5th Sunday in Lent
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, No one really knows exactly what the purpose of dreams is. Some have guessed that it is our brain’s way of organizing and processing the information that our minds have taken in. Others have suggested that dreams are our mind’s way of cleaning up the data and ideas that our minds took in but aren’t really needed or developed. The amazing thing to me is that when you are dreaming and you wake up and remember the dream, you almost feel it could’ve been reality. I remember a dream I had not too long ago, and as a pastor, of course in my dream I was in a church getting ready for a service. Now that’s not too out of the ordinary for me. But the church I was in was in Israel. Okay, a little bizarre, but didn’t phase me in my dream, it kept going and it seemed real, but you’d think I would have figured out that it wasn’t reality when the church looked a lot like St. Mark’s and the people that started filing in were St. Mark’s members! But the dream kept going like everything was normal! I’m guessing that you’ve had dreams like that too, where there’s evidence all over the dream that tells you it’s fake but it keeps going as if it’s real. And I think that’s where we get the term “dream world.” We say things like, “That person’s living in a dream world.” In other words, they’re going along as if something’s a reality when there’s no way that it’ll come true.
We’ll in our text for this morning Jesus talks about some people who were living in a “dream world.” Jesus’ words were meant to wake them up.
I think we all know what a parable is. It’s a type of figure of speech and when Jesus used it, he used it as a way to use earthly elements to illustrate a spiritual truth or meaning. Well, it’s Tuesday of Holy Week, 3 days before Jesus went to the cross. He’s in Jerusalem and he’s teaching the people. Some of the religious leaders came up to Jesus and questioned his authority to teach the people after Jesus refuted them he turned to the people and told them this parable. There was a man who planted a vineyard. The land of Israel was known for its grape production and being an agrarian society Jesus’ first hearers would have easily related. In our day, we don’t see too many vineyards, so maybe you could picture a large farm. Well, the owner decided to go on a long trip and so he made a two-way agreement with some renters to take care of his vineyard while he was gone and at the harvest he would collect some of the fruit as their payment for using his farm. Well, when the harvest time came the farmer sent his servant to collect his fruit, but the renters were living in a dream world. The apparently thought they could do whatever they wanted and act as if the vineyard belonged to them. So they beat the servant up and sent him away empty handed. Now, if you or I were the farmer, how would we react when this happened? If this happened today, the police would be involved, a lawsuit would be filed, maybe there would be some underhanded way to get back at those evil tenants, perhaps sabotage involved or something. But what did the owner do in Jesus’ parable? He sent another servant! And that one again they beat, treated shamefully, and sent away empty handed. Now, I can’t see people acting with such patience today. But maybe, just maybe, one could say, “Maybe they didn’t understand, maybe they mistook him as an imposter, maybe they were having a bad day, so I’ll send another one.” And they treated him the same way and rejected him. Then, in patience like we have never seen in our lives and probably never will, the owner sent yet a 3rd servant to collect what was due him, but that one, too, they rejected, even wounded and threw him out of the vineyard.
Now let’s think about the spiritual meaning. The vineyard is the gift of God’s grace. God is the man who planted the vineyard and he made a 2 way agreement with the Israelites. Out of all the people on earth God had selected them as his very own special people. Through them God wanted to send a Savior into the world. He had made a 2 way contract with them, if they would keep His Word and keep his laws, he would keep them as his own precious nation. Then God stepped back and watched how they managed this gift of his grace. It was through them that God wanted all nations on earth to learn about him. But what did they do? They lived in a dream world. They began to misuse it, instead of sharing God’s gifts, they kept them all to themselves, they rebelled against God, the owner of the world, and the One to whom they owed their very existence. They didn’t produce fruits of love and faith. So time and again God would send his servants, the prophets, to wake them up and to call them to repentance and to change their lives, but the majority of the people didn’t listen, they kept living the way that they wanted to, they kept living a dream world, and so they rejected the prophets, didn’t want to listen to them, mistreated them, and even ended up wounding and killing some of them.
Back to the parable. Finally, the owner said, “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” Now, who would do this? Certainly not I! I have one son, but even if I had 10 sons, I wouldn’t send him to a bunch of wicked and evil people who have mistreated 3 of my servants! I would have sent in judgment long ago! But he sent his son, he had no one left to send, maybe they would listen to his son. But then, when they saw the son, they said, “This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” What upside down logic! But when the son came, they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. So what did the owner do? His incredible patience ran out and he came to the vineyard, killed those tenants and gave it to others.
Finally, God also sent his own Son to His people to call them to repentance and make use of the grace God had given them. But what did they do? They rejected him, treated him shamefully, and begged Pilate to crucify him as they yelled, “Crucify, crucify” then, threw him out of the city of Jerusalem and crucified him. They rejected God’s own Son and wanted to have vineyard of God’s kingdom all to themselves in order to do what they wanted, have things their way. So God rejected the Jews and gave the Gospel to the Gentiles.
When the people heard Jesus say this, they knew what Jesus was saying and they said, “May this never be!” So Jesus pointed to the OT where it had been prophesied in Psalm 118:22 that the Jews would reject the Savior on whom God would build his church. “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone or cornerstone.” In ancient times they would find the best stone to use for the cornerstone of the building. The rest of the building was based off that stone, it needed to be exact and perfect for the rest of the building to turn out. That stone is Jesus. On him God has built his Church. Those who reject God’s plan of salvation through Jesus are living in a dream world and will not survive. Jesus said, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” Anyone who rejects Jesus as the most important part of God’s kingdom will not survive, anyone who doesn’t trust in Jesus as the Savior from sin will be crushed forever in hell. The chief priests and teachers of the law knew what Jesus told them and then made plans to fulfill exactly what Jesus had just warned them about.
Jesus words were crushing for the Jewish people of his day. Do they still crush today? Anyone who lives in God’s world, makes uses of God’s things, but who has no interest in listening and learning about the true God in His Word is living in a dream world. So many people live entirely focused on themselves and have no time for God or His Word. But such a person’s entire life is a demonstration of the unbelievable patience of God who continually sends His servants to share the truth, to wake them up, to crush them so He can lift them up. If they don’t heed Jesus’ warning, one day it will be too late, God will take His message away from them and give it to someone else.
But what about us? Do we find ourselves living in a dream world? We have the gift of God’s grace, the knowledge of our Savior, but how are we acting? We are now the tenants in the vineyard. Do we receive God’s message seriously by hearing it and studying it regularly? As receivers of God’s grace do we live according to it by turning from our sinful habits and seeking to follow God’s will for our lives by following his commands? Or are we living a dream thinking God won’t mind us doing whatever WE want?
God has every right to reject us. But notice God’s grace in all of this. See the amazing patience of our God that our God doesn’t simply reject us and dismiss us for our sins against him, but in patient love he comes to us again and again with His Words. His words to crush our self-righteousness, to wake us up from our self-deluded dreams. He does that as we hear His words. He crushes us, so He can rebuild us by reminding us of His love in sending a Savior to be crushed for us that we might live forever in heaven. So, as the tenants of this gift of God’s grace may we receive it properly and live our lives according to it by repenting of our sins and turning to Jesus in faith and trust. May we live knowing the reality of God’s gift of grace and may we enjoy it forever in heaven. Amen.