"Who’s Kingdom is it?" The Parable of the Tenants

“Clean your room!” my mother would say. I heard this on a number of occasions growing up, actually probably not as much as I have to say those same words to my children. I remember my home on Long Island, specifically the one on Berry Court. We had moved around a little throughout my early years but that was the house where I spent my elementary and high school years. In that house we were taught that everything had its place. I remember our living room; it was meticulous and always looked presentable. Don’t get me wrong the house was lived in but everything had its place, when something was used it was put back. In Mark chapter 11 verses 12-19 we find Jesus clearing of the temple. This accounting is paralleled in the book of Luke and Matthew as well. As Jesus had entered the temple he finds a mess, he is so disturbed and moved to action and starts flipping the tables in the market. He addresses the onlookers by saying “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’.” (Mark 11:17). The Pharisees asked among themselves, who does he think he is? By what authority does he do these things? They truly wanted to get rid of Jesus; Jesus takes this opportunity to confront these leaders. He begins by asking them the question “John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!” (Mark 11:30). They deliberated the question and were stumped, they would not reply, for they didn’t want to denounce John as a prophet. This now leads us to another of Jesus’ Parables; the parable of the tenant.
The parable of the tenant was a parable directed to the Jewish leadership. The leadership of that time would understand Jesus opening in verses 1-3 when he speaks of a vineyard owner who had worked diligently to build his vineyard. The leaders would also be able to recall Isaiah’s poem in Isaiah 5:1-7 where the vineyard was used to describe the nation of Israel. The difference between these two texts is that Isaiah was addressing the entire nation of Israel who had become “bad fruit” meanwhile Jesus is specifically speaking to the Jewish leadership and referring to them as bad tenants who refused to submit to God’s authority over them. The land owner would send representatives to collect a portion of the harvest but each representative that was sent was either beaten or killed. In a last ditch effort the land owner sends his son. Thinking that his son would be respected and adhered to, unfortunately the opposite happened, he was also beaten and killed not even given a proper burial. The deception in this was also that the tenants thought that by killing the heir they would inherit the land, they assumed that the father was dead. To the surprise of the tenants the owner of the vineyard would return and remove the current tenants and rise up new ones. Jesus closed his parable with a quote from Psalms 118:22 in reference to David then and Jesus now “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” (Psalm 118:22).
There is so much that speaks to my heart when I read this text, I will focus on three specific points to summarize this study. The first am I living a life that truly is God centered or have I become so busy and scatterbrained that I live a life in which I am continually doing my own thing with God being an afterthought. It is so easy to fall into the trap; it is healthy to evaluate what we prioritize? Are we faithful to God with our time, money, and in our relationships? The second point is that we will be held accountable for our lives as believers. Are we being faithful in our service in the kingdom or the church? The third point would be how is our prayer life? True fruitfulness will come from our relationship with God. Spending time with God gives new perspective and helps renews the mind. Spending time in prayer with God will allow the Holy Spirit the opportunity to judge our motives thoughts and attitudes. In other words prayer strengthens our relationship with God and gives direction for life.

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