"Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have
given us; for all the pains and insults which you have borne
for us." --St Richard


Jesus began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a
vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat
and built a tower. He leased it to vinedressers and went into a
far country. Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the
vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit. And they
took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.

"Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw
wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully
Again he sent another, and him they killed; and many
beating some and killing some.

"Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him
them last, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those
said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let
us kill him and
the inheritance will be ours.' So they took him
and killed him and
cast him out of the vineyard.

"Therefore, what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come
and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.
Have you not read this Scripture:
            'The stone which the builders rejected
            Has become the chief cornerstone.
            This was the Lord's doing,
            And it is marvelous in our eyes'?"

[{Matthew 21:45} Now when the chief priests and Pharisees
heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of
them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared
the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.]

                                                              Mark 12:1-12 NKJV, condensed

                                        Enemies Within

A man planted a vineyard and fenced it in. While the grapevines were
growing, he dug a pit for the standard winepress and built a watchtower
from which to detect signs of danger. Then he went on a long journey
and rented the whole enterprise to tenant farmers to work it for him.

At harvest time, he sent servants to collect his share of the fruit. That's
when he noticed there was a problem, not with the fruit but with his
renters. His servants were coming back bruised and empty-handed.
Some were not coming back at all. Thinking there must be some
mistake, he sent more reps, probably ones with better communication
skills so they could state clearly who they were and what they wanted.
But this round of servants fared no better than the first.

It's obvious something very odd is going on here. No businessman
in his right mind would continue using failed tactics. Yet this absentee
landlord persisted in sending a steady stream of servants and the
workers at the vineyard continued beating or killing them. Although
the observer is able to see and predict the outcome, the owner
persevered until he had no more agents to send.

By this point we begin to realize Jesus was doing more than telling
a story. He was describing something unique about God. After
generously equipping the vineyard with everything needful, the
owner trusted the tenant farmers and confidently leased the vineyard
into their care. Always hopeful, he believed their sins could be
redeemed if he persisted in courting them long enough. Likewise,
God is relentless and never gives up.

Meanwhile the tenants took every advantage of the seemingly
long-gone owner and demonstrated a cartload of disrespect. They
proved again and again that they were not worthy of his trust, and
deceived themselves into thinking their greedy little hands could
gain possession of the prosperous field.

Finally, the owner had only one worker left and that was his only son.
This is where I want to cry out to him, "No, no, no; don't do it! Don't
be so foolish. They will kill him, too!"  But the lord of the vineyard
thinks, "They will recognize my son and surely they will respect and
listen to him."

You know what's going to happen before it does. Sadly we have a
waiting father, watching the road every day for his beloved son's
return. Would it be in triumph or in defeat? As days passed the choice
became less and less important, all that mattered was that he just
return. But his son never appeared on the horizon. The renters had
recognized him alright. Their pattern was set; they did not hesitate
to kill him and throw his body over the fence.

Suddenly the drama changes with the question, "Therefore, what will
the owner of the vineyard do?" The answer is swift and decisive. New
tactics emerge. The seat of power reverts back to the owner who will
come and put an end to the tyranny of the renters. The owner acts
like the person in charge, and the evil schemers are wiped out. It was
a housecleaning of grand proportions, and the owner replaced them
with others who would do his bidding. Unbelievably the danger had
festered and grown within the vineyard, not from without!

Jesus summarized his story with a quote from the Old Testament.
He said, "Here is the marvelous thing--The stone which the builders
rejected, God chose to be the capstone." Or as the Living Bible puts
it, "The Rock the builders threw away became the cornerstone."
The whole parable needs to be pondered in light of these words.

The religious leaders were very alert and recognized themselves in
Jesus' story. The text says they knew Jesus aimed this parable at
them. Their eyes were opened to the truth, but their hearts were
not moved to repentance. They continued in their sins, and God
gave his only beloved son into their hands!


Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.


 Icebreaker: Share an experience wherein persistence paid off,
                        or didn't pay off, for you.


The purpose of a vineyard is to produce fruit and good wine.
            Name some of the many factors which must come together in
                   order to have a successful vineyard with good tasting wine.
            How does a productive vineyard illustrate what God wants from us?

Discuss the implications of a watchtower and looking off into the
distance for dangerous enemies, when all the time sin is incubating
within the compound.
            What is the message in that imagery for God's people today?


How did you react to the role of the owner of the vineyard in this parable?
            Did you hear it with your mind, or your heart?  
                    Explain the difference.


Explore the ways in which this parable is an abbreviated version of the  
narrative told in the Old Testament.
            Be sure to include the vineyard as descriptive of God's people,
                        and the patient love of God.


The Message Bible puts the question this way, "What do you think the 
owner of the vineyard will do?  Right.  He'll come and clean house."
            How is God's judgment like a housecleaning?
            Throughout history can you think of any examples of God 
                        "cleaning house"?


The quote about the rejected stone becoming the cornerstone comes
from Psalms 118, which is a Psalm expressing thanks to the Lord for his
faithful and everlasting love. It also mentions the gates of righteousness
through which we enter to give thanks.
            A faithful God and grateful, responsive people--Why is the ideal
                        so difficult to reach?


Do you believe Jesus saw himself as the "stone rejected by the builders"?
            Why or why doesn't Jesus fit that picture?
            In what ways is this parable autobiographical?


Think about this parable in the present tense.
            Who are some messengers God has sent to you?
                        And how have you received them?
We may not physically kill the messenger. We use other means.  
             Name ways people avoid hearing the claim God makes on their lives.


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