Roger's Postings

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Matthew 21:33-46. Rejected?? 5/10/08

{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. {35} "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. {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. {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." {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'? {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." {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.

As we think about what God has to say to us through this reading, we are surely challenged as to it application. What has the rejection and destruction of the church leaders of Jesus’ day got to do with us? Surely we here have not rejected Jesus Christ as our Lord and saviour; so how does this relate to us? Here let us not forget the Old Testament reading from Isaiah which had almost the same meaning, but to a different audience at a much different time: God’s pronouncement of the destruction of Israel whom are likened again to a vineyard, loved and cared for, but which failed to produce the ‘goods’. Certainly clear references to the fact the God will destroy those who openly reject God and what he has to say to us in his Word, whilst holding a very pious outward appearance.

Surely this needs to be something that is clearly etched in our minds as we go forward as God’s people. Just as in Isaiah’s and Jesus’ days, so also today, there is the danger that we take for granted that we are God’s people simply because we are connected to a church and go through certain rituals. When the emphasis is placed on us and what we are, do and think, then there is danger time. When it is all done without any reference to and faith in Jesus Christ, then we need to be aware that this is a rejection of Jesus Christ and God’s means of salvation. When that occurs, the end result is that the salvation that has been won for us will be taken away from us; this Rock will crush us.

Because we surely can see that this subtle and not so subtle rejection is happening very much in our present world and society, we need to be careful ourselves. Because the focus of life and even ‘christian’ life, is more and more turned away from Christ and his death on the cross to us and what we feel, think and do, this will surely make us even more alert and wary. We know that our sinful nature, which ever wants to shift the focus from Christ to us and the world around us, will make us ever so watchful as to what we listen to and follow. Because we know that we are so susceptible to being led to focus on ourselves we will make every effort to be where our God would want us to be so that he can keep reminding us of the things that are important and strengthening us for the task that is before us.

Here in this reading and from the history of what happened to these people that Jesus was speaking to, not long after this, as well as to the Israelite nation not long after Isaiah said what he said; we are reminded that God is true to his word. We can not take God and his word for granted. Let us then, not fall for some of the rot that is peddled about today that God is a loving God and so will not destroy us: Or where Hell and judgment is very much ignored, as if it were not a reality. God’s Word is very clear that if we think we can ignore and reject Jesus Christ and his death on the cross, then trouble is ‘just around the corner’.
This is then where we will take note of Paul’s attitude in that second reading here today, when he says; What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

He knows very well the dangers of pharisaism and the taking of our eyes off of Jesus Christ. Paul knew what he was like before God brought him to faith in Jesus Christ: how even though he was the very best from an earthly point of view, he persecuted those who were Christians; he had a vendetta against Jesus, that he now knows was terrible. Having come to know all that Jesus Christ had done for him through his life, death and resurrection, he now knows of that which is infinitely greater than what he was and did. His focus on his own righteousness was destructive rather than beneficial. He trusted in the wrong things.

So now the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, was that which he saw as absolutely important. Everything else was garbage compared to that; every effort of his own, to be a good person, was rubbish. He wanted to lose sight of every other focus so that he was not distracted from that which was vital for him and his salvation; being found in Jesus Christ: being found trusting in nothing other than Christ and the righteousness that he has won for us.

He now wants to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. His whole aim was to ensure that eternal life in heaven which was won for him by Jesus Christ, would be his. Being connected to Jesus Christ, here and in heaven, even if it meant suffering immensely in this life; in fact particularly so, because through suffering and death he was sure that his focus would be kept off of himself, and on him who is all important.

Because this is of utmost importance he continues: But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

No surely we here can grasp something of how immensely great and important Jesus Christ is; and that we too need to be connected to him. Surely we also recognise that our eternal salvation is only possible as we look to, trust, and are incorporated into the very being and life of Jesus Christ. That is why our baptism and our daily remembrance of it, is important. That is why our regular gathering around Word and Sacrament is so vital; that he can give us what we need in order to keep our focus where it needs to be.

That surely is also why we also will consider all this “I” focussed religion as just that; pure garbage, compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. All this modern day pharisaism needs to be considered as a loss compared to all that we have in our Divine Service and that God continues to do for us in and through our Lord Jesus. We too will want to be found in him having a righteousness which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

We too will surely want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. So forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, let us press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.
To him alone be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Redeemer Lutheran Church


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