“They will respect my beloved Son”
Gospel reading: Mark 12:1-12
1 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. 2 When the time 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 wounded him in 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 cast 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 very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” 12 And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away.
Meditation: What does Jesus’ parable about an absentee landlord and his tenants say to us? The hills of Galilee were lined with numerous vineyards, and it was quite normal for the owners to let out their estates to tenants. Many did it for the sole purpose of collecting rent. Why did Jesus’ story about wicked tenants cause offense to the scribes and Pharisees? It contained both a prophetic message and a warning. Isaiah had spoken of the house of Israel as “the vineyard of the Lord” (Isaiah 5:7). Jesus’ listeners would likely understand this parable as referring to God’s dealing with a stubborn and rebellious people.
Jesus faithfully does his Father’s will even in the face of severe opposition
This parable speaks to us today as well. It richly conveys some important truths about God and the way he deals with his people. First, it tells us of God’s generosity and trust. The vineyard is well equipped with everything the tenants need. The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants. God, likewise trusts us enough to give us freedom to run life as we choose. This parable also tells us of God’s patience and justice. Not once, but many times he forgives the tenants their debts. But while the tenants take advantage of the owner’s patience, his judgment and justice prevail in the end. Jesus foretold both his death and his ultimate triumph. He knew he would be rejected and be killed, but he also knew that would not be the end. After rejection would come glory – the glory of resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father.
If we trust in the Lord our labor is not in vain
How do we share in this glory? By submitting to Jesus’ kingly rule in our lives. Jesus promises that we will bear much fruit (certainly the fruit of peace, righteousness, and joy, and much more besides) if we abide in him (see John 15:1-11). The Lord also entrusts his gifts to each of us and he gives us work to do in his vineyard – the body of Christ. He promises that our labor will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end (see 1 Corinthians 15:58). We can expect trials and even persecution. But in the end we will see triumph. Do you labor for the Lord with joyful hope and with confidence in his triumph?
“Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given us; for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us. O most merciful redeemer, friend, and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, for your own sake!” (Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester, 13th century)
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,
2 will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”
14 Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Christ’s wounds bring healing and life, by Ambrose of Milan, 339-397 A.D.
“The vineyard prefigures us, because the people of God, founded on the root of the eternal Vine, appear above the earth, bordering the lowly ground. They now grow ripe with budding flowers. They now are clothed with dense greenery and take on a gentle yoke [see Matthew 11:30] when they worship with mature branches as if with the twigs of the vine. The Father Almighty truly is the Vinedresser, and Christ is the Vine. We, not vine sprouts, are pruned by the sickle of the eternal cultivator if we do not bear fruit in Christ. [see John 15:1-2] The people of Christ then is correctly named a vineyard, either because the sign of the cross is woven on its forehead [see Ezekiel 9:4,6] or its fruit is gathered in the last season of the year. It may also be called a vineyard because there is equal measurement in the church of God for rich and poor, humble and powerful, servants and masters. There is no difference in the church, as in all the rows of the vineyard.[see Colossians 3:25] As the vine clings to trees, so the body is joined to the soul and the soul to the body. When the vine clings, it is raised up. When it is pruned, it is not diminished, but it increases. The people of God is stripped when it is bound, uplifted when it is humbled, crowned when it is cut back. The tender shoot cut from an old tree is grafted onto the progeny of another root. When the scars of the old shoot are cut away, the people of God likewise grow into the wood of the cross. It is as if they are cherished in the arms of a pious parent. The Holy Spirit comes as if cast down into the deep ditches of the earth and poured into this prison of the body. With the flow of saving water, the Holy Spirit washes away whatever is filthy and raises the posture of our members to heavenly discipline. (excerpt from EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 9.30.21)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.