God’s Word for You
Mark 12:2-3 The Tenants - Part 2
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, March 22, 2022
2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. (NIV)
Many servants will be described; first three separately and then more in a group. All of them are the prophets of Israel. It is not possible (nor wise) to insist that this first servant should be Moses, although Moses was rejected and ill-treated by his people and even by his own family (Numbers 12:1). Samuel and Elijah come to mind after Moses as early prophets, and Elijah in particular was treated poorly and his life was threatened by Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1-2).
In this part of the parable, the servant of the owner is arrested by the tenants, beaten, and sent back. As we listen to the parable, we can’t help but be speechless. What kind of fools were these tenants? Did they think the master would let them get away with treating his servant this way? Weren’t they terrified that he would come and find them and treat them even more harshly than they had treated his servant?
Since we know that the tenants are the spiritual leaders of Israel and that the servants sent to collect the rent are the prophets, we know that this scene was going on in reality for many hundreds of years. The Levites had a tithe, ten percent, of everything the Israelites brought in their offerings, but they were unwilling to give anything back to the Lord, even something as inexpensive as repentance.
Two details in the Greek text bear a special look. First, the owner only wanted his rent, “some of the fruit” (ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν). The Greek expression emphasizes that only a part of the harvest was being asked. Second, the beating was edeiran (ἔδειραν, from δέρω). The root meaning of this word is “to flay, to tear or cut the skin away.” An extended meaning is the way a smith beats a strip of metal on an anvil. Pow! Pow! Pow! They beat the tar out of this poor servant, who was only obeying his master (he would have been similarly beaten if he hadn’t done his duty, surely), and yet they beat him and sent him away again.
What would their punishment be in hell for this expression of their unbelief? Jesus was looking into the eyes of the very men who were plotting his crucifixion (see verse 12 below). Their plot was the rancid fruit of their unbelief, and only unbelief damns (Mark 6:16). At this moment, the Lord was exposing their plot, laying bare their hearts, and by doing this he was giving glory to his heavenly Father who sent him into the world so that this very thing would happen to him. This was the cup being handed to Jesus. His suffering and death would be brought about by his own people, the very same people who should have been looking after the sheep of Israel. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). He did this for our sakes. We marvel as he describes it with such a sharp focus for these enemies on this Tuesday of holy week.
In doing this, Jesus also shows the necessity of the writing of Scripture. These leaders were commanded to teach the people the word of God. Left to their own opinions and traditions, they would have dropped the word of God long ago; it would have become entirely lost. But by a miracle, it was still intact even now, four centuries after Malachi, seven after Isaiah, ten after David, and fourteen centuries after the time of Moses. Every least stroke of a pen even of Moses was and is still intact, preserved faithfully and entirely for the people of God. These are the Scriptures that teach us about the making of all creation, the fall into sin, and God’s plan of saving mankind from sin. These are the words that testify about Jesus to us (John 5:39), and that give to us everlasting life.
Pastor Timothy Smith