The Book of Mark #71 chapter 12:1-12
The Book of Mark
The Rejected Cornerstone
Mark 12:1-12
 
One of the strange details of the trials and arrest and crucifixion of Jesus is His foreknowledge of all that was going to happen.  Jesus was not surprised by His death.  As He said, it was for that purpose He came into the world.  The cross was the very reason for which He came. So He lived in the perfect understanding of the inevitability of the cross.
 
And in the days and weeks and months prior to His death, He spoke often about what was coming. In fact, He knew the details before the people who carried them out even knew the details.
 
And that’s why there is a certain eeriness as we listen to what He says at the beginning of the 12th chapter of Mark.  He tells a parable.  Now a parable is just an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.  Anyone listening to the story could understand it at face value.  But only those who listened with spiritual ears could hear the real message of the story. 
 
And what makes this parable so unusual is that Jesus is talkiing about His own death.  And in just a few hours the story will come to pass.   
 
Listen to what He says.
 
Mark 12:1-12
 
This story is also recorded in Matthew chapter 21 verses 33 and following and in Luke chapter 21 verses 9 and following.
You notice that it begins by saying he began to speak to them in parables. That is true. Matthew gives us three parables that he used, Mark only records the main one and that’s this one.
 
Now the story has one primary aim and that is to reveal the hostility of these tenant farmers and create an anger toward them by the listening audience. 
 
No one with any sense of justice would tolerate this kind of behavior and certainly not the religious leaders of Israel.  They were legalists to the bone so they would have been outraged at this kind of murderous behavior. And that’s the whole point of the parable.  Jesus wants them to be outraged by the behavior they see in the story. 
 
So to see it unfold, let’s take a look, first of all at
 
1. The Parable
 
Verse 1
 
Now to better understand the parable as Jesus tells it a little background information is helpful.  You might have noticed that that is a quote from the Old Testament. It comes from Isaiah 5:1-2.
 
So why does the Lord quote these particular verses?  There are two reasons.
 
  • First, it is because it was a very familiar text. 
 
 
In Isaiah 5, the prophet Isaiah gives this same kind of analogy about the planting of a vineyard.
 
Verse 2
 
Now in both stories, the owner did everything necessary for the vineyard to be productive.  He plowed it up, dug out all the stones, built a fence for protection and made sure there was ample water available.  And all of that was done expecting it to produce good grapes.
 
But the end of verse 2 in Isaiah 5 tells us it only brought forth wild grapes.  A Hebrew word for inedible sour berries is used to describe the crop.   
 
Then notice verse 7
 
Now the story begins to take shape.  The Lord is the owner of the vineyard and the vineyard is the nation of Israel.  God planted Israel and He expected good grapes.  He looked for justice and righteousness, but all He saw was bloodshed and oppression. 
 
So from this quote we discover a key interpretive help.  The Lord is the one who plants the vineyard and Israel is that vineyard and Jesus is bringing it to bear on the Jewish leadership that is in charge during His time on earth. 
 
Jesus continues the story by saying once everything was ready, the owner rented this vineyard out to vine-growers and went on a long journey.  Look at the other versions of the story and you’ll see he’s gone a long, long time.
 
 
Verse 2 tells us harvest time came.  By the way, from the time a vineyard was planted, it usually took five years to come to that harvest time. So it’s been a long journey, for sure.
 
So harvest time comes and the owner sends an authorized representative to collect the contracted amount that is due to him.  But the story takes a very grisly turn. 
 
Verse 3
 
Now to anyone with any sense of morality and ethics this is unacceptable behavior, but to these listening Jews, this is just outrageous conduct. This is ingratitude at its worst. They’re going to be paid for their work. They’re going to get to keep the greatest portion because they’ve done the work. And instead of being grateful, they beat the servant and refues to pay what they owe. 
 
In verse 4 he sends another servant and they bash his head in and treated his shamefully.  The Lord doesn’t go into detail and we don’t know for sure what that was, but it’s a word that means to insult.
 
Verse 5, he sent another. And by this time, the crowd must have been saying, “Is that really the wisest thing to do? You’ve already had one severely beaten and another with his skull bashed in.  Are you sure you want to give them another chance?”
 
But he sends another on and this one is killed. 
According to Matthew 21:35, Jesus said they stoned him to death.” They picked up some of the rocks from the terraces and stoned him to death.
 
And verse 5 says he sent many others with the same results.  He just kept sending them and they just kept beating and killing them.  This is just bizarre behavior on the part of the vinedressers, but it is also bizarre behavior on the part of the owner.
 
And by know the audience must be saying, “Enough is enough! Don’t’ send another one.  Instead why don’t you send an army and take care fo the problem? “
 
And then the story really takes a twist. 
 
Verse 6
 
Now at this point you know someone in the crowd must have said, “Oy vey, not his son!  Send a son-in-law, but not his beloved son!”  But sure enough, he sent him, saying, “They’ll respect my son.”
 
Verses 7-8
 
He sends his son and with no hesitation they kill him and don’t even bother with a burial.  They just threw his body out of the vineyard to be consumed by the scavengers.
 
Then comes the question in verse 9a
 
Everyone knows what he’ll do and what he should have done a long time ago.  They were very familiar with Old Testament law. 
 
 
 
 
In fact, according to Matthew, by now the crowd is so incensed they begin to shout “He will destroy them with the miserable end they deserve!”  And you can just imagine how that rippled through the crowed!  “Yeah, give them what they deserve!  And then he can rent that vineyard out to someone who will appreciate what they’ve got!”
 
And with that comment, they have hung themselves. 
And someone in the crowd realizes they’ve just indicted themselves.  And we know that because of something we find in
 
Luke 20:16
 
So why would anyone disagree with that answer?  Obviously it’s the right thing!  Jsutice demands that this behavior be dealt with.  Everyone in the crowd knew it.  But when “they” heard it. “they” said, “Certainly not!”
 
In fact, the word they use is the strongest negative word the Greeks had.  What they are saying is, “
“May it never be. May something like this never happen!”
 
So why would anyone say that?  I think the answer to that is found in identifying who “they” are. 
 
I think it highly probable that the ones who said, “May this never happen” are those who are now set on killing Jesus.  And somewhere in the middle of the story they put it all together.  He’s talking about us.  We are the vinedressers who won’t receive the Son and killed the servants.
 
And they realize they’ve been sucked in and caught up in the emotion of the story and they realize if they take the side of the owner against the tenants they’ve taken the side of God against themselves.
 
So they cry out and say, “May this never happen!”
 
Well, that’s the parable.  Quickly, let’s look at
 
2. The Interpretation
 
The interpretation falls together very clearly.  The owner of the vineyard is God.  The vineyard itself is the nation of Israel.  The vinedressers are the religious leaders who are given care over Israel.  They were to tend God’s people. 
 
The journey is the period of Old Testament history.  Through that period of time God planted His people beginning with Abraham.  He did everything possible to provide through them a harvest.  He placed over them priests. He has given them His Law. He has brought people to the study of that Law, scribes for the purpose of teaching that Law, for the purpose of distributing to them His own revelation and His own will and bringing them to true worship. These leaders have the responsibility before God to give the truth to His people.
 
What about the harvest time? That’s the season when God comes to expect the spiritual fruit. God expects because of what He’s given, the truth, the Law, the Scriptures, the Old Testament to Israel, and He’s placed over them those who study the Law to find a people who worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
 
 
But when the time comes for God to look at
His people and assess the situation, it is a serious situation indeed. When God comes, expecting to find something good, He finds His people being unfaithful to Him.  To borrow from Isaiah, it’s nothing but sour berries!
 
The servants He sends are the Old Testament prophets.  God sent one after another after another after another to Israel to bring to the nation a reminder of His demands and an indictment of their sin. The prophets came. The prophets denounced the sin and called for repentance and righteousness, right? That’s what they all did.
 
And what did Israel do with the prophets? They rejected them. They mistreated them. They beat them, wounded them, heaped shame on them, threw them out and murdered them. That’s what they did.
 
That’s their history. The history of Israel is filled with the mistreatment of God’s prophets.  That’s exactly what Jesus said as He wept over the city fo Jerusalem.   “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. Behold, your house is left to you desolate.”
 
That’s what they did to the servants.  And finally, God sent His beloved Son. And in a eerie self-prophecy, Jesus says, “And they killed Him and cast Him out of the vineyard.”
 
They had been long planning His death because He was a threat to their power and prestige and control. They were going to do exactly what their fathers and predecessors had done. They were just going to be the next and the last generation to kill the prophets.
And by their own pronouncement, they judge themselves guilty of destruction.
 
verse 9
 
What does it mean when it says He will give the vineyard to others? I think He is specifically talking about the leaders. They are the vinedressers.  Whereas they were entrusted with the spiritual well-being of His people, custodians of the Scripture, others will now have that responsibility. 
 
So who will be the new vinedressers?  The answer is the Apostles. And this is the ultimate slap in the face of the leaders of Israel.  For the the highfalutin Sanhedrin to be told that these nobodies from Galilee, those Twelve ordinary men who followed Christ would become the new stewards of divine revelation to be disseminated to the people of God was unthinkable.
 
Soon He will meet with His disciples in the upper room and He’ll tell them this. “The Holy Spirit is going to come and He’s going to lead you in to all truth.” Why does He say that?
 
Is is because they are going to be the stewards of truth, the unrevealed truth, the mysteries that have been hidden from ages past and are now revealed, they’re going to be revealed to you. The Holy Spirit is going to reveal all truth to you. The Holy Spirit is going to take the things of Mine and show them to you.
 
 
 
Six times He tells that He’s going to give revelation to them.  That’s exactly what happened in the writing of the New Testament. 
 
Well that’s the end of the parable, but it’s not the end of the story.  The story ends with
 
3.  The Indictment
 
verse 10
 
Here they were, the custodians of the Holy Scriptures of God, and Jesus says, “Haven’t you red the Scriptures?” 
 
In particular, He quotes from Psalm 118.  That was important, because just a few days earlier, when He rode into town, the people were shouting “Blessed is He Who come in the name of the Lord!”  That is from verse 26 of the 118th Psalm. 
 
And if they had been paying attention and familiar with what was happening, they would have remembered verses 22 and 23 which is what He quotes in verse 10 and 11.  
 
And what He’s saying is “Don’t you even read the Scripture? Don’t you even understand that the One who comes in the name of the Lord will be the Cornerstone that you reject?  Can’t you see it?   Don’t you even understand that?”
 
Well, they didn’t see it and just as Jesus prophesied, the Son in the story dies. The metaphor shifts from a vineyard to a building and the Son becomes the stone.
For them, the stone didn’t measure up. It was a rejected stone, inadequate, imperfect, unacceptable, not to be the head of the corner, not to support the whole structure and symmetry of God’s glorious Kingdom. They were wrong. He was God’s cornerstone, the very one of whom they said, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” is that cornerstone.
 
Luke adds something that I want to close with. He adds the fact that Jesus said one more thing. Listen to this. After quoting from Psalm 118, Jesus said this, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces and on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
 
That is a judgment statement.  Jesus is not only the cornerstone that gives structure and symmetry to the church, but He is the crushing judgment stone on all those who reject Him. That statement in Luke 20:18 comes from an old rabbinic saying. The rabbis used to say, “If a stone falls on a pot, it will crush the pot. If a pot falls on a stone, it will shatter the pot.”
 
Either way, whether the pot falls on the stone, or the stone falls on the pot, the results are the same. So whether you fall on Christ, or Christ falls on you, the end is the same.
 
So how did they respond? 
 
verse 12
 
 
 
The people got it and they got it. All of them understood what He was talking about. They knew their history. They knew their ancestors had slaughtered the prophets and mistreated the prophets. And they knew what they were planning for Jesus.
 
It seems to me that would have been a good moment to repent, don’t you think? They didn’t, they just left and went away. What a tragic statement!
 
They went away forever in one sense.  They’ll be back to see to it that Jesus is arrested and crucified, but they went away from God in that moment and they never came back. 
 
Did Jesus know He was going to die? Absolutely!  He knew all the details. He knew how it fit into the history of Israel. And He knew that He would conquer death and rise again.  He knew what it was to be the Cornerstone and He knows what it is to be the stone of judgment. 
 
And to everyone who’s ever lived, He’s one or the other and it is faith in Jesus Christ makes all the difference.
 
 Let’s pray.
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