March Reading from The Message
In Matthew 21 Jesus has his triumphal entry; palm leaves are waved, tables are kicked over, it’s an exciting and well-known series of events. But at the end of the chapter, Jesus tells two convicting stories directed at religious leaders and us…
THE STORY OF THE TWO SONS
28-30 “Tell me what you think of this story: A man had two sons. He went up to the first and said, ‘Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.’
“The son answered, ‘I don’t want to.’ Later on he thought better of it and went.
“The father gave the same command to the second son. He answered, ‘Sure, glad to.’ But he never went.
31-32 “Which of the two sons did what the father asked?”
They said, “The first.”
Jesus said, “Yes, and I tell you that crooks and whores are going to precede you into God’s kingdom. John came to you showing you the right road. You turned up your noses at him, but the crooks and whores believed him. Even when you saw their changed lives, you didn’t care enough to change and believe him.
THE STORY OF THE GREEDY FARMHANDS
33-34 “Here’s another story. Listen closely. There was once a man, a wealthy farmer, who planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, put up a watchtower, then turned it over to the farmhands and went off on a trip. When it was time to harvest the grapes, he sent his servants back to collect his profits.
35-37 “The farmhands grabbed the first servant and beat him up. The next one they murdered. They threw stones at the third but he got away. The owner tried again, sending more servants. They got the same treatment. The owner was at the end of his rope. He decided to send his son. ‘Surely,’ he thought, ‘they will respect my son.’
38-39 “But when the farmhands saw the son arrive, they rubbed their hands in greed. ‘This is the heir! Let’s kill him and have it all for ourselves.’ They grabbed him, threw him out, and killed him.
40-44 “Now, when the owner of the vineyard arrives home from his trip, what do you think he will do to the farmhands?”
“He’ll kill them—a rotten bunch, and good riddance,” they answered. “Then he’ll assign the vineyard to farmhands who will hand over the profits when it’s time.”
Jesus said, “Right—and you can read it for yourselves in your Bibles:
The stone the masons threw out is now the cornerstone. This is God’s work; we rub our eyes, we can hardly believe it!
“This is the way it is with you. God’s kingdom will be taken back from you and handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life. Whoever stumbles on this Stone gets shattered; whoever the Stone falls on gets smashed.”
45-46 When the religious leaders heard this story, they knew it was aimed at them. They wanted to arrest Jesus and put him in jail, but, intimidated by public opinion, they held back. Most people held him to be a prophet of God.
Jesus’ best sermons were stories. A story in Matthew 21 was one of his most effective. We know that because of what happened at the end. Some of the people who heard him tell the story tried to arrest him. Perceiving that Jesus was speaking about them, they got the point of the story as it dealt them a painful jab.
They saw themselves as the rebellious tenants—as stewards who had tried for a thousand years to be owners. For generations, they used every means at hand to silence the voice of the servants God sent to them. And they were going to do the same thing to Jesus. That’s when they tried to arrest him.
Jesus’ story has amazingly relevant undertones for our day, when our standard of living is so high, our ability to possess is so well-developed, and our claims to ownership are so conspicuous—and yet, all the while, we’re burdened with anxiety, guilt, emptiness, and boredom.
Despite our playing the role of wicked tenants in the vineyard, God hasn’t left us alone. Despite our sin, God is still here in love and forgiveness, exercising his gracious rule over our lives.
If you refuse to acknowledge the ownership of God and your position as a steward of life, there will be no meaning or beauty or fullness in anything you do. Even the marvelous wonders of material things—material created by God—won’t give you happiness. You’ll descend into a downward spiral of neurotic anxiety and unhappy pleasure seeking, for your constant denial of God’s central place won’t get rid of him.
God wants us to enjoy all that he has given us. But we can’t do it unless we enjoy him at the center. Every joy radiates from that central joy.
Want a podcast that goes right along with Scripture? Check out The Daily Message Podcast with Darren from the band We Are Messengers. You’ll be encouraged and strengthened in every 10 minute episode. Click the image below to listen.Image