Summary: The biggest mistake a person can make is to reject God's grace.
A Messiah's Story About God's Grace
Text: Matt. 21:33-46
1. Illustration: I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.- John Newton
2. What is grace?
a. We talk about it.
b. We sing about it.
c. We preach about it.
d. But what is it?
3. The word undeserved is the key to understanding grace. Man does not deserve God's favor; he cannot earn God's approval and blessings. Yet, strange as it may seem, some people choose to reject God's grace.
4. Jesus tells us in this parable...
a. God offers His grace through others
b. God offers His grace through His Son
c. Some people reject God's grace
5. Read Matt. 21:33-46
Proposition: The biggest mistake a person can make is to reject God's grace.
Transition: The first thing that we learn from this parable is...
I. God Offers His Grace Through Others (33-36).
A. He Sent His Servants
1. This is the second of the three parables that Jesus tells that criticize the religious leaders of Israel.
2. He begins this parable by saying, “Now listen to another story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country."
a. Wealthy landowners, whose income from the land allowed them lives of complete leisure, controlled much of the rural Roman Empire.
b. Their estates were generally worked by tenant farmers, who were usually free peasants, but sometimes by slaves.
c. They generally lived far away, often in cities, and had little personal contact with their workers.
d. However, the landowner in this parable is so benevolent that aristocrats would have considered him naive (Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary – New Testament).
e. In other words, he gave his workers more than they deserved.
f. The way the vineyard itself is laid out is a clear indication of the concern and care that the landowner had for his workers.
g. The wall and the watchtower were used to keep out thieves and wild animals.
h. The winepress was hewn out of solid rock and had at least two vats or tubs. The grapes were trodden in the upper vat, and the juice flowed through the trough into the lower vat (Horton, 459).
i. He set up the vineyard in a way to make it easy for his workers to do their jobs, and as you can tell he spared no expense in doing so.
j. It is obvious that in this story the landowner represents God, and the farmers represent the religious leaders of Israel.
k. In fact, this isn't the first time in Scripture that such an analogy is made.
l. Isaiah 5:7 (NLT)
The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. The people of Judah are his pleasant garden. He expected a crop of justice, but instead he found oppression. He expected to find righteousness, but instead he heard cries of violence.
3. Jesus continues the story saying, "At the time of the grape harvest, he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop."
a. The grape harvest did not happen the same year that the crops were planted, but usually happened five years later.
b. It is now time to bring in the harvest and so the landowner sends his servants to collect his profits.
c. The servants here represent the Old Testament prophets. Throughout Israel's history God sent his servants the prophets to warn Israel, but they refused to listen.
d. He sent the prophets to remind the people of the covenant they had with God, and to help them bear spiritual fruit, which the law could not do.
e. It has been said that the law was like a thermometer; it would indicate when they were cold but it couldn't heat them up.
f. Therefore, God sent the prophets to call them to a life of holiness and spiritual worship (Horton, 459).
4. However, Jesus illustrates how people reject the messengers of God by saying, "But the farmers grabbed his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another."
a. Many absentee landowners were notorious for their harsh treatment of their tenants.
b. Here, the scene is reversed, and the landowners servants are abused when they come to collect a portion of the harvest (Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 697-700).
c. The farmers are ruthless in their treatment of the servants.
d. The word "beat" means to "flay, thrash, or work to death." They literally beat him to a pulp.