Dreams. Everyone has them. Dreams of becoming a star athlete. Dreams of winning the lottery. Dreams of becoming a certain vocation. Sometimes those dreams become a reality and sometimes those dreams vanish in a puff of smoke. As we hear of the parable of the vineyard, it reminds us that the dream envisioned is not always the dream that is fulfilled. Fortunately for us, God shatters our dreams and rebuilds them into something that becomes a reality.
Like the tenants in the parable, we may have our own dream. The tenants did not want to give the fruit to the owner. They had a comfortable arrangement: solid employment and a secure future provided to them by an owner who had set everything up. The owner had a right to his share, since it was his land, his crops, his everything. The owner sent three different servants to collect a portion of the fruit from the vineyard. Each time, the servant was sent away empty-handed, with each one beaten and wounded, worse than the one before.
What was the owner to do? What should have rightly been owed to him was kept from him. The owner has a plan to send his son in hopes that the tenants would respect him. Alas, that plan does not end well and his son is killed. “This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.”
What was the owner of the vineyard thinking when He sent His son? Who in their right mind is going to do that? If it were a normal earthly owner, he would send the first agent. When the first agent returned all beat up, the typical landowner would send a hit squad to collect the rent with extreme prejudice. In our day and age, we would call the police and ask them to arrest those criminals and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. The one thing we would not do is send our son to collect the rent after the tenants had put three of our rent collectors into the hospital.
No earthly landowner would send his son in this situation. Never the less that is exactly what God the Father did with His Son. You see, in spite of our tendency to treat His servants like yesterday’s trash, God still loves us. It is in that love that He sent His Son in spite of the fact that He knew He would die, for St. Paul writes, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
What a dream these tenants have! Does it make any sense? Kill the son and you automatically become the heirs to the owners’ vineyard just because you work there? This truly is a pipedream! It would be great the tenants if this were true, but alas, that is not what happens. The master comes to destroy those servants and to give the vineyards to others.
The tenants aren’t able to have it their way. They are not able to get away with what they had done. In the end, they had to be destroyed. Bringing this parable back to reality, Jesus is declaring how God will shatter the evil dreams of the real tenants, the Jewish religious leaders. Their system, and it truly had become their system rather than God’s, is going to be destroyed.
The temple will be destroyed. Jerusalem will fall. The way that the Jewish leaders had thought everything would work out would fall apart. What they thought would be a comfortable life with them in charge would eventually come to an end. Their response: “Surely not!” Jesus quotes from Psalm 118: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” He continues: “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
But what the Jewish leaders did not consider is that the temple would be restored, but it won’t be like it was before. Jesus had promised, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” That is precisely what Jesus does on Easter morning, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.
This parable of Jesus was one of things that had happened and of things yet to come. The people had rejected Him; not only the locals but the Jewish rulers as well. God our heavenly Father has created this vineyard and sends His Son to redeem it, but instead of listening to Him, we put Him to death instead. Not realizing what our Lord was saying, the people exclaim, “Surely not!” and Jesus tells them, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Instead of listening to Jesus, instead of asking for His forgiveness, Luke records that the scribes and the chief priests sought to put Him to death.
The death of Jesus had to be. His death was the payment for the world’s sin. Sinners treat God terribly with disrespect and irreverence. God gives them daily bread and they fail to be thankful. God gives them things to use in service to their neighbor, and they hoard it for themselves and use it to boast of their accomplishments. God gives them bodies and minds to be used for honorable purposes, and they misuse and pollute them both for temporary pleasure in self-destructive ways. That’s how sinners treat God. But that is not how God treats sinners. He gives us Jesus, for this is how God treats sinners: with patience, mercy and grace. He patiently waits. He continues to send His Word and preachers to proclaim it. He patiently showers you with forgiveness in His Word and Sacraments to keep you in the true faith, even as He patiently gives this dying world more time so that more might hear and be saved.
Jesus, who was the rejected stone, conquered sin, death, and the power of the devil with His holy life, His suffering, His death on a cross, and His resurrection from the dead. He is now the living cornerstone for me, for you and for all who believe. We have a Savior who suffered extreme rejection for us and is now alive. Jesus is the cornerstone that establishes the church forever. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.