Mark 12:1 – 9 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. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.
Of all Jesus’ parables, I think this one is the most straight-forward. Yeah, you still have to know what He’s referring to, but once you understand who He was talking to, the symbolism becomes crystal clear.
Jesus was talking to the religious leaders. The man who planted the vineyard was God, and the vineyard was the nation of Israel. They were God’s chosen people. For centuries, God watched over and protected His nation as the man did for his vineyard.
The tenants were the religious leaders. They were supposed to be watching over Israel for God; instead, they tried to keep God out. Every time God sent a prophet or teacher who was faithful to Him, they rejected the prophet, beat him, sometimes even killed him.
Finally, God sent His own Son.
And they killed Him, too.
These religious leaders were just that – they were religious. They weren’t godly. Instead of serving God, they were serving their own purposes. And if getting what they wanted meant pushing God out – even killing God Himself, well, so be it.
In the end, the man offered the vineyard to others who would appreciate it and take care of it. Those others are the Gentiles.
Friends, my dear husband and I have been in church work for nearly two decades now. And I’m ashamed to say that church work has often gotten in the way of God’s work. Like the religious leaders in this story, we have seen church leaders actually push God out of the picture in order to accomplish their own will.
More, more, more . . .
Now, I’m not saying that those things are wrong. What is wrong is when we get so caught up in church work that we forget to do ministry.
We forget to feed the hungry. Visit the orphans and widows. Care for the hurting and the sick. After all, we are too busy trying to accomplish the work of the church to accomplish the work of the Lord. And if anybody comes along and tries to tell us we are wrong, well, pity the soul. We will do all we can to silence their annoying message.
I certainly don’t want to be beat up like the servants in this story, but that is often what happens in religious circles, when someone tries to accomplish God’s work at the expense of church work. But truly, when all is said and done, I’d rather please my Master than anyone else.
I pray that I will always play the part of the servant in this story. May I never be the tenant.
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Dear Father, Help me to honor You in all that I do, even when my actions aren’t popular. I want to always work for You, never against You.