God is able to take that which is horrible and turn it into something spectacularly good! Yes, in our own lives He performs this wonder, taking that which is horrible and working it for good, often for the good of others. He demonstrates this miraculous reversal in His eternal Son. The heavenly Father takes the horrible rejection of His beloved Son and turns it into the salvation of the world!
In our Gospel for this Fifth Sunday in Lent we hear Jesus’ predicting through a crystal clear parable that the angry and selfish tenants of the vineyard will reject the “beloved son,” casting him out of the vineyard in order to kill him. Isaiah had predicted: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Is. 53:3) In our Gospel Jesus quotes the most prayed Psalm of the Jews, Psalm 118: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Rejected by men? The rejected stone? Yes, by all men the beloved Son is rejected, but uniquely He is rejected by His fellow countrymen as they were the instruments in His most gruesome death. He is thrown out of the Holy City, and there, outside the vineyard He is crucified as a rejected criminal. The final statement of the parable appears to be the Son’s rejection and the subsequent judgment upon the perpetrators of His murder. But this is far from God’s final statement! The unbelievable Gospel story climaxes with the rejected stone becoming the cornerstone…it climaxes in Christ’s resurrection. This divine reversal in the Christ-account means divine reversal for the world!
A portion of the glorious reversal is explained in Romans 11:11: “Through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles.” Their trespass? This is the trespass of the Jews who demanded Christ’s crucifixion. God reverses things and the sins that caused Christ’s crucifixion bring salvation to the Gentiles. Now their trespass—the murder of Jesus–brings forgiveness of trespasses! The Apostle Paul further explains in Romans 11:15: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” Paralleling their trespass Paul here speaks of their rejection, which is the Jewish rejection of the Christ, which is presented in today’s parable. Note well God’s super-powerful reversal: Their rejection of the Christ, their crucifixion of Jesus means the reconciliation of the world. At the cross God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Cor. 5:19). This good news is for the world—both Jews and Gentiles. So the Apostle, after explaining how the Gentiles are now saved by faith in Christ, is quick to add, “…what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead.” The inspired Apostle now speaks of their acceptance. He here explains that the Jews who rejected the Christ, those who became dead because they were without their only source of salvation, upon their acceptance of the Christ then are given—like the Gentile Christians—life from the dead! Do you behold the reversal(s)? “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Eph. 2:4)
No wonder St. Paul concludes this discussion in Romans 11 by exclaiming: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33). Christ’s rejection by the Jews becomes salvation for the world (both Jew and Gentile)! Christ’s crucifixion—to the world a picture of utter failure—is actually God taking the most despicable evil and turning it into the most powerful good!