Mark 12:1-12

Then Jesus began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country.

When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed.

He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:

‘The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is amazing in our eyes’?”

When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away. Mark 12:1-12

The first thing you will want to know about this parable is “Who are THEY?”

  • Jesus began to speak to THEM…
  • …to collect from THEM
  • THEY seized him and beat him…
  • Finally he sent him to THEM…

It is human nature. The darkest side of human nature. Fallen human nature. You can call it the “blame game” or the “self-justification game” or the “victim game” or just plain old “hide & seek.” Call it whatever you want but it is the same game that people have been playing since first set free in the Garden.

We just LOVE to watch THEM get it…like we think THEY deserve to get it.

So who are THEY? The easy answer requires a quick peek at the end of chapter 11. There it is – “the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.” THEY are the ones who are going to get cast out of the vineyard. Is that a pleasing answer to you?

Historically, Christians have done two things with stories like this one. First, they blamed Jews for the death of Jesus (which is a bad thing) and used that as justification to do horrific things to Jews for 2000 years. Second, they explained the death of Jesus as a necessary step in God’s plan for salvation (which would make it a good thing) but said that the benefits of said death would be available to all, but only given to the select few who signed up.

You might think of it as “One exclusivist mindset and system replacing another exclusivist mindset and system.” The end result? You still get to have a THEM to look down on.

Do you really believe, in your heart of hearts, such a reading pleases God?

Here is another reading: There is only WE. We share the vineyard. We share its fruits. There is enough for all. The owner isn’t in a distant country but right here. With us. Among us. In us. The tenants would have realized that had they not killed their teachers.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we sense the greed, selfishness, and fear that lurks within us and is expressed in all we do to get status, security, and control. We know the truth. We are the ones who want to keep the vineyard all to ourselves. Forgive us and lead us to a new way of being. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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