Click on any Bible reference below, and you'll receive results—sermon illustrations, sermons, and more—for that Scripture text. (Note that some Scriptures may not have sermon illustrations associated with them yet.) Or click on the Bible icon to view the full text of the passage cited.
This lectionary covers the next thirty days. For full lists, see the seasons and years below.
Sunday, October 8, 2023
The remarkable thing about the wicked tenants is how dim they are. To think that killing the heir of the landowner would result in them seizing the vineyard is fantasy. But such as it is to scheme against the living God.
Jesus, aware of the plots of the Temple officials, warns them that their plan will not succeed, and that their status as God’s people will pass to outsiders. Although they get the message, they go on plotting anyway, sealing their own destruction.
The preacher may use this parable to point out how, in the present day, our own petty attempts at wresting control of our own lives and churches, our “vineyards,” away from God’s control can only meet with the same disaster. By tolerating sin, we crucify Christ all over again and forfeit our status as trusted partners in God’s work on earth. Being the masters of our own vineyards and attempting to kick God out of them is a boneheaded plan, destined for failure.
Sunday, October 15, 2023
The parable of the wedding feast shifts the focus from the Jews who reject God to those who accept him under false pretenses. The one who not only accepts Christ’s free gift of grace but clothes himself in his righteousness will be saved (cf. 7:21) Works of mercy are not ours alone but are empowered by the Holy Spirit. The guest does not earn his garment, but rather is “chosen” (cf. Eph. 2:10).
The thing to emphasize is how, although it may feel like effort, our good works flow from our participation in Christ, rather than our best efforts alone. The result of the invitation is a changed life and a new identity, which may set us apart on earth, but is the ordinary dress of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Sunday, October 22, 2023
Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees on paying taxes continues to befuddle and elude both modern activists and patriots. Jesus did indeed endorse dutiful paying of taxes, and therefore offering some level of submission and legitimacy to the ruling authorities. That this is what Jesus meant by “render unto Caesar” is confirmed by the fact that Christians in the Early Church were noted for voluntarily and honestly paying their taxes, an anomaly in a world that all but expected graft and corruption.
However, by “rendering unto God” Jesus subtly and inescapably prohibits the sort of jingoism that would subordinate the believer’s citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven to that of the City of Man. In “rendering unto God the things that are God’s” the Lord makes an implicit analogy between the coin made in Caesar’s image, and the human being made in God’s image. Therefore, the whole body belongs to God, and indeed this explains why Christians, though dutiful taxpayers, also went to the gallows just as dutifully when they refused to conform to the Empire’s unjust and impious laws.
As of this writing, the American church is in a state of political panic. On the one hand, many are certain that “Christian Nationalism” has overtaken American religious sensibilities and made them subordinate to the state. On the other hand, others are just as certain that the spiritual truths of the gospel have been traded for a tradition of cheap activism, no less captive to political interests.
The Lord focuses us on the true north in between these false paths. Recognizing ruling authorities and obeying them as far as is lawful while reserving ownership of the self for God alone is the real attitude Christians are to have for human authorities. Ultimately, no matter how fond we may feel for our nations and communities, we are after all created in God’s image, not man’s, and our real task is to offer ourselves to him, and not to men.
Sunday, October 29, 2023
The Greatest Commandment is an executive summary of the whole of the Jewish Law. Jesus is asked, not to name one of the Commandments, but for the principle that undergirds the whole. This, Jesus says, is love, both of God and neighbor.
God’s plan for human life is not legalistic but integrated, a whole life of “heart, soul, and mind” devoted to God and others. Self-giving love is the bonding agent that binds the scaffold of individual commands together. Augustine’s often misinterpreted quote “Love and do as you will” has this in mind. If you love truly, then you will not be contradicting the Law, but living it out in its fullness.
Not content merely to give a new teaching, Jesus uses the scriptures in the next section to illuminate his own identity. Psalm 110, which was for the Pharisees a universally recognized messianic passage, carries a curious feature hiding in plain sight. Typically, a father (or ancestor) would be reckoned greater than his son. However, Jesus points out that David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, calls his son “Lord.” Therefore, the Messiah, the Son of David is greater than his father. This is Jesus beginning to reveal his divine identity.
It is not only that the Lord is a great teacher, Jesus himself undergirds the Law in his divinity. Therefore, the teachings we receive from him are directly from God and greater than what has come before. Moreover, these teachings point us ultimately to him and his identity, not just as a pattern for our own conduct, but God’s self-disclosure: the Messiah given for us. Truly following the law of God is to receive Jesus Christ, love incarnate.
Wednesday, November 1, 2023