HARD HEARTS BEWARE!
As we have seen, the last week of Jesus earthly ministry was packed with lessons He was not only trying to instill in His men, but also those who came to see Him. We saw as He made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives on a day we call Palm Sunday, as the crowds of people gathered around Him and cried out "Hosanna!" But, in just a few days these same people will be crying out "Crucify him!" And as the crowds rejoiced, Jesus wept over their hard hearts, their rejection of Him and what it was going to cost them.
On that Monday He cursed the barren fig tree which was a representation of what the nation of Israel had become, barren. He went into the temple and drove out the money changers and those who were making a profit off of people who came to worship God. The temple was to be a house of prayer, but they had made it a den of thieves. So Jesus came and cleansed it, made it a place once again for people to come and worship God.
In our study this evening, it is Tuesday of the last week of Jesus earthly ministry. And Jesus is once again teaching the people, probably in the area of the court of the gentiles, which is an area where all people were welcomed to on the temple mount area. And here the religious leaders are going to come at Jesus to try and catch Him in something He says so He could be arrested and hopefully be put to death. Not an easy week and yet Jesus never backed off, He never lost His focus, He continued on in the work He was sent to do.
1. As Jesus was teaching the people, this delegation of chief priests, scribes and elders confronted Jesus. In fact, in Luke chapter 20 we are told that these men interrupted Jesus. Now that may seem bold, but understand these were the religious elite and highly respected by the people. They could do no wrong in the eyes of the people. And these guys did not come to Jesus with sincere hearts, searching for the truth, but to destroy Jesus by the words He spoke. Why did they act this way? Jesus challenged their authority, something they enjoyed very much. Also, no longer were the crowds following them around and hearing their wisdom, but they were following Jesus, and this they were trying to stop.
2. In John chapter 11, listen to what was going on to try and stop the work of God, to put an end to Jesus. Beginning in verse 47 we read "Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish. Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death." John 11:47-53. Notice that the fate of the nation was sealed, they already had decided to put Jesus to death, that He must die!
3. The day before Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the Messiah, He went to Bethany, to the house of Simon the Leper. Also at Simons house were Mary, Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. And in John chapter 12, we read beginning in verse 9, "Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus." John 12:9-11. They not only wanted to destroy Jesus, but Lazarus for his life testified to the fact that Jesus was not just a man, but their Messiah! And now this powerful group of religious leaders are having secret meetings on how to put Jesus to death, how to destroy Him.
1. These religious leaders were powerful and they thought of themselves as superior to the people, and now Jesus is questioning their authority, their position. So they ask Jesus by what authority He was doing this, who gave it to Him? He didnt have any credentials like these religious leaders did. And I believe they were looking for Jesus to say that He is God and then they would have Him, He would be committing blasphemy and that was worthy of death!
1. Now if these guys were sincere they would have answered the question Jesus asked them, but they were not! You see, Jesus knew their heart and He asks them a question that they are going to refuse to answer. In fact, with this one question He puts them on the defensive and takes away their authority!
2. Now if they answered this question correctly, if they recognized that the work of John the baptist was from God and the things he spoke were true, then they would have to recognize Jesus as God, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world! Jesus was trying to break up the hardness of their hearts. He wanted to be Lord of their lives if they would only humble themselves and receive Him. John had come to prepare the way for the Messiah to come, and since they rejected John, they were going to also reject Jesus! It is not wise to play these games with the creator of the universe, you wont win!
1. In trying to catch Jesus in what He said, they got caught! The problem is simple. If they believe that John was a prophet, then why didnt they believe what he said! If they said that the work of John was from men and not from God, the people would be upset with them. Now imagine how these brilliant religious leaders looked as they answered Jesus by saying "We dont know." Imagine how foolish. These were the spiritual elite and they didnt have a clue about the things of God, their hearts were far from God, even though outwardly they looked very spiritual. Many today do the same thing, they look very spiritual, but their hearts are far from God and this is evident by the things that they do!
2. Because they refused to honestly answer the question, because they refused to admit they were sinners, Jesus was not going to answer their question. But He does have their attention and the crowds are growing around Jesus, listening to what He was saying. And now Jesus is going to teach them in parables, which are nothing more than an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
In Matthew chapters 21 and 22 we see Jesus give 3 parables. The first is the parable of the two sons. One refused to go and do the work, but later repented and went and did the work. The other son said he was going to do the work, and never did. And the idea here is only those who hear and obey would enter into the kingdom of God, not like the religious people who heard but they didnt obey.
The third parable is that of the marriage feast. God invited the Jews to come but they refused. So He sent His servants into the highways and byways compelling people to come in, and this is speaking of the gentiles who receive the invitation and enter in, and the rest were cast out because they were not clothed in the right garments, the garments of righteousness that is only given to us through Christ.
Now this second parable, the parable of the vineyard owner, is spoken to the people, as Jesus now turns His back from the religious leaders, according to Luke 20:9. Jesus was going to speak to those that wanted to hear what He had to say.
1. God planted this vineyard, the nation of Israel, into the land to produce fruit. They were to tell others about God. In Genesis 12:1-3 we are told "Now the LORD had said to Abram: Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." In other words, the kingdom of God was for everyone and the nation of Israel was to teach the truths of God to the people. They were to be stewards of what God had given to them and share their faith with others. But instead they held onto the Scriptures and made God a limited God, only for them. In their minds the gentiles were only created to fuel the fires of Hell!
1. The time of the harvest had come, the fruit was to be gathered in, and the owner would receive a 30% profit while the person who leased the land got 70%. So he sends his servant out to collect.
1. They did not want to give up what didnt belong to them in the first place, so they beat up the servant and sent him away empty handed.
1. The lord of the vineyard keeps sending servant after servant, and they beat them up, even killing some of them. Who are these servants? The prophets of God! Isaiah was sawn in two. Jeremiah was thrown into a pit, left for dead. They didnt like what the prophets were saying about the way they were living so they killed them, beat them up, and refused to listen to them.
2. Also, in Matthew 23:25-35, listen to what Jesus said of them and their history. We read,
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar." They killed the prophets that God had sent to them, their own history testified of that fact!
3. Several months past the crucifixion, Steven is going to be put to death by the religious leaders of Israel for his faith in Christ. And Steven says to them in Acts 7:51-53, "You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it." Harsh words, but the truth, and it did not cause them to repent of their sins, but to put to death this servant of God, just as their fathers had done to other prophets!
1. So the owner of the vineyard sends his only son, who is Jesus. But in their minds, if they kill the son, all this will be theirs. Maybe they thought the father was dead. Then they would inherit it all! And what Jesus is saying here is that the religious leaders understood who Jesus was, and they were trying to do away with Him so they could keep their power, have their authority over the people!
1. The religious leaders knew exactly what Jesus was saying. They understood that it was going to be taken from them and given to the gentiles. And in Luke 20:16 they responded by saying "Certainly not!" You see, they wanted it for themselves!
1. Jesus takes them back to what they were shouting a few days earlier, on Palm Sunday. Jesus is the chief cornerstone, and He was rejected by the nation of Israel. And without a cornerstone, the whole structure would be unstable.
2. Gods work today is to reach the world through us, the church. It is as Peter tells us "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." I Peter 2:9-10. And in Matthew 21:43 we read "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it." Thus we have an awesome responsibility of being a light to the world and feed them the Word of God, pointing them to Jesus!
1. They came to catch Jesus and they became entangled in their lies, their deception. What Jesus said hit them right between the eyes. And their hearts were so hard that the words did not penetrate them. They were not changed, and they were bent on their mission to destroy Jesus. And that was going to be accomplished in just a few days!