But Jesus says this business owner sends more servants, with the same deadly results. And then, then he believes they will respect his son? What in the world is going on? But he is not the only one thinking crazy thoughts. The wretched tenants actually believe if they murder the son, they will get the inheritance – as if they would go unpunished and get away with their crime! Who would be so dumb as to think that?
Of course, that is part of the point. Sin is dumb. From Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes from God through these Pharisees on to us and those sins we regret because we know better than to do them, it is a bunch of foolishness. Living as if it is better to sin than to avoid it, as if God does not care whether we obey Him in all things or not, as if there will never be a day of reckoning.
Image via WikipediaAnd for as ridiculous as this parable is, you know it did happen in real life. Just a few days later, in fact. On Holy Tuesday, Jesus tells this parable to the chief priests and Pharisees who will do everything necessary to murder the Son of God. They have confronted Jesus in the Temple. “What right do you have to overturn the moneychangers’ tables? Who gave you the authority to teach in God’s House?”
And Jesus looks them square in the eye as His words teach them. He knows what they are up to. Their hearts’ deepest, darkest secrets Jesus knows. They claim to honor God, saying they will obey the Lord in every way – and then ignore the commandments. They say God’s Old Testament Prophets must be listened to, all the while these enemies fail to recognize that the Prophets speak of Christ and His forgiveness of sins. Their ancestors had done exactly what Jesus describes in the Parable. Jeremiah was mocked, arrested and thrown into a well. Elijah was wanted dead or alive by the king of Israel. The king of Judah ordered the prophet Zechariah be stoned to death right around the same place where Jesus stood that very moment in the Temple.
God had been patient with the Chief priests and Pharisees up to this point. But that time is quickly coming to an end. If they carry out their deadly plans against Jesus, God will put these wretched servants to a miserable end. And the Lord will hand His vineyard over to new tenants, to the Apostles who will give the Lord the fruits of faith and thanksgiving.
Yet even in this note of Judgment, see that Jesus is still opening the door to mercy. “That judgment does not have to fall on you. It is not too late for you who sin against me. Turn around. Get off this deadly path. Repent and find your salvation in Me,” Jesus says. Not just once, but again and again throughout their life.
So how does this text apply to you? I mean, I know you are not the chief priests or Pharisees of Christ's day. You do not have plans in mind to kill Jesus. You do not have a way to get rich off of teaching man's rules in God's Church to benefit yourself. However, if the Lord only meant these words for the people on Holy Tuesday, He never would have inspired Matthew, Mark, and Luke to write this event done.
All that being said, it certainly applies to pastors as the parable warns me that I must serve Father, Son and Holy Spirit – not me, myself, and I. The Lord makes clear here that if I keep going down this selfish path, not only will He take the Holy Ministry away from me, He will also put me to a miserable end. So what does that have to do with you? Well, what should you do any time someone faces danger? When they go into a risky surgery, you pray for them to survive. Likewise, where I face the risks of not only losing my faith, but also leading you astray for my own selfish gain, I need your prayers. Ask God to strengthen me so that I would be His faithful servant. And I thank you for saying prayers along these lines in the past.
Second, do not mistake God's patience for approval of your sin. There is a point of no return, a day of reckoning for all of us. Not one of us knows when it will be. And do not think you can get away with saying to God, “But I did not do something so bad as those Pharisees and chief priests. I love Jesus – I do not want Him dead.” Hebrews 6:6 warns that those who fall away and hold Jesus up for contempt “are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm.” Ignore these warnings at your own risk. God is serious when He lets you know about sinners heading to a miserable end.
Finally, find comfort in God's merciful actions in this parable. To those caught in sin, God does not send His servants only once. He sends His Word again and again. For our merciful Lord is patient toward you, not wanting you to perish. He will do everything necessary for you to reach repentance. He is at work to restore the joy of salvation to you, so that you once again bear the fruits of faith that He looks for.
And consider how hard God works to do it! Jesus tells this parable in an attempt to turn the chief priests around from their sin before they kill Him in Holy Week. He shows that He knows all things – and so any plot of the devil to take Jesus away from you will fail, just as this one did. For even though the chief priests and Pharisees were successful in arresting and killing God’s Son, you know that He did not stay dead! On Easter Jesus bodily rose from His grave. Christ proved that He worked Himself to death so that what the wicked tenants tried taking by force – the riches of the father in the parable – you get to have for free. For by that death of Christ, by grace He has granted you to inherit God’s Kingdom.
Because those Jewish religious leaders set themselves so against Christ, even to the point of bribing the tomb guards to say that the Disciples had stolen the dead body of Jesus, because they stubbornly remained unfaithful after many warnings and rebukes, God took His Holy Ministry away from them. God wanted you in Heaven with Him so much that He replaced them with workers who would tell you that Jesus is risen indeed. The Lord chose other servants, fishermen like Peter and tax collectors like Matthew, 12 men who had no chance on earth of being rabbis or rulers of the Jews. Christ appointed these apostles so that you would hear of and know and trust in the Jesus whom Matthew tells you about today – the Jesus who comes to confront your ongoing sin. To turn you around. To forgive you those sins and give you the inheritance of God’s Kingdom. Amen.