He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.” But the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
Mark 12:6-8 (NIV)
Read: Mark 12:1-12
Consider: Mark 12 tells us that Jesus began to speak to the crowd in the temple at Jerusalem using parables. Perhaps you’ve wondered why he spoke in parables, rather than plainly and openly. I remember that while a child at Sunday School we were told that a parable was ‘an earthly story with a heavenly meaning’. In other words, Jesus would use a story from everyday life that all could relate to, to convey a deeper hidden spiritual meaning. We know it was hidden because Jesus himself says: This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand’ (Matthew 13:13). Also in Luke 8:10 it tells us: He said, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘ “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.”’
Returning to today’s reading it is possible to look at the meaning of the parable at different levels. We could ask who are the main characters and what are the setting and other things being represented in the story and we could conclude that:
- The owner of the vineyard is God the Father;
- The servants are the Old Testament prophets;
- The tenants are the religious leaders of the day;
- The son is Jesus Christ;
- The vineyard is the people or nation to whom the servants and son were sent;
- The fruit of the vineyard is souls won for God.
Even at this level we can begin to understand what is being said. This parable clearly indicts those religious leaders who should be leading and caring for God’s people. This message clearly struck home because in Mark 12:12 we are told the reaction of the chief priests, teachers of the law and the elders: They looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day understood that they were being charged with abusing and killing the prophets that had been sent by God to the Jews, to warn them and encourage them to return to God. They also understood that they were those who had been put in charge of God’s vineyard to win souls for God and to instruct and teach them to follow his laws. Instead they had become law breakers themselves by abusing and killing the prophets. What they failed to understand was that Jesus was the son referred to in the parable and that they would eventually kill him.
Take time today to read over this parable, asking God to give you insight and understanding of the range of meanings that are hidden in the story. You’ll be surprised by how rich in meaning such a story can be. It is important not to let the story wash over you, but to take it to heart and put into practice anything God reveals to you about your own life and witness.
Pray: Father, we pray that when we read your Word you would surprise us with the hidden meanings it contains. Help us to meditate on your Word, allowing you to speak to us through it. Amen