Jesus was in his final week as the humiliated Son of Man. He had made it to Jerusalem, and before him were large crowds, including civil and religious leaders who were plotting to kill him. Seeing them in their unrepentant state, and still filled with compassion, Jesus told them yet another parable:
“A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” … (Luke 20:9-15)
Jesus ended his story by posing a question to his listeners:
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?” (Luke 20:15)
He then answered his own question:
“He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others ….” (Luke 20:16)
In this parable, Jesus was outlining the history of Israel. Israel had been given stewardship responsibilities by God. They were to manage the Kingdom in accordance with the King’s will and for the King’s glory, but they had not done so. They were so wicked, foolish, and self-centered. However, over the centuries, the Almighty God had consistently offered olive branches to his people. Only because of his undeserved love, mercy, and grace, he had sent prophets, priests, and kings to call Israel to repentance, but most of this had been for naught. However, his love undeserved continued, and at the present time he had even sent his only Son. Jesus was the royal emissary sent from heaven to obtain and offer peace to a most sinful people, but the arrogant and foolish rejection continued. And it would get worse over the upcoming week. Jesus was within days of being betrayed, arrested, interrogated, tortured; he was within days of being “thrown out of the vineyard and killed.” (20:15) Therefore, what was left for God’s chosen nation? Divine justice was promised. The Father was going to come; he would be flexing his mighty arm; destruction would be fierce; and he would give his vineyard blessings to another people.
To many who were listening to Jesus, this sounded ludicrous. They could not fathom the Heavenly Father devastating the Jewish nation and granting his vineyard benefits to others.
When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” (Luke 20:16)
However, their fate was not yet set. With great intensity and compassion, Jesus looked at him and said:
“What then is this that is written: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Luke 20:18-19)
Graciously, compassionately, seriously, one more time … Jesus reached out to friends and foes before him. He proclaimed himself to be the Cornerstone, the Foundation Block, the Rock, or the Stone. He proclaimed afresh his upcoming rejection; he knew exactly the stoop of humiliation before him. But knowing this, he gave the invitation one more time. Knowing their rebellion and the rugged cross before him, he presented their present opportunity and only two options:
- Some — the foolish — would continue in their rebellion, have the Son fall upon them, and they would find themselves crushed.
- Some — the wise — will turn from their rebellion, willingly fall upon the Son, they would be broken, and they would be blessed.
Sadly, many before Jesus continued in their rebellion. They arrogantly dismissed his teaching and heeded not his warning. They chose poorly:
The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them …. (Luke 20:9-19)
But this would not be the last opportunity for all. Because God was so compassionate, long-suffering, and irresistibly effective, many elders, priests, and Pharisees would fall upon the Son, be broken, and be blessed. The final chapter had not yet been written for all. Many like Saul of Tarsus would “kiss the Son”, be broken, and be blessed.
So what about you dear friends?
Do you see the deserved anger of God? He sees your sin and hates it. How great must be his anger towards you who continue to disobey, rebel, and reject his prophets, priests, kings, Son, and Spirit. For you who remain unaffected sinners, how great must be his divine wrath which is being stored up. By now, it must certainly be boiling over. And in the Bible, hell is promised to be most horrible for those who know the most, reject the most, and most willingly defy his compassionate olive branch. Oh friends, do not believe those who discount the holiness of God. He presents himself as one who is hot with holy fire. He is perpetually incensed with sacred rage against Satan, the satanic, and those who reject his Son. Hell is ahead, do you fear God?
Do you see the undeserved love of God? Even though God has been rejected, and even though God was currently being rejected, and even though God would continue to be rejected — betrayed, arrested, interrogated, tortured, mocked, crucified, and misrepresented — the Son of God remained in Jerusalem to die. And the same Son of God, looking you and your record, sees your sin and stays his hand of justice. Why has he not already crushed you? It is because he loves his own with an immeasurable and immutable love. He still has plans of redeeming many who are rebelling before him on this very day.
Finally, do you see your current opportunity and only options? Friends, the number of your days have not yet come to an end. Your eternal fate has not yet been sealed. You still have the ability and responsibility to think, make decisions, bow the knee, call upon Jesus, and be saved. Oh, perhaps this is the day! Perhaps this is the appointed time when the Holy Spirit will free you of your depravity and convince you to choose differently. Fellow rebel, why would you be foolish any longer? Why would you have the Son fall upon you and be crushed? Instead, why not be wise, be crushed, fall upon the Son, and be eternally blessed?
Hear the words of Psalm 2 and respond rightly. Be broken and not crushed. Today could be the day of your salvation:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury … Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2)