Monday 07 March 2011

Bible Book:

"When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed." (vv. 2-3)

Mark 12:1-12 Monday 7 March 2011


This story is often seen, with the benefit of hindsight, asbeing allegorical - the vineyard represents Israel (eg Isaiah5:1-7); the owner is God; the tenants are the Jewishauthorities; the servants are prophets (eg Luke13:34) and the son represents Jesus. In this interpretation,Jesus is foretelling his own death and the future destruction ofJerusalem. Some biblical commentators suggest he is predicting thatChristians will replace the Jews as the 'people of God'. But theremay be more meaning than that for us in the passage.

Jesus tells this story during a conversation he is having in thetemple court with the chief priests, scribes and elders who havebeen questioning his authority. They see this as a parable toldagainst them, because of their failure to acknowledge Jesus or Johnthe Baptist. Their angry reaction comes because Jesus ischallenging their status as those in spiritual authority. Theyresent his criticism of the way they organise the templesacrifices, observe the law meticulously, and so provide what theythink God demands.

This parable comes shortly after the cleansing of the temple andthe cursing of the fruitless fig tree (Mark11:12-19). Failure to provide the wholesome fruit God wants isa recurring theme of Jesus, as is his concern that religious rulesare getting in the way of people's personal response to God.Several times he has criticised those who glory in their ownself-righteousness but generate feelings of unworthiness andexclusion in others (egMatthew 23:1-36). His ongoing challenge to thereligious leadership is that much of their teaching is legalisticand loveless. He has repeatedly shown them that faith is aboutrelationships not requirements, freedom not formalities, compassionnot control. Yet they still want to retain the power to run thingsin their own way, rather than responding to the challenges thatcome from God.

But if this is a parable rather than just an allegory, then it hasa message for us today. It cannot be simply about where some Jewishreligious leaders went wrong. It contains a challenge for us, bothas individuals and as a Church, about our own faith and about howtransforming, responsive and committed it is.

To Ponder

What message does this parable have for youtoday, and for the Church?

What fruit does God want from you as anindividual? How well do you provide it?

What in your own life, in your church or in oursociety is blocking the work of the Spirit? - and what can you doabout it?

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