(Mark 12, NKJV): Then He 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. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. 2 Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated. 5 And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some. 6 Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those vinedressers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard.9 “Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not even read this Scripture:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
11 This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 And they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away.
If you didn’t read all that, I’ll summarize the parable. A man built a vineyard, leased it out, and went away on a journey. He sent some servants to check on the fruit of his vineyard, but the tenants watching the vineyard either beat or killed them, and left them with no fruit to take back to the master. Finally, the master sent his own son in hopes the tenants would treat him better. But the tenants saw this as an opportunity to kill the son and obtain his inheritance, which they did. The master, upon his return, will destroy these tenants and give the vineyard to others. In Mark 12:12, we actually are told that Jesus spoke this parable “against” the Pharisees (the religious establishment).
I am becoming more convinced all the time that Jesus’ earthly mission was as much anti-religion as it was pro-kingdom. The two go together. To build a new house, the old house must first be torn down and removed. Learning a new habit often requires un-learning of an old habit. Unlearning may be more difficult than learning, in fact. To establish a new way of relating to God in spirit, rather than by law, the old way based on law and self-focused fear, which is the essence of religion, must be removed.
As I type this, I remember that Jesus himself said this: (Luke 5, NKJV) 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’” Jesus wasn’t trying to sell some new wineskins for a little spending money. I believe he was making a point about revealed truth. If you try to put new wine (new revelation) into old wineskins (old mindsets and systems of belief), the new, fresh revelation will “burst” the old mindset and be “spilled” (lost). It won’t work, and even the old mindset will be ruined. First, you must get a new mindset (a process called repentance, see my previous blogs), and then the new revelation can be kept and used.
In my next post, I plan to look closer at the fuller meaning of the parable of the vineyard. But believe it or not, the essence of this parable, which was spoken from the mouth of Jesus himself, is that religion, (no matter how “dressed up”), always focuses on self, always opposes spiritual growth and always hinders the expansion of the kingdom of God. I’ll demonstrate this from Jesus own words next time. Please check back, it’s an important message for the church today.