The Kingdom Parable

Text: Mark 12: 1-12

Proposition: When Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard it reveals the way that God has revealed His kingdom to Israel and His judgment upon them for it.

Introduction: We have been working our way through the book of Mark. It has come to the point where it is the last week before the cross. On Sunday was the triumphal entry of Jesus in to Jerusalem, on Monday was the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple. On Tuesday the fig tree was seen by the disciples, in one day all shriveled up as Jesus taught them about the importance of faith and forgiveness. On Wednesday came the confrontation by the Chief Priests, Scribes and Elders asking Him by what authority disrupted it and then taught in it. Jesus responded to them with a question about John the Baptist, was he from God or just a man on his own. They, after awkward discussion, answer Jesus saying they didn’t know who John was. Jesus tells them that neither will He tell them by what authority He does these things in the Temple. So the topic is still about Jesus authority as we begin Mark 12. With the crowd gathered about and the Chief Priests who are still standing there, Jesus tells a parable about the operation of a small business, an employer and employee story, a parable that spoke about trust and betrayal, judgment and authority. Have a look at Mark 12:1-12. 

I. The Parable is About the Owner of the Vineyard, God the Father.

Jesus starts the parable by saying that a man plants, builds, protects and then leases a vineyard.  Typically the vines and even fruit trees were planted in a fertile area on a hill side. Then a trench was dug around it and the earth piled up on the inside edge of the trench to act as a footing for a wall that would eventually surround the vineyard. Then a place was dug out where the grapes would be crushed and the juice collected. Lastly a tower or house was built for the farmer to live in and watch over the vineyard to guard it and the fruit in bore.                                                                        

When all was in place, the owner, who had built it and who owned it, then leases it out and the owner then goes to a distant place.  As the parable progresses we see several things about the owner. He entrusts all this into the care of the vinedresser or farmer. He knows what it should produce and when the harvest will be ready. He expects to receive a return on his investment. He is extremely gracious and patient when the farmers take the harvest but refuse to pay him. He is clear in telling them what he expects. He has a son and as a final effort to get the vine keepers to do what is right. He sends His son to receive what is due to the father. So the parable tells us a lot about the owner of the vineyard who in the parable represents God the Father.

II. The Parable is Also About the Vineyard Itself.               

In the most immediate context the vineyard is not a ‘what’ but a ‘who’. It is the people of Israel, they are what God has planted, provided for and protected. They are the ones that were to be fruitful, they are the ones that God had not only a right over but an expectation of growth in. That’s the most immediate context but Israel was part of something much, much greater… the kingdom of God that would include all peoples and all nations. So the vineyard refers us ultimately to the kingdom of God.  The vineyard points to something that transcends all the ages of time, it points to the kingdom of God. Adam had been given dominion in this kingdom but then sin entered in. In Genesis 17 God re-established the kingdom covenant with Abraham, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.” When David ruled Israel God again established a covenant of bringing an eternal kingdom in 2 Samuel 7, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Years later the prophet Daniel would speak from the captivity of Babylon about the kingdom of God, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. 7:13,14) The Father in the parable sends messenger after messenger to call the vinedressers to responsibility, the various prophets down through the ages which the leaders of Israel treated poorly. So it was not a new concept this kingdom of God when along came John the Baptist and what did he preach? “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:1-3) At hand meant that Jesus Christ, the King of the Kingdom of God was now here on earth. So what would you expect Jesus to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17).  When Jesus taught His disciples to pray what is it He encouraged them to pray? “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth even as it is in heaven…”. The focus of this parable and indeed of the entire Scripture is the Kingdom of God and the King who would accomplish the redemption needed to enter it.

III. The Parable is Also About the Mismanagement of the Vinedressers.             

In the parable the vinedressers refers to the spiritual leaders of Israel over the ages, some of who were standing right there in front of Jesus. Their greed, unfaithfulness, betrayal of trust and treachery is what the parable speaks about. It was Wednesday when Jesus told this parable, in two days the parable would be fulfilled, they would kill the Son of God. This parable is a statement about the transfer of entrustment from Israel’s spiritual leadership to the care giving hands of another group, the Gentiles. Look at verse 9, “Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.” God took away Israel’s spiritual leadership in AD 70. The Romans destroyed not only Jerusalem and the Temple where sacrifice for sin occurred, but Israel as a nation was a people displaced for the next 1878 years. Yet there will be a remnant of Israel saved and presented together with the Gentiles in the Kingdom.

IV. The Parable Is About The Kingdom of God Built On Jesus Christ.

So Jesus looks straight into the eyes of the Chief Priests and Scribes and Elders and says, “Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” That was a quote from Psalm 118 likely written by King David in about 1000 BC. From the earliest pages of Scripture the kingdom of God is presented as the plan of God with redemption as its aim.                                              

When it comes to today the idea of us being in a kingdom, the kingdom of God can seem peculiar. Graeme Goldsworthy defines the Kingdom of God as "God's people in God's place under God's rule." As any kingdom it has supreme authority in the King. It has subjects to the King, people of every race, culture and country. It has a language, seasoned with grace. It has a currency, the blood of the Lamb. We gain citizenship through faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. This kingdom has laws which raise the moral behavior of each subject with a desire to be Christ like. It has ambassadors, each believer in Christ is one. It has priests, each believer in Christ is one. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission frame all God’s commands in the Scripture – to love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. The Commission is to go into all the world and makes disciples in teaching and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.                                                               

It is as Jesus said, “This was the LORD’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes’

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