Sermon title:  PROFESSING vs. PRACTICING OUR FAITH  

 

Matthew 21:28-40

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, August 18, 2019

 

 

 

For centuries, God’s blessings were upon the Jewish people.

 

God called them his “chosen” people

in Deuteronomy, in Daniel and in the Psalms. (Deut. 7:6; 14:2, Dan. 11:15, Ps. 33:12)

 

He performed miracles through Moses

to set them free from slavery in Egypt.

 

He opened the Red Sea

to let them walk across on a dry sea bed.

 

The Old Testament is full of God’s miracles

to protect and bless the Jewish people.

 

But then, a few years after Jesus completed his ministry among them,

the Roman Empire destroyed Jerusalem

and destroyed God’s Holy Temple there,

leaving just the Wailing Wall

and an empty Temple Mount.

 

The Romans killed a million Jews

and took the rest of them off their land,

selling them into slavery

throughout the Roman world.

 

The Jewish people would remain

scattered all over the earth

for almost 2,000 years,

living in every country of the world

with no homeland of their own.

 

Only in modern times

would they finally return

to the Promised Land

so that the Bible’s end times prophecies can be fulfilled.

 

Why did that destruction of Jerusalem occur 2,000 years ago?

 

Why were the Jews expelled from the Promised Land

and scattered worldwide for so long?

 

Why did God abandon to destruction

the Jerusalem Temple

where he had been worshiped for a thousand years?

Why did God set up the Christian Church

as a spiritual temple instead—

with Christ Jesus as the foundation cornerstone,

and with each one of us believers

as living stones,

and God living inside us?

 

It’s a long story,

detailed in the Bible,

but the two parables of Jesus

that we’ll look at this morning

sum up the reason why

God made this dramatic switch-over

from Judaism to Christianity.

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Our Lord Jesus often taught

using parables, or illustrative stories.

 

These parables made his lessons come alive.

 

We identify with the characters in the stories,

and that empowers the parables

to penetrate our thinking

more directly than other forms of instruction.

 

This morning we’ll look at Matthew Chapter 21

to see two of those stories

that the Lord preached

at God’s Holy Temple in Jerusalem

during his final week on earth.

 

These two illustrative stories—

the Parable of the Two Sons,

and the Parable of the Vineyard—

exposed how the ancient nation of Israel

displeased God and lost his favor.

 

He then took his Kingdom away from Israel

and gave it to the Christian Church.

 

God stopped dealing with mankind

through the Jewish people

and their prophets.

 

And he began dealing with mankind, instead,

through the Christian Church.

 

2 Corinthians 5:20 says that we are now

Christ’s ambassadors to the world—

his representatives to the rest of mankind.

 

So, we owe it to him to practice our faith,

rather than merely profess it as Israel did.

 

And these two parables in Matthew Chapter 21

will help us see

our individual responsibility

in that regard.

 

Matthew 21:23 sets the stage for these two parables.

 

It tells us that our Lord

was teaching the crowds

in the open courtyards

of God’s holy Temple in Jerusalem.

It says,

 

Jesus entered the temple courts,

and, while he was teaching,

the chief priests

and the elders of the people

came to him.

 

They began by questioning Jesus’ authority

to do the bold things he was doing.

 

He silenced them

with a response they weren’t expecting,

as we saw in one of my recent sermons.

 

And then he went on to speak these two parables.

 

The effect was as Matthew 21:45 tells us,

 

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees

heard Jesus' parables,

they knew he was talking about them.

 

Yes, he was talking about those Jewish religious leaders,

but there are also important lessons there

for us, too.

 

The first parable begins at Matthew 21:28,

where Christ says,

 

28 "What do you think?

 

There was a man who had two sons.

 

He went to the first and said,

 

'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'

 

29 "'I will not,' he answered,

but later he changed his mind and went.

 

30 "Then the father went to the other son

and said the same thing.

 

He answered, 'I will, sir,'

but he did not go.

 

31 "Which of the two

did what his father wanted?"

 

"The first," they answered.

 

32 Jesus said to them,

 

"I tell you the truth,

the tax collectors and the prostitutes

are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

 

For John came to you

to show you the way of righteousness,

and you did not believe him,

but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.

 

And even after you saw this,

you did not repent and believe him.

 

Anyone who’s raised children

can identify with this parable—

especially anyone who has dealt with a young man

old enough to begin doing a man’s work.

 

The father in the parable

is looking for his sons to do some work,

not to make empty promises

and then do nothing.

 

The son who says “'I will not,'

Jesus compares to the prostitutes and corrupt tax collectors.

 

They had been sinners,

rejecting the righteous lifestyle

that God called the people of Israel to practice.

 

But then they heard John the Baptist

calling people to repent,

and they did repent.

 

They abandoned their sins

and did what God required.

 

They were like that son who said “'I will not,'

but then changed his mind

and actually did do

as his father requested.

 

The other son who said “'I will, sir,'

but then did nothing—

Jesus compared the religious leaders to him.

 

They heard John the Baptist’s call to repentance,

but they refused to believe him

and refused to repent of their sins.

-----------------------------------------------------

 

Then our Lord immediately went on

to give another illustrative story.

 

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.

 

34 When the harvest time approached,

he sent his servants to the tenants

to collect his fruit.

 

They came “to collect his fruit

because the tenants were sharecroppers.

 

That meant that they paid their rent,

not with cash,

but with a share of the crop

that they were able to raise

on the land they were renting.

 

Sharecropping is common

even in the United States today.

 

When my wife Penni was growing up

she lived on her parents’ farm in Michigan.

 

They didn’t farm the land themselves,

except for their own vegetable garden.

 

The rest of the land—13 acres

they rented out to sharecroppers.

 

But, notice what happened in Jesus’ parable

when the owner of the vineyard

sent his servants to collect the rent.

 

35 "The tenants seized his servants;

they beat one, killed another,

and stoned a third.

 

The Lord used the owner of the vineyard

to picture his heavenly Father,

and the tenants to picture

the Jewish religious leaders.

 

The servants sent to collect the rent

pictured God’s prophets

who he sent over the years

to call the people of Israel

to produce the fruit of righteousness

which they owed to God.

 

He kept sending his prophets,

but Israel kept rejecting

their calls to repent.

 

So, in the parable, Jesus said,

36 Then he sent other servants to them,

more than the first time,

and the tenants treated them the same way.

 

37 Last 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.'

 

39 So they took him

and threw him out of the vineyard

and killed him.

 

Israel’s sinful rejection of God’s messengers

reached its climax

when they rejected and killed the Son of God.

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But, that’s not the end of the story.

 

The Lord concluded by asking his listeners,

 

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."

 

Yes, the listeners unavoidably reached

 the logical conclusion

of this illustrative story.

 

And that’s the power of the parables:

 

They force listeners

to reach the logical conclusion in their own minds.

 

Without Jesus having to tell them,

they realize in their own minds

that people who act like those renters in the parable

will be dealt with decisively

and will lose everything.

 

Now that the religious leaders have admitted

that people who act like that should be punished,

Jesus applies it to them.

 

He quotes from Psalm 118:22.

because the Jewish religious leaders

rejected the Messiah God sent to them.

 

42 Jesus 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' ?

 

And then Jesus hit them point blank

with what their behavior

was going to get them.

 

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.

 

44 He who falls on this stone

will be broken to pieces,

but he on whom it falls

will be crushed."

 

The kingdom of God

would be taken away from the Jewish nation

and be given to the brand new Christian Church—

to Christians who will produce

the fruit of righteousness.

 

And the cornerstone—Christ himself—

will fall on those who rejected it

and crush them.

 

This happened when the armies of the Roman Empire

destroyed Jerusalem,

killing a million Jewish people

and selling the rest into slavery

throughout the world.

 

As Jesus finished,

the religious leaders realized

that Christ was talking about them.

 

We have an expression, “If the shoe fits, wear it.”

 

And the Jewish leadership knew

that these parables fit them

that Jesus was using this figurative language

to denounce them

and to predict their destruction.

 

So, Verse 45 tells us,

 

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees

heard Jesus' parables,

they knew he was talking about them.

 

46 They looked for a way to arrest him,

but they were afraid of the crowd

because the people held that he was a prophet.

 

They didn’t arrest the Lord

on that occasion,

because they were afraid to do it

in front of the crowds at the Temple

who formed Jesus audience

and recognized him

as a prophet sent by God.

 

But this was Jesus’ final week on earth,

and before the end of that week

the religious leaders recruited Judas Iscariot

to betray Christ

so that they could arrest him at night

in a quite spot

out of public view.

 

Within days of Jesus speaking these parables,

they did arrest him,

put him through a mock trial,

and sent him off to be crucified.

 

And that was the Jewish nation’s

climactic final act of rejection

toward God and his messengers.

 

Like the second son in the second parable,

their ancestors had agreed

to obey God and keep his covenant.

 

But, like the second son,

they didn’t follow through.

 

And, like the tenant farmer renters in the second parable

they treated shamefully

the prophets God sent to them

and finally, they killed his Son.

 

Jesus had officially notified them,

 

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.

 

And God took his kingdom and his blessing from Israel

and gave it to the brand new Christian Church.

 

He gave the kingdom

to a Church that would be made up of

everyone who follows Christ

as their Lord and Savior—

both Jews and Gentiles alike.

 

As members of that universal Christian Church

we now owe it to God to practice our faith,

rather than merely profess it as Israel did.

 

And God gives us the power to be fruitful Christians that

through his Holy Spirit he has put inside us.

We were once rebellious children

like the son in the parable

who told his father, “'I will not.'”

 

But now that we have repented of our sins

and accepted Christ

we’re like that son

when he changed his mind,

shaped up,

and became obedient to his father.

 

So, Jesus parables

teach us lessons from history—

how the transition

from Judaism to Christianity took place.

 

And the parables also teach us lessons

that apply to each of us today,

encouraging us to be

obedient and fruitful

in our personal walk with Christ.