Mark: The Parable of the Tenants

Read: Mark 12:1-12

In this powerful parable, Jesus speaks directly at the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, the leaders of the religious right. The words are so pointed and accurate that the crowd understood implicitly. And since the crowd understood, the religious leaders were unable to act publicly. Their plot thickened.

The Parable

“A man planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, erected a watchtower, turned it over to the farmhands, and went off on a trip. At the time for harvest, he sent a servant back to the farmhands to collect his profits. Mark 12:1-2

The farmhands (The Message) or Tenants were privileged to have control over the vineyard, they enjoyed the fruit of the man’s design, the choice property, the safety of the fence, and security afforded them as a result.

But they completely lost sight of an important fact: they were tenants.

Their actions were bold, brash, selfish — they beat the servants who were sent by the master to collect the profits that were due to him. Some the beat, some they killed. It’s interesting to note that the master only wanted to collect the profits, nothing more. In other words, the tenants were free to enjoy the benefits of the vineyard and were only asked to return the extra earnings from their labor.

Servant after servant the evil tenants boldness increased, until:

“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ Mark 12:6

At this point, I imagine that Jesus paused and let the thought sink in. Everyone knows the master’s son is a person of importance, one who represents the master himself and is his heir. I can see the heads bobbing in agreement with this statement.

Then Jesus continues the story with the unthinkable:

“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. Mark 12:7-8

First of all, they recognized who he was, make no mistake, they were aware of the authority with which he came back to the vineyard.

Secondly, their plan is misguided. Somehow in their minds they convinced themselves that by killing the master’s son, they would reap the inheritance.

Finally, they carried out their plan. The evil that filled their hearts was so intoxicating that they executed the owner’s son.

Another pause.

Coincidentally, Our Daily Bread today refers to Amos and reminds us the God is sovereign, that He will not be mocked:

“Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel,
and because I will do this to you, Israel,
prepare to meet your God.”
He who forms the mountains,
who creates the wind,
and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,
who turns dawn to darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth—
the Lord God Almighty is his name.
Amos 4:12-13

Prepare to meet your God.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Mark 12:9

The wrath of God is not something we refer to very often these days. It’s a concept misunderstood by those who are unfamiliar with the depth of love the Lord has for His created ones. The world views God’s wrath as that of a tyrant who maliciously judges people. This is not our God. He sends prophet after prophet, word after word. He is consistent.

Here’s the key phrase: “…and give the vineyard to others.”

The evil will be eradicated from the vineyard. Make no mistake, the religious leaders are not idiots, they get the point.

…they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away. Mark 12:12

I am reminded today that God is sovereign. His ways are far better than my ways. I hope I will learn that lesson once again!

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