Good morning and welcome to Thursday’s podcast. I hope you are having a good week and hearing God speak through the podcasts each day.
In today’s reading (Luke 20:1-19) we find Jesus being questioned and tested by the religious leaders of his day. They hope to catch him in his words so they can accuse him and have him put to death. But Jesus has wisdom way beyond them and he is able to repeatedly turn their questions back upon them.
Reading from v9…
[Jesus] went on to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” 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.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’
Now this is a direct condemnation of the religious leaders who questioned Jesus. The nation of Israel had long been referred to as God’s vineyard (Isaiah 5:7) and God’s prophets had also been called his servants (Amos 3:7). The Son stands before them, he will be rejected – thrown out; and killed on the cross and the vineyard turned over to others: you and me.
This is a story that Jesus told that had direct relevance to the following week of Jesus’ life. But what can we learn from it today?
It comes down to fruit. The servants came looking for fruit but the tenants either refused to hand any fruit over or they had none to give.
In many places Jesus uses the same analogy of bearing fruit, but what is the fruit that Jesus refers to? And are we, the new tenants in the vineyard, fruitful?
Well, we know from Galatians 5 that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. But we also know that by summoning up all our energy and resolve we cannot work our way to being more good, or kind, or patient. Rather, this fruit is the result of a change of heart, a response to God’s love touching and transforming us.
So, do we sit back and wait for this to happen or is there anything we can do to position ourselves to receive all that God has for us?
John the Baptist gives us the biggest clue when he challenges the Pharisees and Sadducees at the start of Matthew’s gospel. He says, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt 3:8).
Repentance means turning back to God, it is recognition that we often get it wrong. Unless we recognise that we are not always right, then God has nothing to work with. Our hearts are hardened and closed off to the love and grace of God.
Just before writing this I went home for lunch. My children were there and had cooked for themselves. They had done a good job but had left me a bit of mess in the kitchen.
Now that got me thinking. Imagine that I had come home to burnt food and children who had managed to make themselves ill by eating their culinary creations. As a loving father I would love to draw alongside and teach them to cook properly but if they refused to admit that they had done anything wrong or that there was anything bad about the food they had cooked, no matter how hard I try they are not going to grow in their abilities in the kitchen.
It is the same for us in life. I am not perfect and I would hazard a guess that you are not perfect either. Then why is it that we spend a lot of time and energy trying to make out that we know what we are doing? Why do we muddle on and refuse to ask for help? Or, if on a good day we do pray and admit to God that we might need a little help from him, because, you know, he is God after all, why do we carry on in exactly the same way and pretend to everyone we meet that we can do it on our own?
Jesus tells us to love God and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Sometimes the greatest love that we can show to those around us is to ask for help, to not pretend that everything is ok, to admit that there are areas of our lives and characters that need some work. Imagine if one of those people who appear to have it all together were brave enough to ask you for help. What freedom and release we would all feel to know that we are not the only ones who need assistance from time to time, that we don’t need to keep up appearances, but can rest easy knowing that I’m not perfect but that’s OK.
At the start of Mark’s gospel, Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming, “the kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15)
This is the kingdom way, Repentance and faith. This is the starting point for discipleship, this is the way to a fruitful life, a loving family and a connected community.
We admit that we have faults to one another; we pray together and ask God to come and help.
What are you struggling with today? Where do you need help? Are you brave enough to admit that to someone you know and trust today and see the transformation that God will bring?
Father thank you that we are loved by you. That you see all of our strengths and our weaknesses and yet you love us. Help us to let our guard down, help us to be real with our friends and our loved ones. Help us to grow in honesty and humility so that you can get to work transforming our hearts, our minds and our lives. Amen.
READING: Luke 20:1-19
One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. ‘Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,’ they said. ‘Who gave you this authority?’
He replied, ‘I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or of human origin?’
They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin,” all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.’
So they answered, ‘We don’t know where it was from.’
Jesus said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’
He went on to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
‘Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.”
‘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.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
‘What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’
When the people heard this, they said, ‘God forbid!’
Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
‘“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone”?
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’
The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.