Palm Sunday – Sermon 9

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



Warning signs – do we take them seriously?

Do this – do that – Don’t do this – don’t do that – Don’t smoke – don’t drink–

Eat healthy food – take plenty of exercise –

Important advice that can make a difference to our lives and the lives of those around us –

but how much of it goes in one ear – and out the other –

Warning signs are there to protect and direct us – we ignore them at our peril –

After the euphoria of His spectacular entry into the city – Jesus knew it was time for some hard lessons –

The religious leaders had refused to acknowledge Him – tried to trap Him with trick questions – He knew He had to expose them – give them a warning they couldn’t ignore –

So Jesus told them a parable – and He chose a subject He knew they would be very familiar with

First Point Song of Isaiah

The purpose of a vineyard is to produce grapes for its owner –

And when the owner provides everything needed for a healthy crop – He expects to see and receive good results –

Jesus adopts Isaiah’s “Song of the vineyard” to show His enemies that they are on a slippery slope – and that God is fully aware of the deceit and evil in their hearts –

“My Beloved had a vineyard – high on a fertile slope – He trenched it – cleared it- of stones – He planted it with the choicest red vines – and in the middle built a watchtower and hewed out a vine vat – He expected it to yield the choicest grapes – but all it yielded was a crop of wild grapes”

The vineyard represents God’s kingdom on earth – The owner – God has built His vineyard – and established His chosen people in the world – The hedge symbolises His protective hand that surrounds them – the watchtower – is where God’s priests and religious leaders look out and tend to His precious crop – keeping close watch while waiting for harvest time –

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

Vines need constant care to keep them productive – they need to be pruned – the ground ploughed – and kept free of weeds –

There are many instances in the Bible where Jesus talks about our need for pruning – to cut out the unproductive parts of our lives

Spiritual pruning is an experience many of us shrink from – but its essential if we want to become the people God wants us to be –

But as far as the vineyard is concerned –

Its as if the grace lavished on it by God – has had no effect – as if had never been touched –

In Isaiah’s time – the nation was strong and healthy – but there were – danger signs ahead – the people were abusing their power – harassing the poor – indulging themselves in drink and expensive clothes – and Assyria was gaining in strength on Israel’s border –Judah was considering an alliance – but – Isaiah knew that any reliance on an outside power – or force other than God – would lead to disaster –

So – where did the fault lie? – clearly not with the owner – but with the tenants – who were put in charge of it –

In Isaiah’s song there was only one thing to do – abandon the vineyard – as a bad job – deprive it of its fertility – let the cattle ad surrounding nations trample it underfoot – thorns and thistles choke it – and let the land – and people of Israel – no longer receive God’s protection

But in Jesus’ parable – God had another way forward – He would again try to turn their heads – and hearts towards Him – but this time – He sent His servants to remind them of the debt that they owed –

Point 2 God’s patient reminders –

We all need Reminders – those little messages around the house – knots in the handkerchief – marks in our diaries- sometimes to make sure I don’t forget something – I put things at the front door – so I’ve practically got to trip over them – before I leave –

In Jesus’ parable – the vineyard is again the Nation of Israel and the tenants – the rulers.

The owner didn’t want all the grapes – just a proportion – but the tenants decided to take it all – and rejected the servant He sent – and beat him up – kicked him out –

As far as their relationship with God – was concerned it was a case of out of sight – out of mind – all take and no give – we’ve all heard the expression – possession is nineteenths of the law – well the tenants believed it –

But the parable tells of the love and patience of God – How He gives them chance after chance to respond –

He tried again with His second servant – but they thrashed him as well – then the third – he too was wounded and flung out –

The messengers – are the prophets – like Isaiah – who – reminded the leaders – and people of their unfaithfulness towards God – and because of that were persecuted and rejected

With each messenger from the owner – the tenants became more and more hostile –

and then He sends – His “Beloved Son – perhaps they will respect Him!” –

but the tenants – see it as an opportunity to get rid of the rightful heir – and fling Him out of the vineyard – and kill Him –

Here Jesus is pointing to Himself – and His coming crucifixion –

Jesus tells them plainly who He is – and why He is here –

He lays down an unmistakable claim to be God’s Son – separating Himself from the succession of prophets – sent before Him –

Jesus was living the parable He was preaching – standing among the greedy tenants – that were plotting to kill Him –

But Jesus wasn’t there to condemn them – but to give them one last chance –

If we knew someone who was plotting our murder – we would find it difficult to put their lives – above our own – but that’s what Jesus was doing –why He was there telling them – this parable – Such is God’s love for us –

Jesus was not there to condemn them – but to – put their sins on His shoulders and die for them –

All too often we assume that God will judge us – in the way we judge others –

We expect even God’s patience to have limits – but as we see from Jesus’ parable – God’s attitude towards us – His goodness and forgiveness are on a different level – altogether – so much so – that we find it – difficult to understand – we should never imagine that we have committed an unforgivable sin – God will always show mercy –

Having heard the punch line – Jesus’ hearers couldn’t believe anyone could be so cold –

But the Jewish leaders knew the meaning of Jesus’ words – and yet were all the more determined to see them come true – they like the tenants – instead of heeding the warning – they wanted to take the life of the Son – and heir

Point 3 The cornerstone

Then Jesus reminded them of a saying taken from

Psalm 118 –

“The stone which the builders rejected has become the main corner stone”

Jesus is telling them that His death will not be the end – but the beginning – that although He will be rejected and
killed by the leaders of the church – they will fail in their attempt to gain control –

Jesus is pointing to the time after His resurrection – When He will become the corner stone on which God’s kingdom will be built –

“Everyone who falls on the stone will be dashed to pieces – anyone on whom it falls will be crushed”

Here we have a choice – we can either be broken before Him – or crushed by Him

Those who submit themselves to Jesus’ will – will find themselves broken – of their arrogance – self-centeredness – pride –

Those who don’t submit to Him – will be crushed completely –

Death didn’t take Jesus by surprise – many times He made reference to it – He knew that God’s purpose would be fulfilled in spite of the evil choices that the people would make – His death – far from being a disaster for the owner – was at the heart of His plan to save us

Jesus was sent to claim what belongs to God – to return what has been taken from Him – and defeat the sin that separates us from God – Only through Jesus will God’s vineyard be finally established – with Jesus at its head –


So – are we the choice grapes or the sour? –

Has God’s love – changed our lives – or are we blind to His presence-

How does our church – measure up to Jesus’ vineyard message – today? –

The highway Code – gives us two types of sign – to warn us of things ahead – the triangle when we should be cautious – and – the circle – when its time to change our ways

But for Christians – there’s only one sign that really matters – the cross – it tells us who we should follow – and how we are going to get there

Will you heed the warning signs?

Prayer to Finish