Faith In Real Life Blog
“God Does not Give Up on Us”
Sharing Christ’s Love Worship Series
Rev. Vernon Gramling
Decatur Presbyterian Church
October 4, 2023
33 ‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34 When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35 But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” 39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ 41 They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’
42 Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes”?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46 They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
This week is particularly hectic. Unfortunately, I expect more so I’m sending out my ‘take aways’ in a list fashion—at least till I get through my surgery and we get thru our move.
This passage is the third of three responses to the chief priests’ and scribes’ question: “By what authority do you speak?” Jesus’s first answer was a question designed to point out that congruence between action and words is the basis of authority. The second was the parable of the two sons in which, once again, the theme was ‘actions speak louder than words’ – a yes that does not include action is really a no. And finally, we discover much the same theme in this parable.
The land owner invests heavily into the vineyard. He plants, provides a wine press, a fence and a watch tower. This is a very well-appointed vineyard. The land owner then passes stewardship of these resources to the tenants. We rapidly discover that the tenants have forgotten that, though they have worked the land, they did not own the land. When the land owner seeks his share of the harvest, they are rebellious. They beat, stone and kill the landowner’s emissaries. They do the same to a second, larger group. Then, quite peculiarly, the land owner sends his son with the hope that the tenants will show respect and finally do the right thing. This too fails. The son is killed in the false hope that now the tenants can gain the son’s inheritance.
Takeaways from the story so far:
Jesus now asks a key question to the chief priests and scribes: “Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They respond with the words: ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’
New take aways.
One last note. I have felt and I have noticed a certain amount of Matthew 25 fatigue. I believe this happens because the promises of the Gospel become oughts and worse, these oughts expose us as woefully unable to respond. It is hard to live in a world where our best efforts often fail. But, as I read this parable, it is a predicament that God is quite familiar with. And amazingly, God keeps reaching out.
If you can come to know such a God, you will be transformed. Let it be so.
Vernon Gramling is a Parrish Associate at DPC. He has been providing pastoral care and counseling for over 45 years. You can find more about Vernon, the Faith in Real Life (FIRL) gatherings and Blog at our staff page or FIRL.