Holy Tuesday | Part 2

If the cleansing of the temple occupied Jesus’ time on Holy Monday it seems that teaching dominates Holy Tuesday.

    There is a well-known story associated with the Mona Lisa. Two women have come into Paris from the countryside and visit the Louvre to view the famous painting. As they stand there in front of it, one says to the other, “I don’t like it. What is all the fuss about?” The guard simply says, “Madame, the Mona Lisa has stood the test of time. When you stand before her, it is not she who is being judged. It is you.” What he means, of course is that you have no right to judge the Mona Lisa. Its place among the world’s greatest works of art is not in doubt. If you say it’s nothing special, if you pass judgment on it, you are saying nothing about the painting. You are simply demonstrating your own ignorance. Your verdict on the Mona Lisa says nothing about her, but everything about you! This is precisely Jesus’ point in telling the parable of the tenants. Jesus is simply telling the religious authorities that he knows what they are about to do. They will reject him and kill him. Their verdict on Jesus says nothing about him, but everything about them. The chief priests think that they are deciding Jesus’ fate when in fact they are sealing their own fate.
  2. READ MARK 12:1-12
    Why did Jesus tell this easily understood story? The clue is found back in vrs 28. In response to what Jesus had done the previous day in cleansing the temple the religious leaders ask the question; By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” Jesus graciously answers them in this parable. Essentially Jesus has three things to say.

Jesus summarises a thousand years of Israel’s history. In this parable Jesus speaks about a man who planted a vineyard and rented it out to some farmers and went away on a long journey. The farmer or tenant would work the land for the owner under the condition that at harvest time a certain percentage of the grapes or the profits realised from their sale would go to the owner. The vine had been a symbol for Israel for centuries. Jesus has something to say about Israel. In fact the parallels between this passage and Isaiah 5 are uncanny. Who does the vineyard represent? Israel. Just a short walk from where Jesus was teaching was the temple. Around the vast door that led into the Holy Place a grapevine over 30 metres in length had been sculpted in gold leaf. The bunches of grapes that hung from it were made out of jewels. Every now and then a rich Jew would add another grape jewel or gold leaf. The vineyard in this story is a picture of Israel. Of course the tenants are the leaders of the Jewish people. The servants that God as the owner sent every year were OT prophets. The Jewish people had a history of shamefully treating their prophets. What patience did God, the owner of the vineyard demonstrate!! He sends a prophet and he is shamefully treated. You would expect God as the owner to exact swift retribution – but he doesn’t. He sent another servant and another. They are treated just as shabbily.

Remember the question which gave rise to this parable in vrs 28. Initially Jesus did not give a direct answer. But now his reply could not be clearer. “All the servants who came before me were prophets but I am different. I am special. I am the beloved Son of God.” In 11:18 we read that the chief priests were looking for a way to kill him. In telling this parable Jesus is making it clear that he knew it as well. This is the ultimate insult. To kill the Son of God!! It is easy for us to say; “How could they do such a wicked thing? Thank God that I am not like that.” But in this parable Jesus is highlighting a universal human condition. In a sense we are all like these tenants. We are all placed in this world and are told to live under God’s rule. We all owe God a debt of moral obedience. He expects his share of the fruit. But the human heart does not change. When God sends a servant, a preacher, who tells us that we are not living in accordance with God’s rules we become angry. We do not want anyone to tell us how we ought to live. We want to be free moral agents, accountable to no one. This rebellious desire for autonomy is what the bible calls sin.

In vrs 9 Jesus says; What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. According to vrs 12 the religious leaders knew only too well that Jesus had told this parable against them. They were the wicked tenants who would be thrown out and killed. What would then be done with the vineyard? It would be given to others. Who did Jesus have in mind? The Gentiles! Jesus has not finished yet. Look at vrs 10. Haven’t you read this scripture: The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes?” This is a quote from Psalm 118:22, 23. Two days before the crowds picked up the chant from Psalm 118:25 blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. When the Pharisees heard the singing they were indignant. Now Jesus rubs salt into their wounds by quoting from two verses earlier. “By rejecting me you are rejecting the capstone.” This is what Jesus is saying about himself. Imagine some builders at a building site. They toss stones to one side as rejects. They are searching for a cornerstone. The cornerstone was the one stone that was used to determine the lines and angles of all the other walls. If this stone was not right nothing would be right. That stone was vital. To their embarrassment they realised that the one stone that they were looking for had inexplicably been cast onto the reject pile. Jesus’ point is unmistakable. The religious authorities in Israel were casting him to one side. Yet Jesus would be raised as the capstone. In the parable the father said “perhaps they will respect my son.” The tenants didn’t. But of course the day will come according to Philippians 2:10, 11 when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. On that day everyone will respect God’s Son.