God’s Word for You
Mark 12:6 The Tenants - Part 4
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, March 24, 2022
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ (NIV)
Jesus has used this parable of the Tenants to show how God sent prophet after prophet to Israel to call people to repentance, but those prophets were abused, driven away, imprisoned, and even killed. By saying “he had one left,” Jesus means that the Master, God the Father, had no more servants to send. There were no more prophets for Israel. After Malachi, the Lord was silent for four centuries. But now the Lord in heaven had one last one, “one left to send,” who was his Son.
The son is described as the one “whom he loved.” This is the Greek word agapetos (ἀγαπητός). Some readers who have been in more in-depth Bible classes may recognize the noun agape here: “love.” Our word in verse 6 is the adjective form, “beloved.” Listen to the way Jeremiah reports God’s affection using this word:
“‘Is not Ephraim my dear (ἀγαπητός) son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart years for him; I have great compassion for him,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:20)
God spoke to Abraham knowing his love for Isaac:
“Take your son, your only (or “dear” ἀγαπητός) son, Isaac, whom you love…” (Genesis 22:2)
And of course, God the Father said at the Transfiguration:
“This is my Son, whom I love (ἀγαπητός); with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35)
From a human perspective, the parable seems to fall apart at this point. What landowner would send his son alone to those people after his servants had been mistreated and murdered? Wouldn’t anyone, anyone at all, have gone with soldiers to exact justice for what these wicked tenants had done? But Jesus doesn’t preach from a human perspective. He places God’s divine truth alongside a human event, and God has done what no one would think of doing. There are two separate lessons being taught by the sending of the only son, the beloved son.
First, this is Christ preaching the law to Israel’s leaders, face-to-face. With no question as to what is being said, Jesus is showing them their sin and calling them to repentance. Israel had indeed mistreated and murdered the prophets as God sent them, one by one, generation by generation, to lead the people back to repentance. Now, only a few days before his own crucifixion, Jesus was calling these leaders of Israel to consider what was in their hearts. The Father knew that they would not turn away from their sin, but God continually offers his hand. He loves mankind. So when Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On opposed Moses with their insolence (Numbers 16:1), and the prophet asked, “Why do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3), the name of On son of Peleth immediately drops out of the account. On’s family is not mentioned with the others when they were all destroyed by God’s wrath. Either Moses did not think it was important to mention them later in the destruction, or something else happened. If they weren’t important, why mention them at all? But the something else might be what is important. Did On and his family repent and stop opposing Moses? This seems even more likely when we consider what happened to Korah’s family in the same account. While Dathan and Abiram perished with all of their families, and Korah himself died, some of Korah’s family did not. They must have repented, because some of them were spared (Numbers 26:10-11), and they became some of Israel’s musicians (Psalm 42 title, and many other Psalms). So repentance is offered even to these leaders of Israel as late as Tuesday, before they arrested Jesus on Thursday (Matthew 26:47). If a Pharisee or some other member of the Sanhedrin heard this parable, and felt crushed with guilt, would that have been good for that man’s soul? Contrition (that is, sorrow over sin) without faith in Christ only presses a man down rather than lifting him up in the hope of forgiveness. Amos records God’s judgment: “For three or four sins of Judah, I will not turn back my wrath, because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept his decrees” (Amos 2:4). Where there is no faith, the wrath of God still strikes. To be sorry without putting trust in Christ is not repentance, it is only sorrow, and it does not lead to forgiveness, life or salvation. There is only one alternative, one hopeless, terrible alternative.
But for us there is a second lesson: this is Christ preaching the gospel to all who are conscious of our sins and who look to him in faith. Jesus shows that the Father keeps holding out the hand of forgiveness. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Pharisees did not turn to Jesus in faith at this point (we will see this even more clearly in verse 12), but for all of us who put our trust in Jesus, this verse displays the love of the Father for all mankind. We thrill at the news that the Father sent the Son into the world! It doesn’t need to be said in a new way or an elaborate way. Just the plain gospel is delightful, like a drink of clear, cool water: “The Father sent his Son.” For us.
Pastor Timothy Smith