Mark 11:27-12:12 (spring AD 30, Tuesday of Passion Week)
The Parable of the Tenants wasn’t just “against” the religious leaders (v.12), it lobbed grenades into some of their most cherished shibboleths:
- They believed that only false prophets had been hurt
- Jesus said that the religious leaders had, over the years, sponsored the persecution, injuring and murder of many messengers from God.
- They believed that they were the ones who had been rejected, but that they would become the essential building block in God’s work
- Jesus said it was HIM who was the essential building block, and they were the ones doing the rejecting.
- Not only that, but Jesus claimed the psalmist prophesied – 1,000 years earlier – that it would be him.
- They believed Jesus was a random, ill-educated, peasant heretic
- Jesus claimed that he was the son of the parable’s vineyard owner, i.e. the Son of God, God himself.
In verse twelve where the religious leaders “looked for a way to arrest” Jesus, this wasn’t the backroom plotting of months and years past when they didn’t necessarily know where he was, other than being in the north of the country. By this point, he’s sitting in the temple courts in Jerusalem and they were right there with him. Their only problem was they hadn’t yet worked out how to blackmail the people into rejecting Jesus, so they had to restrain their urge to reach out and grab him.
Why did Jesus eviscerate them in a parable, rather than in a more straightforward manner? He knew that in a few days they would kill him, so why didn’t he just come out and call them Satan’s agents? God doesn’t give us a conclusive answer but his use of a parable achieved at least a couple of things:
- It gave Jesus a couple more days in the nation’s capital – the biggest audience of all – to expose their hypocrisy, as he subsequently did.
- By talking to them in ways the crowd didn’t understand, Jesus gave the religious leaders an opportunity to repent without shame. They knew he was talking about them, the crowd didn’t, so if they had turned to Jesus in repentance no-one would have realised that it was as a result of Jesus’ words. You can’t ask for more grace than that.
What did they do next? The chief priests, teachers of the law and elders “sent [other religious leaders] to Jesus to catch him in his words”.
That was their response to his mercy.
When God shows you your sinfulness, how do YOU take it?
Society used to try and justify its sinfulness. Now, by and large, it denies that sin is even a thing.
And yet God continues to show his mercy by reminding us that sin is real, heaven and hell is real, and forgiveness and redemption are available.
Ultimately we all sit in one of three categories, acting like either:
Disciples of Jesus: sinful, hopeless, stumbling and forgiven.
Religious leaders: deniers of the evidence, obsessed with control, opposed to everything that threatens what we like.
The crowd: shrugs to the religious leaders, thumbs up to Jesus, non-committal and ultimately, tragically, just as unforgiven as the religious leaders.