Mark 12:1-12 (ESV)
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.
After Jesus’ encounter with the religious leaders in the temple, he told them a parable about a wealthy landowner. Surviving records from the time of Jesus describe the relationships between landowners and farmers. Landowners would lease out part of their land to farmers, who would take care of it when the owners were away on other business. When harvest time came, the farmer would pay the landowner a portion of the crop as his rent. If the owner were away during the time of the harvest, he would send a representative to collect his share. This often led to tension between the farmer and the owner’s representatives. In Jesus’ parable, the landowner planted a vineyard. The landowner went to great lengths to put up a wall and a tower to protect his vineyard. He also dug a pit for his winepress to collect juice after the harvest. This wealthy man represented God, and the vineyard was his people, Israel. The man then went away and leased his vineyard to tenants, signifying the religious leaders of Israel. As the parable unfolded, the tenants repeatedly mistreated the owner’s representatives. Finally, the owner sent his own son to get what was rightfully his, but they killed his son. Jesus used this parable to show the religious leaders around him that as Israel had rejected God’s prophets in the past, they were doing the same thing now, even rejecting God’s own Son.
When the tenant farmers rejected the owner’s representative and the owner’s own son, they were actually rejecting the rightful rule of the owner himself. In the same way, when the religious leaders of Israel rejected the prophets and even God’s own Son, Jesus, they too rejected God. Jesus quoted Psalm 118:23-24 to the religious leaders. The stone the builders rejected was Jesus. And as Jesus added, “This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous.” God wasn’t caught off guard by the rejection of his prophets or his Son. It was all part of his plan for the redemption of humanity. If you are faithfully telling others about Jesus, trying to live consistently with God’s laws and principles in your life today, yet being rejected for the gospel, don’t forget this truth. In the end, it’s not you people are rejecting, but God. And ultimately, God is in control, even over the rejection we experience.