"What will the owner of the vineyard do?" (Mark 12:9)
Somehow, Mark 12 slipped through the cracks on my reading and writing! Here's a catch-up...
PARABLE OF THE TENANTS (12:1-12). Hearing this story, one would ask what universe these guys in the parable were living in. Where can you get away with not paying rent, and then thinking if you murder the heir you get to keep the property? And of course, that's the point: rejecting God's authority over us is crazy and self-destructive. It was a parable of the nation's leadership. But the Pharisees, the Herodians, and the Sadducees -- who didn't really get along, but now they have a common cause -- try their best to trick Jesus, and to trap him in something he says. It's hypocrisy, and not to mention, sheer folly, to think you're going to debate with Jesus on a peer basis.
BUT WHAT ABOUT... (12:13-27)? First, it's taxes: "Render...to God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:17b). Give money to whom it is owed, and give to God what is his due. His image and imprint is on every one of us, since we are made in God's image. Since we are his creation, his creatures, then we should render all of ourselves to him. He is not our creation, though many think that is so. Then, there's a question about marriage and the resurrection (12:18-27). The questioners, as educated as they may be, Jesus says, "know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God" (12:24). Many questions people ask are self-justifying strategies intended to muddy the water and delay the discovery of real truth. Nonetheless, Jesus patiently answers their questions.
A GOOD QUESTION (12:28-34). One scribe asks a real question, a good one. The answer: the greatest commandment, he is told, is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The scribe agrees, "You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him." Jesus says that he is not far from the kingdom. Then the question Jesus asks them all in return regards the identity of the Messiah. Was he to be a "junior King David", just another ruler in the Davidic line? But according to Psalm 110, David himself calls him "Lord". Why is that? Nobody answers.
SHOWDOWN IN JERUSALEM. The confrontation of Jesus and the Jerusalem leadership centers around the issue of authority. Authority is not about giving orders so much as it is about bringing order. The question is, whose order is to be placed upon creation, upon nations, upon God's people, upon worship, upon families, and upon our own lives and hearts? The Lord Jesus confronted the people of Jerusalem with the same truth he confronts us with. It's the issue of whose world this is, and who has authority over us, and to whom we are ultimately accountable.
NO LIFE WITHOUT ORDER. There cannot be order without ordering. Someone or someone's design is what brings order. Someone or something must set the boundaries that establish order. There is no life without someone having authority. The Christian says that this is God, who as the personal, all-good, all-powerful, all-wise Creator has the right rule over his creation. And therefore, his Son, Jesus Christ, Lord and Redeemer, has the right to rule over all. The Pharisees and Sadducees and Herodians had their own authorities (basically themselves). The modern secularist says that the right to rule belongs to a) impersonal nature, b) the autonomous self, c) the majority vote, d) the one who has most power, or usually e) a combination of these. Our culture despises authority from above. Like the Jews of that day we find ourselves thinking that we are in possession of our world and our things and our lives. And then one day we will find out that it was all on loan for a season, and a final reckoning has come.
THE WIDOW GETS IN RIGHT (12:38-44). She demonstrates with her two coins what it means to be 'all in' because she literally puts it all in. She "out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on" (12:44). She loves God with all she has. The vineyard tenants (in the parable) wouldn't even pay a percentage of proceeds to the vineyard owner, yet this woman loves God with all of her heart and finances. Everybody else is posturing, hedging, strategizing, self-justifying, being clever, and impressing one another. It's almost as if they think they can get away with cheating God and murdering his Son.
So Jesus asks them, and us: "What will the owner of the vineyard do?"
Image credit: Cambria Winery, Santa Maria, California. Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.