Sunday, July 01, 2012

Trampling the Vintage- Mark 12

This is part of my year of writing devotions based on all the chapter 12's in the Bible in 2012. Genesis 12 was posted on  Jan. 2 and I finished the OT on June 25. The journey has been extraordinary.

The Parable of the Tenants- Mark 12

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted ca vineyard dand put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and eleased it to tenants and fwent into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant1 to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. gAnd they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. gAgain hhe sent to them another servant, and ithey struck him on the head and jtreated him shamefully. gAnd he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, ka beloved son. lFinally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, m‘This is the heir. Come, nlet us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him andothrew him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? pHe will qcome and destroy the tenants and rgive the vineyard to others. 10 sHave you not read tthis Scripture:u“‘The stone that the builders rejectedhas become the cornerstone;211 this was the Lord's doing,and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”12 And vthey were seeking to arrest him wbut feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they xleft him and went away.

I guess a bit of context will set the stage.
Parable of the vine growers-
 Matthew: 21:33-46 Mark 
12:1-12 Luke 
Jesus has already had his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the time of His death is drawing near. We now have numerous synoptic gospel recordings of these amazing parables, ones that I read over and over and the powerful applications never stop. Their message as a whole- "this is God's plan, you will soon see it clearly, God Himself will be the sacrifice for sin, always be ready, God seeks and saves the lost, and don't be a religious poser or oppressor".

This parable has particular power and does not sugar coat the violence associated with God's wrath.
There's a whole lot of killing and pain going on here.

Our world has never escaped the violence of the sinful human heart. Even our literature faithfully records how greed creeps in and causes men to lust after, connive, and be willing to kill and destroy others to get what they desire to be theirs.

I often, in sadness, think of John Steinbeck's book, The Pearl, when Kino discovers that great pearl only to be totally destroyed by the world's wicked system and his own new-found spirit of entitlement. Indeed, even the innocent are caught in the shrapnell of collateral damage.

So I write this quite soberly- there is a time coming when Jesus Himself will take on the evildoers and blast them with unimaginable fury and persevering power.

I noticed something in my readings of all 3 accounts that I had never noticed before.

He asks the question: What will the owner of the vineyard do? Both in Mark's and Luke's account, Jesus answers the question Himself. In Matthew's account it is answered by the hearers of the parable.

But how many times have you ever read Jesus answering His question?

But Jesus is well acquainted with what is going to happen. One of the most gruesome passages in all of Scripture is found in Isaiah 63:

Who is this who comes from lEdom,
in crimsoned garments from lBozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
mmarching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save.”
Why is your napparel red,
and your garments like his owho treads in the winepress?
pI have trodden the winepress alone,
qand from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath;
their lifeblood1 spattered on my garment
and stained all my apparel.
rFor the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and my year of redemption2 had come.
I looked, but sthere was no one to help;
I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
so my own arm brought me salvation,
and my wrath upheld me.
I trampled down the peoples in my anger;
tI made them drunk in my wrath,
and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
We find an equally chilling parallel reference in Revelation 14:

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one glike a son of man, hwith a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 And another angel icame out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, j“Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for kthe harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, lthe angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, mfor its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great nwinepress of the wrath of God. 20 And othe winepress was troddenpoutside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as qa horse's bridle, for 1,600 stadia.3
 "Grapes of Wrath" is the title of a book by John Steinbeck, an analogy to the unfathomable suffering of the Oakies driven to despair by the effects of the Great Depression. Steinbeck struggled with finding a title, but the motive of his writing the book was always clear: "I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this." 

We have also sung about this for years without taking any thought to it's source:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on. ( The Battle Hymn of the Republic)

I challenge you to meditate for a minute on WHY is there a Winepress of Wrath

For every human being who has ever been bullied and bloodied for doing nothing.
For every child who has been abused in life altering moments of unspeakable horror.
For every person who was made to watch loved ones injured or killed.
For every child who suffered alone and no one ever cared enough to help.
For every lie and plan of deceit that caused deep, dark pain.
For every twisted lust that led to oppression or imprisonment.
For every instance where someone with everything took the only thing of an outcast soul.
For every cry of need that has fallen on a cold, dead heart of another.

But this parable goes even further.

There is One who has over and over, and over and over again tried to show His love and mercy, sent sign after sign, circumstance after circumstance, and finally His own beloved Son.

And the result? Spitting and indifference. Apathy and rejection. Abuse and neglect.

I have often thought about this amazing analogy:

Billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God's throne.  Some of the groups near the front talked heatedly--not with cringing shame, but with belligerence. "How can God judge us?" said one. "What does He know about suffering?" snapped a brunette. She jerked back a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror, beatings, torture, death!" In another group a black man lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched for no crime but being black! We have suffocated in slave ships, been wrenched from loved ones, toiled till death gave release." Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He permitted in His world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where there was no weeping, no fear, no hunger, no hatred! Indeed, what did God know about what man had been forced to endure in this world? "After all, God leads a pretty sheltered life," they said.So each group sent out a leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. There was a Jew, a black, an untouchable from India, an illegitimate, a person from Hiroshima, and one from a Siberian slave camp. In the center of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather simple: before God would be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth--as a man! But because He was God, they set certain safeguards to be sure He could not use His divine powers to help Himself: Let Him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted, so that none would know who is really His father. Let Him champion a cause so just, but so radical, that it brings down upon Him the hate, condemnation, and efforts of every major traditional and established religious authority to eliminate Him. Let Him try to describe what no man has ever seen, tasted, heard, or smelled--let Him try to communicate God to men. Let Him be betrayed by His dearest friends. Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let Him see what it is to be terribly alone and completely abandoned by every living thing. Let Him be tortured and let Him die! Let Him die the most humiliating death--with common thieves.As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the great throngs of people. But when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No one moved. For suddenly all knew -- God had already served His sentence.   --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 302.

I want to close with a very important point from this passage. I love the added line in Luke's account:

d“‘The stone that the builders rejectedhas become the cornerstone’?318 eEveryone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls fon anyone, it will crush him.” 

The 'cornerstone' quote comes from Psalm 118- If I may let me show it in context, I have redacted a few verses for sake of length- Let this be our heart cry! Let this be our testimony!

fOh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

hOut of my distress I icalled on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me jfree.
kThe Lord is on my side; lI will not fear.
What can man do to me?
mThe Lord is on my side as my helper;
I shall nlook in triumph on those who hate me.
oIt is better to take refuge in the Lordpthan to trust in man. 
I was tpushed hard,1 so that I was falling,
but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
uhe has become my salvation.
15 Glad songs of salvation
are in the tents of the righteous:
vThe right hand of the Lord wdoes valiantly,
18 The Lord has zdisciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
19 aOpen to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
bthe righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that cyou have answered me
uand have become my salvation.
22 dThe stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.2
23 This is the Lord's doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
Lord, we pray, give us success!
 eBlessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We fbless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has made ghis light to shine upon us.
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will iextol you.
29 jOh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

 Here is the bottom line- you and I are part of a sober narrative. The world is full of rejectors and pain inflictors. We wound and have been wounded. We sting and have been stung.

And we reject the answer. We ignore the gate of salvation. Indeed the world has looked at God's plan and said a historically consistent and global- NO.

But our rejection does not change the fact that all people will come in contact with that stone of rejection.

If we fall on Him, we are broken. We cry in our sin and rebellion. But out of that point of humility we find the door to salvation.

But if we bow up. If we continue to snub Him, He will have no choice but one day fall on us and crush us in His winepress of Holy wrath.

The Pharisees understood exactly what Jesus was saying here. Look at their reaction of shame as they stood condemned.

MatthewWhen the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And lalthough they were seeking to arrest him, mthey feared the crowds, because they held him to be na prophet.MarkAnd vthey were seeking to arrest him wbut feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they xleft him and went away.LukeThe scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.20 iSo they jwatched him and sent spies, who kpretended to be sincere, that they might lcatch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction ofmthe governor.
Right now you are in one of two camps.... you either fall on 

Him in repentance and faith or fight Him to the bitter end.

Which part of the stone do you choose?

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