Proper 22 Matthew 21:33-46 We are blessed only to become a blessing to many

Matthew 21:33-46  We are blessed only to become a blessing to many.

33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built A tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35 The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 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 vine-growers?” 41 They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. 46 When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.

Background

Jesus continues His discourse with the Jews reminding them of their covenant and calling. Jesus paints a stark and dreadful picture of a decaying people on the verge of annihilation. Their vineyard will soon be taken from them! Yet the message falls on hardened and callous hearts that responded only with hate and murder. The depravity of the Jews mirrors today’s churches except that it has become more insidious and difficult to detect as the devil burrows himself deep within the ecclesiastical mindset. The blessed people must remember their calling and covenant lest they become fleshly and self-serving… the end of which is destruction and regret. Today’s devotion reminds us that we are blessed, not be self-serving, but to become a blessing to many.

Observation

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it…

The landowner in his plans to build a fully functional vineyard did the necessary to make it productive. Having put up a wall, created a wine press and built up a tower, he rented it out to vine-growers at a price. When it was harvest time, he sent his servants to collect the rent due him. However, not only did the tenants withhold rent from him, they mistreated the servants by beating one, killing another and stoning a third. The landowner out of his forbearance sent a larger group of servants hoping to convict them into paying their dues. They too were met with the same mistreatment.

Interpretation: The landowner refers to God, who has entrusted the work of world salvation to the Jewish nation and made a covenant with them. The vineyard with its wall, winepress and tower represents divine protection, revelations and blessing, and divine providence respectively. In renting the vineyard to the Jewish people, God calls them to the ministry of salvation for humanity at large. In the same token, God expects them to produce fruit leading to repentance and salvation of the nations. However, the Jewish leaders did not fulfil their part as tenants of the vineyard. Not only did they not preach the truth, they oppressed the people and became a disgrace to the gentile nations. When God sent his servants and prophets to remind them of their covenant and calling. They killed the prophets and the prophets that came after them.

But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

Finally, the landowner sent his son, thinking they would surely respect him and pay their dues. However, the tenants’ hearts grew more callous each time. Only this time, they became heinous while setting their eyes on the son’s inheritance. They threw his son out and killed him intending to possess his inheritance.

Interpretation: God, in His forbearance sent the prophets to warn them of the judgment to come. They appeared to conform for a brief period only to fall back into evil and sin. Subsequently, Israel was destroyed by Babylon and the nation went into exile until the time of Jesus. One supposed that the exiled Jews might have repented from their transgressions. But when Jesus came preaching the message of repentance and salvation, they rejected His authority as God’s Son and hung Him on the cross. The Jews had become more wicked, for they were driven by the desire to dominate the world and even God.

Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?

Jesus invited the hearers to contribute to what possible actions the landowner may take. Their answers were unanimous, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end…” The landowner’s forbearance and long-suffering with his evil tenants ultimately culminate in an implacable wrath. The landowner brings swift judgment upon the tenants and give the vineyard to another people who will give him fruit of the harvest.

Here, Jesus quoted from Psalm 118:22-23 concerning the stone that the builders rejected which ultimately became the chief corner stone. The cornerstone or foundation stone is the first stone set in the construction of a building. The cornerstone is important since all other stones and structures will be set in reference to it. The position and integrity of the whole building is determined by the cornerstone.

Interpretation: The impenitent Jews, having broken their covenant, will be stripped of their calling and privileges. The privileges of divine protection, revelations and providence will be given to another people who will bring God’s plans into fruition. Israel’s blessing will be given to another nation and be deprived for a time. Jesus accused the Jews for rejecting the stone which ultimately became the cornerstone of God’s kingdom. In rejecting the cornerstone, they rejected Jesus as Lord, and everything that He stood for. Subsequently, God resurrected Jesus and appointed Him as the cornerstone of His kingdom. As cornerstone, Jesus becomes the very foundation of God’s kingdom. By rejecting Jesus as cornerstone, they deprive themselves of their place in the eternal kingdom.

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people

Jesus dropped the bombshell and warned the Jews that the kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to a people who bears fruit. The chief priests and the Pharisees knew that Jesus was alluding to them. But their hearts were set on evil. In order to stop Jesus from airing their hypocrisies in public, they would have arrested him if not for the people who were there.

Interpretation:“The kingdom of God will be taken away from you…” infers the lost of divine privileges of protection, revelation and providence and blessings. Their status as a privileged nation, a blessed nation will be revoked and given to another people. The rebuke from Jesus not only fell on deaf ears, their heart became even more callous.

Truth

We are blessed only to become a blessing to many

When God blesses a person or a nation by entrusting them with the truth, He requires them to be a blessing to the world. The thrust of God’s blessing is actively pushing outward from the initial recipients to the rest of the world. But when the blessed people turn their eyes inward, becoming wicked and self-serving, God removes the divine privileges from them. The vineyard provides divine protection, revelations of the truth, and divine providence to the tenants. However, when the tenants stop producing fruit that is required of the covenant, God sends the prophets to admonish them so that they may repent. But when they reject the prophets’ calls to repentance, God removes His protection and destruction comes upon them. The issue that Jesus had with the Jewish leaders is their bent towards falsehood and hypocrisy. They preach that all will be well by virtue of their heritage and covenant in Abraham. They surmise that their salvation is secure as God is faithful even when they are unfaithful.

Today, God is speaking to the church who are recipients of His divine protection, revelations and providence. The church must continue to produce fruit by preaching the word so that people may walk in the truth and live abundantly; To give themselves to the ministry of saving souls and to helping the poor; To keep themselves pure from the love of money and the promiscuous lifestyle.

However, the thrusts of the majority of churches today serves to fulfil the desires of the people in order to keep their halls filled. Their ministers harbour ambitions supposing success is to be big and popular. Their messages appeal to one’s love for the world, and the desires of the flesh. They offer the grace of God as the means to blessings apart from godliness. They preach Christ as having removed godliness as the requisite for salvation and eternal life. This ecclesiastical decline will contribute to the breaking down of the social fabric and eventually the death of the nation. God has sent prophets to speak of impending judgment but were drowned out by the voices of false teachers who purport that all is well, “Grace, grace.”

The words of the prophet Jeremiah echoes from time past warning the church today as Christ has warned the Jews in His days…

16 Thus says the Lord of hosts,
“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you.
They are leading you into futility;
They speak a vision of their own imagination,
Not from the mouth of the Lord.
17 “They keep saying to those who despise Me,
‘The Lord has said, “You will have peace”’;
And as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart,
They say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’…
20 “The anger of the Lord will not turn back
Until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart;
In the last days you will clearly understand it. Jeremiah 23:16,17,20

Application

Are your eyes trained on salvation and worldly blessings supposing that God’s patience is infinite? Your eyes must be trained on godliness and on the things in heaven. Salvation and blessing are but the fruit of a regenerated life. Therefore, seek divine wisdom by meditating on His word and to understand His perspectives. Seek divine love by practising forbearance towards others and by sacrificing your time and resources for the needy. Seek divine power by practicing self-control over your body and to do things beyond your natural abilities. In so doing, God will enlarge the boundaries of your vineyard and cause you to abound in blessing and fruitfulness.

Dear Lord, I thank you for blessing me so that I can be a blessing. I resolve to seek divine wisdom, love and power. Fill me with your Spirit so that I may overcome the weakness of my human nature. Cause me to bear the fruit of a divine life, full of wisdom, love and power. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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