Summary: Are you ready for God to get the glory as you respond to His goodness and grace?
I wanted to apologize for something. I feel badly that I’ve let something slide. Many of you are no doubt wondering about it so I thought I better make it right.
Pardon me for going a couple months without showing pictures of our grandson.
Here’s a recent picture of Pip on a swing at a park.
He’s also really into books. I mean, really into books.
He loves being read to and following the storyline. At his age he prefers books with few words and lots of pictures (like his grandpa).
Many of us first heard stories from our parents or grandparents (by the way, our newest Growth Group is called Extreme Grandparenting – it meets right here at 4:00 pm on Sundays).
His dad Jamie describes the process Pip goes through when he’s read to: “His eyes comb the surface as if he’s afraid he’ll miss something as you read…sometimes he’ll bring you the same book a hundred times in a day and sometimes it’s a new book every ten seconds.” Lydia says, “He will bring a book and put it in our hands or lap to let us know he wants to read it. He has favorites where he copies word sounds and points out characters and things on the pages.”
In a similar way, young Israelite children were well versed in certain stories and allegories. Most would have grown up knowing that the grapevine was an illustration of Israel. These stories became their favorites and they were very familiar with the characters.
Allegories are alluring, aren’t they? I’ll never forget reading about the power hungry pigs that took over a farm and oppressed their fellow animals. George Orwell intended Animal Farm not to just be a story about animals but to be an indictment on communist leaders who oppress people. Other examples of allegories include The Cave by Plato, which pictures the human race in a dark cave as trapped prisoners who only experience reality as shadows on a wall. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan has been translated into more than 200 languages and is a picture of a Christian’s pilgrimage through life. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an amazing allegory by J.R.R. Tolkien. One reason the Hunger Games is so popular is that it is an allegory about the abuses of reality TV.
The parable of Jesus that we’ll be looking at today draws from a well-known allegory in the Old Testament. These are not just tame little children’s stories, however. I like what Albert Mohler writes: “Rather than seeing parables as the Christian version of Aesop’s fables…they are incredible explosions of biblical truth. Jesus threw them at His opponents and consoled his followers with them. Each parable detonated with a very clear message.”
A parable is like a story with a punch line. The unusual twist is what gives the parable its impact and biting force as it jolts the listener into seeing things in a new way, bringing us to a point of decision and action.
Before we jump into our text, let’s listen to an allegory from the Book of Isaiah, written 700 years before Christ. Jesus will take this allegory and turn it into a powerful parable that delivers a knockout punch to the religious leaders.
Listen to Isaiah 5:1-7: “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? [Incidentally, the word “wild” refers to “stinking things.”]
And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!”
With that as background, in Mark 12:1-9, Jesus preaches an historical parable with a powerful twist that leaves the leaders hysterical. Isaiah’s allegory speaks of judgment and Jesus’ parable ends with judgment. Before I read it, let’s establish the main characters…