Wednesday 04 April 2012

Bible Book:
Mark

"When they realised that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away." (v. 12)

Mark 12:1-11 Wednesday 4 April 2012

Background

It is Holy Week - just a couple of days before Jesus' arrest andtrial. The atmosphere in Jerusalem was clearly very tense as crowdsof pilgrims throng the city for the Passover Festival. Nobody coulddescribe Jesus as keeping a low profile in this situation. First heentered the city in a way that made people think of him as a leaderin the line of King David according to prophecy (Palm Sunday- Mark 11:1-11); then he caused a riot in thetemple (Mark 11:15-19), leading to an openly hostilechallenge about his authority to act in this way (Mark 11:27-33).

Mark now shows Jesus turning on his enemies and using his powerfulstorytelling skill against them. Jesus was a master of the parable- a simple-sounding story that turns out to have a kick in theending. He didn't need to spell out the moral because the audiencedid that for themselves. This tale is about a vineyard where thingsgo very wrong. Jesus' hearers must have been forcibly reminded ofthe very famous parable of the vineyard inIsaiah5, where "the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house ofIsrael" (Isaiah 5:7). It was supposed to produce the sweet grapesof justice, but produced bitter "bloodshed" instead, and so it wasdestroyed.

In Jesus' tale there is nothing wrong with the grapes, but theworkers who have been entrusted with tending the vines andproducing the crop have gone to the bad. The religious leaders whodistrusted Jesus will have had no difficulty in recognising that hewas casting them as the untrustworthy workers supposedly nurturingIsrael. After a procession of messengers who are mistreated (thereference is to earlier prophets, like Jeremiah, who told the truthbut suffered for it), they finally kill the owner's son.

Mark's first readers were Gentiles (non Jews), and for them thechanged ending is highly significant. Unlike the Isaiah parable,the vineyard here is not destroyed but given to others, who wouldbecome the followers of the son who was killed.

To Ponder

Jesus seems to have foreseen his own death anddone nothing to avoid it - rather, he deliberately provokeshostility. Imagine yourself among the religious leaders of thetime. What would you have done about such a person?

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