Parable of the Tenants

Mark 12:1-9

This parable is very well-known and, for many of us, has been studied since Sunday school. This does not decrease its importance but can blind us to its deeper meanings. 

This section is an allegory or parable. With a cursory understanding of Scripture, we can identify the owner, the farmers, and the vineyard. With this key information, we understand Yashua is talking about YHWH, His people, and His Son. We also understand it is prophetic of Yashua’s death. 

Some would say these ideas are elementary, however, that does not mean they are only for children in Bible class. I prefer to say they are foundational. Without this understanding nothing else will make sense. That makes these ideas of the upmost importance.   

A few verses down there is an interesting comment: vs. 12 “they knew He had spoken a parable against them.” How did they know? The parables were usually only understood by those with ears to hear. The leaders were often confused by Yashua’s teaching but not this time. Why?

The answer to that question comes with deeper, thematic study. To understand this level of interpretation, we have to look across several books in Scripture, looking for connecting themes. In this example, some of the work is done for us: Yashua is directly quoting a parable from Isaiah.   

In both parables, there is a man who plants a vineyard, builds a watchtower and a wine vat in hope of collecting the grapes. However, in Yashua’s parable, there are additional characters – the tenants and the son. As we know, breaks in pattern are intentional and meant to be a red flag – a hint to stop and meditate. What do these breaks, these additional characters teach us?

In Isaiah’s parable, the grapes (the people) are the problem. It is harvest time but the grapes are rotten. In Yashua’s parable, it is harvest time and the grapes are good and ready. However, the tenants (the Scribes and Pharisees) are preventing the harvest. What a mockery!   Those in Moshe’s seat were to help draw the people to YHWH. But in Yashua’s time, the leaders were preventing the people from drawing close to YHWH. 

The Scribes and Pharisees would have been familiar with the parable of the vineyard in Isaiah and the break in the pattern. Who was responsible for caring for YHWH’s grapes, His people? The priests! They got the message loud and clear and sought to kill Him for it. 

However, they missed the second message, the second additional character. In Yashua’s parable, the owner’s son comes and is killed. Only after He dies, is the owner able to harvest his grapes. 

This second character is highlighted by the structure of this parable. The center is: He sent His Son. 

a. Owner and farmers (1)

     b. Owner’s plan (2-4)

          c. Killed Servants (5)

               * Sent His Son (6)

     b. Farmers’ Plan (7)

          c. Killed His Son (8)

a. Owner and farmers (9)

The Scribes and Pharisees were so offended by the tenants, they missed the real message of this parable.  YHWH sent His Son. 

What does this mean for us? Yashua does not explain it but perhaps this break can be explained by another: the ending. Both parables end with a question:  what shall the owner do? In Isaiah, the vineyard is utterly destroyed. What happens in Yashua’s parable? Why is it important? What idea is being taught by the alternate ending? 

For my thoughts, keep reading.  However, it may be more interesting to stop and meditate.  Allow the Ruach to work in you and through you.

My thoughts:  As was noted, in Isaiah the parable ends with the vineyard being destroyed.  That is NOT what happens in Yashua’s parable.  Look at vs 9:  

He shall come and destroy the farmers and give the vineyard to others.  

The farmers are destroyed and the vineyard is given to someone else. There is a transference of power.  This is pointing to Yashua as our High Priest. 

Heb 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Yashua, 

Heb 10:20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 

Heb 10:21  and since we have a great priest over the house of YHWH, 

Heb 10:22  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 

Heb 10:23  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 

So the owner able to harvest his grapes after the death of his son because there is a transference of power.  After Yashua’s death, the care of YHWH’s people was transferred to Yashua.  He is the perfect High Priest that will allow all people to draw near to YHWH.

Praise YHWH for the alternate ending. His mercy endures forever!

YHWH Bless You and Keep You.

May you hear His voice calling you to His purpose, His way, His kingdom. 

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