Character of God - Hopeful (Matthew 21:33-46)

Dr Daryl Miller, August 21, 2016
Part of the Knowing the Character of God series, preached at a Sunday Evening service

Title: Character of God - Hopeful (The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen)
Text: “And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it” (Matt. 21:34).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:33?–?46

The parable of the wicked husbandmen was addressed to the chief priests and others (see Matt. 21:23) in the court of the temple by our Lord on the Tuesday before his Friday crucifixion. Those to whom Jesus addressed this parable knew that he was preaching to them and reacted violently.
“Hear another parable,” Jesus said (Matt. 21:33). Those around Jesus had just listened to the parable of the two sons with its pointed application (see vv. 28?–?32). Now he told this story: A man planted a vineyard with the full expectation that it would bear fruit and that he would enjoy the fruit. Doubtless, as in the earlier story in Isaiah 5:1?–?7 on which the parable is based, he “planted it with the choicest vine.” The hedge about it would keep out the animals. The tower provided a place for the watchmen and a lodging place for the workers. His hope of fruit was such that he dug a winepress out of the rock. He leased the vineyard to agriculturalists who were to pay him a portion of the harvest as rent. Then the owner went on a journey. At the appointed time of the harvest, the owner sent his servants to collect the rent. Those who had leased the vineyard beat one, stoned one, and killed another. At last the owner decided to send his son. He hoped that they would respect the son. On the contrary, “They said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance” (v. 38). This cruelly they did. Jesus asked those who listened to his story what the owner of the vineyard would do to those tenants when he came. They answered, “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons” (v. 41).
We recognize, as did those who heard the story, that the householder or lord of the vineyard represents God. The vineyard is Israel, God’s people, or more particularly, the vineyard represents God’s plans and purposes “to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”. The vineyard represents the methods God uses to accomplish his reign and in verse 43 is called “the kingdom of God” or “the reign of God.” The wicked husbandmen entrusted with the vineyard are the religious leaders of the people. The servants are the prophets of God who had come from time to time to collect the fruit of righteousness but who had been shamefully mistreated. The son was the Lord Jesus whom the religious leaders were even then plotting to kill.
I. God called Israel as a special people.
A. God made known to Abraham that his seed would be a special people. He did this at the time he called Abraham to leave his father’s house and go to the Promised Land: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:1?–?3). The promise was renewed to Abraham at the
time he was willing to offer up Isaac as recorded in Genesis 22:15?–?18. It was renewed with Isaac and Jacob.
At Mount Sinai the covenant with Israel through Moses was conveyed in these words: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Ex. 19:4?–?6). The Israelites were to be a special missionary people to all others. Like a vineyard specially planted, God expected that they would be his own special people to tell of his love to all nations.
B. God in love sent to them prophets culminating in the sending of his only begotten Son. As the author of Hebrews states the case so beautifully: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1?–?3).
C. The Jewish people rejected and mistreated the prophets. They put Jeremiah in stocks (see Jer. 20:1ff.; 37:15?–?16) and threw him in the pit (see Jer. 38:6). The prophets of God had to hide for their lives in the time of Elijah. Zechariah was stoned to death (see 2 Chron. 24:21). John the Baptist was beheaded. Jesus summed up the accusations: “Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets” (Matt. 23:31). “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matt. 23:34?–?35). As a climax to these rebellious acts, they would slay Jesus, the Son of God.
D. The religious leaders rejected Jesus. Peter preached, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). The religious experts rejected Jesus and in so doing fulfilled the Scripture, “Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?” (Matt. 21:42).
On the basis of this disobedience and rejection, the privilege of being the special people of God to bring in the kingdom was taken from the posterity of Abraham and given to the spiritual seed of Abraham, those who have faith in God as did Abraham?—?that is, to Christians.
Note that God did not give up. He has hope in humankind. He called another people.
II. God calls Christian people to care for his vineyard.
A. Jesus affirmed that the kingdom of God was taken from the Jewish people and given to another people who hopefully would bring forth the fruit thereof (see v. 43). Peter, in almost the same words that God used to call Israel, wrote to the scattered Christians of the Roman provinces: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9?–?10).
B. God gives Christians all they need for bearing fruit. In addition to the law and the prophets, Christians have the revelation through Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. They have the presence and power of the Holy Spirit for interpreting the words of Jesus and for witnessing.
C. Will Christians bring forth the fruit God expects? If yes, they will hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21).
Christian people who are unfaithful will not cause God’s purpose to fail. God will not be defeated, “for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). Of the unfaithful servant, Jesus says, “Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents” (Matt. 25:28). God purposes to place the kingdom of God in the hands of those who will render to the lord of the vineyard the fruits of the vineyard.
God trusts people. God, with courage and love, has created us in his own image, which includes the power of contrary choice. God has provided for the salvation of anyone who has used the power of choice to sin against his or her maker. “The Lord is .?.?. not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God hopes that every person will be saved and will bring forth the fruit of righteousness just as the owner expected to gather fruit from his vineyard.
God has loaned you a life. The owner did not sell the vineyard to the husbandmen. He loaned it to them. They were to possess it, to cultivate it, and to harvest it in accord with the will of the owner. They were then to render unto him the fruit of it. Similarly, God has not given up his rights as owner of your life. He has leased to you the opportunity to make choices. You have a life to direct but not to own.

You can be a good or a bad husbandman. The good husbandman follows the will of the Owner. He raises the crops the Owner wants raised in the manner prescribed. He welcomes the servants of God and rejoices to serve the Owner. He renders the fruit of the vineyard in season. He is the kind of servant the Owner of the vineyard wants him to be. He takes pride in his work and looks forward joyfully to his Master’s “Well done.” He has no fear that he will be removed from the vineyard. He especially welcomes the Son of the vineyard’s Owner, for the Son is the image of his Father and brings the message of his Father’s will.
The Owner of the vineyard, the husbandman, and the Son all rejoice when the husbandman serves faithfully in the vineyard, which is to say that there is joy in the heart of God and in the heart of the saved when one lives in the center of God’s will.


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