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October 5, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

Proper 22/A [Pent. 19] (10/08/2023): Ps. 80:7-19; Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46.

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[Jesus said], ‘the very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner …’ (v. 42a).

Jesus is in Jerusalem challenged by chief priests and elders. He now directs teachings against the temple cultus by playing off today’s OT lesson where God rhapsodizes of his love for Israel, “Let Me sing for my Beloved My love song concerning his vineyard …” (Isa. 5:1a). Against his opponents Jesus speaks several parables.

Jesus directs his temple enemies to turn from their opposition and understand God’s love toward Israel in light of Ps. 118, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (vv. 22, 23).

The parable of the Faithless Vineyard Tenants within Israel is a hardly veiled accusation of wrack and ruin at the hands of the priesthood and ruling elders (Mt. 21:43). Contentions are heating-up that will culminate in Jesus’ murder. The Lord’s patience toward the tenant farmers is extraordinary given their history of abuse in treating God’s vineyard, his Church as their own possession.

JB came in the “way of righteousness” (Mt. 21:32), God’s collect prophet at the end of the OT age, recapitulating all earlier prophets who had confronted Israel’s religious class with God’s ways, and now in these last days, his Son sent to receive his due fruit. (e.g., Isa. 7:14; 9:6, 7).

Still, only when the tenant farmers rendered their final disrespect, murdering his Son, does God pronounce the judgment of guilt and innocence in sending his Son, “division” and “judgment” in Christ (Lk. 12:49-56). Those who believe Jesus’ sonship (Mt. 3:17) and the Baptist’s proclamation, that this is “God’s sacrificial Lamb” for forgiveness of unbelief (Jn. 1:29, 36). Those believing are without guilt; but those rejecting the proffer of God’s Son are already condemned (3:18).

Earlier Jesus required a rich young man to divest his worldly wealth. The man departed from the company of disciples, which gave Peter pause to reflect over kingdom loss and gain, inquiring, “Lo, we have left everything to follow you. What then shall we have?” (Mt. 19:27).

Today’s, confrontation with chief priests and elders put them on notice of coming loss for refusing to see Jesus as God’s marvelous new cornerstone for love of Israel; and “the reign of God will be taken away [from those objecting] … and given to a nation which produces its fruits.” (21:43).

But who then would replace the chief priests and elders farming the vineyard; who would reign in God’s stead for good fruit? Jesus already answered his Apostles, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man shall sit on his glorious throne, you [who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt. 19:28).

The Church’s apostolic faith, God in Christ with, us is our end-time Truth. In consequence, the Vineyard tenants reign would be given over to Jesus’ Torah teachings and judgments in accord with his enthroned Apostles.

Apostolic rule with Christ in the resurrection, coheres with Jesus and JB having come in the “way of Righteousness” (21:32); apostolic authority orients the NT Church’s lived-out belief, practice, and economy of love suggested by an earlier parable, The Vineyard Workers (20:1-16), that in the Kingdom, all comparisons among believers, whether laboring 11 hours or entering the last minute, are odious.

Jesus crucified through murderous elevation was meant for evil (cf. Gen. 50:20); but God expresses love by his Son’s crucified glory. If, the Apostles with Christ in these last days are co-adjudicatures of Vineyard good fruit, then importantly we are to discern God’s expectation of good grapes vs. “wild ones” as under the old supervision? (Isa. 5:2, 4).

While on earth as disciples, the Apostles were hardly “beatified”; rather fully enmeshed in the venality of man’s sin nature. To put a fine point, the Apostles, but for repentance and enlightenment from the HS, were indistinguishable from their former brother, Judas Iscariot, who chose “his own place” apart from Christ (Acts 1:25).

In the Resurrection the Eleven entered into judgment of Judas’ treason, and replacing him for Office reign over congregational fidelity to God’s True word and sacrament. The apostolic Office exists to cultivate church doctrine and judge its faithful application. Aligned with Jesus in his Church, as her orienting cornerstone, we are apostolically instructed of the Holy Thursday’s Supper, Good Friday’s passion and death, and Jesus’ Resurrection power.

The Supper applies the Passion of Gethsemane and Golgotha in the Church; there Jesus and his Apostles taught of his drained-Blood and koshered-Flesh for Vineyard life and nourishment (cf. Lk. 13:6-9). The Church remembers, proclaims and affirms this Eucharistic faith and practice in Jesus’ death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26).

But horror of horrors; less than three days after Jesus’ meal and death, Thomas denied it all, saying of his bothers’ witness to the Resurrection, “I will not believe” (Jn. 20:25b)! “Not believe”, what; that Jesus rose, certainly that; but more, unbelief of all Truth by the way of righteous Resurrection power (Phil. 3:9b, 10a); everything Jesus delivered for his Church’s life in Supper and Passion. Thomas denied it all, chiming more closely with Judas Iscariot, than even Peter’s thrice denial of “not knowing the Man”.

Later Jesus would Absolve Peter (Jn. 21:15-19); but first, on the Second Sunday of the Resurrection Jesus again appeared to the Apostles to baptize Thomas into his death wounds, who made the Church’s final confession, “My God and my Lord”; at which he was admonished, “do not be unfaithful but faithful [i.e., in the things entrusted to you for Israel’s fruit]” (20:27).

God desires Vineyard fruit; but how can we render it, when of ourselves we generate only “wild grapes”? This is the point of Baptism and Supper; in Christ God has his pleasing fruit. St. Paul explains; Baptism has “made [us Christ’s] own” (Phil. 3:12b). In his Supper, he presents us an offering through his separated Flesh and Blood for our atonement, who graciously returns it for priestly consumption, a Thank offering. Amen. pem.