Summary: Followers of Christ will not be received well by the world and its rulers, but we are called to be faithful.
Sermon: “THIS VERY STONE” Rev. David Anderson
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Reading again from the Gospel of Matthew we listen to
these words of our Lord Jesus: “This very stone which the builders rejected has become the had of the corner...”
It was early in the morning. The day before Jesus had
turned over the tables at the temple, as He drove out all who were buying and selling in the temple area. He then went to Bethany where He spent the night, likely with Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary.
I’m not sure, but He may have gotten up very early seeking not to disturb His hosts. Matthew tells us that Jesus was hungry. Did He get up early and slip out so that Martha and Mary would not need to make Him breakfast?
In any event, it is on His trip from Bethany back to
Jerusalem that Jesus will curse the tree which had nothing but leaves to offer His hunger.
Now–you talk about nerves of iron! Jesus not only goes
back to Jerusalem, but to the temple where He had created such a stir with the whips, tables, and all. Immediately He is met by the chief priests and the elders of the people who demand to know by what authority He is doing these things.
He sets up a situation where He forces the Jewish
authorities to back down or get in trouble with the people over John the Baptizer’s ministry. Then He begins a series of parables, the first of this series we had last Sunday. Today our Lord speaks of the Landowner, vineyard, evil tenants, righteous servants and Son, and the stone rejected by the builders.
As the Lord Jesus talks about a vineyard, all of the Jewish leaders would immediately start thinking of Isaiah 5. The prophet Isaiah was inspired to speak of Israel as a “vine,” tenderly cared for by God, and yet it produced no fruit.
Now stop right here.... The disciples had just that morning watched how the Lord responded to fruitlessness: He curses it! As Jesus started this parable of the vineyard, I can just see the disciples looking around at each other with knowing looks and nods... they knew that something really big was being said.... They knew that the Jewish leaders had no idea what they were up against in Jesus.... the Son
of the Living God.
The vineyard described by Isaiah was not only fruitless, it produced in its place injustice and bloodshed.
Therefore, as Jesus cursed the fruitless tree, so God
curses fruitless Israel by removing its protection and
stopping the blessings of rain and strength to the ground.
Here we see a spiritual principle at work, one that we see over and over again in the Book of Judges. God will not bless a godless land. He will not favor a nation which practices injustice and takes innocent human life.
Such a nation God will not protect, and as we read in the Book of Hebrews, the 10th chapter, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”
My friends, how much security in God’s favor do you think that our nation can expect when the streets run red in the shedding on innocent, preborn human life? Do you feel safe from our enemies when the institutions of law tell us that evil is good, and good is evil, and seeks to silence us when we speak against sin on the street and human vice in the public square?
God tended to our nation when it was formed as an infant, blessing it with very godly, Christian leaders. In our Lord’s words today, God’s care for Israel is suggested by the meaning of the parable itself. When God cared for ancient Israel, He took care of all the details. There were very precise horticultural procedures involved in caring for a
The hedge was carefully measured and trimmed. There
were measurements for the trenches, the voids spaces,
and the size of the winepress. Careful descriptions
outlined how to prune the vines, including directions on where and where not to plant vines. Ancient authorities even noted what were the best, and the worst, varieties of vines to plant or not plant.
A lot of care went into the vineyard, even as God so
carefully tended to His dear people, Israel.
But what did He get for all His loving care? Injustice! Unrighteousness! Bloodshed! Shouts of disobedience!
God could have cursed Israel to death even as our Lord
cursed the barren tree, but no! Israel was not a thing to God. Israel embodied the children of God.
God wanted the vineyard to prosper! So He sent His
servants the prophets. They beat one... killed another... stoned another...