After Jesus had cleared the temple of the various merchants, He called out the Jewish leaders for turning the house of the Lord into a den of robbers. This did not sit well with the chief priests and the teachers of the law, as they started looking for ways to kill Him. They questioned the authority of Jesus as each religious group sent their representatives to test Him. This is when Jesus told them the “Parable of the Tenants” which builds on the Parable (Song) of the Vineyard found in Isaiah’s book. The Pharisees were well versed with the prophet’s writings but they did not expect Jesus to reveal the plans that they were hatching through a rendition of the same Parable.
The Parable of the Tenants
In the parable, Jesus speaks about a man who planted a vineyard and everything needed to run it efficiently. A wall to protect the vineyard from the surrounding fauna that could creep in, a pit to easily operate the winepress and even a watchtower to fend off any intruders. This man then rented this place to some tenants and went away to live in a foreign land. At the time of harvest, the man sent his servant to the tenants so that he may collect his share of the fruits. Instead, the tenants gave a good bashing to the servant and sent him away empty-handed. They had forgotten the grace the owner showed towards them when he gave them the vineyard in the first place.
According to the Jewish laws regarding sharecropping, the landowner was due his share of fruits from the tenants as previously agreed upon. The man had built everything needed to run the vineyard and rightfully expected a return from the tenants whom he had chosen to look after his land. The man kept sending his servants but all of them encountered the same fate, some even death. At last, the man sent his own son, thinking the tenants would not dare put their hands on him but would show him the same respect that they would have given him.
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.Mark 12:7-8 (NIV)
As religious heads of state, the Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests and other temple leaders of Israel had carved out their share of the inheritance, people that they could rule over. They did not even allow Prophets to come to their towns and enlighten the crowds by sharing God’s plan for them. Jesus had also called out the leaders of Israel for killing the prophets that were sent to them (Matthew 23:37). Not only the outsiders, but the Jewish leaders did not get along with each other as well, as the rivalry among the Pharisees and the Sadducees has been openly acknowledged by both parties. Like the tenants, who were not interested in getting in the good books of the owner but wanted to extract maximum profit from his land, the religious leaders were also satisfied with their authority over people rather than wanting to please the Owner who gave them their authority.
Even today, some pastors are satisfied with their fellowships and Sunday parishioners, rather than desiring for them to come closer to the Father. Our shortsightedness prevents us from coming closer to God as we are satisfied with only the worldly blessing that we receive. It is the greed for wealth that made the tenants kill their owner’s son and it is the lust for authority that made the Jewish leaders hang God’s Son on the cross. Continuing the parable, Jesus revealed the fate that was awaiting the tenants and their modern-day counterparts. When the owner found out what they had done to his son, he came and killed all the tenants and gave the Vineyard to new tenants.
Ever since the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah, the gates of the vineyard have been opened for everyone. The disciples were baptised with the Spirit of Jesus and sent to the corners of the earth to spread the joy that they had found. God enabled them to testify boldly, strengthened them to withstand persecution and death and supported them throughout their ministries. He gave them all the tools that they needed to take the Gospel forward, and all they had to do was share their experience with others.
Even for us, He does the same. He died on the cross, took away our guilt and shame and made us a new creation. Even though we did not deserve it He made us the tenants of His Vineyard. All we have to do is share our fruits. The fruits of His Spirits, the fruits we receive because of our association with Him, He wants us to share those fruits with the people that He sends our way.
“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;Mark 12:10-11 (NIV)
the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
Just like the cornerstone is crucial to the structural integrity of a building or a temple, the Messianic king who was to rise from the line of David was integral to God’s plan for a New Temple. There was a consensus among the scholars of Israel that the cornerstone in the Psalm (Psalm 118) was pointing towards the Messiah. By narrating the Parable of the tenants, Jesus not only shone the light on their plot to kill Him but also clearly told them that in the process they would be killing the Cornerstone, the Vineyard owner’s Son, the Messiah.
- Is it fair for the owner to be not involved in the maintenance of the Vineyard but still ask for its fruits?
- In the Parable the inheritance the tenants were after was the Vineyard but what is the inheritance for which the leaders of Israel had the Son killed?
- Who are the new tenants and what is expected of them?
- Why does Jesus call himself the cornerstone?