The Tenants in the Vineyard Mark 12:1-12

I want to share a secret with you this morning. In all our sermons from Mark’s Gospel it is a secret which has been revealed to just a few people. It is a secret which has been closely guarded. Until now.
We could call it the Messianic Secret, or the “Son of God” secret. Have you noticed how all through the three years of His public ministry, Jesus kept his identity as the Son of God secret as far as possible? When He cast out demons, Jesus commanded them to be silent because they knew who He really was. When he healed people, and even raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead, Jesus always said, “Don’t tell anyone what has happened.” At Caesaria Philippi when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” and then asked them, “And who do you say that I am?” Peter gave that marvellous answer, “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus immediately told them, “Don’t tell anyone.” After the transfiguration, when Peter James and John had seen Jesus in all his glory, the command was the same. Don’t tell anyone.”
You may have been wondering – why all this secret? Why did Jesus want to keep His true identity secret from everybody except his closest disciples?
The first reason was because of the risk of rejection. You remember Jesus’s first sermon at Nazareth. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” The crowd was preparing to throw Jesus off the cliff because they thought he was blaspheming. And at least twice when Jesus taught the people, when He said, “Before Abraham was, I am” and then when He said, “I and the father are one,” at least twice the people picked up stones to stone him for blasphemy. Jesus recognised that as soon as the secret of who He really was came out, very soon afterwards He would be dead.
But then there was a second reason for all the secrecy which was the risk of misunderstanding. The Jews were expecting the Messiah to be a great military leader to set them free from the Roman occupation. After Jesus fed the 5000 He had to hide away because all the people wanted to make Him King, by force if necessary. But Jesus did not come as a military king or a political leader. It took three years to prepare the way before Jesus could reveal who He was without everybody misunderstanding. Only at the very end, in the last week of His life, did Jesus let the secret out. And even then He did not do so in public statements and explicit claims but rather in two significant ACTIONS and one powerful PARABLE. Let’s start with that parable – the parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard. This tells us very clearly,
Most parable make a single point – this makes many. It is an allegory. Jesus tells the parable to make the Jewish leaders realise just exactly who they were trying to kill – the Son of God.
Mark 12:1 He then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.
In the parable the Vineyard owner represents God, and the Vineyard represents the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. This was a common picture that every Israelite would understand, taken from Isaiah chapter 5.
5:1 I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. … The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight.

In Jesus’s parable the tenants put in charge of the vineyard but who failed to pay the rent are the Leaders of Israel. And the Pharisees and the Sadducees realised that they were represented by the tenants. 12 Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them.
The Messengers sent by the Owner to the Tenants represent the Old Testament Prophets, the servants of God who had often been rejected and even killed by the Israelites.
But then the last person who is sent to the Tenants in the story is not just another servant. It is none other than the Owner’s dear Son.
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

And that Owner’s Son who the Tenants were planning to kill represents Jesus himself. The Jewish Leaders realised that. The whole crowd would realise that. In this parable Jesus is claiming to be none other than the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who would fulfil the prophecy in Psalm 118 and be the cornerstone of the rebuilding of the nation.
9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this scripture: “ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 11 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
If Jesus had been any more explicit he would have been stoned for blasphemy there and then, or else it would have started a revolution. The parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard lets the cat out of the bag. The big secret is finally revealed. Jesus is indeed the Son of God.
But then Jesus had already revealed who He was just days before, in two events which I am sure we know well although we may not have realised their significance. By the way that He had entered into Jerusalem Jesus had already made a powerful claim.
11 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!”

But what is so unusual about arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey, you might ask? The thing is, nobody would. Well expecting mothers and very old people might. But not at Passover time. At Passover time however far they had travelled all Jewish pilgrims would enter Jerusalem on foot. Important leaders and Roman soldiers might ride horses. But nobody would enter Jerusalem on a donkey. Nobody but one person. The person the Jews had been waiting for for centuries. Only one person would enter Jerusalem riding a donkey and that person would be the Messiah. That was the prophecy everybody was waiting to be fulfilled!
Zechariah 9 9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.
The Messiah would arrive in Jerusalem at Passover, not on a horse for battle but on a donkey announcing peace. By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus was proclaiming that the Kingdom of God had come. And by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus was claiming that He Himself was God’s chosen one, the Messiah. God’s chosen King greater than every other ruler and every other king.
The crowds recognised the significance of Jesus’s action. That is why they shouted “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!”
The crowds recognised Jesus as the one who comes in the name of the Lord, the Messiah.
And then the next day Jesus did something else which revealed who He really was.
Mark 11 15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:
“ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
We call this incident “the cleansing of the Temple.” But we miss the point of the story if we think it was about corruption. The moneychangers and those selling sacrificial animals weren’t crooks. They were a normal and official part of the Temple system, especially at Passover time. To understand what is going on here you have to realise just how big the Temple was. The moneychangers and the stalls were in the outermost court, the Court of the Gentiles. Best guess is that this area was as long and as wide as at least four football pitches. There is no way that Jesus threw out all the moneychangers and all the sellers. He could not have turned over all their tables. That would have led to a riot and Jesus would have been arrested immediately. What Jesus did was on a small scale, in one corner of the vast Court of the Gentiles. It was a symbolic demonstration which again fulfilled prophecies of what would happen when the Messiah would come.
Zechariah 6 12 Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’
The Jews had been waiting for centuries for their Messiah to come and rebuild the Temple. To make his claim clearer, Jesus then quoted from Isaiah.
Isaiah 56 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant — 7these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
This was what the Jews had been waiting for – for their Messiah to purify the Temple and its worship.
Malachi 3:1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.
So this “cleansing of the temple” had deep spiritual significance. Jesus was not only calling for purification and renewal of Temple worship. Jesus was claiming to be the promised One who would bring that purification and renewal, indeed claiming to be God Himself.
So the secret is out. Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the last messenger sent by the Owner to the Tenants in the Vineyard – even though He knew they would kill Him. Jesus is the Son of God who revolutionises life and bring God’s Kingly Rule. And Jesus is the Son of God who revolutionises religion.
Has Jesus revolutionised your life? Has He revolutionised your religion?
Bow down and worship – for this is your God!

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