Whose Approval Matters Most to You

This morning I want to begin by asking you a simple question: Whose approval matters most to you? And even more specifically, how important is the approval of others in how you live your life? What decisions does it impact? How often is it on your mind? What things do you say or do, not because it is loving or truthful or God-glorifying, but because of how it will impact the way others view you?

To varying degrees, we all struggle with the two-sided coin of overvaluing what others think of us. The one side of the coin is the desire for approval and the other side of the coin is the fear of rejection.

Counselors calls it co-dependency. The Bible calls it idolatry.

If you aren’t sure if you are someone who loves approval and fears rejection (a.k.a. a “people pleaser”) then today’s message will help you identify those areas and show you the cost of worshipping this idol, and I trust establish a conviction in your heart about how much greater it is to live as a fearer of God and God alone.

Our message today comes to us from Mark 11. Grab your Bibles and turn with me to Mark 11. Today we will, Lord willing wrap up chapter 11 and move into chapter 12. You can find an outline for this message in your worship guide.

These questions concerning whose approval matters most to you are central to our story today. In fact, Jesus will have yet another altercation with the religious and social elites in Jerusalem. This is very much about his authority and their rejection.

But the narrative coursing through the background has to do with this matter of whose approval matters most. See, for these social elites, human approval was one of their gods. It had an inordinate priority in their lives. And in this case it is idolatry and it is sin. 

And as we will see today, gaining the approval of Jesus means saying goodbye to the approval of others. Well it’s a bad day to be an approval junkie, social elite in the temple. Because if you an inordinate concern about how people view you, this is pretty much your worst nightmare. These men are going to be publicly humiliated.

2 Encounters that Publicly Humiliate the Sanhedrin (11:27-12:12)

  1. A confrontation backfires on them (11:27-33)

  2. A parable blasts them (12:1-12)

27 They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, 28 and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” 29 And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 “Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” 31 They began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 32 “But shall we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. 33 Answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” 

1 And He began to speak to them in parables: “A man PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT, AND DUG A VAT UNDER THE WINE PRESS AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 2 “At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. 3 “They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 “Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 5 “And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others. 6 “He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 “But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’ 8 “They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. 10 “Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; 11 THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES’?” 12 And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.

2 Interactions that Publicly Humiliate the Sanhedrin (11:27-12:12)

  1. A public confrontation backfires on them (11:27-33)

  1. The challenge they issue (27-28)

(27) They came again to Jerusalem. 

The group is here. Thirteen men. Jesus and the twelve disciples. It’s now Tuesday morning. They have just left Bethany. On the two-mile trip back into town they had a conversation on the fig tree that Jesus cursed, which digressed into a simple lesson on prayer.

We looked at that last week, the importance of believing prayer. They are coming into the most important city in Israel, at the most important time of year, Passover. People are swarming everywhere.

All of the altercations are going to take place in the temple. That’s the central point of contention here. And so that’s where we find Jesus against today. This is the third day in a row… Sunday night he’s casing the place, Monday morning he’s cleansing the place. 

Now Tuesday morning, Mark says he’s walking around. Matthew tells us that Jesus is teaching as well (Matthew 21:23). Luke is even more specific and states that he was preaching the Gospel (Luke 20:1). 

And in the middle of his message…

And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him 28 and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” 

This is the most powerful group of individuals in the nation in the most important place in the nation and there is a public challenge taking place.

Mark refers to a specific delegation that was familiar to them, less familiar to us. The chief priests, scribes and elders together comprised the Sanhedrin. They were the guys in charge. It was a ruling body made up of only men. 

  • Elders (lay leaders who were influential and made decisions locally)

  • Chief priests (Sadducees and former high priests—wealthy, powerful, connected to Rome)

  • Scribes (teachers of the law, legal experts, included Pharisees)

They hate Jesus. Yesterday he just created a massive scene by clearing out the entire marketplace that had taken over the temple courts. Again, staggering the degree of authority and that no one stopped him.

Picture senate committee hearings two weeks ago for Judge Kavanaugh. People would come in and attempt to disrupt the proceedings by yelling and screaming and they would one by one be removed from the hearing room.

Jesus walks in and disrupts dozens of stands and tells everyone to get out and they do. 

But now he’s back again and they want to know—what gives you the right, or who gives you the right do these things? You are a carpenter-turned rabbi from Nazareth and all of a sudden you are the judge and adjudicator here among us? Where do you get this right?

A basic way of understanding this would be walking into Salem and going into the Capitol building downtown. And there you are teaching openly about biblical morality with clarity and authority, and a group shows up to challenge you. In the group is Governor Kate Brown along with several former governors, then there are some state representatives, state attorneys, and some Oregon Supreme Court justices.

This is an intense showdown.

If you’ve ever experienced a public altercation like this, it is incredibly uncomfortable. That’s the point of course. They goal is to cast doubt upon Jesus. Right now, the scoreboard for the week is Jesus—1, Sanhedrin—0. So, this morning they are trying to even things up a bit.

If this were a boxing match, they need to land a hard one right now.

Their attempt is to cast doubt on Jesus’ credentials for his incident the day before. Of course, the answer is obvious. That’s the problem.

They have every answer right there in front of them. Jesus taught as one having authority… Jesus said, “I and the Father are one…” Jesus was obviously a true prophet... as easily observed and believed by the woman at the well, blind Bartimaeus, the centurion, the woman with the issue of blood, Jairus, the Syrophonecian woman—Gentiles, illiterate, etc. doesn’t matter.

The existence of his authority was undeniable. Previous attempts to discredit him included saying that he was empowered by Satan:

Mark 3:22—The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

Well they bring it strong, but as we will see, they don’t have a leg to stand on right now. They are bluffing. They are actually afraid of what the people are going to think about them, so for right now their solution is to challenge Jesus by the power of suggestion and introducing the thought that maybe he shouldn’t have done what he did the day before.

  1. The challenge they issue (27-28)

  2. The counter they receive (29-30)

(29) And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 

Jesus does a personal pet peeve of mine here—answering a question with a question. This isn’t the first time he has done this. In fact, throughout the Gospel it would seem to be a rather common approach of his. Rabbis would do this often in debates. 

Jesus does not answer their question. Rather, he defiantly counters with a question of his own: he will ask them a question, and if they answer it, he will answer theirs.

This is so powerful. Just picture our scene at the Capitol building in Salem. You’ve got that group of powerful people publicly in your face. They challenge you, and rather than answer them you give them a question to answer.

And Jesus, in perfect humility and sovereign majesty keeps his composure and issues a measured counter offer to their challenge.

Ultimately, Jesus’ answer is going to depend upon the next thing that comes out of their mouths.

See, this is a strategic question deigned to test their hearts and see where they are really at—do they want the truth? Do they care about the truth? It isn’t a trick question. It sounds that way because it will entrap them.

Why is Jesus testing them before answering?

This is a move full of incredible wisdom and even mercy by our Lord. He’s saying, “if you really want to know, then I will tell you.” If this is a legitimate question and you are ready to receive the answer, then by all means I will reveal myself to you.

But if you are a scoffer at heart and you are asking from a heart of unbelief then I’m not going to continue to have this conversation with you. 

This is the grace of God in concealing truth. At first blush, we might wonder how this is possible. Here’s the equation. Unbelief + more truth = greater guilt. Unbelief + more truth = greater guilt. 

Access to truth is only an asset if you are softened by it, to the degree that you are hardened by truth, it is a liability. The greater your exposure to truth the greater your responsibility. Can you imagine? 

It’s one thing to live in your sin having never heard of the savior. Still guilty, but in comparison to those who saw Jesus in the flesh and rejected him

(30) “Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” 

Brilliant question. As a Canadian co-worker of mind used to say in a moment like this, “good show!”

Highly effective manner of questioning. 

If the central issue is too volatile, let’s start with something related, and then we will reason our way back to the central issue. Nathan did something similar with David. He didn’t directly confront him, he said, “let me give you a scenario and you asses it.” David heard the situation and immediately assessed rightly. Then when Nathan called him to account he couldn’t be defensive. He had already admitted his guilt from how he assessed the situation when it wasn’t about him.

Jesus is forcing them to answer about where his authority comes from.

See, the ministry of Jesus and John are closely related. John came as the forerunner to prepare the way for Jesus. John loved Jesus. John pointed others to Jesus. John promoted Jesus and his ministry.

The fundamental issue here at stake is this: was John a true prophet of God (i.e., from heaven) or was he just a man (i.e., a complete fraud). Jesus is forcing them to commit one way or the other. “Come into the light and make a public statement on where you stand on this issue.”

Part and parcel, a package deal. If John is sent from God with his authority, then I am too. Or you could say he’s just a man, but we all know that isn’t true.

John preached about a coming one, which He said was me. John and I are so similar that when Herod Antipas who killed John hears reports about me he gets freaked out that maybe John came back to life.

Fleshed out more fully, the question Jesus asks is: “The prophetic ministry of John the Baptist, calling the nation to repent and be baptized because there was coming one who was mightier than he, did it have God as its origin and source, or was it a purely man-made ministry?”

This is such a familiar situation. I’m sure these guys stomachs were turning right when Jesus spoke. They’ve been here so many times before. Jesus has done this same practice over and over before.  

He asks a question to which the answer is obvious:

Mark 2:9— Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’?

Uhh…. Get up and walk. Ding ding ding.

Mark 2:19a—And Jesus said to them, “While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they?

Uhh… no!

Mark 3:4—And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent.

Hmmm… I’m gonna say, to do good and to save a life? Yes!

Mark 3:23—And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?

Let me think… no. That doesn’t even make sense.

To answer the question rightly is easy. The answer is obvious. So, what’s the problem? To answer it correctly means indicting yourself. It means losing face rather than saving it. It means owning guilt. Pride prevents you from seeing the right answer, and if you see it, from being willing to give it. These guys are so blind. Obvious answers to simple questions, and they can’t do it because it means admitting they are dead wrong.

The ability to look foolish that God may be vindicated. This one really stumps these guys on how to handle it. The problem is that unlike David with Nathan, these guys see what’s coming.

  1. The challenge they issue (27-28)

  2. The counter they receive (29-30)

  3. The comeback they devise (31-32)

Mark indicates in the original that this is background information taking place offline in the story. Jesus asks. They say, “give us a minute” and they step into a huddle to begin to work this thing out amongst themselves. They need to get everybody on the same page before responding.

(31) They began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 32 “But shall we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. 

What a horrible conversation. It isn’t, “what is true?”

No, they are calculating and scheming which answer will have the maximum payoff or the least collateral damage to their influence and their reputation and their standing before others.

What should the dialogue have been? Well gents, let’s review the facts. Get out the papyrus flip chart and let’s do a little pro/con analysis. What pros do we have that would indicate that he is a prophet from God? What cons do we have that would indicate that he is not a prophet from God?

Their concern is with controlling an outcome the way they want to see it play out.

These men were cowards. 

They won’t own their position, they want to hide it.  They aren’t being clear and up front with the truth. Cowards remain publicly non-committal on vital issues. 

I’m not suggesting that you make every point of disagreement a point of contention. But integrity means standing up for what you believe in consistently. Cowardice is compromise.

They didn’t believe John, but because he is highly regarded by the people they won’t say that. And their concern is to protect their position of influence and not jeopardize it in any way.

Fear of man leads to compromise

  • Lack of willingness to say what needs to be said when you need to say it. You are crippled in bringing biblical clarity to issues out of fear of the impact on your reputation or relationship.

  • Lack of willingness to be honest about your weaknesses—you cover, you project an image of who you are that doesn’t correspond with reality.

  • You are like a chameleon—you act or speak differently in front of people and behind their backs. You have multiple personas depending upon how it serves you in a given moment.

  • You spend time worrying about what other people think of you. How you are perceived.

  • You shrink back and distance yourself from others out of self-preservation.

  • You can’t serve sacrificially because you are preoccupied with yourself. In other words, even your service is limited because you are fearful to step out in faith, or you view people as competitors or opportunities to give you what you want. People-pleasers are really self-pleasers who use others to make themselves feel better.

Well, here’s where the backfire really takes place. They interrupted Jesus in order to issue a challenge in vv. 27-28. They had hoped to discredit him and save face in the eyes of the people. Then they receive a counter from Jesus in v. 29. So, they devise a comeback in vv. 30-32, and now the wheels fall off the train as we come to the catastrophe they face in v. 33.

  1. The catastrophe they face (33)

(33) Answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” 

This is a lie.

It is covering and hiding the truth in order to protect their reputations. Honesty here is costly and indicting. 

At least they could have had the integrity to say “we don’t want to answer that question right now… we are pleading the fifth” (they didn’t have the fifth amendment of course). Rather than even saying that they say we don’t know.

What a joke.

We have an entire team: the chief priests, the top positions of spiritual leadership for the nation, the scribes (the legal experts in the law) and the elders (the seasoned leaders of Jerusalem). You’ve got to be kidding me. I mean the depth of scripture knowledge in that group is unparalleled.

Going back to our illustration at the State Capitol in Oregon. Imagine asking, “Is anything I’m saying or doing right now in conflict with the Constitution? Hmmm… we don’t know. The Governor, the state legislators, the state attorney and Supreme Court justices. 

Look, if you guys can’t answer the question, then truly no one can.

This was an embarrassing moment. It’s uncomfortable. There’s tension in the air. 

They had no good options. I mean let’s just think this thing through together for a minute. If we say…

  • John is from God—the jig is up that we hate God and we are spiritual imposters, total fakes.

  • John is self-appointed—we will be on the wrong side of the populous, which is dangerous for our influence and power.

  • We don’t know—we are spiritually incompetent to lead the nation… we are the authoritative, trained experts on a matter and we can’t give a straight answer to a basic question concerning it. You can’t answer the origin of a prophet whether he is a true prophet of God or a false one!?

“Johnny, we’ll take option three.”

Look, an obvious implication here is that it doesn’t matter how well you know the Bible. I don’t care about your Bible knowledge, and God certainly doesn’t care if it doesn’t profit you.

Learning to read and write using the Torah, the law of God. Bible verse memorization in AWANA. 2 Timothy describes those who are always learning, but they never come to a knowledge of the truth. Scary.

If you had a conversation offline with a Pharisee, he could tell you exactly how to test a prophet. He could tell you the relevant passages. The history of the nation. And yet there was a complete lack of self-awareness.

What a fatal mistake.

They are choosing here saving face and gaining the approval of humans and in the process sacrifice the approval of God. Do you see the tradeoff they just took? Jesus approving of us? Eh… not interested when compared to the people approving of us.

The fear of rejection isn’t bad as long as you are fearing the right kind of rejection.

Galatians 1:10—For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

If you embrace Jesus, you are embracing human rejection. It’s uncomfortable, I understand. But there is a sweetness as well. Because in that you stand in solidarity with your God who stands with you. 

In fact, we are to count it a privilege—an undeserved gift from God to suffer rejection in behalf of our Lord. Oh, God give us this conviction. You want to see a church that is used powerfully by God to influence those around us.

Here’s a key component—refusing by God’s power, to bow the knee to human approval.

There were those standing there in that delegation on that Tuesday morning who were experiencing inner-turmoil. They were torn. Sweaty hands. Hearts pounding. On the one hand feeling the pull of compulsion to embrace Jesus, and on the other hand feeling the terror of losing what was so important to them. 

I’m not making that up. Same week, different day, John records…

John 12:42–43—42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.

Can you imagine what salvation would have looked like here? Jesus, John was from heaven. I disbelieved his ministry because I hated what he was saying. And to tell you the truth, I’m terrified to come out now and say this because it is going to cost me severely. I understand that this coming out is going to impact my livelihood, it’s going to impact my social standing, it’s going to cost me severely, but none of that matters anymore compared to being right before you.

In my ministry life I find great help in reflecting upon the way Paul viewed his ministry. He is very consistent in how he links together his speech and in particular boldness with his motives and the themes of: the glory of God, the coming judgement of Jesus Christ, the fear of the Lord, the strengthening power of the Spirit.

Well for today, Jesus has gotten his answer, and so he responds:

And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” 

Jesus is honest. He doesn’t say, “well then I don’t know what authority I do these things by either.” He says, then I’m not going to tell you.

Jesus wins this interaction. By asking, “was John from heaven?” He sets the terms for the answer. Everyone listening had a conclusion. And it leaves the members of the Sanhedrin looking foolish.

Make no mistake. This non-answer was an answer. It was a wholesale rejection of John and Jesus. John said, “I come to make straight the paths of the Lord.” Jesus said, “I and the Father are One.” You can’t say, “no comment” on that issue. 

And even though they are attempting to dodge clarity by offering a political response, they are indicating that they reject both John and Jesus.

This is a catastrophe. You just got exposed and now the score is 2-0, Jesus. The plan to confront him publicly backfired. As a side note, one would think that at some point these guys would get tired of losing and give up.

But they can’t. There’s too much at stake right now for them.

And so now Jesus addresses this issue and calls them out for rejecting him and rejecting John who came before him in a public parable that blasts them. It makes me quiver to think about preaching this message at this moment to this group of people.

2 Interactions that Publicly Humiliate the Sanhedrin (11:27-12:12)

  1. A public confrontation backfires on them (11:27-33)

  2. A public parable blasts them (12:1-12)

(1) And He began to speak to them in parables: 

What is typically the purpose of parables? So far, it has been to hide truth. Sovereign mercy of our God to hide truth from unbelievers in protecting them. In limiting their liability by limiting their culpability.

But this is going to be different. No one needs to privately ask Jesus when they get home that night, what the point of this parable was. The allegory lines up and the meaning is unmistakable.

This parable reflects the social situation of first-century Palestine, especially Galilee. Wealthy foreign landlords owned large land estates which they leased to tenant farmers. The tenants agreed to cultivate the land and care for the vineyards when the landlords were away. A contract between them designated that a portion of the crop was to be paid as rent. At harvesttime the owners sent agents to collect the rent. Inevitably tension arose between the absentee owners and the tenants.

  1. The content of the story (1-8)

“A man PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT, AND DUG A VAT UNDER THE WINE PRESS AND BUILT A TOWER, 

Now the reason why this parable is so understandable is because Jesus is using well-known prophetic imagery from the Old Testament. He is quoting Isaiah who gives the allegory and explains the meaning of it.

We see in Isaiah 5 as well as here the planting and cultivating and preparing. Fortifying it and strengthening it with a wall and a tower. Supplying it with what it needed for bearing fruit and for producing wine (a wine press was the necessary machinery to turn a vineyard into wine).

His expectation is fruit. He gave this vineyard everything necessary to grow. This is a loving owner. 

But then Jesus adds a new element to the story.

  • God is still the owner

  • Israel is still the vineyard

But then the last part of verse 1 says that the owner…

and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.

These are the religious leaders in Israel. A new category from Isaiah’s prophecy.

(2) “At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. 

Standard agreement. Slave shows up to get the agreed upon amount of the produce, which is the owner’s rightful take. 

Here in the allegory slave sent is a prophet sent by God to the Jewish religious leaders. And so, the vine-growers, the tenants, the leaders, v. 2—

(3) “They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 

Now consider this, the beef isn’t with the slave per se, it’s with the owner. They beat the slave, literally beat off his skin, and then send him back without any produce. This is a total disregard for the owner. 

And now, instead of killing the tenants or taking the land back, look at how gracious the owner is.

(4) “Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 

Pretty rough to be a slave of this owner. Beat in the head and disgraced. So, what does the owner do? Judge? Retaliation? Retribution? 

Patience. Mercy.

(5) “And he sent another, and that one they killed; 

And so, it escalates to murder of one of the slaves. And the owner keeps sending and keeps sending.

and so with many others, beating some and killing others. 

Israel has a bad track record with prophets. On the one hand desiring in some sense to have spiritual leadership. But then in the end hating the message.

Jeremiah 7:25–26—Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them. Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers.

When Jesus pronounces judgment in Matthew 23:33-39, he calls these same guys a brood of vipers and says that they will kill and crucify and scourge the prophets, wise men and scribes that Jesus will send. He refers to the city at one point by saying (v. 37) Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!

The story of a people who rejected no merely the prophets, but the God of those prophets. And so this owner in the allegory goes ways above and beyond any imaginable threshold of mercy and kindness.

(6) “He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 

He had one more to send. This is it. The final one. This one is called a beloved son. Obviously, Jesus is referring here to himself. God has already called Jesus is beloved Son twice in Mark.

Mark 1:11—and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

Mark 9:7—Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!”

At this point in the story, people are thinking, what kind of owner would send his son to a bunch of thugs?

(7) “But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’ 

Why kill the son? Well the key here is the inheritance.

The son’s arrival may have caused the tenants to assume that the owner had died and this son was his only heir. In Palestine at the time, a piece of land could be possessed lawfully by whoever claimed it first if it was “ownerless property,” unclaimed by an heir within a certain time period (cf. Mishnah Baba Bathra 3. 3). The tenant farmers assumed that if they killed the son they could acquire the vineyard.

Jesus is foretelling his death to the very people who are going to kill him. Talk about a level of blindness.

The inheritance is the power and influence of people looking up to them. They didn’t want to be servants of all. The allegory continues and the tenants take the Son…

(8) “They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 

Every previous prophet had stood in their way as an obstacle to what they wanted, and now this Son represented the final object blocking them from prominence and success. 

They kill him. The story says that they threw the body out of the vineyard. That equals humiliation and desecration. There’s not even a proper burial, it’s the final disrespect.

These tenants have no regard for the owner. They couldn’t care less. They don’t want to pay their rent every year when it’s due. And in fact, when they think that they can take the vineyard away and make it their own, they are all over it.

  1. The content of the story (1-8)

  2. The conclusion of the story (9-11)

(9) “What will the owner of the vineyard do? 

Good teaching device. What do you expect to happen? Well, in Isaiah 5, the Lord comes and destroys the vineyard. He says there:

Isaiah 5:5b-6—I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.

But here Jesus is taking the theme from the original allegory and retrofitting it to his immediate context as he warns especially the leaders, but also the nation as a whole (Mark 11:9b):

He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. 

This is heavy, heavy stuff here… Jesus is saying, “God is going to come judge you for rejecting John, and rejecting me, and he’s going to remove your spiritual influence and he’s going to give it to others.”

We know this came true. The Gospel broke forth on Palestine and spread rapidly. Some Jews were saved, but many rejected that message. Paul wrote about it in romans 11:

Romans 11:25—For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;

Romans 11:31—so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.

What ought they have been doing? Cultivate the vineyard. Make sure that it produces a great crop and then share the yield with the owner. The spiritual fruit of the nation—cultivating the hearts of the people and shepherding them, giving the glory back to the Father for his good work.

(10) “Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; 11 THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES’?” 

Jesus switches metaphors from tenants in a vineyard with a son, to builders of a building with stones and cornerstone. 

His point is clear: the builders, the people who working to establish the structure, in this case it’s the leaders of Israel, reject Jesus. They don’t have a place for his teaching. He isn’t one of them. And so, they reject him.

Now god is going to make that rejected stone the cornerstone. The cornerstone is the stabilizer, the important stone, the stone that the whole edifice needs in order to be supported. It defines the corners and sets the location.

It would be like a construction foreman overseeing a project and throwing out a stone he didn’t like, only to have the owner of the company come and say that was going to be the main, showcased stone at the center of everything.

Jesus is the cornerstone of all Christianity. He is the one stone you can’t do without. He’s the one lynchpin. He’s the nonnegotiable that everything else hangs or rests upon. He is the reference point and the necessary component to make the structure work.

Jesus is the center of our message and he is our hope. He is central to our faith.

You can’t ignore this stone. You either stumble over him into salvation (you repent and believe) or you get offended by him and you turn away from God.

And that brings us to the end of this moment:

  1. The consequence of the story (12)

(12) And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.

Boy life is complicated when you don’t fear the Lord. Conflicted and full of unrest and indecision. These guys aren’t happy with Jesus being alive, and yet aren’t willing to get rid of him (yet) either.

How much grace would there have been for these guys if they had but turned to God in repentance and faith? They hear the parable against them and say, “we don’t want to kill the Son.”

The Father says, they will respect my son… yes, they will!

The vineyard will be given to people who bear fruit… we are God’s people, designed now to be a community of worshippers.

God is going to judge, and he will expose and reckon when and how he sees fit.

Liberty and freedom to serve the Lord with a clean conscience. To be motivated by truth and love without being mixed by self-regard.

Proverbs 29:25—The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.