Rejection

He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’

14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”

17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone’[a]?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

Luke 20:9-18 (NIV)

A great storyteller can communicate an idea or a message in a way which makes an impact on a listener. Some stories are told to communicate a moral lesson such as many of the fables told by Aesop on Hans Christian Andersen. Other stories are told to make a listener aware of how actions can lead to dire outcomes. A great storyteller not only transports the listener into the scene but can also captivate their attention for a period of time. Jesus was a great storyteller.

Jesus once again turns to telling a story in our passage today as a method to share a message. He is engaged in a power struggle with the Jewish leadership in the temple. The story which Jesus shares here involves a landowner, farmers who are renting his vineyard, three servants, and the man’s son. When the owner sends the servants individually to collect his portion of the harvest, the renters beat each one and send them back empty-handed. The man then sends his son because he thinks the farmers will respect the son’s authority. However, the renters see this as an opportunity to obtain the son’s inheritance so they kill him. Jesus asks what the landowner will now do and then answers his question. He tells the listeners that the landowner will go and kill the farmers then give the vineyard to others. After hearing this story, it becomes clear that the story is referencing the prophets and Jesus. The way the Jewish leadership had treated prophets over the years is how the owner’s servants were treated. The killing of the son parallels the future killing of Jesus by the Jewish leadership. Jesus points out that the one who is going to be rejected is the one who will crush the rejectors.

This is a good story which impacted the listeners of that time. What can it possibly say to us today since Jesus has already been rejected, killed, and arisen? There is a message for us in these words. This strong message involves rejection. We reject Jesus when we choose to hide our decision to follow him. We reject Jesus when we do not follow his example of communicating God’s love in actions and words. We also reject Jesus when we are too busy to be in conversation with him, learn about him by studying the Word, or offer our praise to him in acts of thanksgiving. When we do not listen to God’s messengers, or even treat them poorly, we reject Jesus.

As we continue to grow as followers of Christ, we learn that our choices and actions may have results we struggle to see, The story which Jesus uses to create an awareness among the Jews, can create an awareness among Christians. It is doubtful that any would purposely reject the Lord. When made aware, we likely would have a response like the Jews, “God forbid!” Yet few of us can say that we have not engaged in at least one form of rejection listed above.

Thank your Jesus for making us aware!

Mustard and Bread

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

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

34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

“I will open my mouth in parables,
    I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”

Matthew 13:31-35 (NIV)

In my opinion, the smell of fresh baked bread makes a house seem like a home. The difference between a house and a home is that a house is a structure, a dwelling place, while a home is about a feeling you have when you are within the structure. Feelings of warmth, protection, acceptance, and love are the basis for a home. I am fortunate that in my house bread is made weekly and as I smell the bread baking, those feelings are brought to the surface.

Jesus is trying to give insight into the Kingdom of God using comparisons which will invoke feelings. The first is using a mustard seed. The tiny seed is planted and grows to becomea shelter and roasting place for birds. The image of a house comes to my mind. There also is a reminder that the kingdom starts small and grows into a larger reality which provides protection and rest. Jesus’s second comparison is using dough and how yeast is worked throughout the dough which is necessary for the dough to rise to become bread. Here we see the clear implication that the kingdom permeates every aspect of life and the world around us.

You probably understand why the images of bread and home entered my mind as I read this passage. I like the idea that the kingdom provides a safe place for me to receive shelter and rest. I also like the realization that I am the recipient and participant in something which began small but now offers a safe haven for everyone.

The reality that God’s kingdom is in the midst of everything reminds me that there is nowhere I can go that the kingdom is not present. It challenges me to strive to find the kingdom in the most unlikely places. I also find comfort in knowing the kingdom is in me even as I am in the kingdom.

The Good and The Bad

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV)

There was a time when soybean farmers would hire teenagers to work for two weeks in the summer removing weeds from their fields. If you were hired, you awakened at sunrise, put on jeans and layers of clothes, drove (or were driven) to the field bringing with you a hoe or corn blade. Once you had arrived you took your jug of water and the hand tool of choice and walked to one corner of the field. Then you spent the next four on five hours walking up and down the rows removing weeds you saw with either your hoe or blade. Some weeds, like button weeds, had to be pulled out by hand. The farmer always advised wearing gloves and  to be careful to only get weeds and not the bean plants. Inevitably one or two or fifty bean plants were cut out because the tool slipped or you were not paying enough attention.

Everytime I read about Jesus telling the story of the wheat and weeds, I think back to my years of walking beans. In this story, good wheat seeds are planted but as they grow, weeds grow among them. The farmer blames this on an enemy. He refuses the offer from his servants to pull up the weeds because he does not want to destroy the wheat. Instead he directs his servants to let the two grow together and sort them out at harvest time. Jesus presents this story to communicate that while good and evil reside together now, it will all be sorted out in God’s time.

When we look at the situations around us, we clearly see the coexistence of good and bad. We may desire to find ways to eradicate all of what we define as bad. In fact, we may be prone to ask the Lord why God does not remove the bad. We might even go so far as question why God even allowed bad into the world. During these series of thoughts we need to be reminded of two truths which are illustrated in this story. First, God did not bring the bad into the world, God introduced the good. Second, when it is the right time, God will indeed sort out the bad from the good.