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Matthew 21:33-45 33″Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. 35″The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. 38″But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40″Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41″He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” 42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The Stone the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43″Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables; they knew He was talking about them. 46They looked for a way to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that He was a prophet.
“If at first you do not succeed, then try, try again.” This is a saying which may or may not be helpful. If I am doing something wrong and continue in the same way, then I can try as many times as I have strength and it will not help.
Now this is a lesson our Government has yet to learn. They come up with a solution to what may or may not even be a problem. They vote it into law and it fails. What to do? Add more money and try, try again. Can you say, “The war on poverty”? As I have listened many times to Joel Osteen, that seems to be what he says. Your success may well be just one more failure away. So lift up your head and keep trying.
But of course, such a saying would not be popular if there wasn’t some truth in it. I am sure we have all failed on something and have tried again and again and finally, things worked out.
In our text we see the tenants- or shall we say, the share-croppers, didn’t want to live up to their part of the bargain. Well, let’s read the text: “When the harvest time approached,( the owner) sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way.”
This was rather drastic. I would imagine that after the first time he would have secured some sort of help but he didn’t. And as we see, he pressed even further trying to get these sharecroppers to do the right thing. We read, “Last of all, he sent his son to them. ’They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” That didn’t work either!
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables; they knew He was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that He was a prophet.
So what did they do? They tried and tried again. They tried to embarrass Him. They tried to trick Him. They bribed false witnesses and then they even fulfilled scripture by offering Judas 30 pieces of silver. In Zechariah, we read: “ I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.” What happened to the 30 pieces? Again we read, “So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.”
It didn’t stop there. Even after Easter they bribed the Roman guards to say the Apostles stole the body of Jesus. They tried and tried again. But there was the woman who saw Jesus and then the empty tomb and then the two appearances of Jesus walking through the locked door. And then the Emmaus disciples and then the 500 brethren who saw Him. We might say that now it is Jesus who is trying, again and again, to get people to believe in Him.
Down through the ages, there have been people and groups of people both within and outside of the church who have tried to distort or destroy the Gospel. Already St Paul warned against them. In Romans we read, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” Down through the centuries there have been movements and groups of heretics that denied the fundamentals of Christianity.
And what are we celebrating this year? The 500th anniversary of the posting of the 95 theses! One of the things Luther condemned was clearly spelled out in the Council of Trent. Again we read. “Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God ,… Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
Though they haven’t officially declared the Council of Trent wrong, they have said and done things which go against some of these decrees and we are thankful for that. But they are not the only ones who teach things which distort the Gospel. One pastor from the so-called Christian Church told me, “You faith alone people are going to wind up in hell.” And as both of us (pastors) have said, “Whenever you add anything to the Gospel, then it is no longer the Gospel.”
Now it comes down to you and to me. We try and try again to be the people God wants us to be. We strive to walk upon that straight and narrow way. We try to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile and bless those who curse us. We want to be the ones who will hear from Jesus, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” But often that is not the case.
I know I have failed to always be on the lookout for how I can help people and as I told my fellow pastors the other day, “I was sick and in the hospital, and ye visited me not.” On that occasion and other times, I have been hospitalized very few have taken the time to visit me. This is one place I will give our pastor an A+! But I cannot condemn them for “You who are without sin may cast the first stone!”
And there are other things you and I do again and again and again and again Jesus keeps coming to us through Word and Sacrament and offers us the forgiveness of sins. That is why in the 3rd Article we read, I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?–Answer. I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true. Amen
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