Friday 4th March 2022

MARK 12

Jesus spoke a parable to the Jews about themselves: a vineyard owner rented the land to tenants who were expected to look after the place and to give the landlord a significant percentage of the ripe fruit.  These tenants, however, were evil and had no intention of paying their rent; instead, they attacked, beat, and even killed the servants that were sent to them by the owner.  Finally, his son and heir was sent to talk to them very reasonably and to ask very nicely for the rent they owed.  Seeing their chance of inheriting an unclaimed property (under Jewish law), they killed him too.  The owner, in his grief and righteous anger, hired a militia who killed every one of those tenants.  The End!

Everyone knew that this parable was aimed at the Jewish authorities and the people; it was blatant!  Unlike most parables, which just make one main point, this allegory has lots of features that each have a real-world meaning.  The owner was God, the tenants were the people of Israel, the son was Jesus, and the servants were the prophets, come to warn the Jews that they needed to give the Owner some benefit and respect from their tenancy.  The vineyard was the land of Israel.  Jesus then quoted Psalm 118, which again referenced his own status as Messiah, and also convincingly underlined the fact that these First Century Jewish ‘tenants’ were soon to be evicted! 

So, in revenge, they tried to trick him:  First the Pharisees and Herodians attempted to snare him with a conundrum about paying taxes (unpatriotic) or not (rebellious).  Jesus had a word of wisdom that was essentially ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’.  As we also inhabit two kingdoms – this world and heaven – we must learn to live faithfully to God in both, and to be good earthly citizens whenever possible.

More tricks: the Sadducees were a politico-religious group who accepted only the first five books of the Bible and did NOT believe in any kind of afterlife.  As proof of this, they formulated all kinds of arguments from the Law’s regulations that would not have worked in a resurrection life.  Jesus opposed their false doctrine by teaching (from the Pentateuch) that the Age to Come will be completely different in the way it operates, and that God says that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.  If the patriarchs had ceased to exist after death, rather than being resurrected, then God would have had to say ‘was’.  The crowd was astonished!

The greatest commandment is actually two.  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength and love your neighbour as yourself.  One without the other is a contradiction.  (See all of the Book of 1 John).  The questioner agreed and added that this was more important than all animal sacrifices.  Jesus, seeing spiritual wisdom in him, commended him for that remark.

Finally, Jesus decided to ask a tricky question of his own:  If the Messiah (Jesus) was the son (descendant) of King David, what need did David have to call him ‘Lord’ (since it should have been the other way around in human terms)?  There was no answer to that one!

So, we should realise that our pre-resurrection lives are time-limited – and make the most of our days.  We should understand that we do not own the Earth, but we are simply God’s tenants, to produce a pleasant world and a kingdom for him to enjoy.  Furthermore, our children are not really ours, but His, and we are their foster parents, preparing them for a heavenly Father.  Life, whilst enjoyable, has its main purpose in joyful service of the Living God; it is in this that we find our fulfilment and deepest pleasures.  And one day, soon, the Owner will return!

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