?
See it in the patience of God who repeatedly sends His prophets and called servants of the Word to us. If He did not love us and want us to be His forever, His patience would have given out long ago.
Where do you see the Gospel? See it in the love of God as it is pictured in the owner sending his own son. Even though God knew that some would reject Him and, in the end, crucify Him, still He willingly sent that Son to pay the price for our sin. Such love staggers the imagination. It would not be deterred from doing everything necessary to bring us back to Him.
Where do you see the Gospel? See it in the willingness of the Son. Jesus knew what would happen to Him, but nothing would stop Him from pressing forward towards the goal of the cross to win us back to God. That’s grace – so amazing, so divine!
It’s what led the Apostle Paul to write: “I consider everything to be a loss because of what is worth far more: knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For His sake I have lost all things and consider them rubbish, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him….I do this so that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings….I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me….Forgetting things behind me and straining toward the things ahead, I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the heavenly calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phlp.3:8f).
So, may we use this time of Lent to press on, to draw closer to Him. It’s not too late; it’s never too late to contemplate and rejoice in the wonders of God’s grace and in the greatness of salvation our God has provided. God grant it to us in faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.