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The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
Luke 20: 9-19

Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fifth Sunday in Lent—March 21, 2010

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Those of us who grew up in farm country are familiar with the common practice of renting land on a two-thirds/one-third basis.  Instead of a set rent, at harvest the farmer receives two-thirds of the crop, and the landowner receives one-third.

That is the scenario behind The Parable of the Wicked Tenants in today’s Gospel Reading.  The tenants are expected to give the landowner a portion of their crop.  But, when the time comes, they refuse, even beating up his collectors, and finally killing his own son.

We are nearing the end of the season of Lent, and today’s Gospel Reading concludes with an ominous, foreboding note that will come to fulfillment on Good Friday: “The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him . . . because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. . .  So they watched him . . . that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor.”

The Gospel of John says of Jesus, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”  Jesus’ own Hebrew people had been richly blessed by God, especially the spiritual blessing that the promised Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God, would be born from their race.  But, Jesus spoke this parable against them because when God finally fulfilled his promise and sent his Son, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

As the Apostle Peter preached to them, “You handed him over to be killed, and you rejected him before Pilate . . . you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and . . .  with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,

The emblem of suffering and shame;

And I love that old cross where the dearest and best

For a world of lost sinners was slain.

But, The Parable of the Wicked Tenants is not just directed at those people back then.  It is also spoken against us.  Because God has also richly blessed us, especially the spiritual blessing of sending the Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God.  But, we must confess that we too have often “received him not” into our lives.  We must confess that we too have often “rejected the Holy and Righteous One” by our sin.

One of our Lenten hymns asks, “Who is it, Lord that bruised you . . . and caused you all your woe?”  Isaiah 53 answers, “He was wounded for our transgression, he was crushed for our iniquities . . . the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” 

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,

A wondrous beauty I see,

For ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,

To pardon and sanctify me.

In The Parable of the Wicked Tenants, Jesus is predicting his suffering and death when he says of the son in the parable, “They threw him out . . . and killed him.”  By his life, suffering, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead, God’s Son paid for your sins, earned your salvation, merited you forgiveness.  On his account your sins are all forgiven.

In an upside-down and backward sort of way, the wicked tenants were right when they said, “If we kill the Son then the inheritance will be ours.”  For, that is exactly what happened. Through the death of God’s Son, the inheritance goes to those who least deserve it. Because Jesus died, you and I are the children of God, and heirs of eternal life.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross . . .

And exchange it some day for a crown.

The point of this parable is: Do not be like the wicked tenants, but give your Lord his due.  And what does your Master desire from you?  Not just two-thirds, but 100%, of your life, your love, your heart.  As another hymn says, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”


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