We've been in the book of Matthew at Outlet on Sunday nights. The reason for it was that late last year I just felt sick of my own ideas and I wanted Jesus to set the agenda for awhile. So we started doing what's called 'Expository Preaching' where essentially you just let the bible dictate the sermon. And the point of the text is the point of the sermon. And I've really enjoyed diving into some of the more obscure parables that Jesus told.
Designed to catch us in our blindness
Read Bible - Good guy.
When we read bible, we tend to associate with good guy. Of course we’re the good guy! - Brave Israelites & the wicked philistines. Of course we're the Israelites!!!
And who’s the bad guy? Well your neighbor, boss, friend, spouse.
Parables - challenge things we already thought we knew.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. (Matthew 21:31)
For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Matthew 21:32)
“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. (Matthew 21:33)
When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. (Matthew 21:34)
“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. (Matthew 21:35)
Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. (Matthew 21:36)
Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. (Matthew 21:37)
“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ (Matthew 21:38)
So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. (Matthew 21:39)
Occasionally in the New Testament, Jesus begins statements with the word ‘Amen’. He says ‘Amen’ and then the statement.
Well the word Amen is both a Hebrew and greek word
And the English translators have always struggled when Jesus does this. Of course in the old King James would say ‘Verily I say unto you.’ or ‘Verily verily I say unto you.’
The NIV says “Truly I tell you,”
But really there’s no English word that conveys the SERIOUSNESS of the word.
Modern day, when we say ‘Amen’ it means ‘I like that.’ Joke
In the Scripture, amen means "This is God’s truth."
"This is critically important."
Stop everything. Listen to this. Understand this. You cannot live without this.
So Jesus is telling these 2 parables, and sandwiched right between them Jesus says ‘I tell you the truth…’ and then makes this UNBELIEVABLE statement.
“Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”
So who is this “you” he’s talking to?
And so to understand this amazing statement, you have to understand it in the context of this parable. Which is directly talking about his death.
Here’s the basic idea of the parable: There’s a man (let’s call him the master) and he plants a vineyard. And he makes it really nice. He puts walls around it, and builds a watchtower to watch for predators, and builds a winepress. Well he rents this vineyard out to some tenants who will run it and he’ll come and collect a portion of the fruit at harvest time.
Well harvest time comes, and when he sends his servants to collect his ‘rent’ (his portion of the fruit), they either beat them up or killed them. Finally the master sends his own son, saying ‘surely they will respect my son.’ But they kill him too.
This is NOT one of the parables that Jesus gives a lengthly explanation on, but if you understand what’s happening culturally, it’s pretty easy to get.
So I’m gonna explain what’s going on here and then we’ll talk about what it means for us.
They really point to a fundamental human problem.
So these guys instead of handing over the masters portion of the fruit, they literally kill the messenger.
Interestingly, during this time, if you could avoid paying rent for three years, it was yours.
You say, “That’s a bad rule. That encourages …” That’s another subject.
The rule: “If you go for three years and you’re basically running the show, without any outside interference, in a sense you get the rights to it.”
The point : These tenant farmers, though they were tenants, wanted to be the owners
They attacked anyone who came along to remind them they were tenants and not owners.
They didn’t care that it was the master that set all this up, they wanted it all.
‘Vineyards’ in the Bible are very interesting. There’s a lot of talk about vineyards.
One time specifically is when God is talking to Israel. He’s brought them out of Egypt and they’re about to enter the promised land. - He’s led them to it, he’s done everything for them.
When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, (Deuteronomy 6:10)
houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, (Deuteronomy 6:11)
be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deuteronomy 6:12)
Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. (Deuteronomy 6:13)
The point is that we tend to forget that everything we have is a gift. So we start taking credit for it.
We forget that we didn’t make this.
This church. Even if you look at something as simple as this church. None of us made this. So none of us come into this room with a sense of entitlement. No we’re not owners, we’re tenants.
Story - women - "salvation - grace - threatening."
I heard one time of a women who started going to a church that emphasized the grace of God, instead of salvation by works, and she told the pastor “All this talk about salvation by sheer grace is very threatening to me. I like the old way I remember that I’ve heard. ‘You’re saved by being a good person.’” He said ‘why?’ She said: “The implications of salvation by grace alone are you have no rights. You have to do anything … If he saves you by grace, there is no limit to what he can ask of you. If I’m saved by being a good person, then there are limits to what he can ask of me. I have certain rights. He owes me.”
That’s what’s going on here: We’re all tenants, but we want to believe we’re owners.
B/C owners can do whatever they want.
Here’s an interesting question: “Why are you where you are?”
Well some will say “I worked hard for it.”
Well what if you were born on an ice float in the Arctic Ocean in the 12th century. I don’t care how hard you’d work, you wouldn’t get very far.
The truth is: Your hard work, and brilliant decision making, bla bla bla, are just a tiny part of you being what you are.
More than any of that is stuff you were born with and had nothing to do with.
We like to think “I’m a self-made man!'
Tell that to the people of Cambodia - millions and millions don’t have access to safe water.
Next time to you take a drink of cold, sanitized, safe water, remember that you’re having an experience that millions of people around the world will never know.
My point: You had nothing to do with that.
But the human heart doesn’t like that.
“If I’m created by God, I owe him everything.” We hate that idea.
Everything is a gift. So can’t live however I want.” - That doesn't sit well.
(Danish philosopher, theologian, poet)
Book - 1840’s - ‘Either/Or’
2 parallel life views.
1. ‘I’m not created. - Accidental happening -- Free.
This is the unfortunate problem with atheism. Who cares about your fellow man? Why do you even care what happens to you? This is all just an accident, and it’s meaningless. - You can read the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn (Ein) Rand for 1200 pages of this.
2. “I’m created. -- Purpose / meaning -- NOT free."
The other is this: “I’m created. So my life has purpose, and meaning, but I’m not free. - I have responsibility. B/C life is a gift. I’m a tenant, not an owner.
This is the worldview of a Christian. That our life has meaning, and significance, and also responsibility. - We don’t just live however we want, we live how our creator has told us to live.
But it’s either/or.
So ‘entitlement’ is the opposite of the Christian life. - Which says ‘Life is a gift and I’m not entitled to any of this.'
“While there is much we have earned - our degree, our salary, our home and garden, a miller lite, and a good night’s sleep - all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh.” (Brennan Manning)
But all is grace. Everything good is a gift.
“Tax collectors & prostitutes - entering - kingdom of God ahead - you.”
Who’s he talking to? Entitled people.
In Jesus’s culture, it was the Old Testament prophets.
What - do - OT prophets? Reject / sometimes kill.
And what do the entitled people do to the messengers in the parable? They beat up the 1st, killed the 2nd, and stoned the 3rd.
After the messengers have been beaten and killed, the master decides to send his own son.
This is the point where the story starts to get ridiculous. No one would do this.
The owner says “If they’ve beat up and killed everyone I’ve sent up to this point, I know what I’ll do! I’ll send my son!"
That doesn’t make any sense. What he should have done is called the authorities.
Or hired a group of thugs to take them out and steal all the fruit or something.
That’s all with the assumption that what he master is ultimately after is his fruit and his property.
But God is not a businessman who’s mainly concerned with his fruit and his property.
Instead, here, the master says “I’ll send my son, surely they will respect him."
He’s not concerned about the fruit here. See, he’s still hoping for relationship.
In other words, this is a Father after a relationship, not a businessman after his property.
The Master: “I am willing to make my Son vulnerable. I am willing to make myself vulnerable.”
I’m not trying to just wipe out all the entitled people, I’m hoping my son will show them the way of humility.
Not only savior -- example.
And so we look at the cross, and we lay our entitlement down.
So ultimately what is this parable about?
This parable is ultimately just pointing out a problem. And this is the problem: Entitled people who feel no responsibility to their creator.
So what’s the solution?
Of course tax collectors and prostitutes need to be repent. Nothing good about either of those career paths.
You guys know what a prostitute is, right?
Tax Collector - Basically the ultimate sell-outs. They betrayed race, and their religious heritage. To work for the government. - And they would even steal some for themselves.
But Jesus is saying that even worse is the people who are entitled and don’t even know that they need to repent.
It’s people who forget their need for a savior.
It’s people who would say: “I’ve lived a pretty good life. I’m not a prostitute. I’m not a tax collector. I’ve lived a pretty good life.”
“I don’t know what I’d even need forgiveness for.”
Jesus says “You’re more of a problem than they are!"
B/C you haven’t addressed the sin underneath all other sins, which is this: “I’m my own!"
The sin underneath all other sins is the avoidance of grace.
So how can you tell you’ve done this? How can you tell if you’ve begun to leave the land of entitlement to live in the land of grace?
Towards prostitutes & tax-collectors
Prostitutes & tax-collectors.
I love the grouping of prostitutes and tax-collectors, b/c I think one is going to be harder to love than the other depending on what kind of person you are.
So someone who tends to be more liberal would have no problem with a prostitute but would likely struggle with “those greedy such and such rich people and politicians. - They’re the real problem!!!"
On the other hand, the conservatives, might look at it differently, possibly even reverse.
But what’s wonderful about Jesus is he offers kindness and forgiveness to both at the same time.
So who is that for you?
Who’s sin makes your blood boil?
Well an entitled people will think about them and get all hot and bothered.
“They’re pure evil!!!” B/C you don’t know what a miracle you are.
A person who has really left the land of entitlement and moved to the land of grace can find themselves with a pure heart towards all people.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)
So not only should Paul accept this reality, so should you.
The identity of a Christian is a tricky thing. B/C we have this new beautiful identity in Christ, but we also remember that it was a gift.
There's no 'deserve'. No, we're all undeserving.
And when we keep that in mind, well then it keeps us kind and merciful.
Spiritual warfare. - Bible Code - Spiritual gifts
"Don't push me!" - At youth camp, when we'd go and there would be these intense traveling preachers. Jeff Wimpy said that if you ever feel like they're pushing you, just scream "Don't push me!" And they'll never do it again.
The older I get: The "Basic" stuff. - Depth.
Nothing is deeper than love.
If anything is done apart from love, it's fake. Only love is real.
We can have this tendency to come to church and say "Where is the deep stuff?!"
Love is the deep stuff.
Nothing is easier conceptually and nothing in harder in practice.
Theology - Distraction.
As much as I love theology, I also realize that it can serve as a distraction from the deep thing. - Loving God and loving others.
"On fire for God" When people say I'm on fire for God. I smiling silently think to myself prove it. Show me how much you love these people.
And if the answers 'no', then it's probably not that good for you!
The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. (Deuteronomy 7:7)
But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out …from the power of Pharaoh. (Deuteronomy 7:8)
This is what we in the business call ‘Circular Reasoning’. He loved you because he loved you.
And that might sound weird, but really, it’s the only chance any of us have.
Imagine : Married - "Why do you love me?"
Imagine: You get married and one day your spouse asks you: "Why do you love me?"
And you’re not intelligent, so you say “B/C you clean the house so well.”
Or “B/C you make so much money!"
You think they would say “Awww.. Thats so sweet!!!”
Really, any answer to that question is horrible pressure. “I love you because you’re a great mom.” Or “I love you because you have such a great prayer life.”
You could slip up and lose the reason they love you.
The best response if your spouse ever asks you that is this: “I love you b/c I love you. There’s a million things I love ABOUT you. But none of those are the REASON I love you. I simply love you.”
God doesn’t love you b/c you’re lovely, he loves you b/c he is love. And there’s nothing you can do to change that.
So you grow and learn to just relax in that.
You rest, you’re secure. You’re not scared that you’re going to lose something when you act stupid.
Thought: Everybody thinks they know what kind of God they want.
They KNOW what God needs to do in order to make their life better.
The God - most - searching :
Sees / Knows / Accepts / Loves.
So often we can go through our whole through life hiding.
Back to the original analogy - going through life hiding. This feeling of ‘if I showed my real self, they’d reject me.’
Meanwhile, the power of the gospel is found in a God who sees you as you really are, and loves you. Let that sink in. He’s see’s everything about you, and you are COMPLETELY loved. He has no lecture to give. He has no commentary.
There’s such a desperate need that we all have to just be seen and known. It’s a need we all share, and it’s a need that can only be found in Jesus.
There’s no one in this world that can ever get close enough to you, to where there’s no distance. There will always be distance between you and other people. No matter how intimate.
It’s such a beautiful idea that God is the only one who sees through every mask you have and still loves you more than you could ever imagine. There’s no replacement for that.
No matter who you are. “Come all the same.”
I don't deserve any of this! "Come all the same."
“I don’t deserve him, but I need him.”
Life tastes sweeter - when you remember you didn’t earn it.
Here’s the question: Have a left the land of entitlement to live in the land of Grace?