“The All-Giving Love of God in Sending His Son”

(Luke 20:9-19 – Lent 5 – April 3, 2022)

Luke 20:9-19 – 9Then He began to tell the people this parable: “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time. 10Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out. 13Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.’ 14But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.” And when they heard it they said, “Certainly not!” 17Then He looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’? 18Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” 19And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people – for they knew He had spoken this parable against them.

Dear Redeemed in Jesus Christ:

One of the defining characteristics of God’s love is that it keeps on giving. God gives generously to all, even to the undeserving. Jesus described that gracious love of His Father in causing His sun to rise on both the evil and the good, and sending rain on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45); and in showing kindness even to the unthankful and evil (Luke 6:35). But Jesus described the greatest demonstration of God’s all-giving love in sending His own Son to undeserving sinners, who deserve His condemnation but instead received His salvation. As Jesus said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

In Jesus’ parable of the vineyard, He pictures this all-giving love of God to the undeserving, even the unthankful and evil. Who of us would do what the owner of the vineyard did? After planting a vineyard, he leased it to vinedressers. At harvest time, he expected them to give him what belonged to him. But when he sent servants to collect his rightful due, they mistreated them. One after another, the vinedressers beat his servants, cast them out of the vineyard, and sent them back to the owner empty-handed. Who would expect him to keep patiently sending more servants, hoping to receive his rightful due? But the last thing we would expect is that he would send his own son to them, hoping they would respect him and give him his rightful due. It is no surprise that they also treated his son shamefully, casting him out of the vineyard and killing him. The owner had made the vinedressers stewards of his property; but they acted as if they owned it, jealously guarding their interests, even to the point of killing his son.

When Jesus told this parable, this earthly story with a spiritual meaning, it was playing out in real life. Presently, it was Tuesday of Holy Week. Jesus had entered Jerusalem on Sunday to shouts of praise from the people gathered for the Passover Yet He knew that on Friday, He would be cast out of the city and killed. For He is that Son pictured in the parable. Let us consider “The All-Giving Love of God in Sending His Son”: 1) The Son who was cast out and killed by sinners; 2) The Son who has become the cornerstone of our salvation.

1) The Son who was cast out and killed by sinners

In the parable, the owner represents God. The vineyard represents Israel, the nation God had chosen as His people. He had planted them in the Promised Land, and set them apart from all the nations by giving them His revealed Word, His covenants pointing to the coming of Christ as the Savior of sinners. Like the vinedressers, God had appointed among Israel the priesthood and spiritual leaders. As stewards of His Word, they were faithfully to proclaim His truth, so that God might receive from His people His rightful harvest in the fruit of faith and obedience.

Yet like the vinedressers, how often the spiritual leaders used their position for their own self-serving purposes. They led the people astray in idolatry and unbelief. Like the owner of the vineyard sending his servants to gather the harvest, how often God sent His prophets among the people with His Word, patiently calling them to repentance, not wanting anyone to perish in sin.

Yet what did the prophets receive? Instead of the fruit of repentance, they received persecution. The religious leaders of the day, jealously guarding their own self-rule and self-serving interests, condemned the message of the prophets as falsehood. One after another, prophets were treated shamefully and cast out, along with the Word of God they had faithfully preached. We hear Jesus decrying such persecution in Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!”

Yet even then, what did God do in love? He continued to give, even to the unthankful and evil. He did the unthinkable and sent His own Son to them. Surely they would respect the Son, when they saw Him driving out demons and performing miracles! Surely they would listen to Him preaching with authority to forgive sins and reconcile sinners to God. Surely they would see that the Kingdom of God and salvation had come among them with the arrival of His Son!

Yet already, even as Jesus spoke this parable in the hearing of the religious leaders, He knew they were plotting to kill Him. He pictures it in the parable as the vinedressers saw the son, and “they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him” (vs. 14-15). They were supposed to be stewards of God’s Word, but they acted as if they owned the Kingdom. They would jealously guard their own self-rule and self interests, even if it meant casting out the Son and killing Him. It would happen on Friday that same week, when Jesus was on trial; these leaders would persuade the people to cry out for His crucifixion (Matthew 27:22). Just as the vinedressers in the parable cast the owner’s son out of the vineyard and killed him, they would cast Jesus out of Jerusalem and crucify Him.

Today, like those vinedressers, there are many spiritual leaders who are supposed to be stewards in God’s Kingdom, His Church. God calls ministers of His Word to preach and teach His truth in its purity, not adding to or taking away from it; for they are stewards, and not the owner. But how often the Word of God is cast out to make way for the latest ideas of man. A message is preached to suit itching ears, to make people comfortable living for themselves rather than for God, and at ease living in their sin instead of crucifying the flesh with its desires. Finally, under the guidance of false teachers, the Son of God as the Savior of sinners is cast out; for the message of Christ crucified becomes a stumbling block; it does not please the flesh.

But it would be a mistake only to condemn the sin of those who crucified Christ long ago, or those who crucify Him anew by unholy teaching and living today. The fact is, the same sin is inherent in us. It is that part of us that has no use for God, or for His Word and His messengers, and least of all for His Son. As far as our sinful nature is concerned, these all get in the way and would cast them aside.

As the Owner of all things, God has made us stewards of all He has given. He generously gives us our time, abilities, wealth, and possessions; our bodies and minds; and all that we have. He gives us His revealed Word. In return, He wants to receive what is due him in the fruits of faith and obedience, as we conform our lives to His Word and His will, serving to His glory.

Yet the sinful nature jealously guards its own self-rule and self-interests. When God’s Law says “You shall… You shall not…” (Exodus 20), our sinful nature says the opposite. It does not want to give God His rightful due. As the apostle Paul said in Romans 7:8: But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire.” The sinful nature wants to live, not as a steward of God and His gifts, but as the owner. It wants to live, not for the glory of God alone, but for its own glory. The Son of God says: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). But the sinful nature does not want to be denied and crucified. In its self-preserving spirit it would rather cast out the Son, joining the cry of the mob: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21).

2) The Son who has become the cornerstone of our salvation

But now we come to appreciate the all-giving love of God in sending His Son, even to us. Instead of bringing upon us the condemnation of the Law, instead of crushing us in judgment, in love He sent His Son to save us. As Jesus explained in John 3:17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

God knew what His all-giving love would cost Him, and just what it would take to save us. Even as sinners carried out evil plans against His Son, casting Him out and crucifying Him on a cross, God Himself was providing the necessary sacrifice for our sins. For there at the cross, God was taking all our sins and laying them on His own beloved Son. There at the cross, Jesus bore the weight of the whole world’s sins, even our sins. There on that instrument of death, he was nailed with that divine Law that had stood against us. He suffered for all the ways we have denied Him instead of ourselves. He died for all the ways we have lived for ourselves rather than God. Not one sin was left unpaid; at the cross, all our sin is taken away and forgiven by God. He gave His all in love to make it certain.

Now in exchange, the love of God keeps on giving. He counts the perfect stewardship of His Son to us. As the Son of Man, Jesus is the only one who rendered the fruit of sinless obedience and holy living to His Father. Now, as God cleanses away our sin by the blood of His Son, He also covers us in His sinless and holy life. God has joined us to His Son by baptism and faith. Therefore, God sees only the fruit of Christ’s righteousness upon us. God sees only the work of His Holy Spirit in us, bringing forth the fruit of faith in our lives, fruit to His glory.

So God has made us His fruitful vineyard, His true Israel by faith in His Son. He has made us His priesthood and holy nation. He has built us into His holy temple, the household of God in Christ. As it says in 1 Peter 2:4-5: “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Here Jesus turns from the picture of the vineyard to that of the building designed by God, beginning with Christ as the foundation. Speaking to those wanting to cast Him out and crucify Him, He quotes Psalm 118:22: “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’? Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

The cornerstone was the first stone laid in a building. All other stones were set in line with it. Ephesians 2:20 says the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” All believers have Christ alone as our foundation. Our faith and hope rest squarely on Christ, our only Savior and our righteousness before God.

Even now, the God who so loved the world that He gave His Son for all, continues to call out in love to all. He continues to send His Word and His messengers to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the good news of His forgiveness and eternal life in Christ. He does not want anyone to reject His Son and come under crushing judgment; He wants all to build their hope on Him who alone lived, died, and rose again for their salvation and eternal life.

Now we, who have freely received of His all-giving love in Christ can freely give. We can join that loving call of our God and Savior as we proclaim His Good News for all: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.