Sending the Son

Posted: December 17, 2012 in Matthew

Matthew 21:28-46, “Sending the Son”

Some things command our attention.  Not in the way that a TV show might happen to catch our eye, but more in the way that a downed power line necessitates that we do something about it.  It simply cannot be ignored. Certain people can be the same way.  We’ll encounter dozens of people every day, many of whom may not make too much of an impact…but then we’ll come across someone that just commands our attention.  When the President of the United States walks into a room, he commands attention – all eyes are focused upon him, waiting to see what he might do or say.

If that’s the case with men, what should our reaction be when God walks into the room?  Certainly HE would command our attention!  Whatever He said or did would paid the most careful attention, and we would not want to miss a single thing.  (By the way, this happens on a daily basis with the Church.  Jesus is always with us, and the Holy Spirit indwells us.  Anytime the Church gathers together, our Lord Jesus is among us.  He is present when we sing our praises, when seek Him in prayer, etc.  That’s not something to take lightly or take for granted!)

Of course this is what happened with the chief priest and Pharisees.  God walked into the room when Jesus walked among them.  He should have commanded their attention…but instead they didn’t want anything to do with Him.  Of course God had sent them prophet after prophet, and they listened to none of them, no matter how often God commanded them to repent.  Finally God sent His Son, and they rejected Him as well.  To reject Jesus was to reject the promises of God (and thus God Himself) – and that comes with dire consequences, as Jesus makes plain.

Remember our context…  In an attempt to discredit Jesus, the priests and Pharisees found themselves discredited.  They had asked Jesus about His authority, trying to show that He had no formal background nor training to be able to do the things that He did.  But before Jesus would answer them, He asked them a question about the authority of John the Baptist.  Try as they might, John’s authority could not be denied, so the priests and Pharisees took a position of ignorance, copping out of the question entirely.  Jesus then refused to answer them.  Jesus’ own authority was undeniable, and John the Baptist served as His witness & forerunner.  To acknowledge John was to acknowledge Jesus, but the Jewish leadership chose to reject both.

Jesus continues His answer to the Pharisees today…by rejecting the message of God, they were rejecting God Himself.  They neither obeyed God (despite their claims to the contrary), nor were they good stewards of what God entrusted to them.  Both the blessing of God and the kingdom of God would be taken from them.  The tragedy is that it didn’t have to be this way.  They could have honored God by receiving the Son as their King.  Instead of receiving Jesus, they would be broken by Him.  God sent His Son – an incredible act of mercy and grace…and the Son of God commands our attention.

Matthew 21:28–45
28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.

  • The first parable: the disobedient sons.  One son started off in blatant outright refusal of his father’s wishes, and then later changed his mind and did the right thing.  The other son seemed to be completely obedient – even respectful in his answer – and then refused to do the work.  What was going through their minds is not a part of the parable.  Jesus doesn’t say if the first son regretted his words, or if he finally decided to do it after begrudging guilt.  Nor does Jesus say anything about the second son – if perhaps the son was lying all along, or if he just got lazy along the way and forgot about his father’s request.  All Jesus describes are their actions, which got to the heart of what He was saying to the priests and Pharisees.  This son had promised obedience, but his promise ended up being a lie.
  • Question: were each of the sons disobedient?  Yes.  Both were in the wrong – each dishonored his father at different times in different ways.  The distinction is that the first son repented from his disobedience, and the second son repented (turned) TO disobedience.  One started out wrong, and then ended up doing the right thing.  The other one started with the appearance of right, and chose to do wrong.
    • There is always an opportunity to repent – right or wrong.  There is always a choice to be made.  We can choose to do the will of Christ, or we can choose to follow our own sinful desires…either way, it’s a choice that we make, and we’re going to be held accountable to that choice.

31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

  • It was obvious which son had been obedient, and it should have been obvious which group of people were being more obedient to God.  The tax collectors and the harlots had been the ones to hear John’s message from God and repent.  (“Tax collectors and harlots” obviously weren’t the only people in John’s hearers – it’s just a phrase that refers to sinners in general.)  The Pharisees and representatives from the priests had come out to hear John, and nothing changed.  On the surface, it would have appeared that it was the Pharisees who were obedient to God, and the tax collectors who were not – but the end result made it clear.  Which group bore the fruits of repentance?  The tax collectors and harlots who had heard the message of God through John actually changed their actions.  It was the sinners who were the obedient ones.  It was the outcasts who had believed God; not the ones who supposedly represented God to the people.
  • Question: was it too late for the chief priests and Pharisees to believe?  No. They had not believed John, but that did not mean they had to deny Jesus, whom John pointed to.  They had not obeyed the call of God yet, but that did not mean that they could not obey the call of God.  Just like the first son eventually decided to be obedient, so did the 2nd son have the same opportunity (at least for the time being).  They just needed to make the choice.  The opportunity was still there for them to enter into the kingdom of God, but they would have to repent.
    • God gives everyone the opportunity to repent and come to faith.  Obviously, not everyone is going to take it, but the opportunity is there.  Don’t waste it!
  • Certainly the priests and Pharisees would be offended at the idea that outright sinners would enter the kingdom before them – but there’s a bigger issue at work.  Those who thought that they had guaranteed entrance into the kingdom actually had none.  They had confidence in themselves, but their confidence was based upon a lie.  Their confidence was based in their heritage, being children of Abraham – but God had the ability to raise children of Abraham from the stones.  Their confidence was based in their ability to keep the law of God – but no one could perfectly keep the law, and its whole purpose was to show people their sin and bring them to God.  Their confidence was in their traditions and religious “stuff” – but that did nothing to make them right in the sight of God.
    • People place their confidence in all sorts of things: church membership – service – rituals – miracles, etc.  They believe those things guarantee them entry into the kingdom of God…but they don’t.  The question is whether or not we know Jesus.  Without Him, nothing we try to do in the name of religion matters.
  • All of this has hinged upon obedience.  Question: is Jesus saying that our salvation is tied to our obedience?  IOW, does someone need to earn their place in the kingdom of God by being obedient to God?  No.  Jesus’ own teaching and the rest of Scripture makes it clear that we cannot earn our place in the kingdom.  Salvation is never obtained by our works; only by His grace, by believing upon Jesus in faith.  Even the context of what Jesus is talking about here, is about belief.  The Pharisees had not believed John, but the tax collectors did believe.  They needed to believe.  That said, obedience DOES have a valid place in the life of a believer.  Obedience does not earn us salvation, but it is evidence of our salvation.  The grace of God and faithful obedience of the church go hand-in-hand together, which was Paul’s point to the Ephesians. Ephesians 2:8–10, "(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."  []  Those who trust the grace of God demonstrate their trust through their obedient lives, which was part of Jesus’ point in the parable.  The harlots and tax-collectors had not previously lived any part of their lives in obedience, but once they considered the call of God, they turned to Him and then walked in faithfulness.  On the contrary, the priests and Pharisees had claimed to know and obey God, but showed they had no trust in Him whatsoever because they totally denied God in obedience.  Our obedience of God goes far to demonstrate our love for God.

33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.

  • For the second parable, Jesus took a scenario that would have been familiar with all of them.  Obviously vineyards were common, as was the whole idea of a landowner who would contract with some workers to tend his field for him.  Typically the workers would retain a certain percentage of the fruits as reward for their labor.  All of this was well & good, but what makes this particular scenario stand out is the wording Jesus used.  Jesus pulls a description directly from Isaiah 5, which would have been immediately noticed by these priests and Pharisees.  Isaiah 5:1–4, "(1) Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. (2) He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes. (3) “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. (4) What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?" []  The parable in Isaiah goes on to specifically identify this vineyard as the house of Israel, as God expresses His disappointment in it, and tells them He will bring His wrath and discipline to them.  He expected His people to be fruitful, and they were not.  They were unjust, and unrighteous, and God would judge them. (Which is exactly what happened during the days of the captivity.)  That Jesus uses the exact same imagery could not have been lost upon the priests and Pharisees.
  • Note that the landowner has done all of the work.  It’s not that he owned the land, and then commanded the vinedressers to do all of the construction for him (though all of the fruit of the land would still belong to him).  Instead, he labored over the land.  He’s the one that did the planting, the protecting, the preparation, and all of the other construction.  (And there was a LOT of work involved!  Digging a winepress was no small task. [PIC])  It was after all this was done that he leased it to the vinedressers.  They were simply to care for the crop that he had already done all of the work on.  The vinedressers could claim nothing in all of this.  They had no stake of ownership, and no right to the fruit, apart from what they had been hired to do.

34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. 35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.

  • The landowner simply wanted what was his.  Certainly he would have compensated the vinedressers for their work, but the fruit belonged to him.  This was the normal, expected practice – nothing unusual about it.
  • What was unusual was the response of the vinedressers.  They rebelled against the landowner with utmost violence.  Not content with merely turning away the servants, or refusing to give them the harvest, they went to the extent of beating and killing them.  They were bloodthirsty men, and they were provoking the landowner to wrath.
  • Interestingly, the landowner shows considerable restraint.  One might imagine after the very first instance, the landowner would have come with force.  Instead, he sent servant after servant, showing incredible mercy, allowing the vinedressers opportunity after opportunity to repent.

37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

  • After all of the servants that had been beaten and killed, it might be asked, “Why send the son at all?”  The son had authority that the servants did not.  The son uniquely represented the landowner in a way that the servants never could.  The message may have been the same (to repent and give up the vineyard), but the messenger was profoundly different.  The son would some with the full authority of his father, and if the vinedressers would ever submit to the landowner, then they submit to the son.
  • Of course that wasn’t what happened.  The vinedressers were in full rebellion against the landowner, and had no intention of ever giving up the vineyard.  In fact, with the coming of the son, they saw an opportunity to usurp the vineyard and claim ownership of it for themselves.

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” 41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

  • As with the earlier parable, this answer was obvious.  The wrath of the landowner was completely justified, and he would bring destruction upon those who killed his son.  It wasn’t merely an arrest and jail-time that would come, it was an utter outpouring of the landowner’s wrath.  The people listening to Jesus understood this easily & used a bit of a play on words to describe it.  NASB picks it up by translating: “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end…”  The vinedressers showed themselves to be miserable, and they brought the misery of the landowner down upon them.
  • Was the landowner justified in his wrath prior to sending his son?  Yes.  But it was the rejection and murder of his son that erased his former mercies.  Killing the son was the final act of rebellion and final straw.
  • Notice that the landowner would not only exact vengeance – he would lease the vineyard to someone else who would do what they were supposed to do with it.  They would give him the fruits, as they were expected to do.
  • With all of this in mind, Jesus drops a bombshell on the chief priests and Pharisees.  THEY were the wicked vinedressers, and they were rejecting the Son.  See vs. 42…

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’ ?

  • Quoting Psalm 118…the same psalm that had been referenced earlier when the people received Jesus into Jerusalem with such praise.  Psalm 118:22–26, "(22) The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. (23) This was the LORD’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. (24) This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. (25) Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. (26) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD." []  Earlier, the people had proclaimed “Hosanna!” – “Save, O Lord!”  They sang out “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  The children picked up the same refrain and said, “Hosanna to the Son of David.”  All these people were proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah, and He had shown He had the right to receive this praise when He backed it up with demonstrations of power and authority.  This is what the priests and Pharisees were objecting to.  They couldn’t abide Jesus acting in this way and they certainly couldn’t stand by passively as the people started to put their hopes for God’s Messiah in Jesus.  Yet all of this was prophesied…to the point of being prophesied in the same psalm.
  • Jesus’ rejection was prophesied.  The people would recognize Jesus as the King, but they would also reject Him as the King.  The chief priests and Pharisees were fulfilling prophecy at that very moment by rejecting Jesus as the Messiah.  The One who had all right and authority to bring reform to the temple and the nation was being objected to by the national leaders.  He was the most important “stone” in the whole building – even if they as the builders never realized it.  Imagine a building being constructed, yet the builders claiming the foundation was unnecessary.  That would be foolish!  It would be rejecting the plan of the architect, and it would fail.  That’s what the Jews did with their Messiah.  They rejected the plan of God, when they rejected their foundation stone.  Jesus is the One on which all of the promises of God rested.  Yet He would be rejected by His people, and without a cornerstone, the building would crumble.
  • Jesus’ victory was prophesied.  The stone would be rejected, but it would “become” so much more.  What was rejected by one nation would be gladly received by another.  The stone that was cast aside would be seen as the most important of all stones, and that’s exactly what happened.  When Jesus died upon the cross, the witnesses at the time believed they were watching just another execution of just another guy claiming to the Messiah.  They even mocked Him while He hung there.  They basically told Him, “You claim to be the Messiah, prove it & save yourself!  If you really trust in God, let God deliver you.”  They didn’t believe anything special was happening – not even the darkness nor the earthquake upon Jesus’ death shook the unbelief of the priests and Pharisees (nor most of the people).  It was three days later at the resurrection that everything changed!  The One who apparently died in complete weakness was raised in utter strength!  The stone that was rejected became so much more when He was raised from the dead.  He showed Himself to be the God of power, and there could be no denying it.
  • Jesus is the cornerstone!  Today we don’t think of cornerstones as much of anything, other than a place of for people to have their names inscribed on a building.  Yet cornerstones were essential for masonry projects.  Cornerstones were used to set the standard, and keep the walls in a straight line.  Without a good cornerstone, there would be no standard, no stability, no place to rest the weight, and the structure would fall.  Jesus is the “chief cornerstone.”  Everything we as the Church have is based upon Jesus.  Everything that we as the Church are is based upon Jesus.  The Bible tells us that we (as the Church) are being built into the temple of God – but that Jesus is Himself the chief cornerstone among the foundation and that we are being fit together in Him. (Eph 2:20-22)  Without Jesus we are nothing, and have no claim to any promise in God.  But in Christ, we have everything!
    • Jesus is not optional for the Christian!  “Oh come on, everyone knows that!”  Really?  How often do we see Christians (and ourselves) acting in ways in which for all practical purposes, Jesus is optional?  How essential is Jesus to the worship of Christians?  (Or do we just gather to sing?)  How essential is Jesus to our prayers? (Are we truly seeking to hear from Him, or do we just want to talk?)  How essential is Jesus to our actions? (Or do we just want Him to bless what it is that we want to do?)  Jesus seems to be shoved to the sidelines of a huge portion of our lives as Christians…but that’s not His role.  Jesus is our Lord.  Jesus is our bridegroom (will all of the relationship and active role that is implied with that).  Jesus is our cornerstone.  Without Him at the very center, then we have nothing real in our relationship with God.
  • All of it – from the rejection to the victory – was all due to the will and the work of God.  The stone would be rejected, but it would be glorified, and “this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”  We can understand how it would be God’s will for Jesus to be glorified, but what about Jesus’ rejection?  That was God’s will, too.  It was the will of God that Jesus be moved from rejection to glory – this was part of His plan that had been in place from before the foundations of the world.  Before mankind ever existed, God had a plan to send Jesus to the people that He knew would reject Him, subject Jesus to the tortures that the people would devise for Him, die horrifically upon the cross…and of course be risen from the grave in glory.  The rejection of Jesus was never a surprise to God; it was always the plan of God at work.  Why?  How could something this awful possibly be the plan of God?  Because it was the only way sin would be answered.  Sin is itself awful, and a just and good God had to have an answer for it.  God’s answer (determined long before the need ever existed) is the cross.
  • Our nation just experienced a bout with extreme sin and evil this week. 27 people were murdered in Newtown, CT – 20 of them being little kids.  This sort of thing shocks us and shakes us to our core.  We’re a nation that is (sadly) used to much violence.  There had been a shooting earlier in the week in a shopping mall in Oregon, but we hadn’t seen a shooting like this since the days of Columbine – and we’ve certainly not seen anything involving grammar school students.  This was evil, pure and unadulterated straight from the pit of hell.  This is the result of a sinful, fallen creation…and no doubt, we will see more atrocities like this many more times.  This is why Jesus died upon the cross.  People sometimes wonder how God could send His only begotten Son into the world knowing that Jesus would be rejected.  They wonder how it is God could possibly even conceive of a plan that would directly send Jesus to torture and death.  It’s because a just God must answer sin.  There is no misery enough that could be inflicted upon people who commit such miserable crimes.  Our nation is shocked by the few events we hear among our own people, but scores of children are killed every day all over the world.  They are pressed into military service and forced to kill their own families.  They are mutilated and forced to beg on the streets by people who treat them as property.  They are murdered by the millions while they are still in their mothers’ wombs in government-sanctioned slaughter.  Evil runs rampant…and God cannot and does not sit on the sidelines.  Before the foundations of the world, God acted pre-emptively against sin and evil by determining that Jesus would die on account of sin.  Yet how can the collective sin of billions of people through history be answered?  Even if every single person in all history ended up in hell, it would still not fully right every wrong.  It would take something infinitely more: the death of God the Son.  A sacrifice of infinite worth answers the cost of sin perfectly.  And that’s what God did, with amazing results.  Isaiah 53:10–11, "(10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. (11) He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities." []  Jesus’ soul was indeed an offering for sin, but that was not the end of Jesus.  His “seed” has endured – His days have been prolonged – He was raised from the dead!  And the results of His work are amazing: we are justified in Him!  We who were the criminals – we who deserved death – we who deserved nothing less than the full wrath of God because of the sin that we have been personally responsible for…we have been made right in the sight of God through Jesus.
    • Many” – not “all.”  ALL can be forgiven, but the only ones who are will be those who come to faith in Christ.

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

  • In case the priests and Pharisees had not fully understood it yet, Jesus tells them plainly that they are in the position of the wicked vinedressers.  God had done all of the work on His kingdom.  He had made the promises – He had extended His grace – He had worked through His mighty power – He had given His written word.  This had been entrusted to the nation of Israel for them to be caretakers.  They were to rightly represent God to the rest of the world, and to bear fruit of His kingdom.  Yet along the way, the Jews acted as if the kingdom of God belonged to them, rather than to God.  The whole history of the nation of Israel shows them walking further and further away from God.  God had made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but by the time the Hebrews got to Egypt, they were already walking away from the Lord.  God used Moses to bring about their freedom, and they repented…for an absurdly short amount of time.  They had not gone away from Mt. Sinai when they were already rebelling against the Lord.  And it went on like this for centuries.  Eventually, the nation of Israel had rejected God as their king, and the kings that were set over them were as wicked as the surrounding nations.  They worshipped false idols and did the same practices as the heathens around them – all the while still claiming they were God’s chosen people.  They rejected the numerous prophets sent by God to warn them, to the point of treating some of them with violence.  Finally God sent them into captivity – but when they came out, they did not act much better.  Hundreds of years later, the nation of Judea was still in rebellion against God, having rejected the message of John the Baptist, and turning the other way when he was beheaded.  Now they were rejecting the Son of God. And although they had not done it yet, it was plain that they were going to seize Jesus and kill Him (just as Jesus said in the parable).  This was the last straw, and God would no longer show them mercy.
  • What the Jews lost out regarding the kingdom would be given to another nation that would care for it the way God intended.  What is the nation?  There are two main possibilities:
    • A future nation of Israel.  Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t say “nations” (plural), which would be the normal reference to the Gentile world.  This is a singular “nation.”  Because of the future promises of God to Israel, some interpret “nation” here more along the lines of “generation,” as Jesus is prophesying of a future generation of Jews that would be faithful to the Lord.  Indeed, during the Tribulation, multitudes of Jews will come to recognize Jesus as their Lord & Messiah, and they will be faithful to Him during the Millennial Kingdom.
    • The Church. This is by far the more common interpretation.  The kingdom work that had been entrusted to the Jews would now be entrusted to a new nation, the Church.  Previously, the Jews were the nation who had been given the Scriptures, and the responsibility to demonstrate the glory of God to the rest of the world.  The nations were supposed to be able to look at the nation of Israel and recognize the one true God, and come to faith.  That would no longer happen.  That responsibility has been given to the Church.  The Church is the representative of Christ Jesus within the world today, and the nations (including the Jews!) are supposed to be able to look to us to look to God, and come to saving faith in Christ.  The Church may have been formed from many nations, but we are a single nation – ultimately formed by God.  1 Peter 2:9–10, "(9) But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (10) who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." []
  • Does that mean that the Jews are forever locked out of the kingdom promises?  No.  God is rich in mercy, and God has been steadfast in His promises.  He promised that Israel would partake in the future kingdom, and they absolutely will do so.  The gifts and callings of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:29).  Yet for now, their nation is blinded and their system of worship destroyed.  They do not bear the fruits of the kingdom of God – that privilege has been given to the Church.

44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

  • Who is the stone?  Jesus.  He is the “stone which the builders rejected…the chief cornerstone.”  OK – that makes sense, but what about the rest of what Jesus says here?  If we’re being honest, this sounds rather foreboding here.  Whoever falls upon Jesus will be broken – yet if Jesus falls on anyone, they will be smashed into powder.  This doesn’t sound like the meek & mild Jesus we’re accustomed to thinking about – and it’s not.  To be sure, Jesus IS meek & gentle.  There is none more loving and gracious than Him, and He invites all to come to Him and be saved.  But we cannot make the mistake of thinking that “meekness” = “powerless.”  Even in Jesus’ gentleness, Jesus has all power and authority.  Jesus is still God.  And it’s this power that is referenced here.  When people come into to the presence of Jesus, things are going to happen: we’ll either be broken, or we will be crushed.
  • Think of it in terms of Jesus’ analogy.  Say you take a plate & drop it on a giant stone…what’s going to happen?  The plate is going to break.  Yet pick up that giant stone & drop it on the plate.  That plate is going to be in much smaller pieces!  When something fragile meets an immoveable object at a strong force, something is going to give…and it’s not going to be the rock.
  • Jesus is the rock & people are going to stumble over Him.  Specifically, the Jews were stumbling over Him.  The priests and Pharisees had rejected the prophets – they had rejected John – and they were rejecting Jesus.  Everything that God had given them to point them to Christ, they had repudiated.  As Paul wrote about them: Romans 9:32–33, "(32) Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. (33) As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”"  []  They stumbled over the very rock that God had given them to be built upon.  If they had only believed in Jesus, they would have been saved.  Yet instead of being built upon the rock, they fought against the rock…and the rock was going to win that battle.  If they fell upon Jesus, they would be broken – their own efforts to hurt Jesus were going to end to their own hurt.  Yet when Jesus chose to judge them, they would be ground into powder – there would be no doubt at the outcome.

45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

  • The priests and Pharisees understood Jesus precisely.  Luke tells us that they sought to lay hands upon Jesus that very hour (Lk 20:19).  IOW, this wasn’t something that they merely raised an eyebrow about – this was something that incensed them to the point of murderous desire.  Why didn’t they take Jesus?  “They feared the multitudes.”  They would have killed Jesus that very moment if they thought they had the opportunity – but they feared that they would start a riot and that they would themselves suffer harm.
  • They feared the crowds; not God.  They had understood Jesus rightly in knowing that both parables had been spoken against them – but they didn’t truly listen to what Jesus was saying about Himself.  HE was the Son of God.  HE was the chief cornerstone – the Messiah.  If they had believed that about Jesus, there’s no way they would have touched Jesus at all…they would have feared incurring the wrath of God.  But they didn’t.  No matter what Jesus said or did, they didn’t hear what He was saying because they didn’t want to listen.  Their stubborn refusal to humble themselves before Christ would be their downfall.
    • That’s the way it’s going to be with many people.  They’ve heard the gospel – they’ve heard of the love of Christ for them.  Yet no matter what Jesus has done already for them at the cross…no matter how God has already shown Himself in their lives…they simply don’t want to listen.  They’ve bucked themselves up in their own pride, and their pride is going to be their downfall.  Don’t let that happen to you.

Conclusion:
God had given the Jewish nation all kinds of opportunities to listen to Him.  He had sent dozens of prophets, all of whom were rejected.  He sent John the Baptist, to whom the outrights sinners heard, but the leaders of the people rejected.  Finally in incredible grace, He sent His only begotten Son, who should have commanded the attention of the people.  Yet they would reject Him too, and indeed the priests and Pharisees were already rejecting Him, and thus they would incur the wrath of God.

  • God sent Jesus as the ultimate act of mercy.  Jesus is God’s eternal answer to sin.  Be it the sins of the Pharisees & Jewish nation – be it horrendous acts of evil – be it our own evil hearts – Jesus provides the answer to it all.  God knew Jesus would be rejected by the world, and He had to be rejected if He was going to go to the cross and die.  Yet on the cross, He became the substitute for all mankind.  This was God’s plan from the beginning, and He lovingly saw it through to completion.
  • God sent Jesus as the ultimate authority.  There is none invested with more power than Jesus because Jesus is God.  Not only did He come with the message of God to the world, He came as God with all of the authority that goes with Him.  Thus He is the One we are to listen to, and obey.  He is the chief cornerstone on which we can be built, or the stone of stumbling on which we can be broken if we continue in rebellion against Him.

 

Either way, Jesus commands our attention…He cannot be ignored.  Certainly Jesus cannot be pushed to the sidelines.  As Christians we become guilty of this when we assign our Lord 2nd place in our lives (if He ranks that high at all).  When we ignore the plain teaching of Scripture, we do as the 2nd son in the parable.  When we claim the promises of the blessings of God, but reject the authority of the Lordship of God, we act as the wicked vinedressers.  That’s when we push Jesus to the side, wanting all of the benefits, but none of the Living Lord Jesus.  Be careful!  That is nothing short of rebellion against our God.

Instead, we are to embrace our God, coming to Jesus every day with expectant hearts.  We thank Him – we give Him praise – we embrace Him in worship and in prayer – we obey with glad hearts.  When we fail, we receive His forgiveness and cleansing and empowerment through the Spirit.  Either way, He is first in our lives because He commands our attention.  God sent His Son for us – He deserves nothing less.

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