Red Letter Year: 2/15

Mark 12:1-12

12 Then Jesus began teaching them with stories: “A man planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. At the time of the grape harvest, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers grabbed the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed. The owner then sent another servant, but they insulted him and beat him over the head. The next servant he sent was killed. Others he sent were either beaten or killed, 6 until there was only one left—his son whom he loved dearly. The owner finally sent him, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’ But the tenant farmers said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ So they grabbed him and murdered him and threw his body out of the vineyard. What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do?” Jesus asked. “I’ll tell you—he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others. 10 Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. 11 This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.’”

12 The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.


This parable is an extended response by Jesus to the questioning of his authority we read yesterday. Unlike some of his parables, the point here was evident to its main target, the religious leaders understand that Jesus means they are the tenant farmers, the servants they have killed are the prophets, including John the Baptist, whose arrest and death seem to be an underlying sticking point between Jesus and these leaders. Jesus borrows and adapts this parable from Isaiah 5.1-7, with the focus of the owner/master/lord’s (all the same word in Greek: kurios, often used of God) judgment being not the vineyard itself (as it is in Isaiah), but on the tenants – the religious leaders who have failed in their task. The majority of the people are still with Jesus at this point, v.12 makes clear their presence is what saves Jesus from immediate arrest. But as the parable foreshadows, the death of the beloved son (same expression the voice of God uses at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration) is about to take place. But that is not the end of the story. Jesus ends by quoting Psalm 118.22-23. The rejected one who becomes the central leader is a recurring motif in Israel’s story: Jacob, Moses, and David are prime examples. The understanding was that this stone represented all of them and also pointed to the Messiah who would come and also go from rejected to cornerstone. If you’ve ever been rejected, this should give you hope, since the motif continues and is a recurring theme in the ongoing story of the spreading of Jesus and his Good News.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.