Mark 12 begins with a parable. Jesus talks about a man who planted a vineyard far from his home, and husbandmen were working the vineyard for him. However, at the time of the harvest, the master wanted his profit, so he sent a servant to collect it. The husbandmen beat up the first servant, beat up the second one and killed the third one. Apparently, more servants received the same treatment, and the master decided that he would send his own son to collect.
Mar 12:6 Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.
Mar 12:7 But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.
Mar 12:8 And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.
Mar 12:9 What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.
It seems rather obvious that Jesus is prophesying his own death at the hands of the Pharisees who were supposed to be taking care of the vineyard. However, verse seven stood out to me distinctly because of what the husbandmen were after.
This is almost the Garden of Eden again. Humans wanted control. They wanted the inheritance, and they thought that they could take the place of the only son. It is kind of similar to that temptation of Adam and Eve in the sense that they were told that they would be like God. They clearly did not anticipate the reaction of the master.
We all have a tendency to exaggerate our own importance. Humility is so admirable because so few people have it. It is a rare commodity.
It seems as if the party line on this issue comes back to personal choice. If only we disregard what God told us, we are going to be that much better off because we are that much more independent. It is a blatant lie.
Humility is our proper response rather than trying to usurp the order that God has established.
Mark 4 gives us a verse that might seem to be a little bit controversial.
Mar 4:10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
Mar 4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
Mar 4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
I guess that this might raise some eyebrows. Was Jesus really saying that He did not want to have some people be forgiven?
I think that we need to evaluate the context here. Jesus had just told a parable to a great crowd of people. He was out in a boat because the crowd was so huge.
The parable is over, and some people stayed after with His 12 disciples. We don’t know the exact number, but we know the 12 disciples were there, and there were other people with them.
These are the ones who were taught about the “story behind the story.” They got the commentary on what the parable meant because they were the ones who were willing to remain. They wanted more of Jesus.
Even though it seems that they did not understand the parable at first, they were also the ones who were trying to learn more.
That is then what we need to keep in mind when we come to verse 12. I don’t want to fall into a massive theological debate here about predestination and free will, but it seems to me that in this context, Jesus was going to show everything to those who were seeking it. Jesus was willing to give the interpretation to those who remained after and wanted to find it. Were they going by their own free will or were they drawn there by God? I don’t know that it really matters at this point. The important part is that they were the ones who were there.
I think that then for you and I, we need to make sure that we are the ones who are chasing after Jesus. We want to be the ones who are looking to Him for answers. We want to be the ones who are trusting that He knows what He is talking about. If the one who followed were the ones who are going to have the opportunity to be forgiven, I know what group I want to be with.
Yesterday, we talked about how there is no way to achieve salvation outside of the power of Jesus Christ, and today in Matthew 20, we receive an illustration that tells us a little bit more about this process of getting into heaven.
As a quick summary, Jesus tells a parable of a group of men who were hired by a landowner to work the fields. They agreed to a contract, and these men put in a full day of work. The landowner also hired more people for the same wages later in the day. The original workers were upset because they felt it was unfair that they all received the same wages for differing amounts of work.
Mat 20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Mat 20:14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
Mat 20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
Mat 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
The wages are representative of entrance into heaven. However, people have done different amounts of work to get there. Nevertheless, they all agreed with the landowner on the price. We have taken God at His word. God said that we can be saved through faith, so we have agreed on the wage.
I think about this one, and the comparison that comes to mind is the work of Billy Graham as compared to the work of someone who converts to Christianity on his or her deathbed. Clearly, the amount of impact they can have on earth for the cause of Christ would be different. Billy Graham had his entire life to work at his phenomenal ministry, and this hypothetical convert had maybe a few hours. However, they are both going to receive the gift of everlasting life with God. It is the same penny if you will.
Receiving that payment relies on making the agreement with God and making that commitment, but when the wages are paid, they are going to be the same. They will be praising God eternally right beside each other.
Jesus begins Matthew 13 by giving a variety of parables relating to the kingdom of heaven, but these parables were not told in His hometown. At the end of the chapter, he does return home, and He is not received with much belief.
Mat 13:54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?
Mat 13:55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
Mat 13:56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?
Mat 13:57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.
Mat 13:58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
These people felt that they knew who He was. They felt like they understood His upbringing, and it doesn’t seem to me that people necessarily thought He was a bad guy, they just did not think of Him as a great teacher or miracle worker.
Jesus had the opportunity to teach in the synagogue, and while it says that He did not do many miracles, that implies that He might have done some. We don’t necessarily know the content of either of these things, but Jesus was probably saying similar things to what He had said elsewhere.
I point that out because, just like today, there are different responses to Jesus. We all have the same Bible more or less. Almost everybody at least in America is capable of going to the store and picking up a normal English translation to be on the same page as Christians around the world.
Why is it that for those of us who are Christians the response is different than it is for those who are not of the faith?
I actually think this is a rather complex question, but let me suggest something from earlier in the chapter.
Mat 13:15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
Mat 13:16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
It seems to me that there is a combination. On one hand, I do believe that God speaks through the Bible to us, so there is a supernatural element. However, it also seems that these people have shut themselves down on some level. It seems that there is some level of personal responsibility here as well.
I think I am going into much deeper theological water here, but it seems to me that at least the appropriate response is gratefulness to God that we have been given His Word. We ought to be thankful that we have the opportunity to understand.