The Expository Files


 The Wicked Vinedressers

 Mark 12:1-12

Then He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated. And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some. Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those vinedressers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard.

“Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not even read this Scripture:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
And they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away.

When I lived in Kansas, the owner-tenant arrangement was common after children inherited farms from their family. It worked like this. After receiving the farm through will or estate distribution, the grown children (who worked and lived their own lives) hired tenants. The tenants would live on the farm property and work the land to the best of their ability (ideally). At harvest time, the owners would visit and collect their share of the proceeds.

Now, can you imagine owning a farm, having tenants, and sending someone back to collect your percentage – and they beat up the person you send! And you wind up with a dead person and nothing from the harvest. Not only do you not receive what belongs to you – your representative is treated with violence and comes back with nothing. You send other representatives to collect your interests – but the same thing happens – some are beaten and killed. So you decide – I will send my son, “They will respect my son.” Right? Wrong.

“But those tenants said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours’.” So, they took the son, killed him and cast him out of the vineyard. The only final recourse for the owner is, to show up – well armed – destroy those tenents and give the farm to others. That’s the story Jesus told.

And there is one predominant thought we have – reading or hearing this story: THIS IS NOT RIGHT; It is an outrage. People who are put in charge of your property cannot cut you out! That’s really theft, isn’t it? The tenants or vinedressers are there to work, earn part of the profit, but they have no right to take over. They must pay their rent.

And in this story, violence and murder was their method. So reading the parable we get this strong sense of outrage against the vinedressers, and thus the title of the parable – The Wicked Vinedressers. Jesus said (and listeners agreed) – they will be thrown out, and the vineyard given to others.

Then, Jesus brought up this prophecy:

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

It is this simple – God sent Jesus. Jesus was to be and now is, The Stone – The Chief Cornerstone. God built a house, the church. God did this. It was and is a “marvelous” thing. But the leaders of the Jewish people rejected Jesus Christ – setting themselves against God’s Son and God’s plan. This parable was against them. Jesus, again, skillfully brought His hearers to condemn themselves. This is clear in Matthew’s account (Matt. 21:40-46).

Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’ ?
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

“Jesus’ purpose in this parable was to show the rulers of His people the road they were on and where it would lead. Their hypocritical religiosity merely disguised a seditious desire to seize authority from the true King which would inevitably lead them to destroy their own Messiah. What would the owner of the vineyard do to those miserable tenants, Jesus asked the Jewish leaders. They replied with heedless fierceness. ‘He will destroy those wicked men miserably and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons,’ (Matt. 21:41). Unwittingly they had sentenced themselves. As Jesus would later warn, upon them was to fall ‘all the righteous bloodshed on the earth…,’ (Matt. 23:35). Their house would be left to them desolate. This parable is full of lessons,” (Paul Earnhart, Glimpses of Eternity: Studies In The Parables of Jesus, DeWard Publishing).

From This We Learn --

ONE: God Is The Owner. In sending us a Savior and establishing the church, God isn’t giving us something for us to do as we please. God is the owner, pictured in this parable as the owner of this vineyard and the owner did not give it to the workers! We need to think of God as the ultimate, divine, supreme Owner. The earth and all it contains; the people; the law God has given; the church, everything! It serves us well and serves Him ultimately, to think of God as the owner. It will help keep us on course. (See further: Psa. 24:1; 50:10; Deut. 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:7; 1 Cor. 6:19,20).

TWO: God Made Every Necessary Provision For Good Fruit Bearing. You cannot just own something, you have to provide for its’ existence and productivity. God has made every necessary provision for His people to bear fruit, in every dispensation.

“A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower.

All of this in verse 1 becomes for us an image of God making every provision for His vineyard to produce fruit. Consider, for example, the wine vat. That was an instrument of hope, showing expectation of a good harvest.

God not only owns everything – He sustains everything – and in regard to His church, He has made every provision for His people to work, to thrive, to evangelize and be united (see Eph. 4:7-16).

THREE – God Sent His Messengers, And They Were Rejected. We may first think of John the Baptist and Jesus and how they were rejected by the leadership. But well before John and Jesus – as God sent prophets and messengers to the Jewish nation – the leaders, one by one, picked them off – took them out of the way.

“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”(Acts 7:51-53)

The servants and then the son of the vinedresser pushed back, mistreated, rejected and killed by the leaders. Today – Jesus is rejected widely. This is sad reality. Let us resolved we will never have any part in this rebellious, destructive attitude.

FOUR – God Sent His Son, And They Killed Him. What happened to the heir in this story, is exactly what happened to Jesus, the “heir of all things,” (Heb. 1:2). The parable is a picture of God, His Nation, His expectations, the rebellion of the leaders – and finally, the killing of the Son of God. It should grieve us, but God used the horrible event – to provide for us to come out of sin and into fellowship with Him.

FIVE – As God’s People Today, We Are Participants, Workers And Receivers Of God’s Goodness. We cannot ever entertain any thought of taking over. The Kingdom belongs to God!

It was never God’s intention to start up some institution and then let us have it, to do what we want. In classic Catholicism there was and remains today this idea, that God set something up, for men to take over and govern and use for their changing purposes. We must reject such thinking, and always consider that we are members of something God built that Jesus is head over. There was never any intention of letting us have the church – NO, we are the church that belongs to Christ.

There is an application of these parables to us in this present age. Many of us have been highly advantaged spiritually. We were born in a nation where God’s word has been widely taught, born of Christian parents, and have known the truth from childhood. We should be the first to appreciate the greatness of the Lord’s kingdom and submit to His rule. But we sometimes see those who have had few advantages spiritually appreciating the blessings of the kingdom more than some of us do. We must not follow the steps of the chief priests and Pharisees, but join with all who submit willingly to the rule of God through Jesus Christ. Bill Hall, Christianity Magazine

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 20.2; February 2013