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Murdering Jesus: Fait Accompli

July 11, 2021 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Luke Verse: Luke 20:9–20:19

Theme: Unbelief seeks to eliminate Jesus’ authority … but cannot. 

Introduction: Authority is something against which each of us struggles constantly. Everyone is born a fool – believing that they are accountable to no one. Our society is seeking to deconstruct whatever institutions exercise authority except that of group-think. The ultimate authority in the universe is God’s authority – and He has given His Son, Jesus Christ all authority in heaven and on earth. It is no surprise then that sinners who are devoted to their sin attempt to rid themselves of their accountability to Jesus. They suppress the Spirit of God who promotes the interest of Christ as He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. They seek to eliminate Jesus from any consideration or stature. In our text today, we see how the ungodly, religious leaders of Israel had been resisting Jesus since the earliest days of His ministry. As their antipathy toward Him steadily grew, Jesus continued to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. Their refusal to obey the Gospel, repent of their sin and receive the Son of God as their Messiah produced a crescendoing hostility that ultimately ended in their murder of Jesus – an event only two days away from the events in our text. Jesus knows what is happening and provides an indictment of their unbelief in an unmistakably relatable parable that fell like frigid water upon the faces of these hypocrites.

I. Unbelief Causes the Rejection of God – 20:9-15a

A. Unbelief is NOT because of a Deficiency of Grace – v. 9

  • Having indicted the unbelief and disobedience of the spiritual leadership of Israel, Jesus continues to pummel them with the exposure of their inexcusable unbelief.
  • As the Master Teacher, Jesus continues to draw their interest in displaying their thorough knowledge of “morality,” “righteousness,” and “wisdom.”
  • He does so through yet another parable - the second in a trilogy of stories that condemn the unbelief of the Jews – “And He began to tell the people this parable ...”
  • This story is about the rejection of God who is depicted as a “landowner” – “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine growers and went on a journey for a long time.”
  • “Planted” [φυτεύω] – contains all the work necessary to make fruitfulness possible – cp. Matthew 21:33.
  • This is an obvious reference to God’s tender and gracious blessing of the nation of Israel – cp. Isaiah 5:1-2.
  • The details provided in this description clearly marks the great care, investment, and provision that went into making sure that the vineyard [a picture of Israel] would be fruitful.
  • The clear expectation by God and responsibility of the vine-growers is that the vineyard [Israel] be fruitful – the ultimate outgrowth of the efforts of God Himself, to the benefit of God Himself.
  • The failure of the landowner to receive fruit from the vineyard is in no way caused by a lack of favor and investment by the landowner – cp. Isaiah 5:3-4.

B. Unbelief is NOT because of a Deprivation of Truth – vv. 10-12

  • The second observation about unbelief is that it is not in any way caused by unclear expectations or disorientation to the obligations that the Gospel places upon us.
  • We are told in this parable that “At the harvest time, he sent a slave to the vine-growers so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard ...”
  • Having been made tenant farmers who rented the vineyard, they knew that the rental agreement obligated them to give a certain amount of the produce to the landowner.
  • The “slave” shows up and is immediately rejected with violent rebellion to the landowner – “but the vine-growers beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.”
  • There was tremendous patience demonstrated by the landowner as he repeatedly approached the vine-growers with the request that they give to him what was due to him – “And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out.”
  • These slaves represent the prophets that God repeatedly sent to Israel to seek – through the proclamation of God’s Word – to bring fruit to God in the repentance of the people of Israel – cp. Luke 13:34.
  • The landowner had been clear about what he expected - the vine-growers knew exactly what He desired of them and were outright rebellious against him.

C. Unbelief is NOT because of a Denial of Opportunity – vv. 13-15a.

  • God demonstrates great patience by providing repeated opportunities to “get it” as he sent prophets, brought disasters as promised in the Mosaic Covenant, and even ultimately deported Israel to Assyria and Judah to Babylon to get their attention.
  • Because of His gracious desire to provide opportunity upon opportunity to His chosen people, God is then seen as providing the ultimate opportunity for Israel to respond to Him and produce fruit – “The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’”
  •  However, “when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.”
  • This clearly is a prophetic statement about what the spiritual leadership of Israel was going to do to Jesus only a day or two later!
  • The landowner is viewed here as leaving no opportunity reserved – sending his own “beloved son” – cp. Mark 12:6.
  • Again, we see that the opportunity was clearly provided time after time with ever-increasing intensity and significance until “finally” he sends his own “beloved son” – cp. John 3:16.

Application:

  1. What are some ways that you can recognize how God has worked in your life to give you the opportunity to respond to Him with faith? 
  2. Have you repudiated any of God’s expectations for your life despite His grace?

II. Unbelief Causes Rejection by God – 20:15b-18

A. Unbelief Results in Accountability to God – vv. 15b-16

  • The parable has not yet gained any spiritual traction in the minds of the Pharisees at this point – they are still “showing off” their wisdom as if this account was a moral exercise.
  • So Jesus asks: “What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them?”
  • This is a question of tremendous import – it clearly establishes that there will be an ultimate confrontation between those who refuse to comply with the expectations of the landowner and the vine-growers – the day of reckoning will come.
  • In a tactic similar to what was used by Nathan with the murderous King David, Jesus seeks to provide the spiritual leadership of Israel enough rope to hang themselves.
  • Matthew explains that they eagerly stick their necks into the “noose” of condemnation – Matthew 21:41.
  • The treachery of the rejection of God in the face of His grace, the clarity of His expectation, and the repeated opportunity to do what is right is clear even to ungodly.
  • Luke mentions that the people also declared “when they heard it, they said, ‘May it never be!’” – an emphatic negative like “God forbid!”
  • Apparently, they had understood that such injustice is reprehensible and even abominable – worthy of judgment.

B. Unbelief Results in Advancement of God’s Glory – vv. 17-18

  • First, we see the advancement of God’s grace – v. 17
  1. Without hesitation, Jesus pushes the matter even further as He changes the analogy a bit.
  2. Indeed, the vine-growers had rejected not only the landowner but also his son.
  3. Jesus informs them that their rejection will not affect the accomplishment of God’s plan to redeem – “But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘What then is this that is written: “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone?”’”
  4. The “stone which the builders rejected” takes us back to the “son” which was rejected and killed by the vine-growers – however, instead of resulting in their gaining advantage over the landowner and taking the inheritance from the son, God does something marvelous and causes that rejected “stone” to “become the chief cornerstone.”
  5. This is a quote from Psalm 118:22-23 – indicating that the “builders” would reject God’s provision – their desire was for a politically mighty, military conqueror who would throw Rome out and therefore judged Jesus as undesirable.
  6. However, Jesus was indeed the Messiah – and their rejection of Him would actually cause the agenda of God to progress to redemption – He would raise Him up and the rejected stone would “become the chief cornerstone” – Acts 4:10-12; 1 Peter 2:6-8; Ephesians 2:19-20.
  7. Matthew tells us that the rejection of Israel is devastating - not only would God countermand their rejection of His Son, He would use their rejection as a means by which He would extend His grace to “other vine-growers” – Matthew 21:43.
  8. The “fruit” of the “kingdom of God” is clearly a reference to repentance and faith producing righteousness
  9. The “people producing the fruit” is a reference to the Gentiles – those who would primarily make up the church – cp. Romans 9:25-26.
  10. The ultimate motivation for this is so that Israel would be moved to jealousy in that day when God returns to fulfill His unconditional promises to Israel – cp. Romans 11:11.
  • Then we see the advancement of God’s Justice – v. 18
  1. However, for those who stumble and continue to reject the Son of God there will be no mercy!
  2. He declares: “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
  3. Through Daniel the Lord predicted Christ’s ultimate coming in judgment against the unbelieving peoples and nations of the world, represented by the magnificent and seemingly invulnerable world – cp. Daniel 2:32-35.

Application:

  1. In what ways can one avoid being rejected by God as they have been rebelling against His grace in their lives?
  2. Before you came to Christ, what caused you to stumble over Christ (the cornerstone of faith)?

III. Unbelief Causes a Reaction to God – 20:19

A. It Reacts with Malice toward God

  • We are told that their hatred of Christ swelled to a new height of rejection and like the vine-growers, they desire to seize Him and kill Him – “The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people …” 
  • Jesus’ indictment of the leadership of Israel is made even more intense as they were able to observe the faith of the people.
  • Their hatred was stirred to where they would have gladly killed Him then and there, but couldn’t do anything as they saw that the people were so vehement toward injustice as they had just revealed.
  • “tried” [ζητέω] – is literally “sought” – they sought a way, but the people’s zeal prevented them from doing so.

B. It Reacts to the Message from God 

  • The reason their hostility was climaxing is because God lifted the veil from the eyes of these rebellious men and they understood that they were the subject of the parable – “… for they understood that He spoke this parable against them.” 
  • The problem is not that they don’t understand – but that they DO understand and belligerently refuse to yield to God.
  • Their antagonism is reaching a breaking point – a willingness to do whatever is necessary to eliminate this “landowner’s son” in order to keep their control over Israel.

Application:

  1. Why is the attempt to eliminate God the most common response of unbelief? 
  2. How should one respond when they are convicted by God’s Word? 

So What?

There is nothing more that can be done to provide for the opportunity for sinners to believe in Jesus Christ.

None of us can claim that we “didn’t know” – God has provided us the grace needed, the truth needed, and the opportunities needed to believe.

The very Savior Who is rejected by sinners becomes the Judge who rejects sinners eternally in judgment.

Your eternal destiny rises or falls in your response to Jesus Christ – the Stone rejected by others but the Cornerstone for believers.

Rejecting Jesus is the worst choice a person could ever make as the wrath of God abides on that person.