Come, Lord Jesus
Here is the sermon I preached yesterday morning at La Grange Church of Christ. We have been studying the gospel of Luke and I decided to use the text for the week, but changed my message in light of the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut.
He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. And he sent still a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Heaven forbid!” But he looked at them and said, “What then does this text mean:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people. (Luke 20:9-19)
This time of year we often hear about a theological word that may or may not be familiar to you. It is the word advent. Advent means an arrival. It often refers to the coming of Christ into the world. Scripture teaches us that there are two advents. There is the advent we read about in the gospels where Jesus was born in a manger, lived here on earth, and was crucified on the cross. That is the first advent, but then there is a second advent. This is the one where Jesus will return to earth and the dead in Christ will
rise. There will be judgment and resurrection. All evil will be dealt with. Sin will be no more. God will redeem his people and his creation, and we will live together in perfect harmony. This is a day we look forward to, but right now we live in between the two advents. We live in between the first and second coming of Christ, and because of this we still live in a fallen world. Jesus has not returned and God has not redeemed creation. He will, but it has not happened yet.
Our text in Luke presents a vivid picture of what it means to live in a fallen world. Jesus tells a parable, and sometimes parables can be difficult to understand, but not this one. People in the first century would have easily understood that the owner of the vineyard represented God, the farmers represented Israel, and the messengers represented the prophets. A person today who does not know much about the gospel story would probably know this is a parable about Jesus, the son of God, who was crucified upon the cross. The meaning of this parable is plain. It is a graphic retelling of the history of Israel from the time of the prophets to Jesus.
A man plants a vineyard, but then has to go away. While he is away he decides he will lease out the vineyard to tenants. Before leaving he and the tenants agree upon the terms of the lease. Since he is in another country he cannot collect the rent himself, so he decides to send one of his workers to collect it for him. When the worker comes to collect the rent the tenants refuse to pay. They rough him up and send him on his way. After hearing about this incident the owner of the vineyard sends a second worker to collect the rent, and the tenants treat him the say way. They refuse to pay and beat him up. The vineyard owner sends a third worker, and he comes back looking worse than the other two. Finally, he decides to send his own son. Although the tenants did not respect the workers, the vineyard owner hopes they will respect the authority of his son. He hopes they will treat him with respect since he is the rightful heir to the vineyard. This time the wicked tenants conspire to kill the son, and this is exactly what they do. They kill the son. Why? Because they are wicked and evil. They do not keep their word. They do not respect others. They do not heed authority. They do not care for life. They are evil and they kill the son.
The world we live in and the world Jesus inhabited is not all that different. Jesus came face to face with evil men, just as we came face to face with evil this week. Many of us woke up on Friday morning and went to work, or maybe went out to do some Christmas shopping, and sometime during the day we were presented with the tragic news of what happened in Connecticut. Many of you, like me, probably felt shock, disbelief, disgust, and anger as the details kept coming out. You may have felt sick to your stomach as you learned the age of the victims, and you probably asked, Why? Why would someone do such a thing? Why would anyone harm a child? Why would anyone take their frustration out on innocent bystanders? Why? The only answer is that this was pure evil. In the coming days many people will talk about gun control, mental illness, school security, and other subjects. There is a time and place for those conversations, but what people need to understand is this happened because we live in a fallen world. This was the result of sin. It was the actions of someone who completely rejected Godʼs will for humankind. This was the result of pure evil.
This was not the first, nor will it be the last time evil makes an appearance in this world. Shortly after the birth of Jesus Herod issued a decree that all children two and under be killed. The people of Israel, Godʼs own people, persecuted and killed the prophets, but that was not the worst of it. God sent his Son to come to earth. He performed many great miracles. He taught the people as one who had authority. He warned the people and told them what they needed to do. He wept for the people, and when he came to Jerusalem they crucified him on a cross. This week we have witnessed the unimaginable. We have seen images on our television of a crime scene where there should be no crime scene. We have heard gut wrenching stories that tear us apart and keep us at night. We have seen evil and it will not be the last time because we live in a fallen and broken world.
In explaining this parable Jesus quotes from Psalm 118. This is the same Psalm the crowds were singing when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. He quotes verse 22 and says, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The people in the first century would have easily understood this illustration. Large buildings that were built using stone, like the temple, were all built by hand. They would have lots of stone of varying shapes and sizes and they would fit them together perfectly to build the structure. Some stones were culled from the group and put to the side. As the builders continue to work and labor they notice they need one more stone to be the cornerstone. They cannot find it in their piles of stone to use, and finally they realize it is the one they put to the side. The stone they rejected has become the most important stone.
What does this have to do with the parable? The parable is one of judgment. The tenants will be destroyed and the vineyard will be given to others, but there is also a message of hope. People will discover that the stone that was rejected is the cornerstone. They will discover that Jesus who was rejected is the true messiah. He is the hope of all the world.
What we need to understand at a time like this is that we are not left without hope. We live in a fallen world, but Jesus came to offer us hope and show us a better way. Although we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we do not have to live as slaves to sin. Jesus came to free us from the bondage of sin. He came to redeem us from our brokeness. He came to save the world from all the evil we see. He is the hope of the world and he wants us to be a part of it. He wants us to join him in redeeming the brokeness that is all around us. Notice the words of Paul in Ephesians 2:19-22.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a
dwelling place for God.”
Paul compares us to a structure. He says we are built upon the foundation of Jesus. He is the cornerstone. He holds everything together. He says this structure is a holy temple, and we are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. The church is called to be a little piece of heaven here on earth. God lives and dwells among us. In Matthew 6:10 Jesus teaches us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We know this world is broken, but we also know that it will be healed and we are called to live with this in mind. We are called to show the world what it means to be redeemed from sin, to be redeemed from brokeness. The world knows what brokeness looks like. They see it everyday, and it is our job to go out and to offer an alternative. It is our job to point people towards something better. It is our job to assist Jesus in redeeming the world.
As we reflect on the events of the last few days we need to understand that we are called to action, but we must also understand where we are at. We began by talking about advent and what that means. It is important that we focus on the fact that Jesus came to this earth, lived here, died upon a cross, and was raised on the third day. His sacrifice is what frees us from the bondage of sin. His life is the pattern for us to follow, and his resurrection lets us know that death does not have the final word. Jesus entered into this world of pain and evil and dwelt among us. He came into our suffering. He experienced everything that we experience, but we also
need to understand that he is coming back. We live between two advents. In the first advent Jesus was born in a manger and died upon a cross, but in the second advent he will come and he will take away all that is evil in the world. There will be no more death. There will be no more sin. There will be no more Herods. There will be no more persecution of Godʼs messengers. There will be no more gunmen who walk into an elementary school and take away innocent life.
Many people this week are focusing upon the first advent and that is great, but considering the events of the last few days I think it is important that we remember the second advent. I think we need to hear about what is to come. I think we need to remind ourselves that one day evil will come to an end. It will be no more. I think we need to understand that in times like these there are no answers. All we can do is fall to our knees and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come quickly.”
Father, we come before your throne of grace this morning with heavy hearts. We lament and mourn the tragedy in Connecticut. We pray for all the victims. We pray for the families of those who lost loved ones. We pray for the first responders who should never have had to witness such atrocities. We pray for the town and the community where this happened. May you bring peace and comfort to all these individuals. It is our hope that they will draw closer to you in this time of pain and grief. Help us Father to be a light to our own community. Help us live in such a way that we may bring hope to those who have none, and peace to those who seek it. Father, we understand that we are only hear for a little while. Our life on earth is short. May we use our time wisely. May we seek to always glorify you in everything we do. We look forward to the day when Jesus will return. We anticipate the end of all that is evil in the world. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Hear the audio for this sermon below.