TODAY’S READING: MARK 12-13
“He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.” – Mark 12:6-9
This is from the famous parable of the vineyard.
The vineyard is the land of Israel, which God planted to bear fruit, that was given to the tenants, the people of Israel. God sent servant after servant to collect the fruit. But, the tenants beat or killed every servant that God sent.
Finally, God decides to send his beloved son, Jesus. Surely, Israel will listen to him. But, Israel sees this as its chance to have the inheritance, the land of Israel, for themselves. So, Israel kills Jesus and throws him out of the vineyard.
Having told this story, Jesus asks a question.
“What will the owner of the vineyard do?”
How will God treat Israel for killing his son, Jesus?
Jesus answers the question, “He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
Many have used this scripture to support their belief that Jesus nice and peaceful when he went to the cross, but when he comes back he is going to destroy and burn in hell forever all those that rejected him and failed to believe in him.
But, is this really Jesus’ answer?
Is this really God’s answer to what he will do to those who killed his son?
Is God going to destroy the people of Israel in return for killing Jesus?
No, this is not Jesus’ or God’s answer to what they will do to Israel in return for killing Jesus.
In Mark, Jesus says, “He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others,” as the expected answer everyone would give. Vengeance is what mankind wants and expects. So, if you kill my son, then I am going to destroy you.
However, in Matthew’s account of the giving of this parable, Jesus does not say this. In Matthew Jesus asks the same question, “When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
This time the answer does not come from Jesus but the chief priests and the Pharisees. Matthew 21:41 says, “They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
The word destroy in Jesus’ answer in Mark and the word death in the chief priests and the Pharisees’ answer in Matthew are the same Greek word. So, in Matthew the chief priests and the Pharisees answer Jesus’ question while in Mark Jesus is answering the question for them as they would have answered.
We know this because Jesus asks another question that throws a twist on the answer we would all give. It is expected that if our son was killed then we would destroy the people that did it. So, Jesus asks, “Have you not read this scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
That seems a rather odd question to ask in response to the expected answer that God will come and destroy Israel for killing his son.
So, why did Jesus ask that question?
Of course, Jesus is the stone the chief priests, scribes, elders, Pharisees, and Israel rejected.
When they rejected Jesus what were they rejecting?
They were rejecting God’s wisdom and God’s power. They were rejecting God’s way of answering violence. They were rejecting the cross.
But, the stone that was rejected became the cornerstone, or the head of the corner. It is actually the cross, loving your enemies, returning good for evil, the wisdom and the power of the God, that is preferred. Ultimately, this results in forgiveness as Jesus asked of the Father on the cross. This is what the owner of the vineyard will do in response to the tenants killing his beloved son.
The stone that was rejected, dying to yourself, loving your enemies, blessing those that persecute you, is the stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. It just doesn’t make sense.
1 Corinthians 1:22-23 says, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to the Gentiles.” Jesus Christ crucified, a God who dies rather kills trips up the Jews and is done right dumb to the Gentiles. It makes no sense to either.
But, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.'” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)
The word destroy here is the same word for destroy that Jesus uses in regards to the tenants. Man expects God to destroy people, but Jesus, through the cross, shows that God does not destroy people. Rather, God destroys what man thinks is wise, which is actually foolishness.
Trying to destroy violence by destroying the men committing the violence is foolishness. Is does not work. Mankind has tried it for thousands of years. All it has done is create more violence with ever more powerful weapons.
But, the stone that was rejected, Christ crucified, the cross which seems so foolish and weak, is actually wiser and stronger than anything man has ever devised.
This is the ultimate point of the parable. It is the answer to the question, “What will the owner of the vineyard do?”
God will not destroy people in return for killing his son. But, God will destroy the wisdom of those who killed Jesus. God will destroy all the wrong thoughts we have of them. God does this by dying on the cross. It seems so foolish and weak. But, it actually reveals the greatness of God’s wisdom and power.