Readers discretion advised. – 9th Week in ordinary time- Mark 12: 1-12
This parable most certainly would get the attention of a censor board with a blazing disclaimer, ‘the following parable contains some images unsuitable for children, reader discretion advised’; for violence and murder fill sacred space.
The reading of today falls between the triumphant entry into Jerusalem in Chapter 11 and the last supper in Chapter 14. Jesus is in the temple taking on the Jewish authorities. These chapters are called the ‘interrogation passages’ as they begin with an interrogatory question from the Jewish authorities to Jesus.
The passage of today also has a historical background. The gospel of Matthew was written somewhere between 60 and 70 AD. This was the time when the Romans broke the Jewish siege, entered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple; a prediction that Jesus makes in the following Chapter. For St Mark, the temple had become a symbol of corruption led by the Jewish authorities and that is why in Chapter 11 Jesus cleanses the temple on entering Jerusalem and in Chapter 13 predicts its destruction.
The hatred of the authorities against Jesus was palpable. They question His authority in the preceding verses only to have Jesus expose their own lack of authority. Then, using a parable with clear allegorical overtones, Jesus rips into the Jewish leaders. The parable of the wicked tenants, which borrows motifs familiar to storytellers of that time, rakes up the Jewish nation’s rap sheet of infidelity with God.
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