This morning we are in Mark 11:27-12:12.
At this point in the gospel, Mark transitions to a record of the teachings of Jesus. Mark 12 contains the 2nd of 2 major parables recorded in Mark – known as the parable of the vineyard.
The occasion of the parable is the exchange between Jesus and the Sanhedrin in Mark 11. They have heard of the Galilean disrupting the temple court. They have come to investigate and demand authorization for his activities.
Jesus responds to their question about authority with a question of his own – “where did John the Baptist get his authority?”
The representatives of the Sanhedrin were unwilling to give a straight answer due to their fear of the crowds. “We don’t know.”
If they aren’t willing to come to a conclusion on the basis of John’s authority, Jesus tells them, neither will they be able to make a right judgment of his own.
He then tells them a parable which reframes the whole narrative of the Jewish world. In the view of 1st century Jewish culture, the Sanhedrin represented the best and most righteous of Judaism.
From the vantage point of heaven, things looked very different. Jesus tells a parable from that vantage point. In his story, the Jewish authorities are not the good guys – they are wicked leaders of a mad rebellion.
In this parable we see
- The expectation of fruit. (1-2)
- The madness of rebellion. (3-5)
- The extravagance of patience. (6-8)
- The sternness of judgment. (9)
- The certainty of marvelous victory. (10-12)
The parable explains why Jesus was rejected by the leaders and guardians of Jewish tradition. And it creates a backdrop which highlights the marvelous, unexpected wonder of the gospel.
I can imagine when Christ said to that little band around Him, ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel,’ Peter said, ‘Lord, do you really mean that we’re to go back to Jerusalem and preach the Gospel to those men who murdered You?’ ‘Yes,’ said Christ, ‘Go! Hunt up that man that spat in my face, tell him he may still have a seat in My Kingdom yet, if he repents. Yes, Peter, go find that man that made that cruel crown of thorns placed on my brow, and tell him I will have a crown ready for him when he comes into My Kingdom, and there will be no thorns in it. Hunt up that man that took a reed and brought it down over the cruel thorns, driving them into My brow, and tell him that I will put a scepter in his hand and he shall rule over the nations of the earth with me if he will accept salvation. Search for the man that drove the spear into My side, and tell him that there is a nearer way to My heart than that. Tell him I forgive him freely, and that he can be saved if he will accept salvation as a gift.
“He hid not his face from shame and spitting, nor his body from the shedding of blood, nor his soul from deadly agony; but he loved the church, and gave himself for it. It is this lover of souls that becomes God’s advocate with us, and pleads with us that we would cease from our rebellion. Do not refuse him! If he were stern and unloving, I could imagine that all the obstinacy of your nature might be aroused; but his love . . . deserves another treatment. If you reject him, he answers you with tears; if you wound him, he bleeds out cleansing; if you kill him, he dies to redeem; if you bury him, he rises again to bring us resurrection. Jesus is love made manifest.”
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown