Throughout this year we have been studying the Gospel of Mark. This morning we are in bottom half of Chapter 11. Last week, we saw Jesus enter Jerusalem in what we call the Triumphal Entry. Last week we saw Jesus ride on a donkey as he fulfilled Zechariah 9:9.
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
--Jesus announced that he is the humble king.
--By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus proclaimed that he is the Messiah. But, Jesus was not the Messiah the people expected. Jesus was not the king who came to drive out the hated Romans. The people wanted an end to Roman rule. Rather, Jesus came with a message that something else was going to end.
--Jesus turned over the tables of the money-changers. Jesus scattered pigeons. Jesus shut down all the operations in the temple, for a bit.
--Jesus symbolically foreshadowed the destruction of the temple. It was their beautiful, new temple that was coming to an end.
Mark 11:17 And Jesus was teaching them and saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers."
The temple was supposed to be a house of prayer for all the nations. Their beautiful temple was supposed to be a blessing for all people; for the ethnos, for all the others. But instead, they thought of the temple as their hideout; their sanctuary. They thought the temple was going to be their protection against the Romans when they rebelled. But Jesus demonstrated that, no it was not going to shield them. In turning over the tables Jesus predicted the end of the temple.
Also, last week, we also saw Jesus do his only destructive miracle; he cursed a fig tree. The killing of the fig tree was also a symbolic act marking the destruction of the unproductive temple!
We must look lively. We must place our faith in God, not fig trees; not temples.
What happened last week has consequences this week. Listen to a story I ran across recently…
It was a busy Friday afternoon, in the middle of the city. It was rush-hour. It was bad. The traffic was snarled in gridlocked. Nobody was moving. Horns were blaring. Taxi-drivers were swearing. Tired commuters were eager to get home for the weekend. But nobody was moving. Nobody knew what to do.
Then, out of nowhere, stepped a young man. He walked into the middle of the intersection. This random guy began to direct traffic. Everyone was surprised. Nobody knew who he was. But the drivers did what they were told. The blockage unblocked itself. Traffic started to flow again.
The young man stepped out of the middle of the intersection. He was about to melt back into the crowd, when (too late, of course) the police arrive. The police were… inquisitive. “Who do you think you are? Who gave you the right to take over?”
That is the mood for our story, as it continues in Mark chapter 11.
Mark 11:27-28 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as Jesus was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, (busted!) and they said to him, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?"
The chief priests were the ones in charge of the temple. The chief priests were in cahoots with the Romans to operate the temple. The chief priests had a deal with the Romans; “You keep the peace, you keep your place.” Any disruption in the temple, especially during the Passover, was a cause for alarm. Now this young man had stepped into the middle of the intersection and started directing traffic in the temple and those in charge asked… “Who do you think you are?”
Then, Jesus answers the chief priests’ question with a question…
Mark 11:29-30 Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me."
Pretty simple question. Either John the Baptizer was from God or not. Jesus’s counter-question is fascinating. It is the perfect comeback. I always think of the perfect comeback 2 days later. But Jesus has the perfect response to their question.
Jesus is answering their question... “Who gave you the authority to disrupt the temple?” The same one who sent John the Baptizer. Jesus answers the chief priests’ question… The same God who commissioned John, authorized me.
Here is the coolest part of Jesus’ answer…
Mark 11:31-33 And the chief priests discussed it with one another, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But shall we say, 'From man'?"- they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So, they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
They could have said God sent John. Then why didn’t you repent? But if they said John was just a crazy guy who lived in the desert… Then the people would run them out of the temple. The people knew John was from God. The best the chief priests could say was, “We don’t know”. Jesus answered their question and shut them up in an amazing come-back! Bam!
Going back to our traffic jam story, the young man who unjammed the traffic turns out to be the newly appointed chief of police. The interrogating police officers don’t recognize their own police chief. These chief priests don’t recognize their own boss. They were so absorbed in keeping their jobs with the Romans, they failed to recognize their God right in front of them!
Remember the commercial… “Want’ta get away?”
But Jesus is not finished with the chief priests, just yet. Jesus tells them a parable…
Mark 12:1-5 And Jesus 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. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again, he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so, with many others: some they beat, and some they killed.”
If any of you have ever rented out a house, you know that a bad tenant can be disastrous. Maybe, they tear up the carpet; maybe their dogs chew a door off the hinges; maybe they don’t pay their rent on time; maybe, they lose their cleaning deposit. But no one has ever had tenants this bad. Instead of paying their rent, they beat up the guy who came to collect it. These terrible tenants even killed some of the owner’s collection agents.
Jesus is retelling a parable from Isaiah chapter 5…
Isaiah 5:1-7 “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!”
Jesus changes the parable, but not really. God is still the owner. Israel is still the vineyard. The tenants were the ones who were supposed to take care of the grapes but did not. The leaders; these chief priests were supposed to make the grapes productive. But they did not. The grapes went wild!
Jesus finishes his parable... The owner of the vineyard had one more idea about how to collect his rent.
Mark 12:6-9 The vineyard owner 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.” And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do?
We know what Jesus does to unproductive fruit. Remember the fig tree. Jesus does the same thing to unproductive tenants.
Mark 12:9 He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.
The chief priests were supposed to lead the people to be a blessing to all nations. The chief priests were supposed to be the caretakers of the vineyard. They should have recognized the owner’s son. They should have been leading the people in welcoming their Messiah.
But they did not. They were terrible tenants. They rejected the Messiah. They killed the owner’s only son.
Jesus still doesn’t let the chief priests get away.
Mark 12:10-11 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 marvelous in our eyes?”
This is fascinating. Last week, we learned that what the crowd sang as Jesus entered Jerusalem was from Psalm 118. Jesus comes full circle to quote from Psalm 118 again. Listen to Psalm 118 a song of ascent.
Psalm 118:20-29 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us… You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
Jesus puts the two together. The one who comes in the name of the Lord is the one who was rejected! The rejected stone has become the centerpiece of the new temple. Jesus, the new temple, is going to shine his light upon us all!
Wow, this is marvelous in our eyes… say it… “This is marvelous in our eyes!”
But for the chief priests, not so much…
Mark 12:12 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.
This is sad. The chief priests loved their job. They loved the respect. The loved their robes. They loved their position. They loved the ritual and ceremony and the all the honor that went with being “Chief” Priests. They loved their jobs so much, they missed their boss’s son. They were so afraid of losing their jobs, they killed their boss’s son.
The chief priests wanted to keep their jobs so bad, they lost it all. In 66 AD these chief priests could not stop the people from rebelling against Rome; against the ethnos. In 70 AD the Romans destroyed their precious temple; their religion; their jobs. It was all destroyed.
--If the chief priests had listened to the warning of the overturned tables…
--If the chief priests had heeded the fig tree’s curse…
--If the chief priests had accepted John the Baptizer’s message…
--If the chief priests had paid their rent to the vineyard owner’s son…
--If the chief priests had not rejected the stone…
---They could have been the blessing to the nations, they were intended to be.
---They could have said… “This is marvelous in our eyes!”
But they did not. That is sad.
I guess we have another haunting question for us this morning.
Do we cling on so tightly to our “jobs” that we miss Jesus in front of us?
--What if Jesus overturned a table in of front us... don’t trust in that... not in that human thing.
--What if Jesus shriveled a fig tree in front of us... don’t have faith in that... that is not me.
--What if there was a message, but we weren’t listening... so focused on our jobs.
--What if we were supposed to be a blessing to the ethnos, the others, the marginalized... but we were focused on our jobs we failed to be the blessing?
I think the warning before us, from the Gospel of Mark, this morning is... watch for the one who may be standing in the intersection of our tangle lives... directing traffic... It may be the owner’s son.
September 24, 2017
Los Alamos Church of Christ