FEBRUARY 21, 2016
MAIN TEXT: MARK 12:1-12
And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally, he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another,‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
The context of today’s text is huge. The day before, Jesus cleansed and cursed the temple for its corruptions and abuse (Mark 11:12-25). The religious leaders responded by “seeking a way to destroy him” (verse 18). The leaders come to Jesus and question His authority. Mark is trying to show readers who Jesus is and what He did. A key question in this gospel account was asked by Jesus to His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Now the Jewish leaders basically ask, “Who do you think you are?” (Mark 11:28).
Jesus has been clear that He is the better temple. He is the fruitful One. He has credentials from God His Father. He now speaks to them in a parable. Most parables are found in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. The last parable that Mark quoted was in Mark 7. This parable was used by Jesus to deliberately provoke His enemies against Him. With ordinary people, the lowly of heart, Jesus was gentle, tender, and mild. With those who sat in the seats of religious authority and corrupted the things of God, He pulled no punches.
About the parable
The imagery of a vineyard in this parable originated in Isaiah 5 where the great prophet Isaiah describes God’s people (Israel, the Jews) as a faithless and fruitless vineyard. As Jesus tells this parable, the Jewish leaders would know this story well – this would resonate with them and the hearers would have interest in the story and its setting (verse 1). The identity of the central characters is plain:
- The planter and owner is God
- The vineyard is Israel – God’s people
- The tenants are the religious leaders of God’s people
- The servants are the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist
- The beloved son is Jesus
Jesus turns the emphasis from the vineyard to the wickedness of the tenants (verses 2-5). They beat and killed the servants sent by the owner. Jesus was showing Israel’s history of rejecting prophets sent by God. Their record wasn’t good: Isaiah was sawed in two; Amos was rejected; Jeremiah was put in stocks for declaring the word of God; Zechariah was stoned to death; John the Baptist was beheaded.
Verses 6-8 describe the beloved son that was sent by the owner. They killed Him. They hoped for squatter’s rights by killing the son and thinking that they would be the owners. They were trying to stand in the place of God – by rejecting the Son. We are guilty of this too. The disrespect is shown by a lack of proper burial. Jesus asks the question, “What will the owner of the vineyard do now? He will come and destroy the tenants…” (verse 9). It is clear that the owner loves the vineyard that He created and cares for it.
In verses 10-11 Jesus quotes a Messianic Psalm – Psalm 118:22-23. This Psalm is describing the stones gathered to build Solomon’s temple. One of the stones was rejected because it wasn’t deemed the right shape for fitting into the temple. The Psalmist is saying that this one stone is perfectly shaped and is the perfect stone by which everything else in the temple is held together. This rejected stone becomes the most important stone of the entire structure. The New Testament makes it clear that in Christ everything is held together (Colossians 1:15-20).
Verse 12 tells us that the leaders were making plans to arrest Jesus. They do not respond to Jesus’ words with faith and humility. Like us when we hear the Word of God, we can either have our hearts softened (stone to flesh) as we repent, turn in faith and experience His grace or our hearts can become hardened to it. What about you?
Two qualities of Christ
Jesus has all wisdom
We see that Jesus knew the hearts of the Pharisees. He can reveal our hearts and lay them bare. He knows all things past, present, future. He knows what has happened. He knows what is happening. He knows what will happen. No earthly wisdom can stand against His knowledge. He is brilliant – He is truth.
Jesus has all authority
Though the leaders thought that he had no authority, He pronounced judgment on those who would kill Him. He has proven authority over sin by dying to defeat it. Jesus has proven authority over death by rising from the dead! He has supreme authority over sin and death! (Ephesians 1:17-21)
Implications to us
Opposition to Jesus means certain defeat
As Christ followers we do not say this out of arrogance like we have arrived. Instead we quote scripture on this because we have turned to Him in our brokenness and sin. We have all gone astray by going our own way (Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 2:25). The Bible is clear – willful, unrepentant disobedience means eternal separation from God.
Submission to Christ means certain victory
Jesus cannot be defeated! As followers of Jesus, we remind ourselves of what it means to be united with Christ. We are broken, weak, poor, starving souls that are incapable in our own power of doing anything. We cry out to and cling to a God who cannot be defeated. It isn’t about us – it’s about Him and His authority and His victory! Jesus’ enemies will think that that they won when he is crucified but His resurrection is their defeat!
By God’s brilliant design – even in their rejection of Christ – God’s redemption plan is not thwarted. Through this rejection God would bring salvation to the Jews and graft Gentiles like you and me into the vine. His Kingdom is upside down: death brings life; eternal victory comes from temporary defeat. King Jesus cannot be defeated!
The apostle Paul later described Jesus as the “stumbling stone” (Romans 9:32-33). You are invited to come to the stone – this rejected stone – this most important stone. Confess the idolatry of living under your own authority – building your own kingdom – confess your weariness. Walk in the freedom of the life-giving authority of our loving King!
Come to this most important stone -Jesus!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 12: 1-12
Why did Jesus use parables as a teaching method? Why did He use a parable in this particular case?
Why did the tenant farmers think they would gain from killing the landlord’s son? What did the Jewish leaders hope to gain by killing Jesus? What did they in fact accomplish?
What do sinners think they can have and keep if they reject repentance? Why do Christians resist radical obedience? What does each of these in fact obtain, and what do they miss out on?
What do secular people say when asked about judgement and hell? What do you think is necessary for them to accept the truth? Do you know any logical arguments that might be compelling?