God’s Word for You
Mark 12:4-5 The Tenants - Part 3
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 23, 2022
4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. (NIV)
Jesus describes the coming of many other prophets throughout Israel’s history by a few brief phrases in the parable. Another servant was sent. We don’t need to assign a name or set of names to him. The Jews to whom Jesus was speaking knew how horribly the prophets were treated. Jewish tradition reported that Isaiah, Amos, Micah and many others were killed by angry kings or angry crowds. Jeremiah was shamefully mistreated and reports this in his book. There are several prophets whose gruesome deaths are reported in the Bible. Hebrews 11:37 reveals that “they were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated.” Jesus’ hearers knew these things perfectly well. The Lord is completely justified in saying: “some of them they beat, others they killed.” Because he is speaking in a parable, he does not say, “you beat some, you killed others,” but they knew that this is exactly what he meant.
What earthly vineyard owner would have sent more servants after the first one was flayed or beaten to a bloody pulp? Wouldn’t anyone have sent soldiers in, or police, or some sort of militia to collect the rent and punish the miscreants? Nobody would have done what the owner in the parable does, but this is precisely why Jesus needs to use a parable to illustrate the incredible patience of God.
God in his mercy sent his prophets again and again, generation after generation, to call his people to repentance. Some generations repented, some did not; some individuals within certain wicked generations were remarkably godly (1 Kings 18:3-4), some individuals within certain godly generations were remarkably wicked (Judges 9:5). But God did not vary from his merciful treatment. Malachi preached the same repentance that Moses did, and before Moses we know that Adam’s son Seth and his grandson Enosh preached repentance, too, calling on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26).
Within the scope of the parable, these verses proclaim the law sharply and clearly to the men who were about to plot the betrayal and unlawful murder of Jesus. But as we consider it as children of God we also see the gospel, the wonderful mercy of God in delaying his judgment for so long and graciously continuing to do the unthinkable. Patiently, graciously, he sends and sends his servants to preach the good news, and to collect the harvest of souls generation upon generation for everlasting life.
Pastor Timothy Smith