Obedience or Opposition

Obedience or Opposition

Matthew 22:33-46

“The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone.”

 

            The religious leaders of Jesus’ day considered themselves exemplary in their religious righteousness.  As Jesus confronts them for their refusal to walk in obedience, he tells the story of a landowner who had rented his vineyard to vine-growers as he went on a journey.  However, when he sent his servants to collect the income from the crops, these vine-growers saw an opportunity.  Instead of making a payment as was agreed upon, they mistreated and even killed those who came to collect the rent. In response, the landowner shows remarkable restraint and patience. Instead of bringing immediate judgment, he sends another group of servants to give them a second opportunity to make the payment.  Again, they mistreated and killed the servants.  In an unbelievable display of forbearance, the owner decided to send his son, thinking that they would surely listen to him.  But the vine-growers respond by killing the son, thinking in doing so, they could gain control of the land.  

            Hearing the story, the religious leaders rightfully condemn these vine-growers for their wickedness.  In light of their mistreatment of his servants and even his son, the landowner would bring swift and terrible punishment upon the vine-growers for their greed and rejection of the landowner's authority.  However,  the religious leaders failed to recognize that the story was directed at them.  They were the vine-growers.  Jesus confronts them by pointing to their rejection of God’s appointed leaders.  Throughout the history of Israel, they had repeatedly rejected the message of the prophets, and now they were rejecting God’s Son.  Even though all the prophecies of the Old Testament pointed to Christ, they rejected Christ and his claim.  As a result, God will bring his judgment upon them.  In their response to the parable, they condemned themselves.  Rather than repenting, they plotted to seize Jesus.  Their fear of people was the only thing that prevented them from doing so immediately.

            Tragically, we see the same today in the response of many who claim to be leaders in the church.  They reject the prophets and their message in the Old Testament as outdated and false.  They distort the message of the New Testament when it does not conform to the new morality.  Instead of obedience, they claim that we must “deconstruct” the text.  They proclaim a message it the people want to hear.  Instead of confronting sin, they justify it.  Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, they give lip service to the law but undermine it and reject it when they disagree.  In the end, they even reject Christ.  Instead of conforming to the teaching of Christ, they conform the teaching of Christ to their morality.  

            So, how do we respond to this parable?  We need to examine our own lives and the teaching of the people we follow. We are to follow leaders who point to Christ and call us to a life of obedience to him.   We are to follow those leaders who uphold the teaching of the Scriptures.  Furthermore, as pastors and church leaders, we are to recognize that we are stewards of God’s people, and God will hold us accountable for how we lead. The religious leaders were more concerned about what the people thought than they were about what God would say.  In our age of moral confusion, instead of turning to people and following them, we must return to scripture and follow God's words again. Then we need to call people to conform to its teaching, for we are merely his servants caring for his vineyard.  When we accept God’s word, and follow those who teach God’s word, then we will welcome the return of Christ and rejoice at his coming.

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