REV. DR. DOUG MILLER

"BAD TENANTS"


​​Last Week's Sermon

“BAD TENANTS”
Matthew 21:33-46
Holiday Island Presbyterian Church
October 8, 2017

INTRODUCTION:

Although this parable is “original”
         in the sense that it is the first time it has been told,
                 the basis for the parable comes from other sources –
Isaiah 5 and Psalm 80.
Like most of Jesus’ parables,
         This one takes an old and possibly familiar theme
                 And adds to it a new variation.
The allegory is pretty straight forward –
         The parable is focused on scolding the religious authorities.
         Land owner is God
         The vineyard is Israel
         The tenants are the national leaders
         The servants are the prophets
         And the son, of course, is Jesus
Indeed, many scholars would argue that is exactly the meaning.
Most likely, Jesus told this parable to a group gathered at Temple –
Religious rulers and authorities
Pharisees and Sadducees
Common folks, as well

The first thing to notice is the great care the landowner takes of the land.
A vineyard was a significant investment of time and money.
         For that reason, a watchtower would be an asset
                 It would provide security for the vineyard;
                          Protecting against thieves and wildfires.
A wall around the vineyard would protect it from animals
         And clearly mark its boundaries.
The landowner digs a winepress in anticipation of a harvest
         And he locates it conveniently on the property.
All this preparation,
         points to how much the landowner values the land.
                  It also points to his positive expectation
                          To celebrate a good harvest.
Having finished the preparations for the vineyard,
         The landowner then rents it out to farmers.
it is the custom in such circumstances,
        The landlord is entitled to a percentage of the harvest
                 As payment for the use of the land
 It is a common arrangement for absentee landlords.
         It is still in practice today.
I keep my bees on property that belongs to Norm and Roxanne –
         In return, I supply them with a percentage of the honey
                 That is produced by the bees.
As harvest time rolls around,
         the owner sends his agents to collect his rent
It is at this point in the story that everything falls apart.
Instead of paying their rent, as agreed in advance,
         the tenants beat, stoned and killed the agents.

The landowner, still hoping for a favorable outcome
         And willing to give the tenants a second chance,
                 sends another batch of agents to collect the rent.
 Unfortunately, they suffer the same fate.
So, in a final attempt to settle the matter,
         the landowner sends his son.
Surely the tenants would recognize
         the authority of the son to collect what is due
                 and they would settle the matter promptly and peacefully.
Instead, the tenants kill the son.
Jesus then turns to those listening to Him and asks:
         “What do you think will happen when the landowner comes?”
One thing for sure,
         The landowner surely must have been pushed to the limits
                 Of his patience.
                          And these evil tenants have killed his son.
And the crowd replies, with a vast understatement:
         “It will not go well with the tenants.
                 They will be evicted at the very least.
                          The landowner will find others to replace them.”
It is important to the understanding of this parable
         To note that for at least six months,
                 Jesus has been telling His followers
                          that the rulers at Jerusalem are going to kill Him.
Either Jesus knew by divine knowledge what His fate would be
         Or by sheer logic he reasoned
                 that He could not keep opposing the authorities
                          without dire consequences.
However, He persisted – like the landowner –
         In hopes they would repent and change their ways.
So, at this point in the parable,
         Jesus is confronting the rulers directly.
                 There is a warning here for them to heed,
                          if they will only listen.
Then Jesus pushes the rulers too far.
Jesus indicates that the rulers are like the evil tenants. 
         God has called them to take care of God’s people.
                 They have failed to do so.

And Jesus predicts they will inevitably reject the Son,
         for which they will be crushed.
The Pharisees and Sadducees are astute enough
         to grasp the meaning of the parable
                 and that it is pointed directly at them.
They see the vineyard as an allegory for Israel
         with themselves cast in the role of the evil tenants.
                 They see God as the owner of the vineyard.
They see the groups of agents sent by the owner
         as the prophets who were sent to call the tenants to repentance.
They see themselves as being accused of rejecting the prophets.
Finally, they see Jesus casting Himself as the Son.
         And that . . . that’s too much for them.
Here’s the irony.
         The Pharisees and Sadducees hear the message
                 loudly and clearly.
They know that Jesus is talking about them.
         But instead of heeding the warning and changing their ways,  they actually move towards fulfilling the prophecy                                    imbedded in the parable.

CONCLUSION:

At this point, you are probably thinking:
         “Nice story. What has it got to do with me?”
Well, for one thing,
         There doesn’t seem to be religious authorities
                 Against which we should rebel.
So maybe the application is more personal.
What if Jesus told us this parable today –
         Right here in this worship service?
                 What conclusion would we draw from it?
Here’s what I think.
Indeed, God is the sovereign landowner.
         And God has appointed us as stewards over all that is His.
Now, I don’t think anyone in here has a vineyard –
         If you do, you’ve kept that secret well hidden.
but each of us has been called to be stewards over something.
Whether that is the education we have received,
         The life experience we have accumulated,
                 The wealth we control,
                          The faith God has given us through the Holy Spirit.
What is it that God has asked of un in return?
We’re not the first ones to ask that question, by the way.
The prophet Micah answered that question years and years ago.
         He said:
                 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the  LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness,      

            And to walk humbly with your God?

In other words, God expects us to be just in all our dealings,
         To exercise kindness to those who cross our paths
                 To be quick to share the gospel with those who will listen
                          To manage our finances in a Godly manner.

We are to take all that God has given to us
         And we are to use it in productive ways.
And most of all,
         We are to recognize Who it is that has made all this possible
                 And we are to worship Him
                          with all our heart and minds.
With God’s help, may it be so.

PRAYER:

We are grateful, O God, for all that You have given us. You have set us as stewards over so very much. And You have asked little of us in return. Grant us the strength and courage to worship You as You deserve with our time, our talents, and our treasure. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.