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Israel’s Rejection of the Messiah
12:1 Then he began to speak to them in parables: ‘A man planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a pit for its winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went on a journey.
The parable of the workers in the vineyard is loosely based upon Isaiah 5:1-7 and so the people, particularly the religious leaders, would almost immediately have recognized that Jesus was talking about them.
The man who planted the vineyard is a reference to God who planted Israel in the land of Canaan. He had promised this land to Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 12:6 -7) and although it was many years later that the promise was fulfilled, God kept his word (2 Peter 3:8-9). After God had brought them out of Egypt he gave them the land which he had prepared (or planted) for them.
The fence around the vineyard speaks of the divine protection which was given to his people, as the angel of the Lord encamped around them (Psalm 34:17) and God was as a wall of fire around them (Zech. 2:5). The fence can also speaks of separation, for God separated Israel to himself to be his holy people (Lev. 20:26) to keep his laws and walk in his ways.
The winepress might represent the temple where the people were meant to bring the fruit of the vine in tithes and offerings which were made into wine. Spiritually, this may be a reference to the worship, devotion, thanksgiving, and offerings of Israel. The tower (a place of defence) was the city of Jerusalem itself.
The owner of the vineyard leased it to tenants, and God gave his land, his laws, his protection and his promises to Israel that they might be his stewards. The vineyard owner left the tenants to care for the vineyard and produce its fruit until he returned. Believers are to be good stewards of all that God has entrusted with us until he returns in the person of Christ (Luke 19:13; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1Pet. 4:10). However Israel had failed their trust. They had not kept the covenant which God had made with them; they broke his laws, mixing with the heathen in the land and serving their idols.
12:2-5 At harvest time he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his portion of the crop. But those tenants seized his slave, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. So he sent another slave to them again. This one they struck on the head and treated outrageously. He sent another and that one they killed. This happened to many others, some of whom were beaten, others killed.
When it was harvest time, the vineyard owner sent his servants to receive his rightful share of the fruit of his vineyard. But the tenants refused to hand it over and beat the servants, sending some away empty handed, and killing others.
In a similar way, God had sent his prophets to call Israel to bring him his rightful dues of love, obedience and worship. Again and again they rejected, beat and killed his prophets; yet God in his mercy and longsuffering did not reject or give up on these wicked people. He sent more prophets, inviting the people to repent and receive forgiveness; but they would not listen and killed these also (Heb. 11:36-37).
12:6 He had one left, his one dear son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'
Finally, the owner sent his only son to the tenants thinking that they would respect him. In the same way God sent his only begotten Son, whom he loved, the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2). Here he was, addressing the scribes and Pharisees, and surely if these religious leaders were sincere in their worship of God as they professed to be, then surely they would respect and honour his Son.
12:7-8 But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and the inheritance will be ours!' So they seized him, killed him, and threw his body out of the vineyard.
The tenants of the vineyard recognised the son of the owner. Jesus may be implying that although they refused to acknowledge it, in their hearts the Pharisees knew him to be speaking the truth that he was God’s Son. Nevertheless, they rejected him (John 1:11). They took him to be crucified outside the city walls so that they may keep the inheritance (the nation of Israel) for themselves.
12:9 What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.
Because of Israel's rejection of Christ they became blinded and were cut off from receiving the salvation which he came to give (Rom. 11:7). Within a generation of Jesus uttering these words, Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by Roman armies. Yet through their rejection a way was made for the Gentiles to receive salvation (Rom. 11:15). Moreover, this blindness of the Jews is only temporary; it will remain only until the full number of the Gentiles is gathered in (Rom. 11:25).
12:10 Have you not read this scripture: 'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This verse is a quote from Psalm 118:22. The “builders” are the leaders of Israel and the “stone” is Jesus Christ whom they rejected but whom God exalted (Phil. 2:9; Rev. 5:12).
12:11-13 This is from the Lord, and it is marvellous in our eyes'?’ Now they wanted to arrest him (but they feared the crowd), because they realized that he told this parable against them. So they left him and went away. Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to trap him with his own words.
The Pharisees and Herodians were bitter enemies but they joined together for the purpose of entrapping and destroying Jesus.
12:14 When they came they said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are truthful and do not court anyone's favour, because you show no partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?’
They decided to approach Jesus with flattering words. Although they described him as “truthful” they did not acknowledge him to be the truth (John 14:6). They flattered him with being without personal prejudice (Acts 10:34) and for speaking the truth about God (even though they did not believe or obey this truth).
Their question concerned the matter of paying tribute to Rome; “Is it right to give taxes to Caesar?” they asked.
12:15 But he saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, ‘Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.’
Jesus knew what they were doing and saw through their hypocrisy. The fact that he asked them to produce a denarius is not insignificant, for it shows that although they were Jews, deriding the Roman money as idolatrous, yet they were using the coin of the Roman Empire for their business transactions.
12:16-17 So they brought one, and he said to them, ‘Whose image is this, and whose inscription?’ They replied, ‘Caesar's.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.
Jesus’ answer made reference to the markings on the coin. Since Caesar’s head and name were engraved on the coin, it clearly belonged to him. People, on the other hand, bear the image of God, being made in his likeness (Gen. 1:26) and so Jesus concluded that we must give to Caesar what is Caesar’s (his money) and to God what is God’s (ourselves- Rom. 12:1).
12:18 Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) also came to him and asked him,
After the Pharisees and Herodians had failed to trap Jesus, the Sadducees decided to try. These were a religious party who rejected any belief in life after death, resurrection, angels or spirits (Acts 23:8).
12:19-23 ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us: 'If a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, that man must marry the widow and father children for his brother.' There were seven brothers. The first one married, and when he died he had no children. The second married her and died without any children, and likewise the third. None of the seven had children. Finally, the woman died too. In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For all seven had married her.’
So they came to Jesus, not with an enquiring mind, but with a ridiculous hypothetical situation in order to discredit him. If a woman had married seven times in the way they described (Deut. 25:5-6), whose wife would she be after the resurrection?
12:24 Jesus said to them, ‘Aren't you deceived for this reason, because you don't know the scriptures or the power of God?
Jesus replied that these so called experts in the law had no understanding of the word of God (1 Tim. 1:7) and were completely ignorant of his power.
12:25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
The resurrection body will be different in quality to the earthly body. It will be heavenly, incorruptible and immortal (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 49) like Christ's resurrection body (Phil. 3:21). There will be no gender distinction in heaven and so there will be no marriage or sexual intercourse. These Sadducees did not appreciate God’s power was able to raise up and change the body in this way (1 Cor. 6:14).
12:26-27 Now as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. You are badly mistaken!’
Jesus further pointed out to the Sadducees that their position contradicted the writings of Moses. He referred them to Exodus 3:6 where God spoke of himself as the “I am”, not “I was”, “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. These men had already been dead for some time before God spoke these words to Moses. Hence God declares himself to be not the God of the dead but of the living!
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Copyright (2009-2015) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk
This study is taken from our Bible study guide Faithbuilders - The Gospel of Mark