1 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away. (Mark 12:1-12–ESV)
A vineyard was built
Grapes are good, and can be used for many things. A grapevine must be carefully cultivated and tended to produce good fruit. It takes years to get an excellent yard of grapevines growing and producing. In this parable Jesus speaks of such a place being put together and cared for. It is set up just right with a wall and a tower for protection, and a place for the grapes to be processed. Once the vineyard was set up and ready to be put into full swing the management of it was handed over to some tenants. The vineyard owner rented it to a group of people.
Rent comes due
When the grapes should have been ready the vineyard owner sent some of his associates to collect some of the fruit. This vineyard was leased and leased businesses must pay their fees. The vineyard was something that the tenants were to care for and use for their own advantage, but one of the business expenses was the rent.
The tenants behave shamefully and harm the rent collector. I bet it is not too unusual for a tenant to hate the collection agency, but it is unusual for repeated and harmful attacks upon them. It is short sighted for they steadily will incur the wrath of the owner.
Consequences? They are awfully slow in coming.
Time and again servants are sent to collect the rent on this vineyard. To reject and kill them becomes more and more normal. It was probably difficult at the beginning, but with time they developed policy on rent collectors and forgot the owner.
The son comes
Vigilance for the owner was lost and then the son came. The renters misinterpreted the arrival of the son and killed him on the pretense that they whole production would forever be theirs. If the owner was gone then they would have free-reign. Their terrible behaviors would carry the day.
Vengeance comes at last
The problem for the tenants was that the owner had not died. He had been patient with the tenants hoping that they would come around, but rather than come around they became worse.
So, eventually the owner comes and metes out judgment on the unfaithful renters putting them to death for their chronic and shameful treatment of others.
Vineyard is given away
While the renters had hoped to gain the whole vineyard by their malice and scheming they lost it. Those who had been unrelated to the vineyard get it. To the renters the vineyard was rented. To those on the outside the vineyard was given. What an amazing inversion that is.
A word on vineyard leases
The vines needed special care. The plants would need nurtured, pruned, fertilized and managed. New shoots need directed to a trellis. Older branches and trunks may need watched and supported. The plant is very crucial, but the fruit is what is needed. No plant, no fruit. No fruit, no success. The renters were allowed use of the vineyard, but they were to tend it and care for it.
Jesus does not elaborate on the care rendered to the vines, but spends much more energy on the efforts at fruit collection. Never do the renters provide fruit to the owner.
What does this parable mean?
The Pharisees realized it was directed at them and they left quietly seething held back by the adoring crowds.
God had made the world, but it had gone sour. Wanting it back God began a good work called Israel calling Abram from his family to Canaan. God made Israel growing it from very unlikely places into a nation. In that nation he gave leaders who were to prepare a harvest. God was only going to take some value. The leadership would gain greatly in the exchange, but the leaders did not shepherd. They leaders tried to do things their own way and ended up killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
People: fruit or vines?
People are vines; they need tended and cared for. Maturity comes through the ups and downs of life. Along those downs and ups are needed those who would come alongside and nurture. Development of godly people is not a one time event, but a steady molding over a period of years.
The religious leaders of Israel did not make people into maturing, growing, improving people. Good fruit comes from people devoted to God and eager to do what is good. Being that way is not natural, but is doable with the right influence.
Israel would lose by the killing of Jesus
The tenants lost everything by their shameful treatment of the owner’s son. Israel lost everything by their shameful treatment of Jesus. Note that the vineyard was leased to tenants, but given to others. The church age dawned with Jesus as the cornerstone. Great fruit will come from that. A stump remains and God will work with Israel again according to his promises, but the religious leaders who did not tend the people, but over worked them lost all the blessings they could have had if they had pursued things God’s way.
What about us? What about me?
I am a teaching physician. A teaching physician is called an attending physician and the learning physician is called a resident. The resident is in training. They enter their training with few skills and must leave ready to practice independently. The department of ophthalmology is my vineyard. In this context all the needful things are in place to make practitioners.
The practitioner is to go forth and take care of eyes. Why? So that needy people can do better in their own lives.
As an attending physician I am to make residents more fruitful. They may know some things, but they need to know more. The young physician needs to tune their questioning to the patient’s problems. After the questions examination and testing must be done. The observations need tweaked and massaged and connected to the patients problems. The understanding must be brought back to the patient and available treatments offered.
Healthy eyes, vision really, is to be the fruit of a physician.
Capable physicians is to be the fruit of a residency training program.
What about you?
God has allowed you to live on the planet he made, and he has given you roles and responsibilities. As a result you should make great efforts to discharge those tasks faithfully for you and I will be required to give an account of how we managed the things God gave us. Do we tend the vines in our care to produce fruit? Do we offer the fruit back to God? This is his world and we are the products of him. He has just allowed us to have freedom to act and live in it.
Think about where you fret and think about your responsibilities. If you can recognize what God would have you do, then do it and do it in his strength. Pray and ask for insight and strength to do the right direction. Be a good vineyard renter. Tend your vines well making every effort to bear fruit for God.