"Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey. And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'
"But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance.' And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?"
They said to Him, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons."
Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES'? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it."
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Have you ever noticed that in this world of sin, nothing ever comes to us a pure good or pure evil - at least nothing of this world. Riches are good, but people prey on the rich, and thieves steal from the rich, and then there are taxes and charities, and you have to be concerned that where you put it doesn't cost more than it makes while you preserve your riches for future use. As soon as you get that thing that you have desired for so long, you have to start upkeep, and storage, and oftentimes repair. We just moved into a house. It is a beautiful house with a large and beautiful yard. But now it is my responsibility to keep it beautiful and in good repair. Good, but always tinged with trouble of some sort.
Even knowledge or faith needs to be tended. If you don't use it, you will lose it. And if God has give it to you - faith, or knowledge, or whatever it is, you can be sure that He gave it to you for a purpose. God intends you to use it. That is what stewardship is about; using what God has entrusted to you for His purposes. You have health and strength? How do you use it to serve Him and bring glory to God? Do you have knowledge and faith? How can you use them to His glory and the edification of His Church? Do you have riches? Do you have unique abilities? Do you have time to spare and energy to focus and a desire to be involved in something? How can you manage that to the welfare of the Body of Christ and glory of God and the joyous task of bringing the lost and erring to Christ? Those are the questions which confront every child of God. What is the purpose of God? Why has God given us this great good? Our theme this morning is, Unexpected Good, Unexpected Trouble.
The parable of Vineyard and the Wicked Tenants is about the Jews. Jesus teaches them that they have proven unworthy of their place in the Vineyard of God. He describes the rejection, and beating, and ultimately the killing of the prophets. He prophesies that they will kill the Son, although He doesn't tell them that it is a prophesy - we just know it because of our vantage in history. Then Jesus asks them to judge themselves and their history as a people in the privileged position of "The Chosen People of God." He asks them to judge on the basis of the parable - and when it is someone else, they could see it clearly and said, He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.
Then Jesus unfolds the parable to the Jews. He tells them what it meant and what their judgment means - because their judgment agreed with God's. Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it. That was the unexpected trouble. They were the possessors of the Kingdom, and of the Word, and of the favor of God. But they rejected God and His purposes for them and all with which He had blessed them. They wanted it all for themselves, and they wanted it all their way, and they wanted it for their own sinful and oh-so-temporary purposes. And God ultimately said "no". And Jesus said, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES'? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it."
Now we are the ones that Jesus was speaking about. We are the new nation - not America, but us Christians. The Church, the body of Christ, we are the ones Peter referred to by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
The unexpected good - at least from the perspective of history - is that we are given the grace of God and salvation. Jesus took your sins to the cross. He forgives you freely when you turn to Him in repentance. He pours out resurrection from the grave and eternal life to all, without reference to race or gender or denominational title. It is a gift which is received and possessed by knowing about it, and trusting God to do what He has promised to do for the sake of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. What an unexpected good! It is unexpected because it is undeserved. It is grace, God's good gifts for God's own reasons.
Now that we have such riches, what do we want to do with them?
The answer to that question is, What does God want us to do with them? Or, Why did God give them to us for what place in His purpose? Did God pour out His grace upon us for no other reason than we find eternal life?
Jesus indicates that He will give His kingdom to others, who will produce the fruits of it. So we need to consider the fruits of the Kingdom of God. What are they? How do we go about producing them? What happens if we do not?
The answer is that the fruits of the Kingdom of God are faith, hope, love, mercy, truth, righteousness and peace. Drawing from Scripture I could compile a list at least twice as long as this, but these are the fruits God desires, because these are the fruits God creates in those who are His and works through them. These are the fruits that the Jews did not produce.
Faith is the first fruit. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word of God. God reaches into each one us each time we hear the Word preached, to create faith and, where He is already at work , to strengthen and sustain faith. We cannot work that work of faith by our own will or power, but we can work against it, or choose to walk away from it. Our part in this fruit of faith is to do what God shows us is beneficial to our life of faith. We should eagerly and humbly hear the Word of God, and believe it with all the power God gives us to cling to His Word.
Hope proceeds from faith. Trusting in God and knowing His heart toward us, we hope. The New Testament word "hope" does not mean that weak and deceptive thing we refer to when we use the word in common conversation, like saying that "I hope the Rams win this week." That hope is mere wishful thinking. But the hope of the Christian in faith is a firm confidence in something real, something already possessed, and yet not fully experienced. I hope in eternal life though Jesus Christ. The Bible instructs me that I already possess it, but I do not sense it. I see death and decay instead, so I hope that is, I cling to the reality which I cannot see or feel, but of which God has assured me in His Word.
Love flows from faith and hope. It, too, is the gift of God. His Holy Spirit works this love in me. My flesh, burdened in sin, always resists it, and chafes against this holy love, but God is at work in me, and each one of you who believes, to create in us this holy passion which forgives the sins of others as we have been forgiven, and seeks only the welfare and blessing of the brother or sister in the family of faith.
Mercy echoes the grace of God. We take pity on those who have not the comfort of Christ. We share one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ as the Bible says in Galatians 6:2. We feel for those who do not have the necessities of this world, and so we help them.
Truth is another fruit of the kingdom of God because that kingdom is grounded in the Truth. Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He also calls God's Word "Truth". We who live by and through the truth must needs be also live in and from it. We cannot lie to one another Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH, EACH ONE of you, WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. And we must walk in the truth of His Word sound doctrine!
Righteousness is yet another fruit of those who claim righteousness from the King of Righteousness. We have been made holy people. Holy people do holy works. The Bible tells us that God is at work in us, both to will and to do of His will. Having been set free from sin, we are no longer to be slaves of it, or make ourselves slaves of it, but to live righteously and bend every effort to hear and obey the urgings of the Spirit within us to be God's holy people.
And finally, there is Peace. Peace comes from knowing the truth, and believing it, and being comforted in the hope, enjoying the love of one another, and seeing the evidence of the Holy Spirit's work in us in our lives of righteousness and our desires to live out the holiness which is His gift to us, and which our flesh so rages against.
Every fruit of the kingdom is God's gift by grace through faith. It is that unexpected good. Not that we do not know it is coming, for God's Word tells us, but we also know that we do not deserve it. Therefore it is an unexpected good, which is ours at least in part because of the unexpected trouble of the Jews. They never thought that they could go so far God would not simply follow. But their unexpected trouble has made even more clear our unexpected but wonderful good.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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