Matthew 21:33-46 – The Parable of “Someone Needs To Take The Trash Out!”

Posted: March 2, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 21:33-46
Jesus Tells the Parable of the Tenants

Have you ever been a part of conversation where the one talking was making a veiled reference to you? Like “don’t you hate it when people are late to a party?” and you had just walked in moments before about 30 minutes late for the party. Or like when my dear, sweet wife says, “Someone needs to take the trash out?” as if there were more people in the house than just me and her. We both know that she is talking about me but she has not come right out and said it. I know that I am the “someone” to whom she refers. I am the someone who needs to take the trash out. Although my wife is just trying to avoid giving me a direct order to do something, many times we see people speak harshly of others without speaking to them directly. Often Jesus’ parables were meant to identify the evil or the lack of care of the religious leaders of his day without speaking their name directly. His parables were masterful in this way as only the guilty parties would take offense to the slams that Jesus was making against them. Here, today, with Jesus’ most intensely damning parable that He has told so far in Matthew. Let’s read the parable together and see what we can learn:

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. 34 When 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. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last 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.’ 39 So 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.”

42 Jesus 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’[a]?

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. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”[b]

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

Here, we know who Jesus is talking about! The man who planted the vineyard is God. The vineyard is the nation of Israel. The tenant farmers are the religious leaders of Israel. The servants sent to the vineyard are the prophets and priests that remained faithful to God. The son is Jesus and the “others” are the Gentiles (non-Jews). Jesus was indicting the religious leaders for frustrating their nation’s purpose as God’s chosen people, the ambassadors of God to the world. These blind guides of religious leaders had managed through history to kill virtually every prophet that God had sent to wake Israel up from its straying from God. The religious leaders ignored the very welfare of the people they were intended to lead and bring closer to God. Jesus is even saying here that He knows that they plan to kill Him too. This parable is similar in nature to the previous one, but it is a lot less veiled and easier to figure out who was who in the parable. The chief priests were incensed by this affront to their power and revealing just how evil they were when it came to protect their turf.

I think that there are several things that we in today’s world can take away from this parable. First, we must guard against being like the chief priests as Christians. Second, which we will talk about tomorrow, is the fact that there is really a coming judgment from God whether we like it or not.

How often are we perceived as hypocrites as Christians? We talk of Christian love. We talk of Jesus. We talk the words of evangelicalism. We say we are the ones who get it and everyone else does not. We have the market on what is right and what is wrong. We sometimes use our Christian label just to gain advantage, such as certain presidential candidates, who dons now the label of a Christian. The way I look at it is that just because I where my authentic and licensed Clemson football jerseys, it don’t make me a Clemson football player. Just because I claim a label does not make it true. Often we say we are Christian but our actions are quite different. There is a big difference between a Christian who realizes that he is a sinner and a hypocrite that justifies his or her sins as being OK. You know the type. Acts one way and lives another. Says one thing and does another. Is at church on Sunday but lives like hell the rest of the week. Loves idea of forgiveness because there are sins that he or she just doesn’t want to give up. Defends marriage but has affairs. Condemns adulterers but lusts after every woman he knows. Condemns homosexuality but watches porn on his computer at night. Agrees with the Proverbs about idle gossip but talks about her best friend behind her back. This is the Christianity that non-believers see. They see Donald Trump say he is a Christian but yet see that he has done many shady things and still lies to this day about those shady deals and still lies today about things he just said a week before to a different audience. He is the consummate politician that will say and do anything to win. And he’s a Christian. Like I said, wearing a Clemson jersey don’t make me a Clemson football player! This is the Christianity that most non-believers see. They are turned off by people like Trump who say they are Christian but their fruit is not there.

What are we saying to the non-believing world? No, I am not saying that we should be perfect…because we can’t. I am not saying that we should be sinless…because we can’t. What I am saying is that we ought to be honest with the world. We ought to admit that the only difference between us and non-believers is the grace of Jesus Christ. We ought to be honest about our struggles with sin. We ought not to act as if we are perfect and in no need of asking forgiveness. We ought to be transparent about our struggles. We ought to be showing the world that we are just Jesus away from going to hell just like those who have rejected Jesus so far in their lives. We must demonstrate to them that it is the nature of man to be sinful and that only one sin condemns us each one to hell. We cannot be good enough to overcome our condemnation from our first sin not to mention the tons of sins we commit in our lifetime. We ought to be telling the world that we needed intervention from God through His Son. Jesus came to live the perfect sinless life and then be the sacrificial lamb on the cross to take on God’s wrath against all sins of all time, including yours and mine of our entire lifetimes. We should be God’s ambassadors speaking boldly of the wretches that we were before we accepted Christ as Savior and Lord. We should be standing miracles of a redeemed life. We should be so joyous at our salvation that we live lives not of perfection but of thanksgiving and ever-increasingly changed lives. We should be the ones to teach others that the tenant farmers don’t represent all the people in the vineyard. There are true Christians out there that desire to give God glory in everything that they do. That is the filter through which they strain all their decisions. Just because there are hypocritical Christians out there that scare off non-believers, there are actually people who are real about their struggles and who actually want the Holy Spirit to make them more like Christ. It is a struggle to the day that we are perfected in heaven and it is through the grace of Jesus Christ that covers our ugly sin stains and the action of the Holy Spirit that we are perfected. We are not perfect now but we are covered by the perfection of Christ. We are works in progress under the sometimes painful guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are not perfect but we have been changed and seek to be more Christ-like every day. That’s what we need to be showing the non-believing world. Not that we are perfect. Not that we claim the title of Christian to our own advantage. Just sinners changed by the grace of Jesus Christ. Now that’s attractional. Now that’s the Christianity that we should be displaying to the world!

Amen and Amen.

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