Have you not read this scripture? – Monday, 9th Week in ordinary time – Mark 12: 1-12
The text is situated on the Tuesday of Holy week and while the time lines of parts of chapter 12 and 13 are blurred what is crystal clear is the hate in the heart and in the actions of the Jewish religious leadership towards Jesus.
In the previous text 11:27-33 it is they who come like wolves but this time not in sheep’s clothing. Their intentions were made clear when scripture tells us in 11:18 that “they kept looking for a way to kill him.” The very tense of the sentence structure tells us that this was not some stroke of luck they hoped to run into; for them, any excuse would do and as we know from Our Lord’s trial, lies were up for grabs too!
The Jewish authorities wanted to know by what or under whose authority was Jesus doing ‘these things’. ( Mark 11:18) Clearly everything he did, every miracle and healing was also seen suspiciously. After all, did they not say that he performed these miracles by the power of the prince of devils? (Matthew 12:24)
While Jesus refuses to answer an unjust and unrighteous religious leadership he does not lose the opportunity to expose them by telling them a parable which forms the text of today. We know from 12:12 that too late, “they realized that he told this parable against them,” and thought they wanted to arrest him they feared the crowd.
Four times in this parable one finds the word ‘sent.’ When season came the owner of the vineyard sent a slave to collect a share of the produce. Yet this slave was ‘sent’ away with without the share but given a beating. Again he ‘sent’ another slave who was assaulted on the head and insulted. Then he ‘sent’ the third slave who was killed. Finally, he sent his son who was the heir and seizing what was perceived as an opportunity to eradicate the blood line they stain their hands with innocent blood and disrespecting even his corpse they threw it outside the vineyard.
Israel was the vineyard of the Lord. The vineyard did not belong to them for they were tenants who were given the land to care for and to produce fruit. The parable does not tell us if the land produced fruit, it just says that “when season came, he sent his slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce.” We know from the parable of the fig tree (11:12) that the nation of Israel, represented by a fig tree produced only leaves and no fruit. It is for this reason that Jesus cursed it. Now, not only do they not produce any fruit, it is the land too that they desire to usurp by immoral means and take for themselves what is not, was not and never will be theirs.
To sum up the consequence of this parable, Jesus asked the Jewish religious authorities a question. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do?” Their answer, was in reality, a pronouncement of their own death sentence for their infidelity and immorality; they will be destroyed! This prophecy came true when the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the city and the temple.
Lest we think that this is a stinging indictment of a people long gone then we need to think again. The words of Our Lord spoken to the Jewish religious establishment speak to us today. “Have you not read this scripture?” Psalm 118 is the called the Hosanna Psalm. It is a Psalm in which the Messiah is presented to Israel. Yet Jesus is rejected even though they initially greeted him in Jerusalem with hosannas (chapter 11:1).
Ironically, even though they were convicted by the words and the truth of Jesus, (12:12) knowing fully well that this parable was about them, they still chose to reject and not receive him. They plotted to murder Jesus instead of repenting before Him.
Today, let the Holy Spirit convict you with his truth. This IS the spirit of truth (John 15:26). God speaks to our hearts even when we have turned away from him. He does that so that listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit we may repent. So today is not too late to be convicted by the Spirit of truth for God says to us, “have you not read this scripture?”