Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, No one really knows exactly what the purpose of dreams are. Some have guessed that it is our brain’s way of organizing and processing the information that our minds have taken in. Others have suggested that dreams are our mind’s way of cleaning up the data and ideas that our minds took in but aren’t really needed or developed. The amazing thing to me is that when you are dreaming and you wake up and remember the dream, you almost feel it could’ve been reality. There are dreams that I’ve had that have real people in it, real places in it, but then there are things in the dream that are obviously incorrect or out of place, like it’s a house that we’ve lived in, but it’s in a totally different place. But it’s a dream so it just goes on. Have you had dreams like that? Where it seems real but there’s all this evidence that indicates that it’s not but it keeps going like it’s real? I think that’s where we get the term “dream world” from. We say things like, “That person is living in a dream world.” In other words, they’re going along as if something is reality, but there’s no way it will come true.
In our text this morning from Luke’s gospel we have a story that Jesus told about people who were living in a “dream world.”
A parable is a teaching device that Jesus often used. It’s an earthly story that has a spiritual meaning to it. It’s Tuesday of Holy Week, 3 days before Jesus went to the cross. He’s in Jerusalem and he’s teaching the people. Some of the religious leaders came up to Jesus and questioned his authority to teach the people. After Jesus refuted them he turned to the people and told them this parable. “A man planted a vineyard.” The land of Israel was known for its grape production and since it was an agrarian society, most people could relate. So, it’s the owner’s money that bought the vineyard, it’s the owner’s investment, it’s the owner’s profit. And what does he do? “rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time.” Now when you rent something to someone else there are two things that are vital to this arrangement: the owner’s word and his profit. In other words, the renters can’t just use the property any way they want to – they have to use his property according to his policies. They also have to tend to his property for his profit. They will get their pay, but he gets his profit. He expects payment from them at harvest for using his farm.
Well, when the harvest time came the farmer sent his servant to collect his fruit, “At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard.” But the renters were living in a dream world. They apparently thought they could do whatever they wanted and act as if the vineyard belonged to them. “But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty -handed.” Now, if you or I were the farmer, how would we have reacted? If this happened today, the police would be involved, a lawsuit would be filed, maybe there would be some underhanded way to get back at those evil tenants, sabotage or something. But what did the owner in Jesus’ parable do? “He sent another servant.” And what did they do? “But that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed.” Do you think anyone in our world today would act with such patience to such ungrateful tenants? Maybe, just maybe, one could say, “Maybe they didn’t understand, maybe they mistook him as an imposter, maybe they were having a bad day, so I’ll send another one.” “He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.” This is patience like we’ve never seen! A 3rd servant was sent to collect what was due and that one, too, they rejected, wounded even and threw him out.
Let’s pause here and think about the spiritual meaning of this parable. The vineyard is the gift of God’s grace. God is the man who planted the vineyard and he made a 2 way agreement with the people of Israel. Out of all the people on the earth, God had selected them as his very own special people. Through them God wanted to send a Savior into the world. He made a two-way contract with them, if they would keep his Word and keep his laws, he would keep them as his own precious nation. Then watched to see how they managed the gifts of his grace. It was through this special nation that God wanted all nations on earth to learn about him. But what did they do? They lived in a dream world. They began to misuse God’s gifts, instead of sharing God’s gifts, they kept them to themselves, they rebelled against God, the owner of the world, and the one they owed their very existence to. They didn’t produce fruits of love and faith. So time and again God would send his servants, the prophets, to wake them up and to call them to repentance and to change their lives, but the majority of the people didn’t listen, they kept living the way they wanted to, kept living in a dream world, they rejected the prophets, didn’t listen to them, mistreated them, wounded them, even killed some of them.
Back to the parable. Finally, the owner said, “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” Now, who would do this? I wouldn’t. I have 3 sons, but even if I had 10 sons I wouldn’t send even one of them to a bunch of wicked and evil people who have mistreated 3 of my servants! I would have sent judgment a long time ago! But he sent his son, he had no one left to send, maybe they would listen to his son. “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’” What upside down logic!! “So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”
So what did the vineyard owner do? His incredible patience came to an end: “He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” Finally, that’s what God did. He sent his own Son to His people to call them to repentance and make use of the grace God had given them. But what did they do? They rejected him, treated him shamefully, begged Pilate to crucify him, then threw him out of Jerusalem and killed him. They rejected God’s own Son and wanted to have the vineyard of God’s kingdom all to themselves to do what they wanted, have things their way. So God took his Gospel message to others, to the Gentiles.
When the people heard this, they knew what Jesus was saying and so they said, “God forbid.” So Jesus pointed to the OT where it had been prophesied in Psalm 118 that so many of Jewish nation would reject the Savior on whom God would build his church, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The cornerstone was the stone placed in the corner that became the basis for the rest of the building. That stone is Jesus. On him God has built his Church. Those who rejected God’s plan of salvation through Jesus are living in a dream world and will not survive. “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” Anyone who rejects Jesus as the most important part of God’s kingdom will not survive, anyone who doesn’t trust in Jesus as their Savior will be crushed forever in hell. The teachers of the law and the chief priests knew that Jesus was talking about them and made their plans to do exactly what Jesus had just warned them about.
Jesus words were crushing to his first audience. Do they still crush today? What was the problem with the tenants? The problem is that the tenants began to act like owners. They felt they had a right over the owner’s things. They were living in a dream world. What about us? Do we think we are owners? We have all these things in life, right? A body, intelligence, abilities, things, talents, money, but we’re not the owners. We’re the tenants – we need to use what we have according to the owner’s Word and for the owner’s profit. You have a mind – you can’t just use your mind for whatever you want. You have certain amount of power, possessions, money, you can’t use them for whatever you want – there’s an owner, we aren’t, we’re the tenants, but so often we begin to think we’re owners of what we have.
So, what does God do? God sends messengers. He still does – parents, individuals, friends- they all have a way of reminding us that we’re not owners. But God also sends providential messengers – a near tragedy, a frustration, a disappointment, an unfulfilled longing God sends in your life. What’s the purpose? What the message? The message is you are not in control of your life, you are not the owner.
Life will ultimately not let you in the end believe that you are the owner. Life will never let you act as an owner. No matter how hard you try to control it, no matter how hard you say, “I’m going to do it my way,” it won’t work. You’ll get beat up. Life is a messenger, constantly coming at you saying, “You’re not in charge. You’re not in control. You’re the tenant. This is a gift, but you really don’t have what it takes to master this. This isn’t yours.” When you try to get in the driver’s seat, you’re like an 8 year old who is in a car and says, “I want to drive.” You can’t even see over the top of the steering wheel.
God keeps sending messengers into your life- are you listening to them? What are the messengers God is sending into your life, which you’re just kicking and hitting? You’re beating them up. Maybe they are people, difficult people in your life, which are being used by God to communicate the message to you: you’re not in control of your life.
Think about anxiety and discouragement, you won’t get over it until you’re willing to say, “I don’t necessarily need this if God isn’t giving it to me. I have decided I have to have it, because I am acting as if I’m an owner, and I say I’m going to run my life my way.” Maybe God is coming in and saying, “Would you please give me the steering wheel back? Give me the wheel.” How are you treating the messengers? Are you listening to them or beating them up?
God has every right to reject us. But notice God’s grace in all of this. See the amazing patience of our God that our God doesn’t simply reject us and dismiss us for our sins against him, but in patient love he comes to us again and again with His Words. His words to crush our self-righteousness, our self-sufficiency, to wake us up from our self-deluded dreams. He does that as we hear His words. He crushes us, so He can rebuild us by reminding us of His love in sending His only beloved Son. And for what purpose? So that He might be crushed…for us.
So, as the tenants of this gift of God’s grace may we receive it properly and live our lives according to it by repenting of our sins and turning to Jesus in faith and trust. May we live knowing the reality of God’s gift of grace and may we enjoy it forever in heaven. Amen.