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As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of
Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, Go to the village ahead of you,
and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.
Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, Why are you doing this? tell him, The
Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly. Mark 11:1-3
As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem they ushered in a momentous hour, a
time that Israel had anticipated through the ages, a time of which the prophets had
spoken. The long-awaited Messiah of Israel was about to make his formal public
appearance in Jerusalem. Centuries before, Zechariah had spoken of his coming
saying, Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your
king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a
colt, the foal of a donkey (Zech. 9:9).
God had prepared his Messiah for this hour and God had also prepared the
donkey. Jesus knew that in the village ahead the little animal was waiting. Bible
commentators and scholars try to say that the donkey was awaiting Jesus because of
some prearranged signal, but we must remember that this was the day before cell
phones. Prearranging a signal would have been quite difficult. Sometimes these folks
forget that God is Lord of all creation. He can speak to a total stranger in the night and
command him to tie his choice donkey out front in the morning. He can speak to the
donkey and the beast will obey his voice. He once spoke to a fire-worshipping king by
the name of Cyrus and commanded him to send the people of Israel back to their
land. God is God and he can do anything!

In order to fulfill prophecy Jesus sent two of his disciples to the village ahead telling
them exactly what they would find there. They would find a young donkey all tied up
and ready to go. The donkey would have never been ridden before by anyone. Jesus
told them what the bystanders would say and he told them what they were to
answer. The operative words were The Lord needs it. This was a rare occasion in
Mark where Jesus referred to himself as Lord.
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it,
some people standing there asked, What are you doing, untying that colt? They
answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go (11:4-6). We can
only imagine what the disciples thought as they untied a colt that didnt belong to
them. It was no doubt a little like someone trying to hotwire a new Mercedes belonging
to a total stranger and then driving it off. People could probably have gotten stoned for
stealing a donkey in those days, so no doubt the two disciples were a little
shaky. Matthew gives us some extra information on the donkey. Apparently, the
mother followed along after the colt (Matt. 21:2). 1 So, there were really two animals
involved and this seems to be indicated in the Zechariah passage. Regarding Jesus and
the little animal the ancient writer Ephrem the Syrian (c. 363-373) quipped, He began
with a manger and finished with a donkey. 2
Mark tells us where this incident occurred. It was near the small cities of Bethany and
Bethphage. These small towns were both located on the backside of the Mount of
Olives. They were very near the pilgrim road coming up from Jericho to Jerusalem. The
names of these villages are very descriptive of their settings. Bethphage meant house of
figs or place of unripe figs. Bethany meant house of dates. 3 Of course, the latter
location was the home of Jesus dear friends, Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Bethphage
was one of the villages that marked a Sabbaths days journey (Acts 1:12) from
Jerusalem, since it was less than a mile away. 4
In reading Marks abbreviated and fast-moving account it would seem that Jesus had
not been to Jerusalem before in his ministry. From the other gospels we realize that he
had been to Jerusalem several times. Johns gospel indicates that Jesus was frequently
in the city (2:13, 5:1, 7:10). The Bible in other places indicates that Jesus kept the feasts
and went up to Jerusalem to do so. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus indicates that many times
he would have gathered the people of Jerusalem together but they would not cooperate. 5
It is also interesting that so much of the gospel accounts is focused on the last few days
of Jesus life. About a third of Marks gospel is focused on his passion and about half of
Johns gospel. 6 Of course, that is what the gospel is all about, Jesus suffering and dying
for our sins and then being gloriously resurrected.
When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it
(11:7). The people willingly donated their garments to make a sort of saddle for
Jesus. Nowdays the donkey is an animal of amused contempt, but in the time of Jesus
it was the animal used to bear kings. 7 We remember in 1 Kings 1:33-48 how Solomon
was placed on King Davids mule when he was anointed to rule over Israel. The rabbis
had a teaching that if Israel was worthy even for a day, the Messiah would arrive on the
clouds of glory, but if not he would come to them on a donkey. 8 We know from
scripture that Jesus came first in great humility on a donkey but his second appearance
will be on a white charger to declare war on his enemies and to take his place as Judge of
the universe
(cf. Rev. 19:11-16).
Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had
cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of
our father David! Hosanna in the highest! (11:8-10). We like this slice from the life
of Jesus because it simply feels so right. For much of Jesus ministry, he was despised
and rejected of men. Often the adoring crowds followed him only for what they could get
from him, and most of his audience rejected any kind of personal commitment to Jesus.
It was all different on this day. 9
As this procession began people willingly spread their garments on the road before him.
In those days clothing was very expensive and quite limited for the average person. We
can just imagine the damage caused to a cloak by the sharp hoofs of a loaded donkey
and on a hard road to boot. 10 Other people went into the fields to cut reeds or shocks of
grain or small leafy branches (stibadas), laying them in the road before Jesus. 11 The
shouts of praise filled the air, shouts of Hosanna! and Blessed is he who comes in the
name of the Lord! These shouts were no doubt taken from the messianic Psalm 118:25-
26. Hosanna simply means Save now! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the
Lord! is the very phrase all Israel will someday shout as Jesus returns to the earth in
glory (Matt. 23:39).
Something within us makes us want to jump through the pages of history and join in
this triumphal welcoming of Jesus to Jerusalem. Luke tells us that the whole multitude
of disciples began to praise him for all the mighty works they had seen (Lk. 19:37-
38). Surely there were many in the crowd who had just witnessed Lazarus being raised
from the dead. Well, we cannot join that happy group but perhaps we can just praise
him where we are. As once spoke the ancient church father Methodius of Philippi:
Instead of our garments, let us spread our hearts before him. 12
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but
since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve (11:11). Soon the
festivities were over and Jesus found himself inside Jerusalem and no doubt looking at
the goings on in the temple. Jesus may have been the only one present that day who
realized that the words of Malachi 3:1 were now fulfilled: See, I will send my
messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are
seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will
come says the
LORD Almighty.
As the King of the Universe stood in the temple we might wonder, where was the large
welcoming committee of rulers, officials, priests, and Levites? They were all strangely
absent. Later Jesus would say of the Jews and of Jerusalem, you did not recognize
the time of Gods coming to you (Lk. 19:44). He would further say, If you, even you,
had only known on this day what would bring you peace but now it is hidden from
your eyes (Lk 19:42).
The King left the city of Jerusalem to a place where he was welcome, to Bethany, and no
doubt to the wonderful home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. It was simply not safe for
him to spend a night in the walled city of Jerusalem. 13


The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance
a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found
nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Mark 11:12-13
Jesus was a man, fully identified with the human race, therefore he got hungry. Perhaps
he had arisen early that morning and spent a long time in prayer as he often did. 14 In
the process he may have missed breakfast. In the distance he saw a fig tree in full leaf
and went to it expecting to find fruit. Instead he found nothing but leaves.
Commentators have had difficulty with this enacted parable. Some look at Jesus action
as peevish, selfish and below his character. Scholars have blamed Jesus for cursing the
poor little tree for its fruitlessness when the text says plainly that it was not the season
for figs to get ripe. As usual, when we have a problem with scripture it is because we do
not have full information on the situation.

In recent years a lot of light has been shed upon this verse. It appears that one of the
first people to begin unraveling this mysterious passage was a certain W. M. Christie, a
Church of Scotland minister who lived in the Holy Land under the British mandatory
regime. He noted that the local fig trees began to put forth leaves by the end of
March. Shortly after, or even before the leaves in some instances, the trees brought
forth small knobs that were a sort of forerunner of figs. These grew to the size of green
almonds and were eaten by the peasants who called them in Arabic, taqsh. He noted
that if this early fruit failed to appear there would likely be no fruit crop later that year. 15
In our day of vast information via the Internet we know from fruit farmers that this
account is factual. Fruit growers call this early fruit the breba (breva) crop, and unlike
the later crop, that comes in the heat of summer, it appears early on last years
growth. 16 So Jesus really did have a reason to check out the fig tree that was in full
leaf. The leaves advertised that there would likely be an early breba crop on the
tree. These early figs (Hos 9:10) are today called paggim by the modern Israelis. 17
Then he said to the tree, May no one ever eat fruit from you again. And his disciples
heard him say it (11:14). Here we have no indication that Jesus was angry or
vindictive. He was merely bringing judgment on a fruit tree that advertised its fruit but
was fruitless. We should note that the fig tree was often a symbol of Israel. 18 It was also
a symbol of Gods judgment (cf. Isa. 34:4; Jer. 29:17; Hos. 2:12). New Testament
Professor Craig Evans adds that the judgmental thrust here and in the next verses was
not so much against Israel as it was against the religious leaders and caretakers of
Israel. This will be made especially clear in chapter 12:1-12 by the Parable of the Wicked
Tenants. 19
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those
who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers
and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry
merchandise through the temple courts (11:15-16). Jesus main focus was not on the
city of Jerusalem but on the temple. It represented the heart and soul of Israel. It is
clear in scripture that Jesus had cleansed the temple on an earlier occasion but
somehow his message did not get across. This previous incident is recorded for us in
John 2:14-17. The first cleansing must have happened in the very early ministry of
Jesus. On this occasion Jesus took a whip and drove the merchandizers out of the
It is thought that Jesus action took place in what is called the Court of the Gentiles. It
must have been frustrating for God-fearing Gentiles to come long distances to this most
holy place seeking the true God, only to find a greedy bunch of merchandizers. We can
only imagine the haggling, noise and confusion that must have prevailed in the court.

Jesus was no doubt aghast at such a desecration of Gods temple. He began driving out
the merchants and overturning the tables of the money changers and those selling
doves. He stopped those who were making the temple courts merely a byway. In order
to understand the wrath of Jesus we must understand some of the practices going on in
the temple.

The whole temple operation was run by the family of Israels high priest, who had
purchased the right from the Romans. The temple authorities would not allow normal
coins with images to be used in paying the temple tax. This amount was shekel
(about a days wage) as we see in Exodus 30:13. The temple leaders required that it be
paid with the Tyrian shekel. While this coin was 94 percent silver it also had images on
both sides. It had the laureate head of the pagan deity Melqarth-Herakles on the
obverse and an eagle engraved on the reverse. Nevertheless, the rabbis had
determined that the purity of the coin was more important than the fact that it had
forbidden images on it. 20 Pilgrims were charged 1/24th of a shekel to exchange their
The doves were allowed as a sacrifice for the poor, for lepers and for women. The
normal price was often tripled at these booths. We can imagine the excesses that
happened with such merchants. A person might bring in a perfect sacrificial lamb but
these bandits at the temple would surely find some flaw in it and force the pilgrim to buy
another at very inflated prices. 21
Jesus became enraged at these abuses. This episode tells us something of the personal
authority Jesus radiated. People normally dont let go of their money and products so
easily unless they are very much afraid. The fact that Jesus could totally disrupt this
whole bazaar is testimony to the great force of his personality. The merchants seem to
have slunk away before the blazing eyes of the Master.

Jesus not only totally disrupted the temple merchants but he also refused to allow
people to use the Court of the Gentiles as a short-cut to and from the city to the Mount
of Olives. We may see some continuing reference to this in the Mishnah. In this later
work it is written that A man may not enter into the temple mount with his staff or his
sandal or his wallet, or with the dust upon his feet, nor may be make of it a short by-
path. 22
And as he taught them, he said, Is it not written: My house will be called a house of
prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers (11:17). Here Jesus is
quoting from two Old Testament passages. In Isaiah 56:7 it is written for my house
will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Also, the prophet Jeremiah (7:11) had
said, Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I
have been watching! declares the LORD.
The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to
kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his
teaching. When evening came, they went out of the city (11:18-19). For Jesus to
have both ruling priests and scribes seeking how they might destroy him was to be in
serious trouble indeed. 23 We realize that this was not a new decision, for we saw in
Mark 3:6 that such a choice had been made early in Jesus ministry. We see that the
chief priests were in collusion with the teachers of the law (grammateus) or
scribes. The priestly and scribal families were wealthy people who controlled activities
around the temple. The priesthood was severely compromised in Jesus time. It was no
longer related to Aaron but was simply a cheap political office sold to the highest bidder
by the Romans. 24


In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the
roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has
withered! Mark 11:20-21
No doubt Peter remembered this incident well, since he was the one who noticed the
withered fig tree and called it to the Masters attention. We see here that the tree was
withered not just in the leaves but in the roots. Fig leaves are prone to wither quickly
when removed from the tree (by this we could understand that they would have made
very poor coverings for naked Adam and Eve in the Garden). However, this tree was
totally dead from the roots up, and that was a little strange.

We cannot remove this incident from what had just happened in the cleansing of the
temple. Jesus had encountered a God-ordained temple and a religious system that
looked good on the outside. It had leaves and those leaves indicated there should be
fruit. However, Jesus had found that there was no fruit there. It was a system filled
with hypocrisy and corruption. Edwards remarks about this saying: Mark portrays the
clearing of the temple not as its restoration but as its dissolutionthe temple is
fundamentally from the roots- replaced by Jesus as the center of Israel. 25 Many
months before John the Baptist had cried out, The ax is already at the root of the trees,
and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the
fire (Lk. 3:9). Now the tree is finished. In a mere generation the temple would be
destroyed and the Jewish nation would be scattered. Many of those greedy priests,
Scribes and Pharisees would be destroyed with the temple.
Have faith in God, Jesus answered. I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this
mountain, Go, throw yourself into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart but believes
that what he says will happen, it will be done for him (11:22-23). Here Jesus seems
to move from the theme of the destroyed tree and temple to the subject of faith. Of
course, faith is one of the three pillars of Christianity (1 Cor. 13:13).
Here Jesus is saying that if we really believe in God we can move mountains. Jesus and
his disciples were standing on the Mount of Olives and this mountain provides many
clear views of the Dead Sea. This is another example of ancient Middle Eastern
hyperbole. We would of course not want to move a literal mountain. It would be
horrendously damaging to both life and ecology. As we say, the mountain Jesus was
standing on at the time was none other than the Mount of Olives, probably the second
most important mountain on earth and the mount from which Jesus will soon ascend to
heaven. It is also the mountain to which he will return at his Second Coming. Of
course, the most important mountain on earth was and is the Temple Mount. Some
commentators think that Jesus may have even had it in mind.

What in the world is Jesus saying here? He is essentially repeating what he said to the
bewildered man earlier in Mark 9:23: Everything is possible for him who believes.
In Jewish imagery a mountain signifies something really strong and immovable. It
represents a problem which is too big for everyone and stands in the way. 26 In
Zechariah 4:7 God said to Zerubbabel: What are you, O mighty mountain? Before
Zerubbabel you will become level ground. God was saying that all the impossible
problems of the Jews resettling the land and rebuilding their temple were as nothing to
True and powerful faith is based on Gods word what God says (Rom. 10:17;
Jn.15:7). It is not just a faith in faith. It is not based on how we feel or what we think or
understand. Some people do not exercise their faith in God, giving the excuse that they
do not fully understand. If we believe we will understand. Long ago Augustine said,
Credo ut intelligam (I believe in order that I may understand).27
This is an astounding saying of Jesus. There is really nothing impossible to those of us
who believe in God because there is nothing impossible to God. If we are lined up with
Gods word we can do anything and everything. In this verse we are given amazing and
almost bewildering spiritual authority. The secret to this authority is that we must

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it,
and it will be yours (11:24). This verse really stretches our faith. Jesus is saying that
if we can believe as if it were done, then it is done. We must remember that true faith is
based on the word of God. We must see it in the word for it to become reality. Jesus is
not in any sense speaking of our wants, desires or lusts. James 4:3 warns us, When you
ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend
what you get on your pleasures.
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so
that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (11:25). God is not giving an
absolutely free rein so that we can ask for any foolish thing and receive it. Nor is he
suggesting that we can pray and receive if we have obvious sin in our lives. Here we see
another requirement of real, powerful prayer. We must forgive others (Matt. 6:12, 14-
15). 28 Pastor Don Finto says, Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and hoping the
other person will die. A lot of people today are inwardly wounded by parents, by
spouses, and by dozens of other things. We cannot pray the faith prayer with such
bitterness in our lives. Actually, relationships are key in our spiritual progress. We may
not get much closer to God than we are to others who are our relationships.
Here we need to remember the almost immortal lines of Alfred Lord Tennyson in his
play The Promise of May:
O man, forgive thy mortal foe,
Nor ever strike him blow for blow;
For all the souls on earth that live
To be forgiven must forgive.
Forgive him seventy times and seven:
For all the blessed souls in Heaven
Are both forgivers and forgiven. 29


They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts,
the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. By what
authority are you doing these things? they asked. And who gave you authority to do
this? Mark 11:27-28
The Jewish leaders were considerably galled by Jesus audacity in clearing the
merchants from the temple. After all, these leaders were no doubt getting a substantial
income from all this buying and selling. The three groups represented here, ruling
priests, teachers or scribes and elders likely represented the groups that constituted the
Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews. This meeting has the appearance of an
informal query by that body. 30
It was likely that this event took place in what was called the Royal Cloister or Solomons
Porch. This was a common place for rabbis to teach. 31 These leaders no doubt thought
they could catch Jesus on the horns of a dilemma by questioning him about his
authority. As we can see, it didnt turn out that way.
Jesus replied, I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what
authority I am doing these things. Johns baptism was it from heaven, or from men?
Tell me! (11:29-30). As was customary with the rabbis, Jesus answered a question
with a question. His question placed these Sanhedrin representatives on the horns of a
worse dilemma. Today we might call their situation a catch22.
They discussed it among themselves and said, If we say, From heaven, he will ask,
Then why didnt you believe him? But if we say, From men (They feared the people,
for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) (11:31-32). They immediately
perceived that if they said Johns baptism was from men, the people around them might
riot. Many of those folks had been baptized by John because all Jerusalem had gone
out to him. On the other hand, if they said his baptism was from heaven the people
would wonder why they themselves did not believe and obey him. 32 They were
stuck! No doubt a very embarrassing silence ensued while these leaders stumbled and
So they answered Jesus, We dont know. Jesus said, Neither will I tell you by what
authority I am doing these things (11:33). Obviously, the Jewish leaders were afraid
of the crowd. They were not asking What is true? or what is right? but what is
safe? This is always the approach of the hypocrite and the crowd-pleaser. 33 As
Augustine said many centuries ago, Since they answered the truth with a lie, Jesus did
not force open the doors they themselves had barricaded. 34

He then began to speak to them in parables: A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall
around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the
vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. Mark 12:1
As we have said previously, Mark mostly emphasizes the person of Jesus and his
actions. So far in the book we have only had one other major parable, and that was
found back in chapter four. 1 Now we have another parable section. There is an
unwritten rule of interpretation that a parable should never be treated as an allegory
and that we should be careful in trying to seek meaning in every detail. This parable
seems to be an exception to the rule. Barclay sees it as a kind of hybrid between an
allegory and a parable, since many of the details have meaning. 2
It is easy to perceive that the owner is God himself. The vineyard is the house of
Israel. The cultivators are the rulers of Israel. The servants are the many prophets who
came to warn and minister to Israel. The last one to come is Jesus, Gods Only Begotten

The picture of the vineyard was not a new picture to Israel. We see far back in Isaiah
5:1-7, which is the setting for this parable (cf. Psa. 80:8-16). We are told that the Lord
planted the vineyard of Israel on a very fertile hillside. God went to a lot of effort in
preparing the vineyard. He dug it up and gathered out all the stones. Then he planted it
with a choice vine. In addition he put a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress. After
all his effort he waited, and waited for the vineyard of Israel to produce fruit. Finally he
was disappointed that it brought forth only bad fruit.

To really understand Marks parable we need to make ourselves aware of the

agricultural situation of the Holy Land in Jesus time. There were many absentee
landlords who lived far off in the cities. They had to depend on middle men as their
tenants. 3 We also need to be aware that a vineyard represented much capital
investment and labor by the owner. In this parable he did all the things the Lord did in
Isaiah 5, and he also put a wall around the vineyard. We also know from Leviticus
19:23-25, that for a Jewish owner, it would be at least as long as five years before he
could collect the fruit. 4
The owner had a lot of liability regarding a vineyard. It had to be cared for properly,
irrigated, pruned, guarded, or else all his labor and investment could easily come to
ruin. There was actually a legal problem involved too. In various countries today there
are still laws regarding the actual use of land. In the US there is the law of adverse
possession. By this law a person who openly possesses a portion of land and uses it for
a certain number of years may be able to get title to it in the courts. Squatters rights is
a kind of adverse possession. It seems that there was some law of this nature in ancient
Israel. 5 For an owner to maintain title he would have to appear occasionally and
reestablish his ownership. This of course could be done by making a claim for his share
of the fruits.
At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit
of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-
handed (12:2-3). We realize here that there were several tenants involved and that
they were quite powerful. Evans tells us that it was common in
intertestamental papyri for tenant farmers (georgoi) to be not just individual peasants
but groups of large and wealthy commercial farmers. 6 This would explain some of the
trouble the owner had in collecting his rents. Clearly, we see in this parable that the
tenants were resolved to claim the land
for themselves.
Since the owner was apparently not living in the area, the servant was sent to collect the
fruits owed to him. It was understood that fruits meant money.7 Instead of receiving
money the servant received a severe beating. The word for beating is edeiran in the
Greek means literally to skin or to flay. 8 When we think of beatings today we
certainly do not picture the severity of beatings in ancient times.
Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated
him shamefully (12:4). When we look back over the history of Israel there was hardly
a prophet that the people did not mistreat in some way. In Jeremiah 7:25-26 it is
written: From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and
again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay
attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers. We can see
that the tenants are becoming more and more aggressive since this servant is wounded
in the head.
He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they
beat, others they killed (12:5). We think here of Elijah the prophet. He complained to
God: The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put
your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying
to kill me too (1 Kings 19:10). We are caused to think here of the great persistence,
faithfulness, longsuffering and love of God.
He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, They
will respect my son (12:6). This verse reminds us again of Isaiah 5:4, where God
asks, What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for
it? Here the question is answered. There is one more thing to be done. The owner
could send his son. After all, the son was the only other person beside the father who
possessed legal claim over the property. 9 Here the parable makes it very clear that
Jesus is none other than the Son of God. It was an unmistakable message to Israels
leaders. Also, in the Bible the fourth year was the time when the fruit was offered up to
God (Lev. 19:24). The Beloved Son, God incarnate, had come to receive what was his. 10
The great English Baptist prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, remarked
here, No one else can be sent; heaven itself contains no further messenger. If Christ be
rejected, hope is rejected. 11
But the tenants said to one another, This is the heir. Come, lets kill him, and the
inheritance will be ours. So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the
vineyard (12:7-8). What an incredibly clear picture of the gospel account. The leaders
of Israel seemed to have sensed that Jesus was the Son and the heir. Almost from the
outset of his ministry they had determined to kill him. They had only lacked the
opportunity to do so. Coffman sees in this verse proof that the Jewish hierarchy really
did recognize Jesus as the true Messiah of Israel. 12 They valued their vested political
and religious interests too much to turn loose of their power and publicly acknowledge
him as the real
ruler of Israel.
We sense a total disrespect here for the son. He was murdered and then simply thrown
out of the vineyard. They did not even give him the esteem of a proper burial. How
clearly this parallels the gospel account. They crucified Jesus outside the city wall and
they did not provide him a burial. Had it not been for wealthy Joseph of Arimathea,
Jesus would not have had a burial place (Mk. 15:43-46).

What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and
give the vineyard to others (12:9). Matthews version is more specific. He
says, Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and
given to a people who will produce its fruit (Matt. 21:43). Matthew thus gives us an
extremely clear picture that God would take the kingdom from Israel and would give his
salvation to the Gentiles. 13 God would work with a humble people who would obey his
word. These would become the apostles and evangelists who would complete Gods will
and take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
This is an awesome parable. It really pictures the problem humanity has had through all
the ages. Men and women have sought to get rid of God so they themselves can take the
place of God. 14 This idea surely culminated in the late twentieth century as Friedrich
Nietzsches God is dead philosophy came into prominence. Before the century ran out
even some theologians were parroting this idea in their God is dead theology. On the
cover of its April 8, 1966 issue, Time Magazine even asked the question, Is God
Dead? We can understand the rage with which the Father will come to such godless
Havent you read this scripture: The stone the builders rejected has become the
capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes? (12:10-11). The
Jewish builders or leaders in Jerusalem had somehow rejected the most important stone
of all. This probably has reference to the capstone that is very important in completing
an arch or it could also have reference to a capital or a pinnacle of a building. 15 Jesus
was Gods Beloved Son (Aramaic ben). He was also the most important
keystone(Aramaic eben). Pett feels there is probably a word play intended and he notes
that the Targumfollows suite and translates stone as son. 16
Several commentators have noted how the early Christians seemed to be fascinated with
the subject of the stone. Jesus was the stone rejected by the builders. Peter was a
stone also and Christians were referred to as being like living stones. The subject is
dealt with in several places such as in Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:4-7; Romans 9:32-33; and
Ephesians 2:20. 17 Unfortunately for Israel, Jesus became a stone of stumbling and a
rock of offense just as the prophet Isaiah had predicted (Isa. 8:14; 28:16; cf. 1 Pet. 2:8).
Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the
parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went
away (12:12). The dilemma the authorities faced was whether to ignore Jesus, only
to have him whip up a rebellion, or to seize Jesus, only to ignite the very rebellion they
fearedIn plotting Jesus destruction , they unwittingly lived up to their
characterization in the parable as murderers. 18 Israels proud rulers slinked away
because they were afraid of the crowd.