Mark 12:1-12

Sunday Morning Bible Study

April 17, 2005


On Sunday of Jesus’ last week, He entered into Jerusalem with a grand parade. People lined the streets waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna”. When He came into Jerusalem, the first thing He did was to go to the Temple and look around. But He didn’t say or do anything else that day except go back to Bethany to spend the night.

Early Monday morning Jesus got up early and started toward Jerusalem. He stopped at a fig tree, expecting to see some fruit that He could eat for breakfast. When Jesus saw that there wasn’t any fruit, He cursed the tree. We’ve talked about how this was more than just a cranky breakfast incident. The fig tree was a picture of what Jesus was expecting from Israel – He was expecting fruit.

When Jesus got to the Temple on Monday, He took action. Because He didn’t see the right kind of fruit in the Temple, it was time to clean house. He threw the people that sold animals and exchanged money out of the Temple. The priests weren’t too excited about this because they had been making a lot of money in these businesses.

When Jesus arrived at the Temple on Tuesday morning, He began to teach the people.  A delegation from the Sanhedrin showed up and demanded to know where Jesus had received the authority to upset things like this in the Temple.  Jesus responded to the question of His authority by asking them about the kind of authority that John the Baptist had. They didn’t know how to answer Him.

What we read about this morning follows immediately after this questioning of Jesus’ authority.

:1 And he began to speak unto them by parables.

Jesus is speaking not just to the crowd, but specifically to this group from the Sanhedrin.

There are a couple of ingredients we need to keep in mind when we look at this parable.

First is the mindset and experience of the people Jesus is talking to.

The parable Jesus will tell is going to be about something very familiar to the crowd. In first-century Palestine, especially in the northern Galilee area, wealthy foreign landlords owned large estates where they leased out land to tenant farmers. The farmers would agree to take care of the land when the landlords were away. It was typical for the rent to be a portion of the crop that was harvested. The landlords would collect the rent at harvest time.

Second, the parable that Jesus is going to use is nothing new. Isaiah told a form of the same parable (Isa. 5:1-7). The Jewish leaders would have been familiar with this parable, a story about God’s unfruitful vineyard, Israel. When the vineyard didn’t produce fruit, it was destroyed.

:1 A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.

By comparing this parable with the one in Isaiah 5, the meaning becomes pretty clear.

The man who plants the vineyard is God.

The farmers that the landowner rents to are the leaders of the nation of Israel.

The vineyard is the nation of Israel.

The vineyard has every ingredient for success.

It’s protected from the environment by a hedge.

It’s protected from enemies with a watch tower.

The goal of a vineyard is to grow grapes to produce wine. We know the landowner expects there to be fruit from his vineyard because he’s dug out a “winefat”, a place to trample the grapes and turn them into wine.

The vineyard did not belong to the farmers, it belonged to the landowner. They were only stewards, caretakers.

:2 And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.

Jesus was looking for fruit on the fig tree, this man was looking for fruit from his farmers.

:3 And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.

The servants that the landowner will send represent the Old Testament prophets.

The failure to receive fruit from the farmers was a picture of the nation repeatedly refusing to pay attention to the messages of the prophets. We’ve seen an example of this recently in the book of Jeremiah (Jer. 37:1-2).

:4 And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.

shamefully handledatimoo – to dishonour, mark with disgrace



This makes me think of how David sent ambassadors to the city of Rabbah, to Hanun, the king of the Ammonites to comfort him when his father died. Hanun was told by his counselors that David was sending these men to spy on them. So rather than welcome David’s ambassadors, Hanun chose to humiliate them:
(2 Sam 10:4-5 NKJV) Therefore Hanun took David's servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away. {5} When they told David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, "Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return."
David responded by sending his army and though it took a couple of chapters to do it, they eventually conquered the city of Rabbah.
(2 Sam 12:30-31 NKJV) Then he took their king's crown from his head. Its weight was a talent of gold, with precious stones. And it was set on David's head. Also he brought out the spoil of the city in great abundance. {31} And he brought out the people who were in it, and put them to work with saws and iron picks and iron axes, and made them cross over to the brick works. So he did to all the cities of the people of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.

It seems that this is typical of how some people respond when they are treated with shame. They get angry. They want to get even. They want to get more than even.

Shame and guilt – two terms that overlap in some things, yet are also different from each other. Guilt is the conviction we have over sin, knowing that we’ve done something wrong. Shame is often found connected with sin.
Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were both naked and not “ashamed” (Gen. 2:25.
But after sinning:

(Gen 3:7 NLT) At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves.

But shame also includes a sense of humiliation, which can also be felt for things other than guilt over sin.

A person can be humbled about their sin without necessarily being humiliated.

David’s messengers felt shame because of how they were treated, not because they were sinful (2Sam. 12)

Some people experience shame because they aren’t dressed like others. Others because they feel like they aren’t attractive or perhaps they don’t feel like a part of the “cool” people.

It seems that God prefers to cover our shame, not expose it.  He gave Adam and Eve coverings made of animal skins.
He wants to cover our shame:

(Rev 3:18 NKJV) "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

Sometimes we cause shame in others by overdoing the punishment for a wrong.
(Deu 25:1-3 NLT) "Suppose two people take a dispute to court, and the judges declare that one is right and the other is wrong. {2} If the person in the wrong is sentenced to be flogged, the judge will command him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of lashes appropriate to the crime. {3} No more than forty lashes may ever be given; more than forty lashes would publicly humiliate your neighbor.
Parents can fall into this trap by punishing a child in front of their siblings or from constantly reminding the child about the terrible thing they did.

It’s the old picture of the child sitting in the back of the class with a “Dunce” cap on, as if we learn from humiliation.


By W. Livingston Larned

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside. These are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor. At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Good-bye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!” Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your socks. I humiliated you before your friends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Socks were expensive, and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father! Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in, timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped. You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither...and then you were gone, pattering up the stairs. Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, reprimanding—this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. It was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years. And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me goodnight. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt here, ashamed! It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy. I will chum with you, suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual, “He is nothing but a boy, a little boy!” I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your bed, I see that you are still a little boy. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.
Does this mean we shouldn’t punish our children if they do something wrong? Not at all.
It’s just that in the correcting of a child we need to seek to do it in a way that doesn’t humiliate them. Whenever possible take the child away from the rest of the family. Don’t talk to them in a way that makes them feel like trash. Make sure they understand that your goal is not to inflict torture on them, but to see them change their behavior. Make sure they understand that you still love them even when they’re bad.
Be careful about treating others with shame.
It’s not just kids. Sometimes it’s our spouse, sometimes the people we work with, even our friends.

(1 Pet 4:8 NKJV) And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."

If you are someone who is suffering from shame, God specializes in removing shame.
When the Prodigal Son returned home, the father didn’t yell at the boy for wasting all his inheritance.  He came running to him, threw his arms around him, and threw him a party.
For those who trust in Him …

(Rom 10:11 NKJV) For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."

:5 And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.

This landowner is not like other people. David only had to be shamed once before he declared war. This landowner is showing much grace, much patience.

:6 Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.

The NIV reads, “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved”, but this is an unfortunate translation. In the original text the idea isn’t that the man had one person left who happened to be his son, it is that the man had “one son”, a beloved son, and this would be the last person he would send.

Who does the “son” represent? Jesus is talking about Himself.


The One Son

Jesus was claiming to be different.
He wasn’t just a servant of God like the prophets. He wasn’t claiming to be one of many “sons” of God. He was claiming to be unique. He was claiming to be THE One Son of God.
Some people have this notion that Jesus was just a nice guy. They’ll say He’s no different from us because we’re all “sons of God”.  He taught some cool things like loving one another. He even did a couple of miracles. He’s somebody that we all ought to admire, like Ghandi, Buddha, or Mother Teresa.
But He is not just a “nice guy”. You can’t say that He taught some nice things when He makes statements like being the “one son”.
C. S. Lewis, the great Christian writer and professor at Oxford and later Cambridge, wrote in his book Mere Christianity:
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool; you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or, you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
If I were to claim that I was actually the President of the United States, you are going to have to make some decisions about me. Some of you might actually be talked into thinking that George Bush is an imposter and that I’m the real president. But most of you would either think that I’m just an innocent joker, a huge liar, or most likely that I’m some crazy guy who needs to be locked up.
In Ireland there is a mental institution that every year picks two of its most reformed patients and questions them. If they get the questions right, they are free to leave. This year the two lucky gents were Patty and Mike. They were called down to the office and left there by the orderly. They were told to wait as the doctor got their files. The doctor came out and motioned for Patty to come in for his questioning. When Patty got in the office he was instructed to sit in the seat across from the doctor. “Patty, you know the tradition of this institution so I imagine you know why you are here. You will be asked two questions and if you get them right you will be free to go. Do you understand all that you have been told?” Said the doctor with a rather sly grin. Patty complied and the doctor began to question him. The first question was this. “Patty, if I was to poke out one of your eyes what would happen?” “I would be half blind of course,” Patty answered without much thought. “What would happen if I poked out the other eye?” “I would be completely blind,” said Patty knowing that he had just gotten his freedom. The doctor then sent him outside while he drew up the paperwork and accessed Mike’s files. When Patty got into the waiting room however, he told Mike what the questions would be and what the correct answers were. Then the doctor gave Patty his papers and called Mike in. He followed the same procedure that he had with Patty. “Mike, the first question is, what would happen if I cut off your ear?” “I would be blind in one eye,” He said remembering what he had been told. This received a perplexed look from the doctor but he just simply asked the other question so that he could figure out what the man was thinking. “Mike, what would happen if I cut off your other ear?” “I would be completely blind,” He answered with a smile as if he knew he had passed. But then the doctor ask him what his reasoning was and he said flatly, “Me hat would fall down over me eyes.”
With the claims that Jesus made, He wouldn’t be let out of a mental institution any time soon.  Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord. You cannot read about the claims He made and leave here this morning thinking he was just a “nice guy”.

:7 But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.

In the story, the assumption is that the farmers are thinking that the land owner must be dead if he’s sending his son.  According to the law in those days, if a piece of land was “ownerless”, anyone could make a claim to own it.

:8 And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

:9 What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

Forty years after Jesus’ ministry, rejection, death, and resurrection, Rome would destroy Israel. There was no nation of Israel from AD 70 until 1948.

:10 And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:

:11 This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

Jesus is quoting from Psalm 118.

Because this is all taking place during the Passover holiday, Psalm 118 was sort of the “song of the week”. Traditionally it was sung after the Passover meal.  Portions of the song came out of the people on the Sunday before the Passover when Jesus rode into Jerusalem.

(Psa 118:19-29 KJV) Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD: {20} This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter. {21} I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. {22} The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

cornerstone – (“head stone of the corner”) the cornerstone is supposed to be the first stone laid down in the foundation of a building. It’s supposed to be what the whole building lines up with. It’s what the building is built upon.

{23} This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. {24} This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. {25} Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. {26} Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.

These two verses (:25-26) were the very things that the people were shouting as Jesus came into Jerusalem. The words “save now” are the translation of the phrase “Hosanna”.

{27} God is the LORD, which hath showed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. {28} Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee. {29} O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

How interesting that the psalm ends with talk of a sacrifice and reminding us of God’s mercy. It was at the cross that God demonstrated His great mercy for us by allowing His One Son to die in our place, paying the penalty for our sins.

God also saw to it that these very leaders standing before Jesus didn’t forget this lesson that Jesus was teaching them on this day. A few months later, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter and John got into trouble by healing a lame man in the name of Jesus.  This same Sanhedrin didn’t like what was going on and had Peter and John arrested. The next day Peter and John stood before this same Sanhedrin:

(Acts 4:8-13 KJV) Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, {9} If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; {10} Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. {11} This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. {12} Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. {13} Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

:12 And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.

These leaders were being faced with a choice of what they were going to do with Jesus.

We too face a choice as to what we are going to do with Jesus.

(1 Pet 2:4-8 NKJV) Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, {5} you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. {6} Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, "Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame." {7} Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, "The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone," {8} and "A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense." They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

What kind of “stone” will Jesus be in your life?

Will He be a “stumbling stone” that simply causes you to trip up in life?

Or will He be the cornerstone of your life? Will He be the one that makes your life line up the way God wants it to?

Are you struggling with a load of guilt and shame?  Jesus came to take away your shame.