Palm Sunday – Sermon 82

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ



Confronting someone about their faith is never easy – but – there are times when the situation demands it –

After the euphoria of His spectacular entrance into the city – Jesus knew it was time for some hard lessons to be taught –

The religious leaders refused to acknowledge Him as God’s Messiah – and He needed to expose their hard hearts – and bring them to repentance –

So Jesus spoke to them in parables –

He used a story that the Jewish leaders were very familiar with – the song of the vineyard – taken from Isaiah – and adapted it to get His message across –

A story of Rebellion, Retribution and Rejection – in you like – the 3 R’s – and it was a story that would demand and receive a response –

First Point Israel Rebels

First “Rebellion” –
Rebellion of the Jewish nation – against God – in our OT Reading –
Rebellion of the Jewish leaders – against Jesus in our NT reading

Isaiah sings of His beloved – who had a vineyard high up on a fertile slope

He provides it with everything it needs – a fertile soil – well prepared ground – quality vines. So confident He was – of the outcome – that He built a watchtower, put a wall and hedge around it – for protection – and provided a permanent store for the wine.

Israel is the vineyard and Judah its choicest plant
His beloved – the Lord of Hosts – expected the best – but instead the vineyard produced wild grapes – that were good for nothing

The difference between a good grape and a sour grape – is the level of care it receives –

The Grace God lavished on it – had had no effect – it was as if He had never touched – or provided for it –

Where did the fault lie? – clearly not with the owner – but with those He put in charge –

What is the owner to do?

The story that Jesus tells in Mark – is one could well have happened in Palestine at that time – there were many absentee landlords – and there was a lot of labour unrest – the owner of such a vineyard might be a Jew who had sought – a more comfortable land than Palestine – or a Roman – who regarded the vineyard as an investment for His money –

Tenants were required to pay their rent in currency or by handing over an agreed amount of the crop – If the owner followed the law the first collection would be 5 years after planting the vines

Like any good drama or story – the first act introduces the main players – the owner is God – the vinedressers are the Jewish authorities – the servants the prophets

As in Isaiah’s song – the tenants rebel against the owner – but this time not by producing a bad crop – but by rejecting – beating and even killing a succession of servants sent to collect the owners due –

Finally the Landlord “ had now no one to send except His beloved Son, and in the end He sent Him. “They will respect my Son”, He said”

But – in their wish to have total control – they see an opportunity to get rid of the rightful heir – and fling Him out of the vineyard – and kill Him –

The tenants were given every advantage – but out of their lust for possession – they turned the vineyard into a scene of violence and murder –

Both stories highlight the the greed and abuse of privilege – even fear – that drives people to take – what belongs to others –

and as we’ve seen recently – on our Televisions such fear and greed – can quickly turn into violence and killings – as people fight to keep what they think they are entitled to –

Rebellion against God is about misuse of the Grace and gifts He has provided for us

its about not caring for the things and the people He puts in our charge –

its about ignoring Him – doing our own thing – not giving Him the honour and Glory He deserves –

“God looked for justice – but found bloodshed – for righteousness but heard cries of distress” –

Point 2 Retribution

Which brings us on to retribution – What shall the Landlord do?

Some would have called the police – or sent for a solicitor – or even taken the law into their own hands –

But the rightful owner of the vineyard responds with Grace –

Not the normal response to a rebellion – or a wronged property owner – but a perfect description of what God did in response to our downward slide in disobedience –

The people listening to Jesus – must have been amazed at the patience of the vineyard owner – surely after the first servant was mistreated – He would punish the vinedressers – but instead – He sends another servant – and another – and eventually His Son – giving them chance after chance –

All the people listening to Jesus knew what it was like to work on the land – they must have been angry at what they heard – knowing that the landowner had worked so hard to prepare it–

Perhaps they expected a retribution – like in Isaiah’s time –

“I shall take away its hedge – and let it go to waste – break down its walls and let it get trampled under foot – I shall leave it derelict”

When the warnings Isaiah gave went unheeded –Israel and Judah were occupied – by the surrounding nations – the people were deported – and the temple destroyed –

but even here – God gave His faithful another chance – He kept a remnant safe – encouraged a new understanding – and gave them a promise of a new final deliverance – through the coming of His suffering servant – the new vine dresser – Jesus –

God’s management style is one of “hands off” – He gives us freedom to work things out for ourselves – we are under His eye – not His thumb –

He is the patient landlord – waiting for us – to bear fruit – even when we’re openly hostile to Him –willing to be taken advantage of – willing to be overlooked – longing for a change of heart and relationship –

Being a Christian is a risky business – In many of Jesus’ parables – Jesus praises those who take risks for Him – the owner of the vineyard sent His only – Son knowing that He might be killed like His servants – In the same way God encourages us to take risks – in His name – and use our gifts – for the sake of others –

Here in this parable – Jesus is pointing to Himself – and His coming crucifixion –

He tells them plainly who He is – and why He is here – He lays down an unmistakable claim to be God’s Son – deliberately separating Himself from the succession of prophets –

The central meaning of the parable is that the Son of God has come to claim what is rightfully expected from God’s vineyard –

He has come – to return those taken from Him – to re-establish the relationship between God and His people –

Only through Jesus will the sin and separation be finally overcome – and only those who accept and welcome Jesus will be saved from destruction – and given a place in His new vineyard –

Point 3 Rejection

Which brings us on to our third – R – Rejection –

The third part of Jesus’ parable shows the rejection of God’s grace –

The plea from Jesus is that the religious authorities should heed the evidence before them – and give to God what is His due – sadly they
understood too well and reject the offer

The placing of this story in Mark – just days before the crucifixion – shows that even – now the leaders could have heard – understood and responded – to Jesus – but they didn’t – For them it was another chance lost – another chance refused –

The plotters knew what the were doing – kill the Son and dispose of the body – and the vineyard is ours –

But Jesus makes His point as sharply as the nails used in His crucifixion – His people have repeatedly defied Him – rejecting the message of the prophets – ill treating them – and – the murder of the Son – is the last straw –

The Son will prevail – they will be destroyed – and God will turn to others – to be His special agents

The parable closes with an OT quotation which became very dear to the church – taken from Psalm 118 v 22,23 – “the stone which the builders rejected – would become the main corner stone” – in other words – the most important stone of all – the stone – that would bind the new building together –

When we reject God – we reject everything –
When we condemn Jesus – we condemn ourselves

Jesus death – far from being a disaster for the owner – was at the heart of God’s plan to save us

Jesus speaks with God’s authority – He is the cornerstone of all God’s activity –

to build our lives on anything other than a relationship with Jesus will result in failure and God’s judgment


So –there we have it – the 3 R’s – not quite the ones we would normally associate with teaching –

The last verse of the passage in Mark’s begins with the words –

“They saw that the parable was aimed at them”

Today we are the temporary tenants of the vineyard – and the question we have to ask ourselves – is what we doing with it while we are here ? – Are we prepared to respond to God’s final appeal? – to make Jesus everything – or reject Him and make Him nothing?

The famous World War One Poet/Chaplain G.A Studdert-Kennedy (1883 – 1929) wrote a poem titled “Gambler”:

“He was a gambler, too my Christ,

He took His life and threw
It for a world redeemed.
And ere His agony was done,
Before the Westering Sun went down.
Crowning that day with crimson crown,

He knew that He had won.

Prayer to Finish