The Rejected Cornerstone  Luke 20:9-19

Someone has said that the average man's idea of a good sermon is one that goes over his head and hits a neighbor.   I don't believe Jesus' parable at which we look today was a good sermon in that sense. It didn't go over his listener's heads. Though the story may seem a bit strange to us, the people knew precisely what Jesus was talking about. It may hold a lot of questions for us, but not for these chief priests, scribes, and elders of Israel. Jesus took a well-known Old Testament metaphor -- that of the vineyard and expanded upon it here. 

He took it and turned it into a parable, and the parable was crystal clear to those who heard it. The vineyard stands for the nation of Israel. The tenants are the rulers of Israel into whose hands the nation was entrusted. The messengers are the prophets who were disregarded, persecuted, and killed. The Son is Jesus himself. And the doom is that the place which Israel should have occupied is to be given to others".

In the parable, Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23. Again, He is calling on what his hearers would know -- words with which they would be familiar -- words from their Bible, the Old Testament "the very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner."  That's the climax of the parable, but before we get there, let's look at the parable itself which Jesus uses to introduce his formidable claim.  The parable teaches us about us humans and it teaches us about God.

It tells us, first, of human privilege. "The tenants did not make the vineyard. They entered into possession of it. The owner did not stand over them with a whip. He went away and left them to work in their own way."

Secondly, it tells us about human sin. The sin of the tenants was that they refused to give the owner his due. They wanted to control that which was the sole right of the owner to control. And doesn't that give us a clear picture of sin? Sin consists in our failure to give God his proper place in our life. We usurp the power which belongs to God.  Then, the parable tells us of human responsibility. For a long time, the tenants were left to their own devices; but the day of reckoning came.

This is no game we are playing. Sooner or later, we will have to give an account for that which was committed to our charge.   So the parable is packed with profound teaching about humankind -- it tells of human privilege, human sin, and human responsibility.  Flowing out of all of that, I would have you underscore this significant truth: We may have a life of abundance without having an abundant life.  Have you ever thought about that?

Howard Hughes was a man who  all he ever really wanted in life was more. He wanted more money, so he parlayed inherited wealth into a billion-dollar pile of assets. He wanted more fame, so he became a filmmaker and star. He wanted more pleasures, so he paid handsome sums to indulge his every urge. He wanted more thrills, so he designed, built, and flew the fastest aircraft in the world. He wanted more power; so he secretly dealt political favors.  Yet this man concluded his earthly life emaciated and colorless; with a sunken chest; and innumerable needle marks from his drug addiction.  He died frightened, obsessed, paranoid, morose.  He was robbed by the deceiver who broke in and stole his abundant life. Howard Hughes mistakenly worshipped “more.” 

Another man, in another century, gained an abundant life without a life of abundance.  His name was Lorenzo Ghiberti, born in Florence, Italy in 1378, died in Florence, in 1455 at the age of 87. Lorenzo Ghiberti was an artist.  What he primarily did in his 87 years was to build 6 doors. Most of his artistic career was consumed in building 3 pairs of doors for The Baptistery in Florence. The doors are exquisite. The magnificence of them come from the intricate detail of the bronze sculptures which depict various Old and New Testament scenes. Ghilberti's first training was as a goldsmith, and the fine details show that training.   The first two pairs of doors took 21 years. The last two doors took 27 years to complete!  They were his contribution to the faith. Years later, Michelangelo called the last two doors the "Gates of Paradise."

Today there's not much left by the Howard Hughes legacy except contempt and a huge wooden airplane that flew only once. But Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise still stand, a magnificent testimony (to human responsibility), to spiritual awareness, high purpose and a life-centered (in Christ).  So, the truth is this. We may have abundance of life, without having life abundant.

That's the first point: the parable teaches us about humankind. It also teaches us about God.  First, it tells us of the patience of God.  The owner did not strike at the first sign of rebellion on the part of the tenants. He gave them chance after chance to do the right thing. Is nothing so wonderful as the patience of God? If any man had created the world, he would have taken his hand, and, in exasperated despair, he would have wiped it out long ago. But God is patient.....oh, so patient.

Think about it in your own life. How patient was God with you as you played with life as though life was a game, and you could do with it as you wished.

How patient has God been with you in the use of your talent? -- talent that He has given you, natural gifts with which you have been blessed. You have used those talents and gifts according to your own design, disregarding any consideration that God may have something special in mind.

How patient has God been with you as you have taken the material blessings you have received and used it without regard to His call to faithful stewardship.  What have you done in response to God's call, "Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, and prove me therewith says the Lord of hosts if I will not open up the windows of Heaven and pour out upon you blessings that you will not be able to receive."  How patient is God.

How patient has God been with all of us. If any one of us were God, the rest of us would not be faring so well.  Think about it in your own life. Look seriously at your life. What is it that God has been waiting patiently for you to do? What decisions and changes has He been waiting patiently for you to make? Are you going to test that patience forever?

That brings us to the next thing the parable tells us about God. It tells us about the judgment of God.

There is going to be a judgment. The tenants presumed on the patience of the master. They thought the master could get away with it. But it was not to be. The master's patience wore thin. But God was not abdicated. However much a man may seem to get away with, the day of reckoning comes

One day we will all fall into the hands of a living God.  The truth of the matter is, we are in those hands. Well, we try to play "hot potato" with God, don't we? We hope that God doesn't catch us with a "hot potato" in our hands. But, we had better be careful. Eventually, we are going to be caught. We can't escape. The day of reckoning will come.  That is the law! 

The parable teaches not only about us human beings and God, it is a revealing picture of Jesus; and here we come to that poignant symbol: "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner."

Jesus knew what was coming. He was clear- minded in his assessment. He knew there was no escaping the Cross. But because He knew who He was; because He was clear in His mission; He did not back away.

Even in telling the parable, Jesus shared his identity. Note carefully how the parable reads. Jesus deliberately removes himself from the succession of the prophets. They were servants. He is the Son. So, in the parable He makes a claim that none can fail to see -- He is God's chosen one, God's anointed King.

It is no wonder that this quotation about the stone which the builders rejected, coming from Psalm 118, became a favorite quotation in the early church as a description of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Peter's uses this great metaphor to speak of Jesus.  Acts 4:11-12: "This Jesus is'the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.' There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved."  1 Peter 2:4 "Come to Him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight, chosen and precious" (I Peter 2: 4).  So, this metaphor became the favorite description of the death and resurrection of Jesus. He is the rejected stone that has become the head of everything.

The question is, Has He become the head of our life?   The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. Is it so? for you?