Mark 12:1-12 1 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
Have you ever been in a situation where you could cut the tension in the air with a knife? We’ve all experienced times when there is an intensity of emotions or feelings. Fierce opponents are about to face each other or a terrible wrong is about to be committed. Such was the environment when Jesus spoke in the Temple in Jerusalem on the days leading up to His crucifixion. He had publicly revealed that He was indeed the Christ by allowing the people worship Him as He entered on a donkey’s colt singing praises to His Name. Jesus cleansed the Temple a second time (like at the beginning of His public ministry) exposing the system of religion that was practiced in His Temple that was contrary to the will of God. The chief priests and scribes and elders would not stand by as Jesus came to take His rightful place. They would oppose Him with all their might. They would kill Him. But how would they complete their purposes? In Mark Chapter 12 we read of the battle that took place in the Temple. A battle not with swords but with words. At the end of Mark 11 Jesus’ authority is questioned which He rebuts, silencing His opponents. Now Jesus speaks to them a parable. Parables are intended to hide truth from the unbelieving and reveal truth to those who will believe. But by this point it would have been so obvious to anyone witnessing these events of what was going on. The chief priests and scribes and elders were against Jesus and Jesus was against them. There was no unity between them. They were fierce enemies and a fierce hostility existed between them. Their words were not intended to accommodate the other but to defeat their opponent.
The irony is that Jesus’ fiercest opposition came not from the most wicked people in society but from the religious elite who should have been looking for His coming as the Christ. Never think that all religious people represent God. We see from the life of Jesus that people who claim to be Christians can often be the farthest from God. The judgment of the hypocrite is more severe than the “known” sinner. Why? Because the hypocrite knows the truth and yet intentionally denies it. The “known” sinner does not care to know the Word of God but just wants to gratify their sinful desires. They too are guilty in the sight of God but the hypocrite claims to be following God and yet will directly oppose Him. Hypocrisy is a great danger in the Church and can be so destructive. It must always be guarded against. Sadly, the Temple in Jerusalem had not instantly become in this depraved and wicked state. The hypocrisy would have creeped in slowly and subtly until all its religious forms were superficial and deceptive. Jesus could see through it all and stood against it all.
And so, in the parable that He now speaks, Jesus describes an owner of a vineyard who had to go to another country and who leased out his property. But who was left in charge of the property claimed it as their own. Any time the owner sent someone to take some fruit of what was rightfully his, they were beaten, struck on the head, and even were killed. When the owner sent his son who was also the heir of the property they killed him intentionally so that they could claim the property for themselves. The owner obviously represents God the Father, the servants sent to take some fruit are the Old Testament prophets, and finally the son is Jesus Christ. Their opposition were the religious leaders in Jerusalem to whom Jesus spoke the parable. They knew they were coming against the owner (God) but justified it in their own eyes. They knew that they were coming against the son (Jesus Christ) and yet would not surrender to Him. They were right. They would not be opposed. They would not back down. They would hold on to their religion without God. How foolish is the hypocrite that opposes God to his own destruction! How foolish were the religious leaders to think that they could defeat Jesus Christ!
What is one of the most shocking and amazing truths in God’s plan of salvation is how He will use hypocrites in His plan of salvation. They will ultimately be condemned without repentance and faith in Jesus Christ but God often uses evil from within to further His purposes. It does not destroy His plans. Jesus says, “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” What is more shocking than what appears to be a terrible defeat is revealed to be a triumph? Often a church will go through a terrible problem because of some hypocrisy within. God’s Name is tarnished and brought low and spit upon and yet out of the ashes of what appears to be defeat God births forth a new and blessed ministry. Jesus would be rejected and killed by these leaders who knew that Jesus was speaking about them, and yet He would still be victorious!
Have you been hurt by the Church? Have you been disillusioned by the Church? Have you been confused when you thought God would intervene but He didn’t? Ask God for more clarity on your situation. There is likely more to what has transpired than what you may have realized. Be careful to identify the true believer from the false. Be careful to identify hypocrisy versus the truth that is found only in Jesus Christ. And recognize that God can yet use the evil that you have experienced for His good. It may yet to be revealed but He will always bless and uplift those who are willing to suffer for His Name as He exposes the evil for what it is. Jesus was fiercely against the religious leaders who opposed Him and He is against hypocrites in the Church today. But also beware of becoming a hypocrite yourself. It is easy to think we are on the right path when we are in fact on the wrong one. Examine your heart and your motives.
Pastor Murray Hack