Your Joy-filled, Eternal, God-Given Purpose
33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him” (Matthew 21:33-44).
What is the key word in the passage? Fruit! V. 34—When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to get his fruit! V. 41—He will…let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons. V. 43—the kingdom of God will be…given to a people producing its fruits. Fruit, fruit, fruit, fruit!
Most of you were here several weeks ago when I discussed why Jesus cursed the fig tree on his way into Jerusalem. It was an object lesson meant to warn the disciples against fruitlessness, and it was a foreshadowing of the spiritual condition of many. When Jesus became hungry and drew near to the fig tree, he found nothing but leaves and said, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
King Solomon said, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” I think Solomon is saying, bear fruit! Because if you fear God but don’t keep his commandments, you’re fruitless. And if you keep his commandments but don’t fear him, you’re fruitless.
The whole duty of the creation of God is to bear fruit. Everything in the world was made to bear fruit! Before a single soul walked this planet, God said, “‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was God.”
And after God made every sea creature and every winged animal, he said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’…And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”
[See Genesis 1 for the above list of quotations.]
Now if all the world bore fruit for food and if men and women were all perfectly fruitful in multiplying the human race but failed to bear fruit for God, the world would be empty and pointless.
In other words, the fruitfulness of a tree or a fish or a human being was designed by God to ultimately point towards the fruit of eternity—the fruit of a people whose whole duty is to fear God and keep his commandments. God is longing for it! So let’s spend the remainder of the message drawing six truths from Matthew 21 concerning the will of God to bear fruit. If only you’ll take home two words from my sermon and build your life around them, let them be the two words, “Bear fruit!”
First, Jesus says God’s fundamental purpose for mankind is to bear fruit (for Him)
Jesus summarized the entire creation and purpose of the Jewish nation in the following way: “There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country.”
What’s he saying? He’s saying the borders of the nation of Israel were the boundaries of one massive vineyard planted by God. Israel was a vineyard! Israel was a vineyard not filled with grapevines but souls—souls planted by the living God to bear spiritual fruit for God.
Isn’t that amazing? We’ve been studying Exodus for some time now, and you may read the whole Exodus narrative and miss this point—not that it’s thematically absent, but we just think so superficially. We just see commands. We just see stories and don’t get the big picture.
God took hundreds of thousands of slaves descended from Abraham and delivered them powerfully from Egyptian bondage and led them to a new land—the land of Canaan. And as Jesus looked back to that historical moment, he said, in essence, “All of those souls were seedlings, and Canaan was a great vineyard, and the scheme of the Father was that these seedlings would be planted in a new land, free from oppressors, where they could be cultivated to bear fruit for God!”
So, do you think God has a similar purpose for us? So many poor souls are utterly despaired in the world today. “Why do I exist!?” They’ve been told their whole lives that they’re nothing more than a collection of particles made by chance. No wonder the world is so depressed. That’s not a purpose! I don’t wanna just be an animal. I don’t wanna die and there be confined to the dirt for all eternity.
Saints of God need to know that we have real, lasting, significant, purpose! We matter. According to Jesus, God made us that we might be bearers of the thing the creator of the universe most wants—fruit! Do you think that’ll encourage a despairing soul? “Listen, God is calling for you partner with him whereby you can participate in the greatest scheme the world has ever known.
The highest calling of the church is to bear fruit, which is why Jesus said, “By this my father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” And the greatest warrant for your soul is that you make everyone to know that.
Second, God has gone to great lengths to secure for himself this fruit
Five attempts to receive fruit are expressed in this text:
(1) God planted a vineyard. For what other reason would somebody plant a vineyard than to receive fruit from it?
(2) When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to get his fruit (v. 34). From a distant country, knowing the time for fruit was near, he sent his servants a long distance to get his fruit for him. But what happened when those servants made it to the vineyard? “The tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another” (v. 35).
(3) After his former servants were murdered in their attempt to get his fruit, he sent other servants, more than the first. To put more servants in harm’s way in order that he might receive his fruit illustrates the seriousness of the vineyard owner. It illustrates the value of the fruit. It was more valuable than his servants’ lives. But what happened when those servants went? The tenants “did the same to them” (v. 36).
(4) After many of his servants were murdered in their mission to bring back fruit, he sent his son. “They will respect my son,” he said. Would you send your son to such hostile people? They’ve beaten and killed every other servant who came their way. But what happened to his son? The tenants said, “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
(5) Despite the death and many servants and his only son, he continued his venture for fruit with new tenants. Jesus said after the parable, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” So he’s still seeking fruit!
God formed Israel as a vineyard, wholly created to bear much fruit for God. And when Israel didn’t bear fruit, God sent prophets, and he sent judges, and he sent oppressors, and again and again Israel did not yield to God the fruit he so desired. Jesus said in Matthew 23, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Is that not amazing!? God loves us. God wants us to be in a relationship with him so much that he’s gone to immeasurable lengths to get our attention. The text teaches us that most attempts were thwarted by man’s selfishness, but God persists.
Lest we’re careful, we could get the idea from the parable that God is just going after us so he can get a bunch of stuff from us. Two passages need to be inserted here to safeguard against that heresy: (1) 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:24-25).
(2) In the parable, the man sent his son to get fruit. Let John 3:16-17 contextualize what was really happening when he went to get fruit: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
So if God is gathering fruit from us, it isn’t because he needs anything—it’s an act wholly done for our God. More on that in the very last point today.
Third, God has supplied every necessary resource to be abundantly fruitful
Now I’m not big on alliterations, but this one came so naturally that I couldn’t resist. The resources necessary to bear fruit for God are these: Protection, Provision, and Polity. And all of these were given by God. Man didn’t take out a loan or anything to get them.
Read verse 33 and see if you can pull out those three resources totally supplied by God—protection, provision, and polity: “There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants.”
First of all, I cannot stress enough the importance of this point—All of the necessary resources to bear fruit are given by God! Everything supplied here was supplied by the master of the house. Did you see that?
Now, first, he supplied protection. Two parts of the passage illustrate this: He put a fence around the vineyard and built a tower. In other words, nobody was getting in to take this guys fruit or harm his tenants. Ms. Audrey told me recently that some guy just wanders onto her property and takes fruit off her trees. And it infuriates her! Well, she needs to build an electrical fence and higher out some guards.
So what does this mean? The people of Israel were protected by the host of the power of the highest God in the universe! If they were taken captive or destroyed by an enemy, it wasn’t the fault of God. It was their folly—breaking down borders, building alliances with pagan nations, and opening themselves up to enemies.
Second, he supplied provision: The text says he dug a winepress in the vineyard. So naturally the workers would have had opportunity to themselves drink from the produce of the land. He didn’t lock them in there to starve. It was a very fruitful land.
Third, he gave polity. What I mean is, he gave them some guidelines to prevent anarchy and ensure success. I get that from the words “and leased it to tenants.” Within a lease, there’s a binding contract, a law. And ultimately it protects both the owner and the renter. The tenants, by virtue of a lease, knew they were not the owners of the land, and therefore they had rules by which they would operate—one of them probably being, “Give fruit when I come for it.”
With protection, provision, and polity, God ensured success! The only thing in the world that would prevent success would not have been due to him. It would have been due to disloyalty or break of contract or something else.
What this means is, in our endeavors to bear fruit for God, every resource necessary to complete his will is already supplied by him.
Fourth, Fruit is grown by God but granted by our will
Here’s what I mean: The entirety of the venture to produce fruit was secured by the measures established by God. But what happens if the tenants don’t cultivate the fruit? What happens if the tenants sit all day on their bums behind the protection of a fence and eat everything for themselves? What happens if those who come to receive the fruit are murdered and unsuccessful?
Every measure in the world procured by God does not mean you will bear fruit. It just means that if you don’t bear fruit, it isn’t his fault. It’s yours.
Every attempt to receive fruit from the people of Israel was thwarted by faithlessness and treachery. So Jesus said to the people of Israel, “I’m finding a new people—a new set of tenants—who will give fruit when the time comes.”
Now if you look back into Israel’s history, you’ll understand better why Israel gave no fruit when God came. There was no fruit to give! God gave his people land, protection, provision, and a law, and the people capitalized on every resource except one. Which one do you think? The Law! In fact, for a long time the law literally got lost and when Josiah found it, he wept bitterly because he knew Israel had not been observing its statutes.
This is the world we are in today. We would love the land, the protection, the provision of Jesus. But don’t say a word to me about his law! Don’t tell me he won’t like my lifestyle. That’s insensitive and hurtful.
I launched a website recently—Finding Canaan. The premise of the site is precisely to supply the world with the missing resource needed for fruitfulness. So, fruit is yielded by God. Paul said God brings the growth, but we need to be planting the word of God and watering the places where it’s been planted, otherwise fruit won’t come.
Fifth, there’s an inseparable connection between fruitfulness and building one’s life into the cornerstone of Jesus Christ.
Jesus asked the crowd to whom he preached this message, “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” That’s the right answer, but notice what Jesus said about it.
“Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people (lit. Gentile nation) producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
Who is the cornerstone Jesus references? It’s Jesus—himself. Paul said in Ephesians 2 that Jesus is the chief cornerstone. A cornerstone was highly important in ancient building projects. A stone with a perfectly cut square would be selected to form the first part of the house. If the stone were imperfect, it would screw up the dimensions and angles of the whole structure.
So God, a long time ago, through the prophetic Psalmist, said, basically, “The cornerstone by which I will build my holy temple will be Jesus, but when he comes, he will be rejected and thrown out by men.”
Being dismissed or thrown out didn’t have any bearing on what God could do with him though. The stone they rejected was still made the cornerstone. It was just a cornerstone for a different structure, for a different people, in a different land. And after it was all built, God would no longer dwell in the temple. The Jews could keep their abode in the physical temple of Jerusalem, but there’d just be no God there anymore! Which means, there’d be no protection, no provision, and no Law. Which is exactly why in AD 70 Rome marched into Jerusalem and tore the temple to shreds, killed millions of Jews, and led others off into slavery.
So Jesus told the people of Israel very plainly, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” Did you see the connection between rejecting Jesus and being fruitless?
Do you want to be fruitful? Build your life into Jesus Christ. Cozy yourself right up next to him and let everything you do be built around his life, his teaching, his example, his pattern, his integrity, his love, his purity, his prayerfulness, his zeal for the Father.
What does that look like in real life? There’s an indication in the quote Jesus gave from the Psalmist: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
God purposely offered a stone he knew most people would reject. God purposely built his holy temple around the stone most people rejected. And most of the world wants nothing to do with him for just that reason. Most of the world likewise rejects him because “he’s not the kind of stone I wanna build my life around, and he’s not the kind of stone my friends would like. I wouldn’t wanna be squared up like that! It just doesn’t jive with my scene. And even if I wanted it, I wouldn’t be able to stand the way others looked at me and scoffed.”
But what did the Psalmist say? He said, “this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” That’s the key! Don’t let the opinion of the masses dissuade you. Don’t let your first glance at Jesus turn you from him. Look upon him as the marvelous specimen that he is. He’s everything. He’ll be your protector, your provider, your Savior. Build your life around him and become fruitful for God.
Sixth, what is the fruit God is seeking?
Let me answer the question in the negative first: What is God not seeking? He’s not seeking our death. He came to his people over a series of many prophets, gracefully bearing with them—even when they murdered his people. It wasn’t until way into their history that he said, “I’m leaving you.” When he left them, they died—if they didn’t come back to him. So the fruit he sought all along wasn’t anything negative or bad for his people.
But verse 43 says, “the kingdom of God will be…given to a people producing its fruits.” So, the fruit he’s seeking is the fruit of God. In other words, whatever kinds of things God does and God bears, that’s the fruit he’s seeking from us.
Paul gives a well-rounded description of what it is: “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
So God is seeking your love, which brings joy to your life, which creates peace, which then produces a wealth of patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control.
God wants your love because by it he knows you will be truly peaceful and lastingly joyful.
The fundamental purpose for your life is to bear fruit for God; God has gone to great lengths, from eternity past, to secure fruit for himself; God provides everything you need to be successful in fruitfulness; but remember, fruit is produced by God but is dependent on our will to give it. So build your life in Jesus and be fruitful. This is the whole duty of man.
Do you believe in Jesus this morning? Paul said that we are joined with Christ in a baptism of water (Romans 6). Peter said it is for the forgiveness of sins. Come now, if you are so compelled.
© Finding Canaan. All rights reserved. "Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another" -- Jeremiah 23:30