2014 6-29 ‘Rejecting Jesus’ Authority’ Luke 20 9-18

“REJECTING JESUS’ AUTHORITY”
LUKE 20:9-18

I. Introduction
Have you ever wondered why so many people, people who are intelligent, logical, and per-ceptive, fail to grasp the truth about Jesus Christ? It isn’t difficult to do. You don’t need an I.Q. of 150 or higher.

For example, it isn’t like trying the get your head around the principles of quantum mechan-ics or differential calculus, or trying to understand why the doormat of the National League – my beloved Chicago Cubs – have not won a World Series for one hundred and six years, are now well into the second century of their rebuilding process, and currently reside in last place. Understanding the truth about Jesus isn’t at all like those three examples.

Of course, there are plenty of people with high IQs, and there are some who find quantum mechanics and differential calculus mere “child’s play,” but no one can figure out the Cubs. But that’s for another day. Today the question before us is, “Why do so many people fail to grasp the truth about Jesus Christ?”. The answer is far less complicated than you might think. They don’t grasp the truth about Jesus Christ because they don’t want to. They’ve hardened themselves against it. They don’t believe it because they won’t believe it.

And because they won’t believe it, God will see to it that they can’t believe it. In other words, when a spirit of unbelief hardens a person’s heart, God will – at some point in time known only to Him – harden that person’s heart beyond any hope of salvation. I know full well how difficult it is for us to hear that. But I do not say it lightly. Hardening the heart of an unbeliever is the work of a sovereign God, a God who will not be mocked.

In Exodus God brought judgment against Pharaoh when He hardened Pharaoh’s heart. But God only did so after Pharaoh had hardened it himself by repeatedly rejecting God’s truth as Moses had revealed it to him.
Exodus 4:21
21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you per-form before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.”

But not only does God sometimes harden hearts, He sometimes judges unbelief by sending delusion upon those who reject His truth. There is a remarkable example of this in the OT. In 1 Kings 22 God brought judgment against King Ahab when He used Satan to delude him into believing he would be victorious in a battle.

Ahab’s false prophets told him what he wanted to hear – he would prevail in battle. But God’s prophet, Micaiah, told Ahab the truth. The truth was that his army would be defeated.
Moreover, Ahab would receive a fatal wound. But Ahab rejected that truth.
*1 Kings 22:19-23
19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left.
20 “And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that.
21 “Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’
22 “And the LORD said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of his all prophets.’ Then (the LORD) said, “You are to entice him (Ahab) and also prevail. Go and do so.’
23 “Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you.”

But King Ahab preferred to believe a satanic lie instead of God’s truth, and in 1 Kings 22:34 he is wounded in battle, and three verses later, he is dead. Why did Ahab believe the lie? He believed it because he wanted to believe it. So God accommodated Ahab and sent him a delusion, a lie that the king preferred over the truth. In the end, as it always is, God’s perfect will was carried out with the death of Ahab.

So whether God hardens the hearts of unbelievers, or sends them delusion, or some combi-nation of both, He uses unbelief and evil to accomplish His eternal purposes. He did it with Pharaoh, He did it with Ahab, and throughout the gospels, we see the results of His doing it with the Jewish religious leaders as they reject Jesus and God’s truth again and again.

One other point before we move on. We know God still hardens the hearts of unbelievers. But does he still send delusion? Does He still direct some people to believe lies? The Apos-tle Paul gives us some insight in his second letter to the Church at Thessalonica as he speaks of the last days and the eventual emergence of the Antichrist.
*2 Thessalonians 2:6-12
6 And you know what restrains him (the Antichrist) now, so that in his time he may be revealed.
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.
8 And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;
9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,
10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.
11 And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false,
12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

Look again at v. 10. Who will perish? Those who “did not receive the love of the truth.”
In Luke 19:44 who did Jesus say would be destroyed? Those who “did not recognize the time of (their) visitation.”

As we continue in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is facing the Jewish religious leaders. These men include the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, the priests, and the elders. With the excep-tion of a few individuals (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea), all of them have either been hardened, deluded, or both. They will reject Jesus’ authority, and in the process they will reject Him. And God, in His absolute sovereignty, and for His eternal purposes, will use them and their rejection to complete His plans for the Lord Jesus and for our redemption.
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II. Review
In order to put this morning’s passage in Luke’s gospel in context, let’s briefly look back to last Sunday’s sermon. On the Tuesday morning before the crucifixion Jesus had been teach-ing and preaching in the temple when He was confronted by the religious leaders. They asked Him where He had gotten the right to say and teach the things He did. In Luke 20:2 they demanded, “…who gave You this authority?” Knowing these religious leaders’ hearts, and their utter contempt and hatred for Jesus, He answered them with a question of His own. In v. 4 He asked them, “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”

Either answer would condemn them. If they said it was from men they would face the wrath of the crowds since the people believed John was a true prophet of God. And if they said it was from heaven, they had no excuse for not believing what John had said about Jesus.

So the religious leaders lied and said they didn’t know whether John’s baptism was from heaven or from men. Of course, they knew! Thus their question to Jesus – “…who gave You this authority?” – was exposed as being dishonest and insincere. As a result Jesus did not give them an answer. In Luke 20:8 the Lord told them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
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III. Text
It’s at this point, right here between vv. 8-9, that Jesus turns from speaking directly to the religious leaders, and addresses the crowds who have been observing this confrontation. Jesus will tell them a parable about God’s dealings with Israel. There is a similar story in Isaiah 5, wherein Israel is compared to God’s own vineyard – a vineyard that will be laid waste by God if it does not produce good fruit.
Because of that, these religious leaders will understand that Jesus is talking about them.
*Luke 20:9-18 (Please stand with me in honor of reading God’s Word.)
9 And (Jesus) began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time.
10 “And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order that they might give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers
beat him and sent him away empty-handed.
11 “And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed.
12 “And he proceeded to send a third; and this one they also wounded and cast out.
13 “And the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’
14 “But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him (so) that the inheritance may be ours.’
15 “And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, therefore, will the owner of the vineyard do to them?
16 “He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” And when they heard it, they said, “May it never be!”
17 But (Jesus) looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone’?
18 “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”

Before we delve into the details of this passage it will help us if we identify the characters Jesus will introduce in this parable. In v. 9 “a man” (the owner of the vineyard) is God. The vineyard itself is Israel. The vine-growers (the renters or tenant-farmers) are Israel’s religious leaders. In vv. 10-12 the owner’s slaves (servants) are the OT prophets. And in vv. 13-15 the owner’s son is, of course, Jesus.

This is one of the few parables recorded three times. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report it in its entirety. Its importance and the truths it conveys can hardly be overstated. While its immediate application is to the Jews who heard it, it is for us as well. It reminds us of the deep-seated corruption that resides in the unsaved human soul.

Throughout the two thousand years of church history, we’ve seen leadership that has been no less self-serving and corrupt. Evil behavior and false teaching by church leaders have led to as much hardness, self-righteousness, superstition, and outright unbelief in the church as ever existed in Israel. It’s been said that, if given the right circumstances and the opportu-nity, many who have called themselves Christians would crucify Christ again. Jesus’ para-ble is a clear warning against such leadership.
*Luke 20:9
9 And (Jesus) began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time.”

Jesus’ opening words here would have made sense to His hearers because the areas north and west of the Sea of Galilee were filled with large estates owned by foreign landowners and cared for by local landlords and farmers. When the annual harvests came in, the absen-tee landowners would receive a previously agreed upon share of the produce. Obviously, this could only work well if the landowner employed cooperative and honest landlords.
*Luke 20:10-12
10 “And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order that they might give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers
beat him and sent him away empty-handed.
11 “And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed.
12 “And he proceeded to send a third; and this one they also wounded and cast out.”

This is a picture of the history of Israel’s treatment of God’s prophets. There’s an interesting progression in these three verses. Notice how the prophets were treated with increasing dis-dain and cruelty. In the beginning they were beaten; later they were beaten and “treated shamefully.” “…treated shamefully” comes from the Greek word “atimazō,” meaning dis-honor and suffering. Lastly, they were severely wounded. In the end, many were murdered.

In this you can see a recurring truth. God’s repeated efforts to reach people often lead to a further hardening of their hearts that only serves to solidify their hatred of God. Is there any-one who is more bitter than the one who has hardened his or her own heart against the truth?

This reminds me of the old saying, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” It sounds like a Bible verse, but it isn’t. It can be traced back to 1546, when the English play-wright, John Heywood, used it in one of his plays. But there’s more to it than that. It goes on to say, “The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.” Heywood may not have been a theologian, and he didn’t quote the Bible, but he cer-tainly did articulate a biblical principle, didn’t he?

In Luke 20:10-12 Jesus points out the inevitable results of deliberate and continued unbelief.
The men who have confronted Him have chosen to ignore what they already know. Thus their spiritual blindness has turned into blind rage and blind hatred for Jesus. Isn’t this what He told us to expect?
John 15:18, 23
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”
23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also.”

This is the point to which these religious leaders have degenerated. Their hatred will turn to rage, and after Jesus is gone and the church is established, it will only continue. Stephen, the first Christian to be martyred for the cause of Christ, would feel the full fury of it. His first (and last) sermon was an indictment of these very same men who are confronting Jesus in Luke 20. Look at Stephen’s indictment and see how similar it is to what Jesus has said.
*Acts 7:51-54
51 “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.
52 “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become;
53 you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
54 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnash-ing their teeth at him.

“…gnashing their teeth” is the gritting or grinding of one’s teeth in pain or rage. Stephen has told them the truth. The truth either softens the heart and brings about repentance, or it hardens the heart and brings about… Well, in this case it brought about an uncontrolled fury.
*Acts 7:57-58a
57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears, and they rushed upon him with one impulse.
58a And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him…

What is the point of all this? What was done to God’s people in the OT was also done in the NT. It has been done throughout the history of the church, it is being done today, and it will be done until Jesus’ comes again. And the most amazing part of it is – when it is done – it is most often done in the name of religion. In the beginning God’s people were tortured and murdered by Caesar worshippers. Later they were tortured and murdered by the Roman Catholic Church. Today Christians are being tortured and murdered by the followers of Islam. But, no matter who does it, it just goes on. (back to Luke 20)
*Luke 20:13
13 “And the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’”

Since we are fully aware of who the owner of the vineyard is, his beloved son can only be a metaphor for Jesus. God sent His Son? Listen to just some of the ways the NT says it…
John 3:16a
16a For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…

Romans 8:32a
32a He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us…

Galatians 4:4a
4a But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son…

You can easily see how perfectly Luke 20:13 fits into the broader scope of NT truth. The owner of the vineyard is saying, in so many words, “Even though these people have rejected my messengers, they won’t reject my son.”
*Luke 20:14-15a
14 “But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him (so) that the inheritance may be ours.’
15a “And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

When the tenants see the owner’s son approaching they plot his murder. Do they do this because he is the owner’s son? No, that’s not the underlying or real reason. They plot his murder because he is the heir to the vineyard. Have they taken it for granted that the owner has died? I don’t know, but it’s clear they believe that the son is now the owner. The last part of v. 14 confirms that is what they think. “If we kill him, we’ll get it all.” According to the laws of the day – if there were no living heirs – the ownership of land would transfer to those who occupied it.

That principle still exists today. We’ve all heard the expression, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.” While over-simplification, and not literally true, the principle can be restated as: “In a property dispute (whether real or personal), in the absence of clear and compelling testimony or documentation to the contrary, the person in actual, custodial possession of the property is presumed to be the rightful owner.”

So the tenants decide to kill the son, and in v. 15, they do it. Thus the parable ends and the prophecy begins. There was a fatal flaw in the tenants’ plan. The owner of the vineyard wasn’t dead!

Let me apply this lesson in the form of a question. How many church leaders claim to believe in the God of the Bible and in His Son, yet they live their lives and rule their flocks as if neither really existed at all? What must be the result? Listen to this quote from J. C. Ryle’s commentary on Luke’s gospel, originally published in Oxford, England in 1858. “At the present time, it may be feared, the parable is a sad picture of the things which have yet to happen to the Gentile churches in the latter days. God’s judgments have still to fall on unbelieving Christians as they fell on unbelieving Jews.” (back to the text)

In Jesus’ parable the first part of Luke 20:15 says that the tenants, with premeditation and malice aforethought, did murder the landowner’s only son.
*Luke 20:15b-16a
15 “What, therefore, will the owner of the vineyard do to them?
16a “He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.”
Jesus is saying that God would avenge His Son’s murder. The blessings God had poured out on Israel, His chosen nation, would be given to the Gentiles – the nations. Thus the time of the Gentiles would begin; the church would be born in Acts 2; those Jews who would believe in God’s Son and receive Him, would become the foundation of that church; and the church would remain until Jesus’ would return to save it and the remnant of believing Jews at the end of the age. So Jesus’ parable is not simply an abstract metaphor, but a picture of the reality to come. This reality begins to sink in to those who are hearing Jesus speak.
*Luke 20:16b
16b And when they heard it, they said, “May it never be!”

Their response is easy to understand. After all, they are God’s chosen people. He would never judge them. Besides, Gentiles are dogs. They’re so convinced that their divine privi-leges would never be taken from them and given to anyone else, that they say, “May it never be!” The Jewish idiom is “God forbid!” We might say, “No way,” or “Not a chance,” or “Never happen!” Some of them may be thinking, “Well, this Jesus seems to get a lot right, but He’s sure wrong about that. God won’t judge us.” To which, Jesus responds…
*Luke 20:17-18
17 But (Jesus) looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone’?
18 “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”

In v. 17 Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22 which prophecies this very moment here in Luke 20 as well as the first “Palm Sunday.”
Psalm 118:23-26a
23 This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 O LORD, do save (“Hosanna!”), we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
26a Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD…

By quoting this psalm Jesus is making it clear – this prophecy finds its fulfillment in Him. He is the stone that these builders (these leaders) are rejecting. The Jews – especially these religious leaders among them – should know that God will judge them if they reject His truth and His provision for them. This is because this very stone, the stone Israel is now rejecting, will become the “chief cornerstone.” He is the stone over which Israel will “stumble.” He would soon be murdered, but He would rise again, and He would become the Ruler and the Judge, not only of Israel, but of the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike.

Finally, in v. 18 the Lord simply and succinctly lays out, in no uncertain terms, the ultimate consequences for rejecting Him. All who do so will be crushed. Daniel spoke of this when he interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
Daniel 2:44-45
44 “…in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.
45 “Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true, and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

Luke 20:18 tells us of two different ways the “stone” will accomplish His divine purpose.
If one is apathetic towards Christ, that is, if one simply ignores Him and His claims, he will trip over the stone, fall, and “will be broken to pieces.” On the other hand, if one conscious-ly and deliberately rejects Christ and His claims, the stone will fall upon him. He will be crushed by it and “it will scatter him like dust.” Those are the two possibilities; both have fatal consequences. And both are the result of rejecting the authority of Christ. That is Jesus’ sobering message for all who would hear it today.
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IV. Conclusion
Listen, Israel did not reject Jesus because of a lack of knowledge. Rather, they rejected Him because they refused to believe what they knew to be true. They had hard hearts and they were deluded by pride, arrogance, and their insistence upon retaining their power over the people. They would do anything to keep it. And so, they murdered God’s Son. But they could not thwart the sovereignty of God. In that, we can all take great comfort. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (Psalm 118:22).”

Do you find yourself rebelling against the authority of Christ? If you’re a Christian, you already know you can’t succeed in thwarting His will. If you’re not a Christian, I can tell you this without equivocation: Whether you believe it or not, His authority is both absolute and eternal, and you are accountable to Him. The day will come when “…every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10b-11).”

I would like us to close this morning with a passage from Hebrews.
*Hebrews 2:1-3a
1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every trans-gression and disobedience received a just recompense,
3a how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

~ Pray ~

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