Summary: Use Your Head! 1) Don’t reject God’s claim on your life; ) Don’t reject God’s call to repent; 3) Don’t reject God’s Christ for salvation.
Have you purchased anything lately that doesn’t have a warning label attached to it? It seems to me that everything now from artwork to zippers comes with warnings - some of them quite humorous. For example irons have warning labels that read: “NEVER IRON CLOTHES WHILE WEARING THEM”. If you rent a superman costume for Billy’s birthday party, the label will caution: “CAPE DOES NOT ENABLE USER TO FLY”. Apparently these warnings are necessary because not everyone uses their head when it comes to dangers that should be obvious. This morning Jesus urges us to use our head when it comes to spiritual matters. Through the Parable of the Tenants he warns: “ Don’t reject God’s claim on your life. Don’t reject God’s call to repent. And don’t reject God’s Christ for salvation.”
Jesus told the Parable of the Tenants on the Tuesday of Holy Week. He spent much of that day in the temple courts instructing the people in full view of the chief priests and teachers of the law. They, of course, felt threatened by this and demanded to know by whose authority Jesus taught. Part of Jesus’ answer to their question was the warning he gave through the Parable of the Tenants. In this parable Jesus spoke about a man who planted a vineyard and then rented it to sharecroppers before setting out on a long journey. When the time came for the harvest, the owner of the vineyard sent one of his servants to collect the part of the harvest that belonged to him. Instead of complying with his request, however, the sharecroppers beat up the servant and sent him away empty-handed.
It’s not very difficult to understand the meaning of this parable. The owner of the vineyard represents God the Father. The vineyard itself symbolized God’s people, Israel. And the sharecroppers were the leaders to whom God had entrusted his people. By saying that a man came and planted a vineyard, Jesus first of all reminded the Israelites that they had not volunteered to become God’s people. No, God had “planted” them. In the same way if we are part of God’s family through faith in Christ Jesus, it isn’t because we made some decision to become part of the family. No, God the Holy Spirit planted this faith in our hearts when he came to us through Word and Sacrament.
Now why did God do this? Why did he make the Israelites his people and bring us into his family through faith in Christ? It’s so that we would produce fruit. To put it another way, it’s so that we would live a life praising and glorifying God. What’s amazing about our sinful nature, though, is that when God demands our time, talents, and treasures we often react like the sharecroppers in the parable. We chase God away. But friends when God demands our time, talents, and treasures he’s only asking for what he deserves to receive from us – just as the owner of the vineyard deserved to receive fruit from the sharecroppers. After all, he had purchased the land, he had planted the vineyard, and as Matthew (21:33-46) and Mark (12:1-12) tell us, he had even built a fence around the vineyard, put up a watchtower there, and built a winepress in it. The sharecroppers could not claim that these things belonged to them and therefore were being arrogant and downright foolish when they sent away the owner’s servant empty-handed. In the same way we are arrogant and downright foolish when we reject God’s claim on our life, for everything we have comes from and belongs to God.
What happened to the wicked sharecroppers in the parable? Nothing – at least not right away. Instead of calling the police, the owner sent more servants to collect what belonged to him. The sharecroppers, however, treated these servants like the first one. They sent away each one empty-handed - beating some, killing others.
The servants in the parable represent the prophets God had sent his people. The prophets came to urge the people to put their trust in the promise of a saviour and to live the way God wanted them to live. Instead of listening to these prophets, however, God’s people persecuted them. For example tradition says that the people stoned the prophet Jeremiah, and that King Manasseh had the prophet Isaiah sawed in two.
How well do we listen to God’s messengers? When our pastor or fellow brother or sister in the faith points out a compromise we have made with our sinful nature, do we blow them off? Do we wonder what right they have to say such things and even misapply Jesus’ words “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt. 7:1) to excuse our sinful reaction? Instead of pushing away God’s messenger, think about why he has sent them to us. Isn’t it because God loves us? Isn’t it because he doesn’t want us to continue in our sin and end up his enemy through unholy living? Sure it hurts when others point out our sin. We would much rather have people tell us how great we are. But thank the Lord that he continues to send faithful messengers who warn us about our sinful attitudes and actions that can only tear us away from our Savior. Such messengers only have our eternal good in mind. Don’t reject them or their message!