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God’s Word for You

Mark 12:1 The Tenants - Part 1

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, March 21, 2022

For the remainder of Lent this year, we will turn to the Twelfth Chapter of Mark and two Psalms, the 126th and the 107th.

12 He then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.  (NIV)

At the end of chapter 11, Jesus was accosted by several of Israel’s leaders, the trifecta of the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders of the people. Some of these same men were doubtless there when Judas kissed his master (Mark 14:43) and when the Sanhedrin questioned and condemned the Son of God (Mark 14:53, 15:1). They questioned him about his authority, and they rejected the word of God.

Jesus responded at once with this stinging parable about rejecting God. He turned to a familiar scene from the prophets: an illustration about a vineyard. Isaiah’s song of the vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-6) was surely familiar to all of the listeners, but there are other examples (Jeremiah 12:8-11; Ezekiel 19:10-14; Micah 7:1-4 and Song of Solomon 8:11-14).

God is the man planting the vineyard, and look at what he does for his garden! He does everything that could be done. He planted it himself. He built a wall all around it. A winepress was dug; a watchtower was erected. This was no tiny vineyard, but a large affair; big enough to need its own watchtower. All of these details are used by Isaiah as well, who adds that the owner cleared the vineyard of stones first (Isaiah 5:2). And who or what is the vineyard? “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are the garden of his delight” (Isaiah 5:7). This is the true Israel; those with faith in Christ. The vineyard cannot be the physical Israel because the leaders of that Israel are the renters in the parable. The vineyard are all who have faith like Abraham, who trust in the gospel promise of God, which is Christ.

Jesus wanted to show the rejection of the Son of God by Israel’s leaders, and therefore the story in the parable includes a detail about the owner going away on a journey, but the journey is not a detail for our application; it’s only there because of the coming of the Lord. Meanwhile, there are “some farmers” to whom he rents his vineyard. These are the leaders of Israel, “those who tend its fruit” (Song of Solomon 8:12).

There is no reference in the parable to the work of the renters before harvest time, the work of pruning, of binding damaged vines, splicing vines, examining leaves, blossoms and growing grapes, and so on. The parable has a single main point: the renters were going to reject and kill the Son of God. Therefore we won’t read anything else into the parable. The main point should stand. But we can certainly pause at the end of this first verse and consider that the coming rejection was known to the owner all along.

The Father prepared the way for his Son to rescue the fallen world from sin. Whatever we do, eat, taste, wear, think about, plan, is barren without Christ. He is the beginning and the end (Revelation 1:8). We must not do anything, say anything, taste anything, think anything, unless Jesus is there. “Do not let even the animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink,” was the terrified repentance of Nineveh (Jonah 3:7). Without the true God and knowledge of his Son, the ordinary doings of the world should rightfully be stopped as they were in the days of Jonah. But God is merciful to all the branches and little soft twigs of his vineyard. He is patient while the gospel goes into the world. But because he will return, we must be vigilant; we must do our part while we have this time of grace to do it. That means training up the generation in which we live. Your spouse is your special charge: Do you bring her flowers to show your affection? Do you bring her to Christ as well? Your children are your extra special charge. These are the children we pray about and teach, not the children who lived a hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago. Their parents tended them; we have little ones to tend today. Pray for God’s help and God’s blessing as you bring the next generation to their Savior’s feet. When he comes again in glory, he will welcome them and us into his paradise.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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