The Grace of Redemption Luke 20:9-18

Former pastor John Piper says, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”[1] We are limited in knowledge. Since the fall, our minds have been distorted by sin, and we do not see the world clearly.  God is moving in so many profound ways, but we cannot comprehend all that He is doing. One of the reasons I love the Word of God is that it helps us interpret our world.  Our interpretation of history may be flawed, but God’s interpretation is always perfect. 

Through our text this morning, God provides us a parable so that we can understand the grand story of redemption. The passage is an allegory based on Israel’s history. Jesus shares this parable about the vineyard which seems to have been drawn from Isaiah 5:1-7. As I read that passage, listen for how much God did for Israel in preparing the vineyard and how much God did to Israel because of their bad fruit. Isaiah 5:1-7,

Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

It is important as we work through this parable to keep this prophecy in our minds. As we trace God’s story of redemption, I want to frame it in light of God’s grace. 

The Gracious Planting

Jesus shares this parable in response the chief priests and the scribes’ rejection of his authority.  Luke 20:9,

And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while.

In the Old Testament, Israel was often referred to as the vineyard, but here the vineyard is the promise of blessing to the nation. In this parable, Israel is the tenants who are allowed to live in the vineyard under God’s blessing.  Jesus provides an overview of the history of Israel in that one sentence.

            God gave the promise of blessing to the nation of Israel to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. This was partially realized when Israel entered the Promised Land led by Joshua. The phrase “for a long while” opens the door to the rest of the parable and Israel’s response to God’s servants as we will see, but first notice that vineyard was planted. God gave his promise of blessing. The entire story of redemption begins with a word of grace. God speaks a word of grace to a rebellious and sinful people.

            Paul Tripp gives a wonderful illustration of the promise of blessing in his book, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.”  He tells parents to explain to their children the circle of blessing by drawing a circle on a piece of paper and writing the word “blessing” in the middle of the circle.  On the outside of the circle, he asks parents to write the word “danger”.  The promise of blessing is given to those who obey the Lord, but if you disobey the Lord you start to move out of the circle into danger.  If we take that illustration and apply it to Israel, God has given the Israelites a circle of blessing.  If they obey his words then they will be blessed, but if they disobey his words they will be removed from the circle of blessing.  From the very beginning, God establishes the boundaries of blessing for his people.  He lays out the expectations so that no one will be surprised at the outcome.

            The vineyard was graciously planted, or the promise was graciously given, so that the people would produce fruit.  The people were going to be held accountable by the fruit they produced in the vineyard.

The Gracious Prophets

Luke 20:10-12,

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.

Instead of obeying the Lord, the people of Israel fell into sin. Israel’s history is one of defiance and disobedience. God did not treat them as their sins deserved, but graciously called out to them for repentance.

Each servant came to gather fruit from the vineyard, but each servant went away empty-handed.  The tenants were not producing good fruit and had nothing to show from the vineyard. The tenants in the parable continued to display their lack of fruitfulness by abusing the servants and messenger and sending them away with nothing.  The servants are a picture of the prophets that God sent again and again to warn his people of their disobedience.  The prophets came with hard words, but they were designed to stir the people up to repentance.

            It is hard to receive rebukes and criticism.  People do not typically respond well to correction.  Although we may not like correction, it is an absolute blessing to our soul.  A few years ago, I was having problems with my leaf blower. The leaf blower was oozing smoke every time I used it. so I asked a man in my neighborhood that had a lawn care business if he could look at it for me. I brought the leaf blower over to his house and in passing in asked me, “You are using gasoline mixed with oil, right?” I had a blank stare on my face, implying that I had no idea what he was talking about.  He explained to me that I was using the wrong gasoline which would eventually cause the leaf blower to die.

            It was humbling to show my ineptitude (yet again) in my lack of knowledge of the simplest things in lawn maintenance, but it was only in being corrected that I was able to save my leaf blower. Correction and warning is an act of grace.  If we are not producing fruit, then we are not going to be able to be in the vineyard.  We may be able to last for a while, but eventually we are going to have to answer for our lack of fruitfulness.

            For the last several years, I have written numerous letters and made countless phone calls to members of the church who have not attended here in years.  I have attempted to communicate with a gracious and loving spirit, but there have been several folks who have been offended by the letters that I have sent out including one lady who called it a “nasty” letter.  If people do not respond well to criticism and correction, why risk it?  We risk it because there is danger in a lack of fruitfulness.  The prophets were beaten and sent away empty-handed, but they were doing the will of their master who sent him.  Beloved, many of us are going to be shamefully treated when we speak words of correction to our family and friends, but know that when we speak the truth in love we are doing the will of our master who has sent us.

The Gracious Prince

The owner of the vineyard could have given up on the tenants.  He could have just washed his hands of them and moved on, but he still chose to graciously pursue them so we see the parable takes a glorious, yet tragic turn in verse 13,

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. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? (Luke 20:13-15)

The owner of the vineyard is still motivated by love for the people. He sent his beloved son, the heir to the vineyard.  The tenants responded by plotting to kill the son so that they would have the inheritance.

It is clear the son in the parable is a reference to Jesus, but notice the gracious warning.  At the end of Luke 19,

And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him. (Luke 19:47)

The chief priests and the scribes were seeking to destroy Jesus and they knew that this parable was against them. Luke 20:19,

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, but they feared the people.

The leaders perceived that the parable was against them, but were not able to hear the gracious warning Jesus offered.  Jesus was against them, but he was only against the sin in them.  He was again drawing the circle, giving them an opportunity to see the circle of blessing. 

            The casting out and the killing to Son was the limit to owner’s kindness.  They have rejected the servants and now rejected and killed the son so the question is asked at the end of verse 15, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?”

The Gracious Punishment

Jesus immediately gives the answer of what is going to happen to the tenants in the next verses, 16-18,

He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” But he looked directly at them 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.

God’s kindness had run out.  He gave them grace after grace after grace, but the tenants continued to rebel, so finally the owner had to act.  This is the same picture that we see in Isaiah 5 when God said he was going to come and destroy the vineyard. God is always gracious even in bringing punishment.

God is gracious to always keep his word.  He warned and warned, but eventually had to follow through on his words.  Notice the shock of the people in verse 16, “When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” The people could not believe that God would punish his people for their sin. People do not want to believe in punishment, but God has to punish sin. Many today respond the same way in regards to punishment with a shocked disbelief, “Surely not!” People who speak of punishment for sin and rebellion may be looked at as being mean and nasty, but punishment will come. 

My college roommate was hit hard during a football game. There was nothing unusual about the hit, but he was still feeling sore after about a week and a half so he went to the doctor.  After seeing two different doctors, he was referred to a specialist.  We went to the hospital and got off the elevator on the Oncology floor.  My 21 year old friend was diagnosed with cancer.  By God’s grace, the cancer was caught earlier because of the pain he experienced during a football game. If he was not hit during that game, he would not have been diagnosed with cancer and may have died.  His temporary pain saved him from something far worse. 

Beloved, see the promised punishment of destruction to those who stay in rebellion and turn to Christ and be saved.

The Gracious Present

As I quoting at the outset, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life and you may be aware of three of them.” The parable showed that the unfaithful tenants of the vineyard were going to be destroyed, but through their rejection others would be saved.  Jesus said that the vineyard (or the promise of blessing) was going to be given to others. The Jews rejection of Jesus Christ opened up the door for the gospel to go to the Gentiles.  Romans 9:22-24,

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

The Jews could only see the punishment, but could not see how God was going to use it to bring more into the kingdom. The apostle John writes in the beginning of his gospel,

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13)

God has opened the door to salvation for all who would receive Jesus as King. 

The gift of salvation is now offered to all because Jesus Christ was rejected and died for the sins of the people.  It was absurd for the tenants to think that in killing the Son they would have received his inheritance, but we all have lived with the same insane logic. We all are accountable to our Creator, but have lived as if we are accountable to only ourselves.  We all have rejected God’s loving rule and exchanged it for our own rule.  We all deserve punishment, but God in his grace sent Jesus Christ to be rejected and killed on our behalf. He died in our place to bring us to God, the righteous for the unrighteous.  It is only in the death and resurrection of Christ that God could bring salvation to the whole world for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. 

The Gracious Plea

Beloved, I want to end this sermon with a plea to trust in Christ.  Israel received grace upon grace, but still rejected the Lord. I pray that today is the day of salvation for you. I pray that today is the day of repentance and faith for you. Jesus solemnly warns in verse 18,

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.

No one can stand against the Lord.  God is offering you salvation through Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. He died so you could live.  The offer is given, but will you accept it?

Jesus is nearing his death. He will be humiliated, beaten and crucified. He will look weak and powerless, but He will be the exalted powerful stone who no man can stand against. Everyone is faced with one of two options: fall before the Cornerstone in worship, or have the Cornerstone fall upon you in judgment. Two options lay before you, which will you chose?