Last chance! (06-12-2022)
Reading (Matthew 21:33-46
“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence round it and dug a wine press in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than at first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 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.”
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 marvellous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people 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.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
Like many people, in this technological age that we live in, I pick up my emails on my mobile phone. When an email arrives, I hear a pinging sound and I get a notification on the front of my phone to tell me that I have something new to read. In order for me to get a good, undisturbed night’s sleep all my notifications are paused between the hours of 11pm and 7am and don’t start again until after I pick up the phone in the morning. This means that in the mornings there can often be several new emails waiting for my attention. Recently it would seem that many of these early morning emails all seem to start in exactly the same way. The heading nearly always says something like ‘Last chance to buy’ or ‘Offer ends tonight’ or ‘20% off today only’. I appreciate the marketing that wants to make you feel that if you don’t do something now you will miss out and that it is the only chance you will get, but I’m afraid it doesn’t work with me as I simply delete the emails without reading anything more than the heading, knowing that tomorrow there will be yet more of these last chance offers.
Throughout the Old Testament we read how God sent prophets, messengers and angels to the Israelites on many occasions. Each time the Israelites responded, turned back to God for a while and then returned to their previous ways and previous gods. In the end God came up with his final solution, his last chance for the human race. He sent his Son into this world as a baby to live amongst us, to die for us and to rise again. This was an incredible final offer, a last chance that was never going to be repeated. In Matthew Chapter 21 we read the parable of the tenants, where Jesus illustrates what God has done and how he, as the Son, is the final solution, the last chance.
Many people treat Christmas a bit like I treat the unwanted emails that arrive on my phone. They sing the Christmas Carols, they even come into the church, but they ignore the message that goes with it. For them it is no more than a piece of marketing, just a part of Christmas, which will be repeated again next year. They miss the point that God came down to earth as a baby so that we might be saved. The problem, as I see it, is that God’s solution appears to be almost too impossible to be true. In the words of William How (1823-97), “It is a thing most wonderful, almost too wonderful to be, that God’s own Son should come from heaven and die to save a child like me.”
In the familiarity of the Christmas message, may we never lose sight of the enormity of what happened at that first Christmas. God gave us one last chance, one last chance to spend eternity with him.
Father God, let us never forget or take for granted just how amazing the gift of your Son is to us.