The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 8, 2023
A Story of Reckless Patience!
33“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
35“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
38“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
41“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“ ‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Do you know anyone who is reckless? Before you can answer that question you need to decide how you are going to define reckless. The word reckless can be understood as having a negative connotation. Synonyms for this understanding of reckless would be: negligent, thoughtless, careless or irresponsible. Examples of this understanding of reckless would include: He is a wild and reckless young man. She showed a reckless disregard for the safety of others. They spend their money with reckless abandon.
The word reckless can also be understood as having a positive connotation. Synonyms for this understanding of reckless would be: adventurous, courageous and valiant. Examples of this understanding of reckless would be: Out of everyone I know he is the most reckless/adventurous. He is willing to climb anything. Despite considerable risk to their own safety, the courageous team of rescuers recklessly rushed into the collapsed building. Even though they were vastly outnumbered by the enemy the band of reckless soldiers valiantly charged into battle.
The parable that we have before us this morning could be looked at from those same two perspectives. Was the owner of the vineyard being thoughtless, careless and irresponsible? Or, was the owner of the vineyard being bold, courageous and valiant? Keep those questions in mind as we listen to our Savior tell us: A Story of Reckless Patience!
The setting of our text for today is exactly the same as it was last Sunday. It is still the Tuesday of Holy Week— just days before Jesus would be taken outside the city of Jerusalem and killed on the hill called Calvary. Jesus is still in the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. Jesus is still reaching out to the chief priests and the elders of the people to give them an opportunity to repent of their sins and to trust in Jesus as the Promised Messiah. There was still a crowd of people who had gathered in the Temple to listen to the Rabbi from Nazareth.
Since the spiritual leaders of God’s people did not take to heart Jesus’ story of spiritual insincerity, Jesus tells them “another parable,” another story. This story is even more powerful and even more pointed than the story of the Two Sons. This story is closely intertwined with the Song of the Vineyard that God gave to His people through His servant Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-7), a song that was known very well by everyone there in the Temple on that Tuesday morning. Both Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard and Jesus’ Parable of the Tenants are focused on two main truths. The first truth highlights all of the wonderful things that the Lord, the great “I Am,” has done for His “vineyard,” His Chosen People of Israel. Look at verses 33 and 34 of our text. “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went on a journey.”
This picture describes how carefully and how lovingly God had provided for His Chosen People. He “planted” them in the Promised Land— a land flowing with milk and honey. He protected them from their enemies and put the “wall” of His holy Law around them so that they would not become contaminated by the poison of unbelief and idolatry. He spared no expense showering His blessings upon them. What did the Lord expect in return? That leads us to the second main truth contained in Jesus’s story.
Jesus brings that truth out in verse 34 when He says, “When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.” The Lord expected that His people would gladly and freely produce the “fruits” of: faithfulness to Him, faithfulness to the covenant He had established with them, loving Him with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their mind and loving their neighbor as themselves. The prophet Micah summarizes God’s expectations for His people with these words, “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
That brings us to the portion of this parable which places before us the reckless patience of the owner of the vineyard, the reckless patience of our God. Look at verses 35 to 39. Jesus said, “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”
We, of course, know exactly what this part of Jesus’ story is talking about. Over and over again the Lord God sent His “servants,” His prophets, to His people calling on them to produce the “fruits” that God expected from them— “fruits” of repentance, “fruits” of faithfulness. Here we think of men such as Moses and Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Elijah and Elisha— men who were scorned and ridiculed, rejected and killed by the “tenants” of the vineyard God Himself had planted.
But God’s reckless resolute patience reaches its pinnacle when He sends His own Son— knowing full well what the “tenants” would do to Him! (Pointing to the cross) Some might say that sending His own Son into this world knowing that He would be killed on a hill outside of Jerusalem was reckless in the sense of being negligent or thoughtless or careless. Nothing could be further from the truth! Sending His own Son into his world knowing exactly what would happen to Him (Pointing to the cross) reveals the reckless patience of God— in the sense of being courageous and valiant. From our perspective we can say that it took courage for the heavenly Father to send His Son into this world. He was trusting that His Son would fulfill the Father’s Plan of Salvation for this world. From our perspective we can say that it took courage for the Son to valiantly make His way to the cross on Calvary’s hill. He was trusting that His Father would not only accept His death as the atoning sacrifice for all the sins of all the world, but He was also trusting that His Father would fulfill His promise to raise His Son from the dead.
Jesus then concludes His Parable of the Tenants, His Story of Reckless Patience, in a unique way. Look at verses 40 and 41. He says, “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” Someone in the crowd responded, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
What two truths are emphasized in these two verses? Verse 40 reminds us that one day the Owner of the vineyard will come back and He will hold the “tenants” accountable for what they have done. Verse 41 reveals that there will not only be a “wretched end” for everyone who failed to give the owner of the vineyard the “fruit” that He was expecting from them, there would not only be a “wretched end” for everyone who mistreated the “servants” who were sent to them, but it also reveals that the Owner of the vineyard will take the vineyard away from the current tenants and give it to “other tenants who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” Jesus then confirms the correctness of this answer when He says to the people there in the Temple— especially to the religious leaders of God’s people— “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”
We are able to see the fulfillment of these words. As we read the “rest of the story” as it is recorded for us on the pages of Scripture we can see that while many of the Jews rejected the truth that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the long-awaited Promised Messiah, at the same time more and more Gentiles were being brought into the vineyard of God’ Church. When we look at the Christian Church today we can see that it is made up of many people “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9).
We can also see that purely by the grace of God we are included among the “new tenants” who have been given the “vineyard” of God’s Church. Even if we do not have the blood of Abraham coursing through our veins the fact that the Holy Spirit has given us the faith of Abraham here in our hearts means that we are God’s Chosen People! (See 1 Peter 2:9)
Since we are now the “new tenants” of the vineyard of God’s Church, what does the Owner of the vineyard— what does our God— expect from us? I see three expectations highlighted in Jesus’ Story of Reckless Patience. The first expectation that God has for us is exactly the same as the expectation that He had for the previous tenants of His vineyard: “produce fruit.” What are the “fruits” that God is expecting us to produce? Since our God does not change His expectations do not change. God expects us to produce the “fruits” of: repentance, faithfulness to Him, faithfulness to the covenant He established with us when we were baptized in His Name, the covenant that He strengthens and renews with us every time we receive His holy Supper, and He expects us to produce the “fruits” that openly reveal our love for Him as well as our love for our neighbor. He expects that we will prioritize the time He gives to us in a way that openly reveals the importance that we place on worship, Bible study and prayer. He expects us to use the gifts, talents and abilities He has given to us in a way that brings glory to Him. He expects that we will use the material possessions He has placed under our care in a way that will strengthen and enlarge His Kingdom here on this earth.
The second expectation that God has for us is that we will listen to the “servants” that He sends into our lives to proclaim His Word to us. This not only includes pastors and teachers who are faithfully helping us to grow in our knowledge and in our understanding of God’s holy Word, but it also includes our brothers and sisters in the faith. By the grace of God we belong to a fellowship of Christians who believe, teach and confess God’s Truth in the same way that we do! We can learn from each other. We can help each other grow in our understanding of God’s Word. We can encourage each other to live our lives in a way that reflects our love, our trust, our thankfulness to Him (Pointing to the cross) for all that He has so graciously done for us!
That leads us to the final expectation that is included in this text. God’s expectation for us is found in the words of the owner of the vineyard when he says, “They will respect my son.” What does it mean to “respect” someone? It means to “think highly” of them, to “have a high opinion” of them, to “hold them in high regard.” Synonyms for respect include: esteem, admire, appreciate, revere. Since the “son” in Jesus’ story is obviously Jesus Himself, it’s not difficult for us to understand why the heavenly Father expects that we will “respect” His Son! We are to hold Jesus in “the highest regard” because of Who He is! He is the eternally begotten Son of God and this world’s only Savior from sin! We are to “admire, appreciate and revere” God’s Son because His love for us led Him to willingly suffer and die on the cross (Pointing to the cross) to completely pay for all of our sins!
How can we show our “respect” for Jesus? We show our respect for Jesus by believing and trusting what He reveals to us in His holy Word. We show our respect for Jesus by living our life in a way that is pleasing to Him. We show our respect for Jesus by sharing Him with others.
Do you know someone who is reckless? Most of us would probably say “Yes!” to that question. We may know someone who is careless and irresponsible. We may know someone who is adventurous, courageous and valiant. My prayer this morning is that Jesus’ Story of Reckless Patience will lead us to thank and praise our God for the “reckless patience” He has with rebellious sinners like us. Not only did He courageously send His own Son into the world— trusting that He would fulfill the Father’s Plan of Salvation, but His Son courageously went to the cross trusting that the Father would fulfill His promises.
May the reckless patience proclaimed to us by the cross on Calvary’s hill always lead us to say:
To God be the glory!