What Got Jesus Crucified? Or Lorem Ipsum


The cover art is a vineyard. What's Lorem Ipsum? It's from the realm of graphic design. It's Latin with no intelligible meaning. It's a place holder for text that will be put here. And what you put over the vineyard will go a long way to helping you understand what got Jesus crucified.

The short answer is our sins, the world's sins, my sin. But let's look at what took place Tuesday of Holy Week right before our text. The end of chapter 19 sets the situation up: "Every day Jesus was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill Him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on His words." Chapter 20 opens with Jesus teaching and evangelizing the people in the temple. The church leaders demand to know by what authority He did this. He says He'll answer that if they will answer whether the Baptism of John was from heaven or men. The leaders know but refuse to answer since if they admit it was from heaven they will be exposed as not believing God. And if they claim it was from men, the people will stone them for they believed John was a prophet. Since they won't answer Jesus' question, He won't answer theirs and instead tells this parable where we see what got Him crucified.

Jesus dared to say the bad guys in the vineyard were the current leaders of the church. The end of the text proves it: "The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest Him immediately, because they knew He had spoken this parable against them." They know they're the bad farmers who reject the owner's due and resort to beating, treating shamefully, and wounding the slaves sent on the his behalf. They know they are the ones who plot to kill the owner's son to get his inheritance. So, they are the ones whom the owner "will come and kill...and give the vineyard to others."

Jesus dared expose the leaders whom the people admired, feared, obeyed as rebels, insurgents, fighters of God who refused God His fruit. And just what fruit did God come looking for from the OT church leaders? What did John the Baptist and Jesus come seeking? Repentance. Read Mat. 3:1-2: "In those days John the Baptist came, preaching...,'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'" After Herod imprisons John, what does Matthew 4 say? "When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He returned to Galilee. ... From that time on Jesus began to preach, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near'" (12,17). So the slaves of the vineyard owner don't come seeking delicious fruit but their sins. They don't come seeking something that enriches these famers but blackens their souls and haunts their consciences. The slaves don't come seeking to profit from the farmers, but to take away a weight, a sickness, a dirtiness. Why should that move them to anger, to hatred, to violence? Keep listening.

What got Jesus crucified? Answer that and you'll know what words to replace Lorem Ipsum or replace those words rightly and you'll know what got Jesus crucified. Moving on, we see here that Jesus dared to say the OT church leaders were under judgment for rejecting the prophets. Remember it's only 3 days before Jesus dies. Jesus' whole ministry is almost complete. Years ago Jesus preached, "'Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in His wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world,'" (Lk. 11:47-51). Not just the blood of the prophets but the Son's too.

For years Jesus had been identifying Himself as the Son of Man. The Father from heaven 3 years earlier had owned Him as His beloved, chosen Son. And here we're just days before the OT church leaders are going to judge Jesus worthy of death for that reason. We read: "Again the high priest asked Him, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?' 'I am,' said Jesus. 'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.' The high priest tore his clothes. 'Why do we need any more witnesses?' he asked. 'You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?' They all condemned Him as worthy of death" (Mk. 14:61b-64). And the very last interchange before His arrest in Gethsemane is at the end of our present chapter. It reads: "Then Jesus said to them, 'How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David? ... David calls him 'Lord.' How then can He be his son'" (Lk. 20:41-44)?

Let there be no doubt about what's going on: the Father sends His only beloved Son to get the fruit from the farmers. The only fruit sinners can produce is sins. Remember Is. 64:6: "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags". What is best, noblest, brightest about us is sinful! And that's what Jesus came for. The OT leaders know He's the Son. The description Jesus gives in the parable of Himself, "My son, My Beloved" reproduces the Father's Words spoken at His Baptism earlier in Luke 3. So what we have here is on the level of the late 60's hit, "One Tin Soldier." The valley-folk kill the mountain's people for the treasurer that the mountain people are more than willing to share with them. And what was that treasure the valley-folk killed the mountain-folk for: "Now they stood beside the treasure/ On the mountain, dark and red/ Turned the stone and looked beneath it/ 'Peace on Earth' was all it said."

Now let's give the valley-folk in our text their due. In the midst of building their kingdom for God, they tried to work around the Son but to no avail. They kept stumbling over Him. They tried to set Him aside as crazy, as having a demon, as a Samaritan, as suicidal. But there He was, looking for their sins: "Come unto Me all you who are burden and heavy laden and I will give you rest", He said (Mt. 11:28-30). And, "Whosoever comes to Me I will in no way cast out" (Jn. 6:37). No, God can have our obedience, our offerings, our faith even, but not our sins. And in this text the Tuesday before the Thursday they will enact their Satanic plan to kill the Son, even now He's bothering them with gracious language. But you can't hear that in our insert, or in most translations, so you miss what got Jesus crucified. You miss what Lorem Ipsum over the vineyard are a place holder for.

What infuriates the OT church leaders, and most institutional church leaders of every time and place is the language of grace. Do you think grace is going to build buildings? Pay missionaries? And grace is going to be used by some as license to sin. That's what Paul is accused of read Romans 3: "Why not say--as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say--'Let us do evil that good may result'" (8)? Or Romans 6: "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase" (15)? The leaders knew the langue of law, business, and getting one's due. Jesus preaches here in the language of gift, of grace.

Translations start you on the law/business road by translating "rented it to farmers." Others have "let it out to tenants" (ESV). "Rented it out to vine growers" (NASB). Two Greek words are being translated "let it out" or "rented". The first is ekdidomi. It's only used in this parable in the NT. Later on when the Owner comes and kills the first group, Jesus says He will "give the vineyard to others." This is the Greek word: didomi. It's used all over the NT and means to give, to grant. The first word ekdidomi is the word didomi with the preposition ek in front of. So it is a more detailed, complete giving. It's to give out of. Matthew 21's account of this parable makes it clear these two are synonymous because where Luke has didomi Matthew has ekdidomi. Another word that's colors how you hear this parable is georgos. Sometimes the NIV insert translates 'farmer' and sometimes 'tenant'. The KJV always translates 'husbandmen'. It literally means "land worker", or 'farmer' or even 'vine-growers'. What it doesn't mean is 'tenant' or 'renter'.

After many prophets came looking for the fruit of sinners, which is their sins, and they rejected every one, the Father sends His only beloved Son. But the farmers don't want to give Him their sins either, and so killed Him. But that doesn't stop the Owner of the vineyard, does it? In fact, His Son's death enables Him to freely give the vineyard to others. But see how the people, people like you, react to their leaders being justly judged and they graciously being given the vineyard: "May this never be!" Then Jesus quotes Psalm 118, the Psalm sung at Passover: The Rock rejected by the OT leaders becomes the Capstone. And then He applies that figure. Those who fall on this Stone as their leaders do will be broken into pieces. But he on who it should fall will be crushed. You hear that and you think there's only one outcome of the Rock, of the Son of Man, being killed. It's "broken to pieces" or "crushed".

Wrong. The King James has it right translating: "On whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." Here the parable may pop into focus. This Greek word means "to winnow, cleanse away the chaff from the grain by winnowing." Jesus came to do what you can't do. Separate you from your sins and sinfulness. He calls for you give up your sins to Him, where they are nailed, whipped, and punished for good and forever. He calls you to be ground under the weight of the Son's holy life and bitter death, so that He can gather you into His barn of salvation. One more thing for this parable to pop. When the people react saying this gracious thing can never be, Jesus doesn't "look directly at them." Nope, it's the same word for Jesus turning and looking at the denying Peter. This is the loving, winning, forgiving look that melts hearts.

Finally: what words do we place above the vineyard? For leaders, those under the Law it's, 'For Rent', but for broken, broke, confessed sinners it's, Free Gift. Amen

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Fifth Sunday in Lent (20220403); Luke 20:9-19