Mark 12: 1 – 12 The parable of the tenants

Mark 12: 1 – 12 The parable of the tenants

Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: ‘A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall round it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

‘He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.”

‘But the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

‘What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:

‘ “The stone the builders rejected

 has become the cornerstone;

the Lord has done this,

and it is marvellous in our eyes” ?’

Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

*       *       *

We need to read this carefully, to avoid making mistakes. This isn’t a parable about the owner of the vineyard; it is a parable about the tenants.

The vineyard had a winepress, it was surrounded by a wall to protect it from robbers, and it had a watchtower to provide early warning of any attempt by robbers to break in. This self-contained facility for the production of a luxury consumer product (namely, wine) was comprehensively equipped. It had everything necessary to prosper.

The owner who built the vineyard stands for God. The vineyard stands for Israel, who had been provided by God with everything they needed to prosper.

The owner rented the vineyard to some farmers, the rent to be a portion of the fruit gathered during harvest. The farmers in the story stand for the religious authorities, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders. So far, so good. You’d expect such men to be trustworthy, wouldn’t you?

But they’re not, far from it. When the owner sends for his share of the produce, the tenants beat, humiliate and even kill the servants that the owner sends to them. In the story, these servants represent the prophets God sent to Israel, who were beaten and killed by the predecessors of the authorities to whom Jesus was speaking.

So the owner decides to send his son. As he says, “They will respect my son.”

No. They don’t. Look at this.

‘But the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”

Their wickedness is completely premeditated. They kill the son, and throw his body out of the vineyard.

Then Jesus speaks directly and plainly to the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders.

‘What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:

‘ “The stone the builders rejected

 has become the cornerstone;

the Lord has done this,

and it is marvellous in our eyes” ?’

Jesus leaves no doubt that God is the owner, and that he himself is the son. He leaves it to the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders to work out for themselves that they are the wicked tenants.

“Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.”

Jesus has accused the religious authorities of hypocrisy over and over again. All that stands between him and arrest is the authorities fear of the crowd.

This is a strong attack on the hypocritical authorities of Jesus’ generation. We could easily sit back and say, “Gosh, those chief priests were really asking for it – and they surely got it!”

But hang on a minute. How do we fare as God’s tenants on earth? Are we good stewards? Are we doing all we can to protect the environment? Are we working to achieve social justice? Do we seek peace among nations? Do we love our neighbour as ourselves?

What is God telling us to do – and are we doing it?

Prayer

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for creating a good world that can support all of us in comfort. We recognise that despite this, many of our fellow humans live in poverty. I confess that my sin makes me slow and ungenerous in helping. Please open my heart and help me to be a better tenant.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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