Summary: Jesus shares the Parable of the wicked servant.
Mark 12:1-12 “Robbing God”
The writer of Mark continues to expand upon the central message of his gospel that the time is fulfilled, the kingdom is here, repent and believe. To do this Mark recounts Jesus telling a story that has come to be known as “The Parable of the Wicked Tenants.”
Originally Jesus told this story against the Jewish religious leaders. They had taken God’s vineyard, which is understood to be Israel. Claiming the vineyard as their own, they had enslaved the people and used them to the religious leaders’ advantage. The Jewish religious leaders had seized and beat the prophets and rejected the prophets’ message. Foreshadowing what was to happen to Jesus, the wicked tenants in the parable killed the son of the land owner. When the chief priests, scribes and elders realized that the story was against them, they wanted to arrest Jesus. Fearing the crowd they decided to wait for a more advantageous time.
Even though this parable was addressed to a specific group of people, the Jewish religious leaders, there is a lot that we can learn from the landowner and tenants actions that we can apply to our lives today.
THE BEAUTIFUL VINEYARD
Reading the first words of this story a person can sense the care that the landowner put into the vineyard. He planted the vines, built a fence around it and provided a way for the grapes to be fermented into wine. A hedge was formed around the vineyard and a watchtower was constructed to protect the vineyard. In today’s vernacular we would say that the vineyard was a “labor of love.”
The landowner leased the land to some tenants. The role of the tenants was to tend to the vineyard so that it would produce a bountiful harvest and provide an income for both the tenants and the landowner. The tenants determined among themselves, however, that they would take possession of the vineyard and they would use it (and abuse it) to their advantage.
It doesn’t take a big leap to imagine ourselves as those wicked tenants. We too are tempted to see ourselves as owners and possessors instead of managers. Each of us stands in the middle of our little empires and congratulates ourselves on what we have accumulated and accomplished. We resist the idea that someone else should tell us what we can and cannot do with our possessions. We resent the thought that we should share what we have worked so hard to obtain. Under our breath we mutter that they should get off their duffs and work hard just like we did. We feel that we are entitled to what we have.
Look what entitlement has done to us and to the world. Feeling entitled we abuse and neglect relationships. Entitlement distances the rich from the poor. Nations fight wars because they feel entitled to some land or resource. The Europeans who settled this land (some would say occupied the land) claimed it as their own and exterminated thousands of Native Americans in the process. Entitlement provided our forefathers with excuses to own other people and later arguments for keeping the races separate. Entitlement gave us permission to rape the land and use the earth’s resources without thought about future generations or the consequences. We are now beginning to experience the results of our misuse. The vineyard that we have been given to manage is very broken.
The landowner’s intent was not to deprive the tenants. He did not plan to keep everything for himself. The landowner wanted to share his creation and give it as a gift to be used correctly and managed. The tenants accepted the gift of the vineyard with the pledge to care for it.
Though seeing all of life as a gift rather than an entitlement is not necessarily common it is the way of God’s kingdom that is now upon us. As we repent—see life from a new perspective—and believe—trust that the kingdom of God really us present—the concept of life as gift because more acceptable. And idea of gift opens the path that allow us to experience the abundant life that is ours through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
There are several changes that our new perspective brings with it.
• Gift encourages us to care for it and use it well.
• Gift provides us with contentment and allows us to nurture an attitude of gratitude.
• Gift builds community by sharing and meeting the needs of others.
• Gift honors God because it mimics God’s example
At the end of the story Jesus possess a rhetorical question. “What will the owner of the vineyard do?” He asks. Jesus answers his own question, “He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.” This doesn’t happen, though.