Our scripture this week is Matthew 21:33-46.

“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

I have heard people say “I know you were preaching to me last Sunday”. Do you sometimes find the message seems to pertain especially to you? That was the situation for the religious leaders Jesus speaks to in this lesson, and He certainly was directing His message to them. (Inside note – most pastors I know don’t preach directly to a person or group, my sermons are often directed at myself!)

While Jesus was calling this group out for their poor leadership, it wasn’t just to shame them. Jesus honestly wants them to see the error in their thinking and behavior, to be convinced of their wrongdoing and ask forgiveness. That’s what He wants from all of us.

Jesus isn’t about blame and punishment. He took the consequences of the world’s sin on Himself that we might be freed to live in the love and joy God intends for us. He calls our faults to our attention not to put us down but to have us give them up and live new lives in Him.

Gracious God, we often ignore our sin and when we do become aware, we let it keep us from the love and mercy You offer. Help us to lay down the burden of sin we carry and turn to You in repentance. Amen.

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