Friday, August 16, 2013

Mark 12:1–12

Mark 12:1–12 (ESV): The Parable of the Tenants

Passage

In the last passage the religious leaders had questioned Jesus’ authority to do the things he was doing and say the things he was saying, but he turned the question around on them and showed that they had relinquished their own responsibility as leaders by not behaving as they should in spiritual leadership of the people. This parable continues this point.

This is a fairly straightforward parable, I think, the link above to the passage will bring you to the text, but it helps to have the “cast of characters” in your head as you read it:
  • The man who planted the vineyard is God
  • The vineyard is the nation of Israel
  • The tenants are the Jewish religious leaders
  • The servants which were sent are, I think, the Old Testament prophets
  • The man’s son is, of course, Jesus
And I’ve talked before that when the Bible talks about “fruit,” it’s talking about good works. In the Old Testament context, that would mainly mean obedience to God’s laws and precepts.

With this in mind, we have a very straightforward telling of the history of Israel:

God created a nation, and put in charge religious leaders to guide the nation and help them obey God. When God sent His prophets to inquire about this obedience the religious leaders beat or killed the prophets, or otherwise sent them away empty-handed. Finally God sent his own Son, but the religious leaders still didn’t produce the obedience they were meant to produce—instead they killed the Son. And for this reason God is taking the nation of Israel away from the Jewish religious leaders, and giving it to others. (Spiritually speaking.)
The religious leaders definitely saw this meaning, or something like it, because they want away after this parable seeking to have Jesus arrested, knowing that he had told it against them.

Thoughts

The one additional thought I had was on the phrasing in verse 6 (ESV):

“He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’”
It probably goes without saying, but this is not indicating that God was taken by surprise when He sent Jesus into the world, thinking that the religious leaders would accept Him and then suddenly realizing that, “Oh no—they’re going to kill him!” The man in the parable talks that way for the sake of telling the story; in the real version, God knew—and intended!—all along what would happen to Jesus. It was the plan from the beginning.
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