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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Luke 20

 

 

Verse 15

DISCOURSE: 1569

THE WICKED HUSBANDMEN

Luke 20:15. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?

WHEN the mind is unbiassed, it can easily discern between truth and error, especially where the grounds of judgment are clear and strong. But where persons are under the influence of prejudice or worldly interest, they are blind to the most obvious conclusions, and obstinately tenacious of the most absurd opinions. Hence our Lord spake so much in parables; because his adversaries, not aware of their drift at first, were easily brought to acknowledge things, which, if more plainly delivered, would have excited the most inveterate opposition. In this manner he gained their assent to the equity of God in executing the heaviest judgments on themselves and their whole nation.

This was the scope of the parable before us [Note: Read the whole parable, ver. 9–16.] — — — in opening which, we shall shew,

I. In whom this heinous wickedness is found—

It was manifestly accomplished in those to whom the parable was spoken—

[God had planted his Church among the Jews, and had cultivated it with peculiar care [Note: Isaiah 5:1-4.]. From it he expected a revenue of honour and glory: and when the people were forgetful to pay it, he sent his prophets to remind them of their duty, and to stir them up to the performance of it. But they abused his messengers in every successive age, and beat them, and sent them away empty. He, however, averse to punish them as they deserved, sent, last of all, his Son, in hopes that, when they should see his exalted dignity, his clear credentials, and his unbounded benevolence, they would reverence and obey him. But they, wishing to retain undisturbed possession of their lusts, determined to cast him out and kill him. And though, when warned that they would do so, they exclaimed, ‘God forbid that we should treat the Messiah thus [Note: ver. 16.]!’ they actually fulfilled the parable within the space of three days, and put to death God’s only begotten Son.]

And is it not accomplished in us also?

[It is true that we cannot crucify him as the Jews did, because he is not within our reach; but nevertheless we cast him out with as much indignity as ever they did. As he was among them, “the man whom the nation abhorred,” so is he still “despised and rejected of men,” “a butt of contradiction” to an ungodly world [Note: Luke 2:34-35.]. How is he treated by the ungodly and profane [Note: Shew under each of these heads (printed in Italics) what the Lord requires of them; which however they will not do.]? When he comes to them in the ministry of the word, and demands their hearts for God, do they not thrust him away, saying, “Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us [Note: Acts 7:27.]?” “We will not have this man to reign over us [Note: Luke 19:14.]?” And how do the self-righteous moralists regard him [Note: Shew under each of these heads (printed in Italics) what the Lord requires of them; which however they will not do.]? When he calls them to build on him as the only foundation of their hopes, do they not make him a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence [Note: Romans 9:30-33.]? Do they not persist in going about to establish their own righteousness, instead of thankfully submitting to his [Note: Romans 10:3.]? Among his very followers too, are there not many self-deceiving professors [Note: Shew under each of these heads (printed in Italics) what the Lord requires of them; which however they will not do.], who acknowledge him in words, but in works deny him [Note: Titus 1:16.]? If others crucify him more openly, these, like Judas, betray him with a kiss. Lastly, what shall be said of vile apostates [Note: Shew under each of these heads (printed in Italics) what the Lord requires of them; which however they will not do.], who having once embraced his cause, decline from his ways, and go back unto the world? Are we not expressly told, that they crucify him afresh [Note: Hebrews 6:6.], and “tread him under foot?” By all of these then is Jesus cast out of the vineyard, as much as ever he was by the Jews of old.]

Let us then consider attentively,

II. What portion such persons must expect—

The Jews, as our Lord foretold, were visited with the heaviest calamities—

[They, when interrogated by our Lord, confessed what such labourers must expect at the hands of their lord [Note: Matthew 21:41.]. And behold, it happened to them according to their word. That generation was not passed away, before their city was burnt up, their people were massacred without distinction, and their whole polity, civil and religious, was dissolved. Nor can any one reflect on their treatment of their Messiah, without acknowledging the equity of those unparalleled judgments that were inflicted on them.]

And shall not the wrath of God fall on those also who contemn him now?

[Let our Lord’s appeal be considered, “What shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?” Would any rational person imagine that he should shew kindness to such obstinate transgressors? Do we not see immediately that God must be incensed against them? must he not be displeased with those who withhold from him the tribute of their love? Must he not be indignant also that his messages of mercy are so continually slighted? And above all, must not the contempt poured upon his only dear Son, provoke him to anger? What can we expect, but that his wrath should wax hot against us, and “burn even to the lowest hell [Note: Deuteronomy 32:22.]?” Let any one impartially consider the ingratitude and impiety of such conduct, and he will confess that the everlasting punishment of such offenders is no more than adequate to their just desert [Note: Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 10:28-29.].]

Let us then learn from this parable,

1. That we are accountable to God for all the advantages we enjoy—

[If God has made us his vineyard, and bestowed culture upon us, doubtless such a favour entails upon us an obligation to love and serve him. And if he have sent a succession of faithful servants to remind us of our duty, and direct us in the performance of it, this also calls for correspondent acknowledgments from us. Above all, if he have sent us his only dear Son, not only to instruct us, but to die for us, we should be incessantly filled with admiration of his love, and with zeal for his glory. But these very mercies, if overlooked and despised, will bring upon us the heavier indignation. Think then for how many things, both temporal and spiritual, you are indebted to God; and begin immediately to render to him his dues. That which, above all, he requires is, the tribute of a grateful heart. O that he may receive it daily from us; and that we may devote ourselves to him in body, soul, and spirit!]

2. That we are peculiarly responsible for our treatment of Jesus Christ—

[Christ is the Father’s greatest gift. Our past abuse of all his other mercies may be forgiven, provided we be duly sensible of this mercy. However long we have alienated God’s property, yea, however shamefully we have abused his other messengers, if now we repent us of our sins, and turn to him in the name of Jesus, he will pardon our past transgressions, and remember our iniquities no more. But, if we continue to slight the Saviour, all other changes will be to no purpose. We may turn from profaneness to morality, or may even profess a regard for Jesus himself; yet if we do not cordially receive him for all the ends and purposes for which he was sent into the world, we shall only deceive ourselves to our eternal ruin. Let us then “look on him whom we have pierced, and mourn.” Then shall God’s indignation be turned to love; and we shall be made partakers of his eternal inheritance.]


Verse 17-18

DISCOURSE: 1570

THE REJECTED CORNER STONE

Luke 20:17-18. And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

MANY truths delivered by our Lord militated strongly against the carnal notions of his hearers: they were ready on many occasions to reply, “This is an hard saying, who can hear it?” But he invariably appealed to their own Scriptures in confirmation of his word. Nor could any better method of silencing their objections be possibly devised. He had just warned the priests and elders that they would kill their Messiah; and that God would on that account transfer his Church to the Gentiles [Note: ver. 13–16.]. They, not conceiving that either of those events could ever take place, cried, “God forbid!” Our Lord, in reply, referred them to their own Scriptures, and added a most awful declaration of his own, in order that he might impress the passage more deeply on their minds. We shall consider,

I. The passage appealed to—

The words in their primary sense refer to David [Note: David’s establishment on the throne of Israel had been opposed to the uttermost: Saul had laboured incessantly to kill him: after the death of Saul, two tribes only acknowledged him as their king: it was seven years before the other tribes became subject to him: and then all the surrounding nations sought his destruction. But God made him triumphant over all: in remembrance of which mercy he penned the words before us. See Psalms 118:10; Psalms 118:22.]—

But they most undoubtedly have a reference to Christ also—

[Christ is represented in Scripture as the stone that should both support and connect the Church of God [Note: Isaiah 28:16.]: and the passage referred to in the text particularly declared, that he should be rejected by the very persons whose duty it was to edify and build up the Church. It announced however the determination of God to frustrate their designs, and to establish him as the head of the corner in spite of all their endeavours to destroy him. In this view the passage is quoted no less than six times in the New Testament: and its full accomplishment was triumphantly proclaimed before the very builders who had rejected him [Note: Acts 2:36; Acts 4:11-12.]—]

The particular manner in which our Lord appealed to them is worthy of notice—

[He “beheld” the objectors with a mixture of indignation and pity. He referred them to the words as to a passage well known among them, and generally considered even among themselves as applicable to the Messiah. His very look, together with the pointed manner of his address, intimated to them, that they were at that moment ignorantly fulfilling that prophecy, and that nothing but the most inveterate prejudice could induce them to persist one moment longer in such glaring impiety.]

The importance of this appeal will more strongly appear, if we consider,

II. The declaration founded upon it—

The latter part of the text is understood by most as intimating the more aggravated punishment that persecutors would incur beyond that of other unbelievers [Note: They suppose also that there is an allusion to the manner in which persons were stoned to death, viz. by casting them down first upon a large stone, and then throwing large stones upon them.]. Perhaps we may rather understand it as importing,

1. That all, who stumble at Christ, greatly endanger their own souls—

[Many are the grounds of offence which Christ affords to proud and ungodly men. To some the sublimity, to others the simplicity, to some the strictness, and to others the grace of his Gospel, becomes a stumbling-block. Hence some professedly “deny the Lord who bought them,” while others, “call him Lord, but will not do what he commands.” These equally stumble at Christ himself [Note: 1 Peter 2:8.]. And as he who falls upon a great stone, will bruise and maim his body, so does he who thus stumbles at Christ wound his own soul [Note: What pangs of conscience, and dread of death and judgment, do such persons experience!]. Solomon, expressly speaking of Christ, attests this awful truth [Note: Proverbs 8:30; Proverbs 8:36.]—]

2. That they who provoke him to cut them off in their impenitence, will perish certainly and without a remedy—

[Many have rejected him for a season, and found acceptance with him at last; but they who abide in unbelief must inevitably perish. The despised Jesus will fall upon them at the last day, and grind them to powder: the weight of rocks and mountains would not more effectually crush a potter’s vessel, than he will his obstinate and unbelieving enemies [Note: Psalms 2:9.].]

Surely this is a declaration which deserves the deepest attention—

[They who oppose the truth of Christ, think that they shall retard his work; at least, they do not apprehend that they shall endanger themselves. But they “kick against the pricks [Note: Acts 9:5.].” As well may persons hope to wound a rock by casting themselves down upon it, as that they shall ever prevail against the Church of Christ: the injury will ultimately be sustained by themselves alone. The voice of God therefore in the text is like that of David, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way [Note: Psalms 2:12.].]

Advices—

1. Attend diligently to every word of God which ye read or hear—

[The knowledge, which the Jews had by means of the Scriptures, rendered their guilt in rejecting Christ incomparably more heinous than that of the Roman soldiers; and we who enjoy the still clearer light of the New Testament, must contract ten-fold guilt if we reject him. How shall we be able to endure that appeal which will be made to us in the day of judgment, ‘Were not such and such things written respecting me? were not my invitations, promises, and expostulations set before you? were you not forewarned of the evils which a rejection of me would bring upon you?’ — — — Give earnest heed then to the word ye hear, lest, instead of proving a savour of life unto life, it become a savour of death unto death [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:16.].]

2. Examine carefully what regard ye are paying to Christ—

[All do not make him the head of the corner: many reject him still. If we be not with him, we are against him [Note: Matthew 12:30.]. All that disobey him, as truly stumble at him, as if they were his avowed enemies [Note: 1 Peter 2:8.]. Inquire then whether ye make him the foundation whereon ye build, and the corner-stone that unites you in love to every part of God’s spiritual temple. By this must ye know that ye are his true disciples.]

3. Be thankful if you have attained even the smallest knowledge of Christ—

[There is no hope whatever for those who, in a Christian land, die ignorant of Christ [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:8.]. But they who know him, have nothing to fear. To them is promised eternal life [Note: John 17:3.]. When the whole assembly of the ungodly shall be banished from his presence, they shall stand with great boldness [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10.]. When the wicked will be crying to the rocks and mountains to fall upon them, the followers of the Lamb will be triumphing in their God. This promise is sure to all the seed [Note: Romans 9:33.]. Let Jesus then be more precious to all our souls; let us willingly consent to his being the head of the corner; let us, as lively stones, ever seek to be built up upon him [Note: 1 Peter 2:4-5.]; and, though we should be despised and rejected like him, let us never be ashamed of owning him as all our salvation and all our desire.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Luke 20:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/luke-20.html. 1832.

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