March 19, 2018
Mark 11:27 – 12:12
Mark seems to frame this as Jesus parked with hosts in Bethphage, and commuting into Jerusalem. Each day, as he gets to ‘the office’ or the temple, religious leaders challenge him. By what authority is he acting? Says who?
Jesus doesn’t answer, according to Mark – but asks them to commit first: was the baptism of John of divine or human origin? They know John was popularly recognized – and that John was killed, by Herod. It’s a no-win question – so they wimp out, permitting Jesus reciprocal relief and de-escalation of their conflict.
Here comes another long parable, about the wicked tenants in a vineyard. The tenants get a well-established vineyard, but refuse to pay rent to slave delegates sent by the landlord, so he sends his son to get respect. Instead they see the heir, want to steal the whole ownership, so they kill the son.
This is a pretty clear analogy to the prophets sent by God to ask that people hold up their end of the covenant. Finally, even the son of God is rejected. If this is an allegory, the religious are the rebellious tenants. However, if it’s a mashal, perhaps it provokes wider talk of what’s fair: absentee Roman rulers demanding tribute?
What will the landlord do? Destroy the tenants, not the vineyard. The vineyard can be leased to a new people. There’s a bad tradition of reading this as the evil Jews replaced by a new people, Christians, us superseding them, as their divine punishment. Who is next proven evil, having forgotten our submissive role? Muslims replacing Christians, or Ba’hai rising above us all? What would God do? What would Caesar do? Are you sure?
Aphorism: “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes…” The saying is tied to the story – but I think it belongs on a separate ‘post-it note’ source bit.
The religious authorities take all this, appropriately, as a shot against them. Given their complicity with Herodians, as elites supporting the status quo, they don’t like either of my readings above. They want to arrest him, but fear the populist crowd – so far – and go away.
Again they came to Jerusalem.
As he was walking in the temple,
the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders
came to him and said,
‘By what authority are you doing these things?
Who gave you this authority to do them?’
Jesus said to them,
‘I will ask you one question;
answer me, and I will tell you
by what authority I do these things.
Did the baptism of John come from heaven,
or was it of human origin? Answer me.’
They argued with one another,
‘If we say, “From heaven”,
he will say,
“Why then did you not believe him?”
But shall we say, “Of human origin”?’—
they were afraid of the crowd,
for all regarded John as truly a prophet.
So they answered Jesus,
‘We do not know.’
And Jesus said to them,
‘Neither will I tell you
by what authority I am doing these things.’
Then he began to speak to them in parables.
‘A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it,
dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watch-tower;
then he leased it to tenants and went to another country.
When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants
to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard.
But they seized him, and beat him,
and sent him away empty-handed.
And again he sent another slave to them;
this one they beat over the head and insulted.
Then he sent another, and that one they killed.
And so it was with many others;
some they beat, and others they killed.
He had still one other, a beloved son.
Finally he sent him to them, saying,
“They will respect my son.”
But those tenants said to one another,
“This is the heir; come, let us kill him,
and the inheritance will be ours.”
So they seized him, killed him,
and threw him out of the vineyard.
What then will the owner of the vineyard do?
He will come and destroy the tenants
and give the vineyard to others.
Have you not read this scripture:
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes”?’
When they realized that he had told this parable against them,
they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd
So they left him and went away.