28th June 2023
Read - Mark 12:1-12
Message Alan Burke
We are told of a man who planted a vineyard. A vineyard in Isreal in the first century was as common a sight as a dairy farm here, you go through the countryside you spot the dairy heard’s, while if you were going through the countryside of Isreal you’d spot the vineyards. The imagery of a vineyard would have been as familiar to those in Jesus day as a dairy farm is today.
This vineyard was planted by a man, who put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Notice the care and attention that is given here by the owner, what he does. To plant a vineyard there is lots of predatory work. His care was seen in how he put a wall around it, like a dry stone wall that we see out and about, there is a lot of time and effort here not only in the ground work, the planting but also in a wall that was built to keep primarily animals out but as well it would have been to keep people out. Building the winepress so that the fruit could be harvested and turned into wine and on top of all of that there he built a watchtower.
The scale of what the man has done is vast, this isn’t just a back yard enterprise in someones garden in a bit of space they weren’t using. No, the watchtower makes it clear that this was on a commercial scale that clear. If you are building a watchtower it is so that someone can sit there and keep watch, this would have been for someone to be night and day to keep watch over the vineyard. Not just one person but likely two or three just employed to keep watch, that would have been their job to keep watch to make sure no animals are getting in or a thief doesn’t come in and steal the produce or seek to destroy the vineyard. All this detail is for a purpose, it is to say that the man has made all the preparation, done all the work, it should be ready to be fruitful and bear fruit in abundance, and at this stage we are told that the rented the vineyard to some farmers and went on a journey. The vineyard was leased, the owner still wants to keep an eye on his investment but his servants were rejected, beaten, killed and even his son was killed at their hands.
If you take time to read Isaiah 5 you’ll read of a vineyard and the judgment that comes (Is 5:1-7). Jesus takes the imagery of Isaiah and uses it here. In Isaiah the vineyard is judged because of the fruit that it has borne, and the vineyard is representative of God’s people, in all it was worthless and a prophetic judgement on Isreal. But Jesus here in Mark’s gospel focuses not on the fruit producing vines, rather he focuses on the tenants of the vineyard.
Jesus takes the imagery of Isaiah that would have been familiar to those whom he talked to and uses it to speak of the tenants because ultimately the vineyards failure is down to the failure of the leaders, they had for generations been in a place of trust but had failed to lead as they should. Now while I wont get into this on Sunday I will here. Our leaders have such a responsibility for the flock under their care, the vineyard that they are to look after, they should be diligent in their work and they need prayer, they need support, they need encouragement, you have a part to play. If you are reading this and you are in leadership in the church, are you watching over the vineyard, tending the vines, and this isn’t just the “ministers” job it’s the elders as well, and all of us have a part to play.
Q84 What doth every sin deserve?
Every sin deserveth God’ s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come. (Eph. 5:6, Gal. 3:10, Lam. 3:39, Matt. 25:41)