Victory In The Vineyard
April 26, 2020 | Randy Smith
Victory In The Vineyard
Sunday, April 26, 2020
Pastor Randy Smith
There is so much uncertainty these days. The so-called and often self-proclaimed "experts" are offering us answers, but quite frankly it appears no one knows exactly what is going on with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Do we have any definite answers as to how this virus originated or the degree politics play into this situation or to what extent true research factors into our decisions or if people will fully comply with the lockdowns as time continues or if the virus will return next winter or if a cure and/or vaccine will be developed or when our country will reopen or if facemasks really make a difference or if life will ever return to normal?
Another question to ask is how the Devil is using to this accomplish his purposes? You know his hands are all over this. Is this just another diabolical scheme of his to kill and increase addictions, domestic abuse and fear? Or is this something greater to usher in a one-world economy, government dependence, the antichrist and the mark of the beast?
Perhaps the best question to ask is how is God ordaining and demonstrating sovereignty over this situation, using it for His glory and the good of His people? How has He used these events spiritually in your life?
So many questions? Yet in reality, no one fully knows the answers. From our perspective it's hard to see beyond a personal and national and global trial. It seems like defeat everywhere we look. Yet we must always remember that God brings victory out of the calamity. Regardless of what humans or demons scheme, He is never defeated. And today's account from Luke 20 is a great illustration of that.
We have before us a wonderful "parable" (verse 9). Technically, we could say it is allegorical as each character in the parable clearly has an intended historical assignment.
So, three subpoints this morning. First, we'll present the parable. Remember, a parable is an earthly story with a spiritual meaning. Second, we'll seek to explain the parable from the spiritual perspective. And third, we'll apply the parable from our Lord's teaching in verses 17-18.
Our main point is to see how God brings victory from apparent disaster. The sermon is titled, "Victory in the Vineyard."
If you have notdone so yet, please pause the video and read Luke 20, verses 9-19.
The Parable Presented (verses 9–16, 19)
Let's begin with the first point. Allow me to explain this parable from the perspective of the first century listener. It's very simple to understand.
It was common for foreigners to own large estates in Israel. And quite often they would rent their farms (in this case a vineyard producing grapes – verse 9) to locals. These individuals would be sharecroppers or tenants or stewards or here in verse 9, "vine-growers." They did not own the land, but they did receive a share in the profits. They would get a certain amount or percent agreed up and the rest (in money and/or crops) would be returned to the owner. Of course, the honor system comes into play.
According to verse 9, the owner of the vineyard departed and was away for a "long time." Yet when "harvest time" (verse 10) arrived, he sent a servant to collect what was his of the "produce." Unfortunately, the vine-growers (verse 10) "beat him and sent him away empty-handed." The same happened with another servant in verse 11. And the same happened with a third servant in verse 12.
So, after three of his servants did not return with what was rightfully his, he came up with another plan. Verse 13, "The owner of the vineyard said, ÔWhat shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.'"
Yet, verse 14, the greedy and wicked vine-growers think this is their chance to own the estate. Forget the fact that this was the man's "beloved" or "only" son, they narrowly see him as the only heir. Eliminate him (so they think) and the estate will be theirs. Verse 15, "So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him."
You get the picture.
So, in verse 16 we see the owner dealing very harshly with the vine-growers. As Jesus said in verse 16, "He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others."
Discussion #1 – Before we go to the spiritual explanation, how do you think this story applies to Jesus Christ?
The Parable Explained (verses 9–16)
Well, let's go to the second point and see what this means from a spiritual perspective. It's rather straightforward without any other possible interpretations.
Let's first assign the parts. Who is the "owner"? God the Father. What is the "vineyard"? Israel. What is the "produce"? Spiritual fruit among people. Who are the "vine-growers"? The religious leaders of Israel. Who are the "servants"? The prophets. And who is the "son"? Jesus Christ.
Here we go. Going back to the time of Abraham, God carves out a special people for His own possession. They are the Israelites. Throughout Scripture, God calls Israel His vineyard. He is the owner, the Lord of His people among whom He will set a special affection, work His greatest blessings and in return expect the richest spiritual fruit.
Did Israel produce spiritual fruit? Answer: For the most part, no.
All of this is summarized in Isaiah 5. "My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hillÉ He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones ... What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled groundÉ For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of IsraelÉThus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress" (see Isa. 5:1-7)
Who was primarily responsible for this disaster? As always, it was the spiritual leaders, seen in the parable as the "vine-growers." – the caretakers of the vineyard while the owner was away. Israel was never their vineyard. They were not the owner. They were just expected to be good stewards. Care for the vineyard – nurture the plants (people) through proper watering, feeding and protection (spiritually). They were to serve in such a way that quality fruit is produced for the benefit of the owner (God).
And did the spiritual leaders of Israel do that? Again, for the most part, no.
Listen to the prophets as they spoke to God's stewards. Though the image is switched from a vineyard/vine-grower to a flock/shepherd, you'll get the idea.
Ezekiel 34, "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ÔThus says the Lord GOD, ÔWoe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?...Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them''" (see Eze. 34:2-10).
Or from Jeremiah 23, "Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: ÔYou have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,' declares the LORD" (Jer. 23:2).
So, the "owner" (God) while he was away (verse 9) sent "servants" (Prophets). He sends them one after another to bring to the people of Israel His true word. And according to verses 10-12, the nation rejected them and, in some cases, killed them. So much grace and patience by God.
We heard Jesus refer to this recently from our study in Luke. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it" (Lk. 13:34). Later, Luke will quote Stephen in Acts. "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become" (Ac. 7:52).
Then, the best servant is saved for last. This will be the final and ultimate prophet. This will be the (verse 13) "beloved son" of the "owner." And what happens as Jesus already predicted? Now in a matter of two days the religious leaders will kill Him too.
So, we see not only the greed, but also the incompetence and failed responsibility of the assigned "vine-growers" of God's vineyard, Israel. Throughout salvation history it progressively becomes worse with greater guilt and judgment on the religious leaders. It becomes so evident when we see their intent to murder Jesus Christ – God's beloved and only Son.
Clearly, they wanted the vineyard for themselves because as we learned last week it was all about their power, prestige and popularity. Because of their love for authority, they would not and could not submit to the authority of God. The owner stood in the way of their plans. And because of that, the owner of the vineyard, verse 16, "Will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others."
Who were the "others" that will now oversee God's vineyard? It is the church (Mt. 16:18–19; Eph. 2:20). It will be people that will bear spiritual fruit for God. To the Jews, those who thought they had a lock on the vineyard, being replaced by Gentiles was unthinkable. Moreover, Gentiles who were unskilled and without their authority or Jewish blood.
When were the vine-growers "destroyed" as Jesus predicted here? When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem leveling the temple as Jesus predicted in 19:43–44 in the temporal sense. And in the eternal sense, when their souls were cast into hell. And still to this day, some 2,000 years later, Israel is not overseeing God's vineyard nor has the temple been rebuilt. Again. all of it was unthinkable to most Israelites. Verse 16, "When they [either the people, the leaders or both] heard it, they said, ÔMay it never be!"
Did the leaders hear this parable? Yes. Did the leaders know this parable was about them? Yes. Did all of this humble the leaders? No. Verse 19,
"The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them."
Discussion #2 – No right man, after seeing all of his servants killed, would send his son. Yet in a sense God did this with the prophets and then with Jesus. Why?
The Parable Applied (verses 17–19)
Lastly, how do we apply this parable? Like our COVID situation, it ends on a sad note with little appearance of hope. The Son of God is going to get killed and the religious leaders are judged. The hope comes in trusting God to have a good plan when we do not have the questions. It is trusting God to have a good plan, even when we do not have good questions.
As the prophets declared, the death of the Son was God's plan from the beginning. He would be the prophet that points us to God and the priest who brings us before God and the King that rules our life. He would bring God's teaching in its fullest form. He would be the true temple of God. And He will also be final sacrifice to lay down His life and purchase the salvation for all who have faith in Him.
Unwittingly, these evil religious leaders did exactly what God desired. They performed the sacrifice in taking the Son outside the vineyard and killing Him (verse 15 – Heb. 13:13). As the Apostles preached, "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur" (Ac. 4:27-28).
The Son would be rejected, but to the surprise of everyone, the Son would be resurrected. Quoting Psalm 118, Jesus said in verse 17, "THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone?"
The Son, the stone rejected by the so-called builders would be the stone, the most important stone, that would stabilize the structure and set the placement all the other stones regarding the construction of God's kingdom.
The death of the son is not the end of the story. It's not even bad news. It's the hidden hope that the God of love had determined for His people. And for those who receive the Son, they are promised blessings and joy and the kingdom. But for those who like those Jewish religious leaders that reject the Son, they are promised destruction.
Verse 18, "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust."
Before I close in prayer, please pause the video and read John 3:16; Romans 8:32 and Galatians 4:4-5.
Let's remember God often does His greatest work in the midst of apparent defeat. There is no greater example of that than His work on the cross. God will never be defeated or denied His desired victory. And united with Him "in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37).