Standing in Awe of the God of the Vineyard - Mark 12:1-12
With just a few days remaining before He would give His life on the cross, Jesus is in the Temple surrounded by Jewish leaders. These are men who are opposed to Jesus and who want to see Him silenced. They confront Jesus and try to trap Him with their questions, but He turns the tables on them. In Mark 11:27-33 Jesus puts those who oppose Him on their heels, and then He speaks prophetically. In 12:1-12 Jesus offers a parable that speaks both of the past and of the future. The parable recounts the history of the nation of Israel and then prophesies of the judgment that is coming against them.
While the main point of this parable is to announce judgment and foretell the work of Christ, it’s also a great reminder of the character of God. As Jesus recounts the ways God has dealt with Israel in the past and the way He will act in the future we get a clear view of God’s patience, love, justice and grace.
The Story of the Vineyard – An Overview
The parable Jesus tells is of a vineyard, its’ owner and hired tenants who defied and opposed the owner of the vineyard. In the Scriptures Israel is often pictured as a vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7). The owner of the vineyard is God, the wicked tenants are the unfaithful leaders of Israel and the servants that the owner sends represent the prophets that God had sent to His people.
The Patience of God Toward Rebellious Sinners (12:1-5)
- The Rejected Servants – It was customary during this time for a landowner to lease out their land to farmers. It was also customary for the owner to receive a portion of the harvest each year. However in the parable each time the owner sends a servant to collect what is owed the servant is beaten and some are even killed.
- The Rejected Prophets – For generations God sent prophets to His people calling them to worship and obedience, but more often than not Israel was unfaithful. The prophets spoke the Word of God, but the people of God failed to listen (Jeremiah 7:24-28; Daniel 9:4-6).
- The Patience of God – From a human standpoint it doesn’t make sense why the owner of the vineyard would send so many servants to the tenants who were so wicked. This is a reminder of the patience of God. We are sinners who are often slow to hear and obey, and yet God is longsuffering. We should thank God for His patience, and we should allow His kindness to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
The Love of God Rejected by Sinful Men (12:6-8)
- The Beloved Son – As servant after servant is beaten or killed the owner of the vineyard does something incredible – he sends his son to go to the tenants. Servants are many and can be replaced, while a son is unique and irreplaceable. As Jesus tells this parable He is speaking of Himself: the beloved Son who was sent by the Father to wicked men.
- The Death of the Son and the Love of God – The owner sent His son into the hands of wicked men. This parable reminds us of the incredible love that God showed in sending His Son to come and to die at the hands sinful men (John 3:16-17; 1 John 4:9-10).
The Judgment of God on Sinful Men (12:9)
- The Owner’s Response – Through the parable Jesus forced the Jewish leaders to reckon with the reality of what they were doing and what they would face. He asked a question and answered it Himself: Of course the owner of the vineyard would destroy the wicked tenants and give the vineyard to others. In the same way God would cut Israel off and make a New Covenant through Jesus with all who will believe in Him.
- The Judgment of God – As faithful Christians we must never forget or minimize the reality of God’s judgment. God is just and He will punish all those who remain in their sin (Romans 1:18). His judgment is sure and eternal and should spur us on to fight against sin and also to tell others of their need for mercy and forgiveness.
The Grace of God for Sinners (12:10-11)
- God’s Plan of Salvation – After telling the parable Jesus offers another prophecy. While He came to die, His death is by no means the end – in fact it’s a part of God’s perfect plan of salvation. Quoting Psalm 118 Jesus tells the Jewish leaders that while they rejected Him, God would exalt Him. The stone the builders rejected would become the cornerstone (Acts 4:8-12).
- The Sovereign Grace of God – This prophetic statement from Jesus is a reminder of God’s sovereign plan and of His incredible grace. While we may have taken His patience and love for granted, there is still hope. Jesus accomplished salvation and it is available for all who will believe.
Responding to the Story of the Vineyard (12:12)
- Jesus used this opportunity to warn the Jewish leaders, but they would not hear. They continued in their plans to silence and ultimately kill Jesus. Now we must consider our own hearts: How will we respond to God? He is patient, loving, just and gracious. May we respond with repentance, worship, obedience and faith.