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The stone rejected as chief cornerstone

Matthew 21:33-44

Pastor David Ernst

20th Sunday after Trinity
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Oct 25, 2020 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

"Hear another parable: There was a man, a householder, who planted a vineyard, and fenced it off, and dug a winepress in it, and built a tower, and leased it to tenants, and went far away."

Christ gives a detailed description of the work of the owner of the vineyard to obtain not only fruits, but fruits of the best kind. He planted a hedge around it to keep out wild beasts that could uproot and knock down the vines. He built a winepress, where grapes could be pressed, and a vat, where juice could be stored. He erected a watchtower against thieves among men and beasts. In short, he did everything that could be expected of a careful vineyard owner. But the tenants were evil. Instead of paying the part of the fruit that belonged to the lord, they killed the servants who were sent to bring the rent to the lord.

The master's patience was not yet exhausted. He decided to take one last step to make those farmers regain their senses and, incidentally, get the fruits of the vineyard. He thought that they would surely show his son due respect, with deep shame at their previous behavior and a fervent desire to regain the master's trust. But the wickedness of these husbandmen exceeded ordinary measure.

"But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves: This is the heir, come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance. And taking him, they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him."

The explanation of the parable is obvious at a glance. God the Almighty Father himself is the owner of the vineyard. The vineyard is His Old Testament church, which He had planted in the midst of the people of Israel, His chosen people. He had given this nation the full measure of his goodness and mercy. He surrounded them with a hedge against the heathen, the law given to Moses. He had given them the strong watchtower of the kingdom of David and his descendants. He had given them all the external advantages that would allow them to prove that they were a holy nation. But the expected fruit did not come. He sent Samuel and other prophets in the time of the judges. He sent more and greater prophets than before with powerful preaching and great signs and wonders. But their abuse of his messengers increased with the passage of time, as in the case of Elijah, Jeremiah and Zechariah.

Lastly, he sent his only one, his beloved Son, in the hope that He would be recognized as His personal representative and given the respect and reverence due to Him. But they hardened their hearts against His teachings and His miracles, held hateful counsel against him, and eventually killed him. Thus the tenants, the prominent members of the Jewish people, and especially their chief priests and elders, the scribes and Pharisees, rejected God's counsel for themselves and brought condemnation upon their own heads. And the vineyard with its fruit, the kingdom of God with the riches of his mercy and love, was given to all the nations that believe in him.

Today, there are sects that say that the covenant between the Jews who do not confess Christ and God still applies, even Christians must observe the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, such as not eating pork and observing the Sabbath on Saturdays. Also, according to some sects, the modern state of Israel is necessary for the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Bible, until the rebuilding of the Temple. However, Jesus Christ fulfilled the entire old covenant and made a new covenant with all nations in His blood. The true heirs of the promises that God made to Abraham and the patriarchs and prophets are the Jews and other ethnic groups who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is not political controversy; the modern state of Israel has the same right to exist as other countries. But it has no part in the plan of salvation.

Another figure: The concept of cornerstone or base stone is derived from the first stone in the construction of a base of a masonry foundation, important, since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, which determines the position of the entire structure.

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”

This psalm has a liturgical character and, in fact, was used in the Jewish Church on the occasion of the great festivals, sung during the time when the offerings of the temple were brought, as well as by families at home during the Passover meal. The quote in our text, Psalm 118: 22, is a Messianic prophecy.

The Jews were the first chosen builders of God's spiritual temple. But one condition for them to continue in the work was the acceptance of the stone that was selected by God to be the corner headstone. Through the miracle of the resurrection, Christ has become the cornerstone of the New Testament church, the foundation of the great spiritual structure to be completed on the last day.

Addressing them directly, Jesus tells them the fate they can expect: the loss of all their privileges in the kingdom, which will be handed over to the pagan world. On the last day all those who refuse to obey the heavenly King and rejected his Son, thus despising the grace obtained for them also, will be shattered by the inexorable justice of God.

The application for us, the church that is the people of God today, is we have to stay alert. As Saint Paul says in our epistle (Ephesians 5: 15-21), “See then that you walk diligently; not as fools, but as wise men, redeeming time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, in which there is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking among yourselves with psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and praising the Lord in your hearts. Always giving thanks for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. "

As we will sing in the hymn, Jesus Christ is the only foundation of the church. The great buildings, the solemn rites are worthless, if Christ is not the cornerstone of the structure. We will talk more about this next Sunday in our celebration of the 16th century Reformation. Furthermore, the fruit of the vineyard that the Lord seeks is the proclamation of the gospel to the whole world. The inheritance of eternal life in Christ is not only for us, but for all who need a Savior. For this purpose, we find the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

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