Scriptures

Mark 12

Introduction

‘Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: ‘A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around 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.’ Mark 12:1-12

Now some people like to say that this is a parable about

‘The wicked tenants’

but by the time we have finished you’ll see that it is more like the parable of

‘The rejected Son’

And we all know what the Pharisees and Sadducees were like, they hated Jesus and they were always plotting for a way to get rid of Him.

And there were many reasons for this but one of the main reasons they wanted Jesus out of the way was because they could not or would not accept who Jesus was.

They were always questioning His authority. In Mark 1:21-22

‘Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.’

And in Mark 11:27-33 we find Jesus walking into the temple courts, and it’s there that the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him and asked Him 2 questions.

‘By what authority are you doing these things and who gave you authority to do this?’ Mark 11:28

And so, Jesus answers them by asking them a question, He asks them in Mark 11:30

‘John’s baptism–was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!’

But they wouldn’t answer Him because they feared the people.

This parable tells us a lot about our God, mankind and Jesus Himself.

This parable tells us 4 things about our God

1. Our God is a gracious God.

Jesus says in Matthew 20:1

‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard’.

The Jewish leaders forgot to look back into their history and recognise just exactly who they were and where they came from. In Ezekiel 16 we find a very graphic picture of what the nation of Israel was like when God took them under His care.

God says in Ezekiel 16:4-7

‘On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. ‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, ‘Live!’ I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed, and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare.’

And then God goes on to describe how they grew up into something beautiful and how they were like a queen. But what a pathetic and helpless and hopeless picture this is. These religious leaders had forgotten just who they were and where they came from. They were God’s people and God owned them. It was God who made them into the nation that they were. It was God who cared for them when they were lying by the side of the road hopeless.

And when Mark tells us in Mark 12:1 that a man planted a vineyard, he’s telling us that, that man was God, it was God who planted the vineyard.

And notice that the vineyard was given everything it needed to do its work. It was given a wall around it to mark out its boundaries, to keep out robbers and to defend it from wild boars.

There was also a wine press in the vineyard where people would trample all over the grapes with their feet. And underneath the winepress there was a wine vat and that’s where all the juice from the grapes would flow.

And they were given a tower. And it’s in this tower that the wine would be stored, and the people would also live in there too. And it’s from there, that they could look out for robbers at harvest time. That’s why it’s called a watchtower.

‘He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well’. Isaiah 5:2

The vineyard owner gave the vineyard everything it needed to make their work easy and profitable. And notice that God didn’t just give them a task to do; He also gave them the means in which to do those tasks.

2. God trusts us enough to do the work at hand.

Mark 12:1 tells us that

‘the owner of the vineyard went away on a journey’.

God trusted the tenants to run the vineyard by themselves while He was away. Well, God has entrusted us to look after His work here on earth but unlike those tenants we don’t have any rights.

We don’t have any right to abuse the word of God. We don’t have any right to compromise the word of God. We don’t have any right to abuse any of the gifts He has given us. But God trusts us enough to allow us to make mistakes and do so much for ourselves.

3. Our God is patient.

Notice how the master sent servant after servant.

‘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.’ Mark 12:2-5

We know that Jeremiah was a prophet of God who was beaten up time and time again by the so-called leaders of God’s people.

‘They were angry with Jeremiah and had him beaten and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary, which they had made into a prison.’ Jeremiah 37:15

Uriah is another prophet that was killed by the so-called leaders.

‘They brought Uriah out of Egypt and took him to King Jehoiakim, who had him struck down with a sword and his body thrown into the burial place of the common people.’ Jeremiah 26:23

Zechariah was another prophet who was killed by the so-called leaders.

‘But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple.’ 2 Chronicles 24:21

Hebrews 11:37 tells us that many of God’s servants

‘Were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated.’

These servants of God were God’s holy prophets who were treated like this. And even after the first one was abused and ill-treated, God still didn’t get angry with them and come after them with vengeance.

Oh no! He gave those tenants chance after chance, after chance to respond to His appeals. These tenants pushed their luck; they pushed God’s patience.

And like this parable tells us, the world can push its luck with its disobedience and rebellion but there’s a time coming when justice will be done.

‘Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.’ Hebrews 9:27

This parable also tells us 2 things about mankind.

1. Mankind thinks it can get away with sin.

Sometimes in the world’s judicial system people fall through the cracks and get away with their crimes, but God’s justice system doesn’t have any cracks.

Now remember God’s people hadn’t heard a word from God for 400 years, they hadn’t heard a word from any prophet until John the baptiser came along. Out of sight, out of mind, is the phrase they might have used.

They must have thought that God was too far away to do anything about the situation. Luke tells us in his account in Luke 20:9 that He was away for a

‘long time’.

And so, because of that silence, they may have thought that God was dead and out of the picture. Oh, but how wrong they were and how wrong people are today who think that there is no God, or He is a dead God.

2. You can lose your privileges.

This parable has the story of what was still to come. The Jews had all the privileges of being God’s chosen people. They also had many responsibilities, which went along with those privileges. But these people enjoyed all the blessings from God.

He looked after them, He provided their everyday needs, He provided wisdom and guidance, food and shelter. He took care of all their needs like we looked at earlier.

And as soon as Jesus mentioned a vineyard, the Jews would know exactly what it meant. They would cast their minds back to Isaiah 5 where Isaiah is talking about the vineyard. The problem is this parable doesn’t mean much to us today but to a Jew Isaiah 5:1-7 was a very important part of Israel’s history, which they could not ignore or forget.

‘I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. ‘Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.’ The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.’ Isaiah 5:1-7

The religious leaders knew exactly what Jesus was going on about. Because it was very much in their face and it was very much about them. These tenants or Jewish leaders knew Jesus was speaking about them but as usual they failed to listen and do their job.

In Matthew 23 we find Jesus talking about the so-called spiritual leaders of the Jewish nation and he says in Matthew 23:16

‘Woe to you, blind guides!’

He calls them  in verse 17.

‘Blind Fools!’

In verse 19 He calls them

‘Blind men!’

In verse 23 He says,

‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!’

And on and on He goes. But the point is that the Jewish leaders were supposed to produce the fruit, and they were supposed to protect the rest of the vineyard. They were supposed to watch out for robbers but they didn’t because they didn’t do their job properly.

And it’s because of their lack of faithfulness to God, that Jesus asks these leaders in Mark 12:9

‘What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’

In other words, all the privileges, all the responsibilities of being a child of God was going to be taken away from the Jews and given to a people who will be grateful for everything He has done and will do for them. The Jewish nation will be done away with and another nation will be raised. A nation of people who will obey His words and take their responsibilities seriously, a nation of Christians.

1. This was the coming of the Messiah.

‘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.’ Mark 12:6-8

Now notice that Jesus doesn’t call Himself a servant here. He deliberately removes Himself from the succession of prophets. He says they were servants, but He is the Son. And so, because Jesus was always being questioned about His authority, He tells them right to their face, that He is the Messiah. They knew that He was the heir; they knew they were going to kill Him.

And so, it’s then that Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23

‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.’

This stone, which was the keystone for the building, the most important stone of all, was being rejected. The Jewish leaders rejected the Christ, their long awaited Messiah. And because they knew that but didn’t want to accept Him, Mark 12:12 tells us that,

‘Then they 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.’

This was a right in your face parable. Jesus knew when and how He was going to die. The cross of Christ didn’t come as a surprise to Jesus, but it was still a brutal and shameful way to die.

‘Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, ‘Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay, or shouldn’t we? But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. ‘Why are you trying to trap me?’ he asked. ‘Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.’ They brought the coin, and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’ Mark 12:13-17

The Jews were desperately seeking to discredit Jesus. To do so, various groups began to ask Him questions designed to trap Him. They asked about paying taxes. At this time, the Jews were ruled by the Romans, who were the ones receiving the tax money. The people hated the Roman government and thought it was contrary to the will of God.

So, Jesus was trapped, if He said not to pay taxes, He would be guilty of treason and liable to prosecution. If He told them to pay, patriots would view Him as a traitor and even disloyal to God. Jesus didn’t answer the question at first.

Instead, He requested a coin. He asked whose name and picture were on it. They replied,

‘Caesar’s’.

Since you put your name and picture on something you own, Caesar’s markings on the coin showed that it belonged to him. The Jews had no right to withhold Caesar’s property from him when he requested it. So, Jesus said simply,

‘give back to Caesar what belongs to him and give to God what belongs to Him’.

His answer couldn’t be challenged. It was lawful according to the Old Testament to pay taxes for the support of their leaders. Jesus’ teaching here, therefore, is that it isn’t wrong to pay taxes to Caesar, though Israel was at this time an occupied land by the Romans.

It still provides the basis for our relationship to government. We should pay our taxes and serve the Lord.

‘Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?’ Jesus replied, ‘Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!’ Mark 12:18-27

The Sadducees believed that one’s punishment for sin was handed out by God in life, not after death, hence they didn’t believe in the resurrection.

They asked a question designed to show that the doctrine of the resurrection was absurd. It involved the invented case of a woman who was married to seven brothers in succession. They asked Jesus to tell them whose wife she would be in the resurrection, since all of them had been married to her.

Their question was meant to show a supposed contradiction in the teaching of Jesus. But they didn’t know the Old Testament Scriptures or the power of God. There will be no marriage or procreation in heaven, for the purpose of procreation would have fulfilled its purpose. Procreation was for the purpose of populating the world. Heaven, however, will be populated by those who were born again in this world.

Furthermore, Jesus showed how even the Old Testament proved the resurrection. He cited the text where God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and described Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, even though they had been dead for hundreds of years.

If death was the end of existence, as the Sadducees believed, then God would have been calling Himself the God of that which doesn’t exist.

For God to call Himself their God, in some sense Abraham, Isaac and Jacob must still have been ‘alive’ and thus the Sadducees’ view of death was wrong.

‘One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’ ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.’ Mark 12:28-34

The religious leaders are around trying to trap Him. The Herodians come to Jesus and tried to catch Him out, they ask Jesus,

‘Is it lawful to give to Caesar?’ And Jesus said, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’

As soon as they are silenced The Sadducees come along. And they too try to trick Jesus. They asked about a woman who had been married to 7 brothers, all of the same family and so they ask,

‘Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?’ So, Jesus says, ‘Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.’

And finally, we have The Pharisees, the teachers of the nation. And from Matthew 22, it seems as though one young man, pushed his way forward to ask Jesus another trick question to try and trap Him.

And this young man comes to Jesus and he asks the question,

‘which is the first commandment? Which is the greatest commandment of all? Which is the highest?’

And Jesus looks at this young man and I wonder of there wasn’t a look of sympathy on His face! This man had been so wrongly informed about Jesus, I don’t think he would believe anything that Jesus would tell him anyway.

But you can imagine that man standing back and waiting for the answer from Jesus. And Jesus deliberately quotes from the Old Testament. A passage of scripture that every faithful Jew would recite twice every day.

It’s known as

‘The Schema’

from Deuteronomy 6, where God had said,

‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ ‘The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

I want you notice something about that passage of scripture in Mark 12. Because it looks like the scribe was surprised at the answer because notice in verse 32 it says,

‘Teacher you have truly said that He is one and there is no other but Him and to love Him with all of your heart, with all of your understanding and your strength and to love your neighbour as yourself is much more than the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’

The Bible says that,

‘the man was amazed’.

And I would like you to notice something else. When Jesus SAW, that he answered wisely, Jesus didn’t just hear that young man speaking to Him, He SAW on his face an honest expression, when Jesus SAW that he answered wisely. Jesus said,

‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’.

I believe that Jesus saw in that man’s face, faith and honesty. Here is a man who many might call a rationalist, or a ritualist. But there, standing before Jesus was a man who seems to have more understanding than those who had been trying to trap Jesus. And Jesus can bless a person like this abundantly.

And notice that after this no one dared to ask Him anymore questions. They stopped their schemes to trap Jesus in some argument, since they had failed to win any of their arguments. The schemes of entrapment thus stopped, and they moved to scheming how they might physically take Him.

‘While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: ‘The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’ David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?’ The large crowd listened to him with delight. As he taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.’ Mark 12:35-40

After weathering their barrage of questions, Jesus asked His opponents a question:

How could the Christ be both David’s son and David’s Lord?

This question was crucial; because the scribes’ objection to Jesus was that He, a mere man they thought claimed divine authority. Jesus showed by His question that the Old Testament had predicted that the Messiah would be both David’s son, human and David’s Lord, divine.

An important point in Mark in the context of these events is that the common people received Jesus, Mark 12:37. They weren’t part of the religious hierarchy of the religious establishment. They weren’t puffed up by their religious training or positions they held. They weren’t part of the religious politics that constantly intimidated the religious leaders into conformity with the accepted traditions and practices of Judaism. They didn’t stumble over their pride, but accepted Jesus for who He was. They were the true Israel by faith who accepted Jesus as the Messiah.

Jesus used religious leaders to take Himself to the cross, since the leaders had fallen from God. Though the Jews could not actually carry out the death sentence, they were the ones who called on the Romans to crucify Jesus.

Peter later identified them as the ones who had to carry the blame for crucifying the Son of God. Leaders would do well to continually check their motives by the word of God. God’s leaders must continually caution themselves with God’s word in order to guard themselves from working against Him.

‘Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’ Mark 12:41-44

Jesus sat and observed people contribute into the temple treasury. He saw many rich people deposit large offerings. He also saw an impoverished widow give two small coins which were nearly worthless. The Lord explained that the widow had contributed more than the rich–she put in everything she had, while they had simply given their surplus.

Christianity is of little value to those who aren’t willing to sacrifice for their faith. Through sacrifice comes growth. But those who are not willing to make sacrifices for their faith will experience little spiritual growth. Those who come to Jesus must check their motives lest they seek to associate with the people of God in order to see what they can receive.

Jesus contradicts modern views of giving

Many modern churches seem to regard large donations more highly than small ones. Some honour wealthy donors in special ways and allow them more influence in church policy, occasionally they even ridicule small contributions as unworthy of the Lord. It’s clear that the Lord Himself viewed giving in a very different way.

He was unimpressed by the absolute size of the offering, whether large or small, but very concerned with the attitude of the giver. To Jesus, the gift of the widow, while having almost no monetary value, was worth much more than the large and impressive donations of the rich.

We need to think of riches like Jesus did.

Back To Mark 11

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DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."

Isaiah 53:5

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