Jesus reveals surprising things about who enjoys blessings and who endures woe. He invites his disciples to shower radical love, blessings, forgiveness, generosity, and trust, even to enemies and outsiders. In holy baptism God makes saints out of sinners. In holy communion God forgives the sins of all the saints. On All Saints Day we give thanks for all the saints “who from their labors rest,” who have fought the good fight, who have gained the crown. In the same breath we petition our God for the strength to hear and to heed the admonitions of the Lord Jesus in today’s gospel. Recalling that we have been sealed by the Spirit and sustained by the Savior’s body and blood, we keep on keeping on as God gives us breath, to the praise of God’s glory.
* This Sunday is Reformation Sunday when we celebrate our Lutheran heritage and membership in the oldest and largest Protestant denomination. And yet, in what ways do we cling to that heritage instead of to Christ?
* Do we really know Christ Jesus to be the "truth" (v 32)? In "what" or "whom" do we place our faith? For many, faith and trust is put in the security of our incomes, investments, and retirement prospects. Whenever Jesus no longer becomes the "truth that sets us free," we lose our freedom (v 31).
* The ultimate tragedy is that God has no room for the religious, or being Lutheran. Without faith in Christ alone, we miss the promise. The faithless are deprived of any permanent place in God's "household" (v.35).
* Faith alone frees us: + from the power of sin, + for the ability to continue in the Word. Truly living a life of faith in Christ is what we celebrate on Reformation Sunday.
* The "faith" proclaimed by Paul, and Augustine, and then eventually Luther is a living faith in Christ that is real in our daily living. It is faith in Christ that revealed the truth to Luther and "set him free."
* It was the gift of faith that enabled Luther to continue in God's Word. It was faith in Christ that animated and empowered Luther's discipleship. It was faith that shaped Luther's reforms. And, it is faith in Christ that reveals God's truth to us about our sinful bondage and the new ability Christ offers us to continue in his Word.
* The Spirit's gift of faith connects us to Christ and offers us a place in God's "household." Getting into the household comes from having a member of the house, who lives there, invite us in. Christ Jesus is that one.
* What is faith? 1.) Ability to believe/cling to the Crucified one for salvation. 2.) Given through baptism to reveal our sinful separation from God.
The story of the emperor's coin describes three failures of religious leaders. The first failure was hypocrisy. The Pharisees would not acknowledge John or Jesus as sent by God (21:27), and tried to arrest Jesus (21:46). They pretended that they were open to Jesus so that they might test him as the devil did (4:1-16). Jesus acknowledged their trickery, but took their question seriously. The second failure was a wrong understanding of godly teaching. For the Pharisees, a true teacher debated and discerned how those who lived by the Jewish law might have managed under Caesar's tax. This was not Jesus' kind of teaching. He called for repentance due to the rule of God coming into the world in him. His teaching was divine prophecy, not human legality. The third failure was replacing the divine perspective with a human perspective. The Pharisees perceived correctly that Jesus paid heed to no one's prominence or position, but they did not see that Jesus' impartiality to humans was an expression of his partiality to God. As the parables of the two sons, the wicked tenants, and the great banquet have shown, thanksgiving and devotion to God's goodness and authority take precedent. The self-interests of the Pharisees - and of Caesar, as it affected them - were not worth a penny's attention compared to the attention due God's reign. Caesar might get the coin, but God gets our whole life. We are made in the image of God, so to give to God what is God's is to give God our whole life.
To understand this Gospel parable (Matt. 22:1-14), we need to see it as Jesus' attack on the religious leaders of his day. The parable, unlike most parables, is an allegory where each element stands for something else. In this parable: - The king is God, the Son is Jesus. - The invited guests are the people of Israel. - The first servants were the Hebrew prophets. - The later servants were Christian missionaries. - The "good and the bad" were members of the early church. - The wedding robe was the robe of "righteousness" given to Christians who, as sinners, were talking the talk, but not walking the walk. The wedding robe reminds us that we have become righteous by God's gracious gift to us - Christ's own righteousness. We have become righteous through the blood of the Lamb. The wedding robe symbolizes the righteousness of Christ we have been given (Rev. 19:8). This "wedding robe" represents putting on the baptismal garment of Christ (Galatians 3:27). It is being attired with a "new self" created in God's own likeness (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). By this baptismal robe, we are clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col. 3:12). Luther said, "Christ himself is our garment of righteousness and salvation." In the Early Church, all those who were to be baptized stripped and were baptized naked, after which they were clothed in a white robe to symbolize putting on the righteous robe of Christ. The white robes (albs) that worship leaders wear today are symbolic of the white baptismal robes the first Christians were given after their baptism. Through baptism, our sinful nature has been removed and we have been re-clothed with Christ's own righteousness (Galatians 3:27).
As God's people, we might reflect upon what God has given us. God has created us and our world and all that is in it. God has made a covenant with us in baptism and sealed that covenant through the blood of his Son. God sent his Holy Spirit among us to renew our potential for life. We, too, have received all that is necessary for productive lives. We are responsible to become mature in Christ. The householder of the parable showed great patience. He sent servant to the tenant. The tenants beat one of those who were sent, stoned one, killed one; still the householder sent additional servants. Even though the householder's servants were mistreated, he continued to give the tenants a chance to change and become the people they were meant to be. Finally the householder sent his son to the tenants. The patience of God as he deals with us is something to behold. Again and again, we experience his power and love. Every day God comes to us, loving us and forgiving us. The householder of the parable finally acted in judgment. He removed the tenants and entrusted his vineyard to others who would be responsible to the householder for what was his. We too are responsible for our actions. God is patient, but we are accountable. The freedom of the tenants is contrasted with their action toward the householder. The tenants want complete freedom; they do not wish to deliver to the householder what is his. The tenants wish to own and control the vineyard themselves. However, they discover that they are answerable to the householder.