The Conflict


March 23, 1997 ~ Pickering Standard Church


Luke 20:1-19 - One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things," they said. "Who gave you this authority?"


He replied, "I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John’s baptism— was it from heaven, or from men?"


They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet." So they answered, "We don’t know where it was from."


Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things." He went on to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others."


When the people heard this, they said, "May this never be!"


Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: "‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." 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. But they were afraid of the people.


We live in an age of moral relativism. Our society is no longer founded exclusively on the Christian ethic; more and more it is being based on a majority ethic, that is: what the majority wants is right. Just a short time ago, by way of example, a homosexual would not proudly proclaim his sexual orientation but would instead hide it because society in general would condemn him. This was not because society of a short time ago could not understand homosexuality, or that society was frightened of homosexuality, but that society, based on its Christian heritage, condemned homosexuality. We cannot imagine such condemnation happening in society in general today because our society is no longer able to condemn such behaviour. There is no place where our society is able to stand in order to look at a thing and make a moral judgment on that thing. In fact, even moral judgments are discouraged to an ever greater degree.


The basis of the current relativism is found in the concept that man is on this planet not through the deliberate design of an intelligent and infinite Creator, but by chance. If man is here by chance then nothing has any meaning. There can be no basis for any form of moral judgment. This then falls back upon itself for if one cannot make any kind of moral judgment then how is a supporter of the new relativism able to tell me that I cannot make a moral judgment, the statement is itself a moral judgment.


Relativism will not fall on account of this failing however. People believe what they want to believe. You and I believe in Jesus Christ as our saviour in spite of opposition because to believe otherwise would mean that there is no ultimate purpose to our lives. Others believe in moral relativism in spite of opposition because to believe otherwise would mean that there is a standard and that standard must have been put in place by someone and that someone must naturally be God. As we discussed in Sunday School last week, the darkness avoids the light because the light exposes what it most wishes to hide.


The Pharisees confronting Jesus with the question of His authority were in the same situation. They were not evaluating Jesus regarding the validity of His message, although His answer would have done that for all willing to hear Him. They were instead seeking for an excuse by which they could kill Him, having already decided that He must die (John 11:47-53; 12:12-13). The Pharisees believed what they believed because to do otherwise would expose them for the hypocrites that they were. The proof of this is found in their reasoning together when Jesus asked them this question in return: "Was John's baptism from God or from man?" Their discussion went along these lines: "If we say, 'From heaven'; He will say, 'Why did you not believe him?' But and if we say, 'Of men;' all the people will stone us: for they are persuaded that John was a prophet." Their very reasoning shows that the preferred answer was that John's baptism was from man, that he had been ordained by man rather than God, but they were caught in the trap. They could not tell the truth for they would then stand condemned for not believing John. But they also could not tell what they wanted to believe to be true for the people who believed that John's baptism came from God would stone them.


The point is that no matter what one believes the truth is still true. Even in our society where constant pressure is being placed on us to accept alternate beliefs the truth is still true. Jesus has said "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me." This is an exclusive statement. If it is true all the other claims made by the believers of all other religions are false. If it is false then Jesus lied and cannot be trusted at all. Christianity hangs on this statement.


Jesus makes this point when He speaks of the stone which the builders rejected that became the corner stone. It is an allusion to the method which the Jews used for stoning various lawbreakers but in Jesus' case it not only shows the destruction which the corner stone (ie: Jesus Himself) would bring on those who did not put their faith in Him but goes on to show that Jesus truth was truth regardless of what the Jewish leaders said about Him or did to Him.


Note: It ended up that I did not give this sermon. Connie had given such a good song service about family that I felt compelled to continue along that theme. Text was the prodigal son parable. I would not have had the confidence to speak in an impromptu manner except that I had been thinking about it for several days after a conversation with Stephen regarding a preacher who for fifty years has never prepared a sermon but, led by the Spirit, has been given his message by God on a regular basis.