Parable of the Tenants
Jesus is a trouble maker, at least for the religious leaders.
The key word here is authority. Who is in charge of this situation? The religious leaders? Herod? Rome? The crowd?
In classic Jesus fashion, he does not give the leaders a direct response. He knows their hearts. He knows they are driven by fear and the need to seem like they are in control, when the truth is that their country is spiraling out of control.
He doesn’t play their game.
Jesus does not respond directly to the leaders’ question. Instead, he tells them a parable.
Parables are always difficult to interpret. They are intentionally open ended. They don’t provide answers, they invite the listener to lean in more and ask better questions.
It seems clear that Jesus is drawing from common prophetic imagery. The Vineyard is a symbol of Israel throughout the prophets, most clearly seen in Isaiah 5:1-11.
It is puzzling why Jesus ends his parable with a quote from Psalm 118:22-23. This Psalm is labeled “A Song of Victory.” The Psalmist rejoices because the people have just survived a time of siege. The people were surrounded. All seemed lost. But, God delivered them. Apparently, the Psalmist, perhaps David, led the people into victory and is giving all the credit to God.
Perhaps the Psalmist is the stone the builders rejected (remembering the slaves of Egypt that became the people of God? remembering the annointing of David that Saul did not recognize) and now he sits on the throne and will unify the Kingdom (he becomes the cornerstone).
What is Jesus doing here by combining the image of the rented vineyard and wicked tenants with the victory Psalm? Perhaps the time is up for the leaders. The vineyard must be purged, once again. (The author knows that the Temple would be destroyed in A.D. 70).
Yet, perhaps Jesus is also comforting the crowd that all is not lost. The Temple is more than the guilded stones that Herod built. Even though they kill the son, he is not defeated. The unlikely carpenter’s son from Nazareth will lead the people into the true temple of God, beyond brick and mortar, which expands to the whole world.
The commentary below comes from when we preached through Mark in 2016. I took the three encounters between Jesus and the Religious leaders and brought them into conversation with the Temple and the widow.
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