Jesus spoke to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the winepress, and built a tower. Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip. 2 When it was time, he sent a servant to collect from the tenants his share of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they grabbed the servant, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again the landowner sent another servant to them, but they struck him on the head and treated him disgracefully. 5 He sent another one; that one they killed. The landlord sent many other servants, but the tenants beat some and killed others. 6 Now the landowner had one son whom he loved dearly. He sent him last, thinking, They will respect my son. 7 But those tenant farmers said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 “So what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this scripture, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 11 The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes?”
12 They wanted to arrest Jesus because they knew that he had told the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.
The location of the parable is a familiar one for the people. “The ‘vineyard’ was a well-known metaphor for Israel (fenced around by the law)(Myers, 308).” Isaiah 5 captures this metaphor.
But the leadership had failed. The temple, a symbol of God and a storehouse for God’s abundance, had been taken captive by the very leaders who were called to be stewards of its bounty. The judgment of the parable is upon those leaders, the ones who are trying to trap Jesus. Jesus has come to demonstrate the gift of God and the blessings of the community God builds and he is being opposed by the wicked tenants. Its no wonder they plot to kill him at the conclusion of the parable.
“Mark is making a thinly veiled allusion to the greed of the ruling class – which Isaiah's vineyard song also condemns (Is. 5:8)! Not only have they mismanaged the ‘vineyard’ (i.e. the temple cult); they have connived to ‘own’ it (i.e. turned it into a profitable commercial interest) (Myers, 309).”
Isaiah writes with stunning precision the reality that has unfolded before the people:
Questions for Modern-Day Disciples
- Are we able to hear Jesus’ critique of our misuse of the resources God has given us?
- I wonder who we are in this story?
- How do we engage systems that seek to perpetuate their own power instead of supporting the needs of the larger community?