Summary: What if we are greatly mistaken in our understanding of Christianity? If our ideas do not square with the Bible, will we change? As the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, will we follow?
After preaching the lectionary through in these churches, I find myself drawn more and more to a year of preaching the texts the lectionary leaves out. My suspicions were aroused when I learned that Jude was eliminated, a letter which condemns many practices engaged in by the modern church. This Gospel lesson is from another chapter left out entirely, but which contains many valuable words of Jesus.
What if we are greatly mistaken in our understanding of Christianity? If our ideas do not square with the Bible, will we change? As the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, will we follow? Purpose: Let’s understand that we are all Sadducees with an imperfect religious background. Plan: Let’s look at Jesus’ instructions in Mark 12:1-11, 24-27 and learn that the Church is God’s to direct not ours.
Mark 12:1 “And He began to speak to them in parables: ‘A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.’” Contradicting modern legalists, this parable of the dishonest tenants is about the Lord preparing a vineyard with instruments to make wine. The Lord is echoing Isaiah 5:1-7. Just as modern legalists miss the point of Scripture, the Pharisees missed the point that God’s instructions were not theirs to reinterpret with self-righteous, man-made rules. Like this vineyard, Israel was fitted with everything needed for production.
Mark 12:2-3 “At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.” Kidnap slavery, as was American slavery, was against God’s law, but legal slaves could be indentured servants doing an apprenticeship, people paying off a debt or a crime, etcetera. This slave was sent to collect rent, part of the harvest. Similarly, we are tenants on earth and pay God His tithe. Instead of receiving God’s prophetic messenger, Israel abused him, just as some churches have abused righteous pastors and kicked them out.
Mark 12:4-5 “Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others.” Israel mistreated the prophets under Jezebel, Ahab, Jehoram, Joash and others. The fever pitch of partisan and nationalist politics still incites nations and bigoted groups to support atrocities against their fellow human beings. How many of us have enjoyed all the privileges of church, not brought forth spiritual fruit, beat up God’s messengers with our words and killed them with our hatred? Are we any better than those who persecuted the prophets?
Mark 12:6-7 “He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’” The Word, which became flesh, was God and we killed Him. We today, may not have killed the Word in person, but have we killed the Word of Scripture by our own traditions, man-made rules, dilution or modern fads? Are we really that different to the Jewish religious leaders laden down with ego and tradition? Do all our Christian denominations need to repent?
Mark 12:8-9 “They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others.” As Jesus was cast out, so too Christians, originally a Jewish religion, were cast out of the synagogues. Now God’s vineyard is given to the church, a spiritual rather than earthly nation. However, it does not stop there. Could it be that we have cast Jesus out of the churches? Have we ignored the examples he set that were perhaps not culturally bound as we imagine, but were meant for us to copy?
Mark 12:10-11 “Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; This came about from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?” In masonry, quality building stones are important. Cornerstones bind two walls together and the chief cornerstone is that from which the building is laid out. The One who Jewish authorities rejected, is the chief cornerstone from which all others in the spiritual temple of God get their bearings for placement. Yet, so often we choose a human idea instead of building on Christ, the apostles [the New Testament], and prophets [the Old Testament] (Ephesians 2:20).