The Parable of the Wicked Farmers

Today’s Readings: Matthew 21:33-44, Mark 12:1-11, Luke 20:9-19, and Psalm 131

As we look at the Parable of the Wicked Farmers (Tenants) found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke I’m reminded of the meaningfulness used in all of the parables by Jesus.  These parables were used to tell a story to the listeners that would connect to their hearts and souls. This parable as well as the story of the two sons from yesterday connect when Jesus is being questioned.  A story that would connect with the crowds current lives as well as our present day.  The difference in this next parable is its direct pointedness to the priests, Pharisees, and religious leaders that had stopped him to question who he was and questioning his authority. This all came after Jesus called them out on their hypocrisy.

In Jesus’s last week of life on earth, Jesus had just entered the temple and had turned things upside-down. (literally)  He was upset and saddened by what they were doing. The high priests and religious leaders had just asked Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things?” After sharing one parable about the Two Sons, Jesus shares His second of three parables in this questioning of His authority.  Jesus paints a picture to those that have gathered to hear him preach.  One that they would all relate to at that time.  Verse 33 a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a wall around it, dug the winepress, and built a watchtower.  This illustration in 33 shows the landowner taking care of self and others by building the vineyard, he protected the vineyard by hedging around it, then added a winepress that would turn their grapes into grape juice, then finally a tower which would have multiple purposes.  It would provide security, shelter, and a place for storage.    The stage is set for Jesus to tell about three servants sent by the landowner to receive his portions from the land given to the farmers. What happens to the three servants sent?…beaten, killed, and stoned. All dead. After each death the landowner showed grace that in sending his next servant the belief was they would repent and give back the fruits provided for them.  Lastly, the farmer sends his own son.  Sound familiar… His own son to collect the fruit.  What do they farmers do? They plot and murder him in hopes they would then be given the inheritance.  In verse 40 Jesus then asks those questioning his authority, “When the owner of the vineyard returns,” Jesus asked, “what do you think he will do to those farmers?” 

Their response and Jesus’s response varies.  The high priests respond with judgement and replacement, where Jesus asks first if they have ever read the scriptures. (ouch)

‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing,
    and it is wonderful to see.’43 I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit. 44 Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.

The priests knew they were just called out and were upset.  In reality they would have been better to repent.  Their eyes and ears were not open to this parable.  The Psalm surely song a couple days earlier as Jesus entered the town. Psalm 118:22-23 says The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.

What does the parable mean for us?  I think of the vineyard is where we are at now.  If you have a chance read the connection to Isaiah 5 God’s people are His Vineyard. We are in a place where we hear Him, produce fruit for Him, and respond to Him when he calls on us.  How are we responding? How are we doing with the vineyard he has put us in to produce fruit? It’s amazing to think that one day God will be sending His son once again to see how we have done? Will we be ready to hand everything over or standing with those who have rejected Him? My prayer is for us all to be praising Him together standing with handfuls of fruit, giving Him everything we have.  That as we stand in our vineyard our and build cornerstone of the tower we call home is the foundation of Christ.

God has chosen us to be the living cornerstone’s for Christ, what an amazing blessing.

1 Peter 2:4 says 4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.

Resources

Tysdale Life Application Bible

Grace To You –

 

 

 

Come Back Sheep

Today’s Reading: Matthew 18:12-14 and Psalm 112

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14

Have you ever gotten lost as a small child? Most of us can remember that helpless overwhelming sense of fear as we searched for our parent in a store or at a busy outdoor festival. Even as an adult I can recall that visceral feeling of my heart pounding, my eyes welling up with tears as I shouted for my Mom or Dad. As a parent, I’m now standing on the other side of that equation. Every time I take my three children to a public place I find myself endlessly counting to three as my eyes dart around looking for each little head curls. Of course as a child you believe that when you grow up you’ll leave all that fear and dependence behind. You believe that adults are in command of their world and can control their own circumstance rather than be controlled by external forces. It’s laughable, right? If only children knew just how much less control we have as grown-ups! If only they knew that we too experience the fear and the reality of being lost. That like them we experience abandonment, isolation, persecution and loneliness.  We don’t share that part of ourselves with children because it’s our job to protect them. We shield them from the worst of things and show them the best of things. And, in turn our Father does the same for us.

A lost sheep is totally defenseless. Having no weapon or benefit of speed, all he can do is cry, which signals his enemy to close in. The sheep has no sense of direction or gift of scent. He is surrounded by enemies; whether predators or simply the elements of nature. And when that lost sheep is separated from its herd it is all the more vulnerable to the cunning wit of his enemy. Just as our children are like our sheep, so are we the Father’s. When wander off from Christian life, we are vulnerable. The predators of our world close in, and all we can do is cry out to God. What are the bright and shiny things that can lure us away from our Christian flock? For me, it’s getting out of the habit of being in His word each day and getting into the habit of sleeping in, watching too much TV, too much focus on materialism and money. Suddenly, I find myself far far away from the place I want to be in my journey with Jesus Christ. Although I am just about as defenseless as a baby sheep in God’s eyes, I do have a sense of direction. I do know the way back to God. Jesus tells us that God “rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray…” Matthew 18:13. What that means is that there is everlasting grace for those who are lost. If you are reading today, and you feel like you are a sheep on the mountain, cold and alone, call out to Him. Follow that path that has led you back to Him before. And if you are reading and you’ve never found God, start in His word. Read, and He will find you.

~have a great week sheep

 

 

A Parable about the Parables

Matthew 13:52 and Psalm 111

And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

As we continue through this series of parables, we come to a moment where Jesus pauses and asks his disciples if they get the parables up to this point (verse 51), to which they reply a simple yes. I try to put myself in their shoes – would I have the faith to say yes? Or would I have had ten follow up questions to better understand? Even though we know that the disciples didn’t FULLY comprehend everything Jesus was telling them, they knew enough and had the faith to answer yes. And then we come to verse 52 where Jesus shares a parable about all of the parables!

In this mini parable break, Jesus is encouraging them to not replace everything they learned before with all of these new teaching and parables. Instead, add these new parables and teaching with the old (law).  Similar to how we have both new things in our home along with family heirlooms. One doesn’t replace the other – it’s all part of the collection.

I will admit that I have tried to line up God in the Old Testament with Jesus in the New Testament. The bright light that we can’t look upon and need to remove our shoes for, with the man that is fishing and eating with the lowest of the low. In my heart I believe and know they are one and completely unified, but sometimes my brain goes into overdrive trying to reconcile the two and figure it all out.

Recently a preacher shared this and it’s SO TRUE! Our human (barfo) nature wants our view of graceful bear hugging Jesus to deal with our own sin…. And we want OT fire + brimstone God to show up and deal with people that sin against us.  OUCH – that was a ZINGER! I can think of a time I had those thoughts.

Truth be told, they are perfectly unified. Balancing OT (law, teachings, etc) with the NT (parables, grace, etc) is similar to understanding the trinity. What a beautiful mystery!

Does anyone else love Paul’s comments to the church in Corinth about “now we see through a glass darkly…” – I can not WAIT for heaven, when it will all be crystal clear. Will we be like the disciples and simply say “yes, we understand”, or will we have a million questions?

As Jesus continues to fulfill the law, with his teachings and ultimately his sacrifice, my prayer is that we can have wisdom in balancing the old and the new. The Psalm that is assigned with today’s reading is Psalm 111. I love when the two readings come together so beautifully. Here are a few lines that really spoke to me in light of the parable about parables.

2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.

4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.

God caused us to remember the law in the Old Testament and Jesus’ parable of parables reinforces this. As we seek wisdom and understanding, knowing who God is and having fear and respect for Him is our first step in understanding.

 

 

Bread Winners

Today’s Reading: Matthew 13:33, Luke 13:20-21, and Psalm 107

Matthew 33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Luke 20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Influence. Have you ever really thought about the influence you have throughout the day? Your family, neighbors, co-workers, friends, community? These influences can come in the shape of a simple hug, smile, phone call, or word of encouragement.  All small gestures can have great influences.   You see we never know what may be going on that day with the other person you give this gesture to.   A Christ-like gesture can make a difference like Jesus’s parable about yeast to dough,  you can change a persons day.

As I look at this picture of making dough I’m reminded of how God is shaping us, kneading us, and watching as we rise to a closer and more intimate relationship with Him.  I think about small kingdom words or expressions I could use in my everyday moments.  Maybe the gesture of praying with someone, praising God in song, or maybe recognizing fruits of the spirit being acted out by others.  These positive moments that model our Father can influence like the yeast that starts out small in dough, but spreads throughout.

Our Father is building His Kingdom always.  We always have influence.  I was reminded by a friend this morning that we are called to influence.  That in Romans 8:12 we have an obligation not to the flesh, but to the spirit.

Yeast is used in both good and bad contexts in the bible.  Yeast can spread corruption as we are reminded in Galatians 5:9 or 1 Corinthians 5:6 or it can also be for building His Kingdom. The kingdom is promised to those rich in faith and who love Him. James 2:5,

What will you do with the yeast you provide today? 

Colossians 4-5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Dear Father,

Thank you for your parables that you speak into us through your living word.  Just like we have had others speak into us, help us today to be an ambassador for you.  Let our grace, kindness, encouragement, and love for others point back to you God.  We are grateful for each day we get to praise you and pray for us all to continue to draw closer to you each day.  Amen

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, His love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Productive Faith

5920447977_f84dff5a33_o_cropped_0Joshua 9; Psalms 140–141; Jeremiah 3; Matthew 17

If only my faith were the size of a mustard seed. Then, I could move mountains. Nothing would be impossible. That is what Jesus tells us today in Matthew 17:20. This is difficult to believe, at best. My struggle with it has me questioning what faith is. Sure, I am familiar with the definition that is provided in Hebrews 11:1. It says that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” While this is a good definition of faith, it doesn’t help me believe that I can move a mountain. In fact, I can barely move the dining room table!  What gives?

Don’t you think that this is what the disciples were dealing with? They tried and tried to drive the demon from the boy but were unable. Why not? Jesus doesn’t give them a practical answer, he simply says, “Because of your little faith.” (Matthew 17:20). The secret, he tells them, is to “have more faith.” So how is it that we get more faith?

It is helpful to look at a couple of people who have exhibited true faith. One man appears in Matthew 9. Jesus restores his sight after the man confesses his faith. Jesus affirms his faith saying, “According to your faith be it done to you” (Matthew 9:29). Another story involves a woman begging for her daughter’s healing. She worshipped and pleaded with Jesus. Finally, he responds, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Matthew 15:28). There is also the centurion. He understands authority and ascribes the same to Jesus. Jesus affirms him and says, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 1:9). How is it that these people had such faith? What is the difference? The answer is found in the object of focus.

These examples reveal three traits of faith.  First, the blind man confesses his belief, second, the woman worships and third, the centurion acknowledges Jesus’ authority. While these are separate and distinct traits, they have one commonality.   Their focus is on Jesus. According to A.W. Tozer, “faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all.” This is clear in these three examples. When we worship, confess and concede authority to God, we cease to be important. God becomes all. Tozer continues, “Faith is a redirecting of our sight, a getting out of the focus of our own vision and getting God into focus.” The result? The work we are trying to do gets done. Not on our own behalf or for our own satisfaction, but for God’s.

What have you been diligently working on that just isn’t working?  Do you have a persistent flaw that is keeping you from being the person you know God wants you to be?  Tozer says to, “Stop tinkering with your soul and look away to the perfect One.”

All A.W. Tozer quotes are taken from his excellent work The Pursuit of God.  Check out the FREE Kindle version!