Sermon Notes for Passion Sunday (5th Sunday in Lent), 21 March 2021 Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord), the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
I have chosen as my text that of the Gospel Reading for Morning Prayer.
“Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. 10And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. 11And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. 12And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. 13Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. 14But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. 15So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? 16He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid. 17And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? 18Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Luke 20:9-18)
The Bride of Christ (the Church) is a ‘Garden Enclosed’ (see SS 4:12). Jesus will describe, in a parable, the nature of that Garden, or Vineyard, and how God the Father views that Garden as a dearly held possession.
When I view the mostly apostate church of our own era, I wonder how God would view that church. Perhaps in the same way He viewed the apostate church of the Old Testament represented by the scribes, Pharisees, and Jewish rulers – with utter disdain. The Church is an institution intended to change God’s chosen vessels from the worldly to the Godly, and to change the world as the salt that provides a healing balm and a preserving property for the weary world. It is NOT an institution of social experimentation that is changed BY the world. Instead of influencing the world for better, the church has accepted the values of the world and discarded the righteousness of God.
On the eastern outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, there is a large, solid stone mountain called, appropriately, Stone Mountain. The large stone dome of the mountain stands 825 feet above surrounding terrain and contains the largest bas relief artwork in the world – a monument to the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, and generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I have a 1925 memorial coin (half dollar) in my possession that depicts the Mountain with Lee and Jackson on shown of the bas relief. The artwork is by John Gutzon Borglum – the same artist who sculpted Mount Rushmore.
From the days of my childhood, that mountain has remained unchanged and unmoved in appearance. The large dome of granite and quartz is a reminder of the unchanging nature of that Great Rock upon which the Church is founded – our Lord Jesus Christ. He not only has remained unchanged in every whit from the time of my youth, but from the eternity past before which the worlds were made out of the void expanse. On that Great Rock, we see the image of Christ – His cross and the open tomb – stand out in particular relief to His unchanging nature and the security made available through His Passion.
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)
Though the worldly church attempts to assume the image of Daniel’s ‘great image’ of worldly power and prestige (Daniel 2:31-32), God will not brook such apostacy in His Church. The Word and Person of Christ will, as a great Stone, smash that worldly image to smithereens. “Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.” (Daniel 2:34) Christ, being our Foundation, strikes at the very feet and foundation of that worldly system and church.
Our Lord Jesus Christ addressed the multitudes, and often, the Jewish scholars, in simple and pointed parables from which truth and promise could be discerned by the earnest listener, and concealed to the supercilious scholars who maintained a pretended righteousness that was both wrong and hypocritical. The concealment of meaning was not an intention by God, but a demonstration of how the carnal mind is blind to truth.
The Vineyard referenced in the parable is the Holy Church purchased by the sacrifice of our Lord at Calvary. This Church is not to be confused with the worldly church full of briars, false professors, and serpents; but the Church that bears true fruit of the Spirit and adheres strictly to the Word above every other consideration.
Looking at the parable in detail, we understand the ‘certain man’ is God the Father. The vineyard is much like that Garden eastward in Eden from which the Lord God departed from the close fellowship of Adam as a result of sin. The life of man became a desolate wilderness journey. But God, though far away in His righteousness, was mindful always of His Creation. The husbandmen might be compared to those who bore the organized model of the Old Testament Church. In time, it was the organized religion of the Jews that overshadowed the purpose and meaning of God. “And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty.” (Luke 9:10) These were prophets such as Abel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Zechariah.
“And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. 12And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.” (Luke 9:11-12) God is long-suffering toward His elect. Though He owns the Vineyard by right of purchase, He deals with man in man’s feeble understanding. God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for His only Begotten Son, and him they beheaded for righteousness’ sake.
How presumptuous and evil of those who kept the Vineyard – the Jewish religious rulers – to usurp the Owner’s property and beat, and even murder, the servants of the rightful owner! The same happens every worship service in many churches across the landscape. False religion, in clear contradiction to God’s Word, flourishes in many of our largest churches today. Every perversion is being exalted as good, and every objection to such perversions is labeled as ‘judgmental.’ The modern church has lost its role as Defender of the Faith in which the discipline of Godly rule is maintained. It is not the Vineyard that has become corrupt, but the men and women who represent the compromise and infidelity inherent thereof today.
“Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him.” (Luke 9:13) Be not deceived – God was not taken by surprise that His only Begotten Son was cruelly treated and murdered by the Jewish rulers and their Gentil accomplices. It was all part of God’s great plan of redemption. “But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. 15So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” (Luke 9: 14-15) The Scribes, Pharisees and Jewish rulers were not in doubt about the Sonship of Christ. They KNEW who He was, and would resort to outright murder in order to maintain their positions of authority and rule. They saw every miracle our Lord ever performed – they followed Him everywhere as a hungry lion its prey seeking how they might entrap Him even in His works of kindness and love.
In verse fifteen, our Lord asks a searching question – “What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?” Before asking this question, Jesus makes another prophetic point in the parable: “And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” (Matthew 21:39) Was not our Lord crucified without the gates of the city?
The Jewish rulers had deformed the Old Testament Church in such manner as to make it unrecognizable as the Vineyard of the Lord. They had planted thorns and thistles and uprooted the fruited vines of grape – teaching the traditions of men rather than the whole truth of God. Do we not see this starkly happening in our churches today? Even the church music is sensuous and worldly, the preaching filled with men’s thoughts and glory and devoid of the beauty of truth in God. Seldom do we hear a sermon preached as an exposition of the word but rather how a fellow’s experience on the golf course reflects some immutable truth.
The Jewish leaders literally hated this last question of Christ, but Christ continued in giving answer: “He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others….” (Luke 9:16) How did the Jewish rulers respond to this dismal picture? “And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.” (Luke 9:16) By all means they prayed God would not do so to them for they KNEW the truth of the parable indicted them in their willful sins. Jesus looks them in the eye and tells them: “…What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? 18Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Luke 9:17-18) Matthew adds an additional detail to our Lord’s response: “…Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21:42-44)
The response of the Jewish rulers is further defined by the following postscript to the parable: “And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them. 20And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.” (Luke 20:19-20)
And so, with the Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ outside the gates of the Temple at Jerusalem, the rule of the usurpers of Israel were wrenched from them and given to the legitimate caretakers – those who, from the days of Abraham, had believed and relied upon that Promise made to Abraham of a Seed to deliver them – the Church of the New Testament!