Month: July 2016

It’s National Children’s Day!

1-2011-09-03_13-54-029.jpgIntroduction

1456053183_thumb.pngThis is National Children’s Day here in Vanuatu. The Ministry of Justice and Community Services in collaboration with the Ministry of Education is focusing on the child’s development and learning at an early age. Today we want to underline the importance of children in a biblical worldview.

According to the 2009 census, Vanuatu had a population of some 235,000 people. Some forty percent were less than the age of 15. Vanuatu had about 95,000 children under the age of 15 in 2009. Today that number would be closer to 100,000. One hundred thousand children under the age of 15. That is a significant part of the population, and in a very short time, those children will be leading the nation.

How to we regard children today? How are we to treat them? How are we to prepare them to lead the world of tomorrow? What is our view of children? And what has been the view of children throughout history?

1.      The View of Children in History

Children have not always been valued in the history of mankind. Going back to the Old Testament, when God sent the Israelites into the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, the Ammonites were sacrificing their firstborn children to the god Molech. When God have the Israelites the Law, he said in…

Leviticus 18:21 (ESV) You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

In Leviticus 20 and Deuteronomy 12, God clearly forbids the Israelites from offering their children to the false gods of the Canaanites.

Deuteronomy 12:31 (ESV) You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

And yet, that is exactly what the Israelites ended up doing. With time, they began to imitate the people and the cultures around them. God sent prophets to warn them, but finally, judgment came upon Judah and God sent them into exile in Babylon because of this horrible abuse of their children:

Jeremiah 7:30-31 (ESV) “For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the LORD. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.

Again in Jeremiah 19,

Jeremiah 19:4-5, 7 (ESV) Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind– 7 …in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth.

God’s judgment eventually fell upon his own people, and one of the reasons was that they had sinned against their own children.

Historian O. M. Bakke tells us in his book When Children Became People, that “in ancient Greece and Rome, children were considered nonpersons.” The most highly valued people in ancient Greece and Rome were freeborn adult males and those who were most similar to them. In his article, “How Christianity Invented Children,” Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry says, “Various pagan authors describe children as being more like plants than human beings.” Wealthy parents left the care of their children to slaves, and in Rome, a father had the right to kill his child for any reason until he came of age.[1]

Unwanted children were often abandoned. In his commentary on 1 Timothy 5, William Barclay comments,

In an age when the marriage bond was very lax and men and women changed their partners with bewildering rapidity, children were regarded as a misfortune. This was the great age of child exposure. When a child was born, he was brought and laid before his father’s feet. If the father stooped and lifted him, that meant that he acknowledged him and was prepared to accept responsibility for his upbringing. If the father turned and walked away, the child was quite literally thrown out, like an unwanted piece of rubbish. It often happened that such unwanted children were collected by unscrupulous people and, if girls, brought up to stock the public brothels, and, if boys, trained to be slaves or gladiators for the public games.[2]

“Children were regarded as a misfortune.” Unfortunately, the world in which we live today, is sounding more an more like the ancient world of Greece and Rome. The marriage bond is becoming very lax. Men and women change their partners with bewildering rapidity. Many do not even bother with vows of faithfulness, and children are the ones to suffer most. Pregnancy and children are regarded as a misfortune.

Gobry also points out, “Another notorious practice in the ancient world was the sexual exploitation of children.” He goes on,

This is the world into which Christianity came, condemning abortion and infanticide as loudly and as early as it could.

This is the world into which Christianity came, calling attention to children and ascribing special worth to them. Church leaders meditated on Jesus’ instruction to imitate children and proposed ways that Christians should look up to and become more like them…

But really, Christianity’s invention of children — that is, its invention of the cultural idea of children as treasured human beings — was really an outgrowth of its most stupendous and revolutionary idea: the radical equality, and the infinite value, of every single human being as a beloved child of God. If the God who made heaven and Earth chose to reveal himself, not as an emperor, but as a slave punished on the cross, then no one could claim higher dignity than anyone else on the basis of earthly status.

That was indeed a revolutionary idea, and it changed our culture so much that we no longer even recognize it.[3]

The further we move away from the biblical foundations, the more children will suffer.

2.      The Biblical View of Children

2.1.     Children in the Old Testament

The first promise in the Bible was the promise of a child, a child that would become the Savior of the world. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and decided that they knew best and that they would go their own way, God in his infinite mercy not only brought judgment upon them, expelling them from the Garden of Eden, he promised that the many times great grandson of Eve would crush the head of the serpent.

For centuries, young women in the godly line of Seth and Noah and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — godly young married women would hope that their child would be the promised Messiah, until the prophet Isaiah prophesied 700 years before Christ, that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. While the nations around Israel offered their little ones to false gods, the biblical view of children was that they were to be cherished, loved, protected, and cared for.

When God called Abraham it was so that Abraham would instruct his children to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just:

Genesis 18:19 (ESV) For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

There in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, God places great value on children. They are to carry the biblical values that God has revealed to his people.

We find the same esteem for children in the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi. There God addresses the sin of divorce and its effect on children. God says that he will not accept the offering or prayers of the people, though they weep and groan. The prophet Malachi continues in chapter 2 verse 14,

Malachi 2:14-16 (ESV) But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Verse 15 says that God has made the married couple one. This is in reference to the one flesh sexual union between a husband and wife. The prophet asks the question, “Want what was the one God seeking?” And he gives the answer, “Godly offspring.”

God wants godly offspring. He wants children to be born in the context of the lifelong commitment of marriage. When a husband and wife divorce, there is a violence to the soul, a tearing apart of what God has put together. And while the husband and wife suffer, the children suffer even more and God’s goal of having godly children is often destroyed. God hates divorce.

The Old Testament is full of references to the value of children:

Psalm 127:3-5 (ESV) Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

All six verses of Psalm 128 refer to children as the blessing of the LORD:

Psalm 128:1-6 (CSB) A song of ascents. How happy is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways! 2 You will surely eat what your hands have worked for. You will be happy, and it will go well for you. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house, your sons, like young olive trees around your table. 4 In this very way the man who fears the LORD will be blessed. 5 May the LORD bless you from Zion, so that you will see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life 6 and will see your children’s children! Peace be with Israel.

God has a special concern for children. In fact, for those who have no father, God says that he will be the Father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). *** He upholds the fatherless (Psalm 146:9).

2.2.     Children in the New Testament

When we come to the New Testament, we see in several places how Jesus cherished the little children.

Mark 10:13-16 (ESV) And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

The Apostle Paul modeled his ministry toward new believers after the care of parents for their children. First he compares himself to a nursing mother who nurtures her own children:

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 (CSB) Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother nurtures her own children. 8 We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

Then he compares himself to a caring father:

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (CSB) As you know, like a father with his own children, 12 we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Later, Paul speaks directly to fathers, telling them to be wise in instructing their children:

Ephesians 6:4 (ESV) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

2.3.     Children in the Womb

How ironic and shameful that we would celebrate Children’s Day and celebrate a woman’s so-called right to an abortion. No one has the right to take another person’s life. No one has the right to stop a beating heart. This is the destruction of the next generation. It is the killing of the future of the nation. It is a shame for any nation to permit the killing of pre-born children.

It has been said that a mother’s womb is perhaps the most dangerous place in the world for a baby.[4] And yet, God was placed in a womb. The Word which was God was born of the virgin Mary. “The Son of God, Jesus, is the most precious thing to God in the whole universe. And where did God place his most precious possession? In a womb.”[5]

The womb is the place where God puts us together.

Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

It is in the womb where God forms us. It is in the womb that we are created in the image of God. From the moment of conception, from the time the sperm cell fertilizes the egg cell, you have life. And what kind of life is it? It is not animal life; it is human life. The life in the womb is a human life, created in the image of God. The psalmist David says,

Psalm 139:13-16 (NLT) You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Job 10:8, 11 (ESV) Your hands fashioned and made me… You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.

The infinite value of children begins from the moment of conception. Today, through ultrasound, we can see the baby in the womb. We see his shape, his hands, his feet, his head. We can even determine his sex. That is why the younger generation is becoming more and more pro-life. It is very clear that a child is growing in the womb.

How do we treat our children? Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa said: ”There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Ravi Zacharias: “A nation has reached its lowest ebb when our children are victimized.”

Mother Theresa: “It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”

 

3.      The Education of Children

National Theme for this year is that “Everyone should support children’s learning by enrolling all our children in to class 1 at age 6.” Let’s talk about education.

3.1.     The First Four Grades

The first years are the parrot years. These are the years that children collect facts and can parrot them back to you. This is the time when children are to absorb as much information as they can about the world around them. This is the time to gather facts, learn songs, and memorize poems and Bible verses.

Too often, we put the emphasis upon self-expression. Learning to express oneself is good and necessary, but the accumulation of knowledge must be primary at this stage from age 6 to 9. Children are like sponges; they soak up knowledge. But if you squeeze the sponge dry, nothing comes out. So the sponge must first be filled. Give you children the chance to learn. Supply them with knowledge and skills that will allow them to become creative in later years as their minds develop. Fill their minds and imagination with as many pictures and stories and facts as you can.

Tell your children the stories of people, your family, your history, the history of your island, the history of Vanuatu, the history of the Pacific. Tell them about the explorers such as Captain Cook. Tell them the stories of the missionaries that brought the gospel.

Tell them the history of the world. Tell them how God created the world is six days, how he created the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve. Tell them how that God made everything good, but that man disobeyed God and we have lived with the consequences ever since. Show them that disobedience has consequences. Tell them that God in his grace, promised that a Savior would be born in due time to save us from our sins.

Teach them about Cain and Abel, about Noah and the worldwide flood that left fossils all over the world. Tell them about the Tower of Babel and how God confused the languages of the world so that people would be scattered all over to fill the earth. Tell them how God called Abraham and promised that that his many times great grandson would be the Savior of the world.

Tell them the stories of Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt but that God was with him so that he became the Prime Minister of Egypt and saved his family from destruction. Tell them how the nation of Israel grew during their 400 years in Egypt. Tell them that a new king, Pharaoh, tried to kill all the baby boys, but that there were brave midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who defied the evil king’s orders and spared the baby boys. Tell them about the faith of Moses’ parents who hid him from the king so that he might live and deliver his people from Egypt.

Tell them the stories of Gideon and Samson and Samuel. Tell them the stories of David and Goliath, of the three Hebrew children who were cast into the fiery furnace, and of Daniel and the lions’ den. Most of all tell them the stories of Jesus, his miracles, his death and resurrection, and the birth of the church.

This is our heritage for we all are the children of Adam and of Noah. We are all related!

God has given you children and with the children he has given you the responsibility to teach them and train them to walk in his ways.

So how do we do this? One important way is to spend time reading to your children and talking to them. Teach them to read. Show them how you love to read by reading children’s books to them.

3.2.     Teaching: Transfer Your Faith

Billy Graham: “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”[6]

That is what God instructs us to do. We are to teach our children:

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (ESV) And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Your investment in your children is an investment in the nation.

Charles R. Swindoll said, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”[7]

One hundred seventy years ago, at the time of the American Civil War, Frederick Douglass was a black abolitionist and statesman. This is what he said about educating our children: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Psalm 78:1-7 (NLT) A psalm of Asaph. O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, 2 for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past– 3 stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. 4 We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders. 5 For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, 6 so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children. 7 So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.

The great evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, ”If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!”

Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and microbiologist said this about children, “When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments — tenderness for what he is and respect for what he may become.”

On this Children’s Day, let’s remember that what our children become, depends to a large extent on the direction that we give them.

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The education of our children cannot wait. Today is the day to teach them and prepare them for tomorrow. And today is especially the day to bring them “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).


[1] http://theweek.com/articles/551027/how-christianity-invented-children, April 23, 2015

[2] Barclay, William – The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

[3] http://theweek.com/articles/551027/how-christianity-invented-children, April 23, 2015

[4] http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Evils%20in%20America/Abortion%20is%20Murder/most_dangerous_place.htm

[5] http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-was-placed-in-a-womb

[6] http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/children.html, 2016-07-23

[7] http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/children.html, 2016-07-23

Also: Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trainied Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, 2004.

 

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Mark 12v01-12, Parable of the Wicked Tenants

Scaled Image

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat are you going to do with Jesus? That may be a question that you have ignored for far too long. The question of what you will do with Jesus may seem irrelevant to you. The importance and relevance of a man who lived nearly 2,000 years ago may escape you. You may not think that it matters to you, or has any bearing on your life. But the question of what you do with Jesus and how you relate to him cannot be ignored indefinitely. Sooner or later, too late perhaps, you will face that question.

In Mark 12, Jesus responds to the religious authorities who have already made up their minds about him. They have not considered the evidence; they have simply considered their own positions and comfort and have concluded that Jesus is too dangerous to have around. They have come to the conclusion that Jesus cannot be ignored.

1.      First, Let’s Trace Some of the Background

From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus faced opposition from the religious leaders of the nation of Israel. From the first chapter of Mark, people began comparing Jesus with the Jewish religious leaders. People were “astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). The scribes did not appreciate the comparison.

So the scribes question Jesus’ authority to forgive sins:

Mark 2:7 (ESV) “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

  • The scribes question his association with tax collectors and sinners (2:16).
  • The Pharisees question his apparent lack of spirituality since his disciples did not fast (2:18).
  • When his disciples pick grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees question his understanding of the Sabbath (2:24).
  • When Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees join forces with the Herodians, their political enemies, to try to destroy Jesus (3:2-6).
  • When he casts out demons, the scribes say that he is possessed by Satan and that he gets his power from Satan (3:22).
  • They even oppose Jesus because his disciples did not wash their hands before eating! (7:2-5).

What would they do about Jesus?

Up to this point the opposition had been limited. The opposition was mostly in Galilee, not Judea, far from Jerusalem. But some of the scribes had been sent from Jerusalem to oppose Jesus.

Now, Jesus has come to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel. This is not the first time that he has been to Jerusalem, nor is it the first time that he has faced opposition in Jerusalem, as we learn from the other Gospels. But never has the opposition been so intense. Never has the opposition been so united against him.

Until now, Jesus has been opposed by the scribes and the Pharisees. But now that Jesus is in Jerusalem, we read for the first time in the Gospel According to Mark that “the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” are joined together in their opposition against Jesus. Hostility to Jesus has risen to a new level of intensity. It is no longer just the scribes and Pharisees who are opposing him; Jesus is now facing real political power. The chief priests and the scribes and the elders are plotting together how they will eliminate the competition. This will be the last week of Jesus.

On Sunday, Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem to the shouts of acclamation: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk. 11:9-10 ESV).

On Monday, Jesus entered the outer court of the temple, the Court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles was the place where Gentiles were supposed to be able to pray, but instead it had become a marketplace full of oxen and sheep and pigeons and money-changers. Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. By his action, he condemned the temple practices because the religious authorities had turned his Father’s house into a den of thieves (11:17).

On Tuesday, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders demanded to know what right Jesus had to do these things. They asked Jesus where he got his authority. They were not honestly interested to know where Jesus got his authority; they simply wanted to silence him, and they would silence him by any means possible.

Jesus responded by asking them where John the Baptist got his authority. The religious authorities discussed what answer they should give. Rather than giving a straightforward answer, they calculated that a decision for John would imply support for Jesus, but a decision against John would alienate the people. So they answered, “We do not know.”

These men were not interested in entering into an honest dialogue with Jesus. They had their positions to think of. John’s Gospel reveals their real concern:

John 11:48 (ESV) If we let him go on like this [they said], everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

The truth is that they did not want to know. They were unwilling to know. They were unwilling to commit themselves.

Perhaps you are trying to keep an open mind about Jesus. You want to keep your options open. You are opting to suspend judgment. You want to wait and see. Let’s face the truth: you are opting for “skepticism, unbelief, and cowardice.”[1] Like these men, you are more concerned about your position and power and prestige. You are more concerned about what your family will say. You are looking at what it might cost you to follow Jesus.

What will you do about Jesus?

The religious authorities had followed Jesus’ ministry from the beginning. On numerous occasions, the Sanhedrin had sent scribes to gather information. They had asked many questions. They had made accusations, all in their attempts to undermine this man who was gathering great crowds wherever he went. Now that Jesus was in Jerusalem, he was in their territory. This was their temple. This was the place where they wielded their greatest authority. They had opposed him from the beginning. They had opposed him from a distance. But now it was time to get rid of Jesus once and for all.

What would they do about Jesus?

These men, the chief priests and scribes and elders, represented the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was “a buffer organization” between the Roman Empire and the Jewish nation. It was composed of 71 members and “held near complete freedom in religious matters and restricted freedom in political matters.”[2] These men held the fate of Jesus in their hands. Or so they thought.

What would they do about Jesus?

Mark 11:18 (ESV) And the chief priests and the scribes … were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.

2.      The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12)

We now arrive at Mark 12. We might have thought that Jesus would be intimidated when confronted with the political power of the Sanhedrin. We might expect him to avoid the controversy. We might expect him to defend himself. But Jesus does not adopt a strategy of evasion and escape. He goes on the offensive. Jesus further reveals his own self-understanding as the Son of God through the Parable of the Wicked Tenants:

Mark 12:1-12 (ESV) And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And 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 tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture: “’The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” 12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.

 

2.1.     Interpretation

Jesus uses an illustration from absentee land ownership. The absentee landlord would lease (or hire) his land to “tenant farmers.” At harvest, he would send a hired hand to collect his produce. But instead of sending the landlord his due, the farmers paid their rent in blows: they beat the landlord’s servant. The landlord then sent others who received the same treatment or worse. Finally, he decides to send his son. Surely they will respect his son! But no! The farmers see things differently. If they kill the son, there will be no heir and the property will be theirs. They kill the son and thrown him in the ditch and seize the property. Will their plan work? No. The landlord comes and destroys the wicked tenants and then leases the land to others who are more deserving.

Mark tells us that that the chief priests and the scribes and the elders “perceived that [Jesus] had told the parable against them.” That means that this parable is not a judgment upon the Jewish people as a whole. Rather, it is a condemnation of the Jewish leaders, the shepherds of Israel, particularly the Sanhedrin.

This is the first time since chapter 4 that Jesus has told a major parable. It is “a story of Israel’s relationship to the Son of God.”[3] The Jewish authorities understood this parable because it was drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures. Isaiah, the prophet, identifies Israel as the Lord’s vineyard:

Isaiah 5:1-4 (ESV) Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

Isaiah 5:7 (ESV) For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

God complains of Israel in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 2:21 (ESV) … I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?

Jeremiah 8:13 (ESV) When I would gather them, declares the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.”

Jeremiah 12:10 (ESV) Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.

The landlord is God himself. He planted the nation of Israel:

Psalm 80:8 (ESV) You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.

He wanted the fruit of righteousness, but…

2 Chronicles 24:18-19 (NLT) They decided to abandon the Temple of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. 19 Yet the LORD sent prophets to bring them back to him. The prophets warned them, but still the people would not listen.

2 Chronicles 36:15-16 (NLT) The LORD, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. 16 But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the LORD’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.

Nehemiah 9:26 (ESV) “Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies.

So God planted the nation of Israel as a choice vine, and sent prophets to bring about the fruit of righteousness. But they mistreated the prophets and even killed some of them.

Mark 12:6 (ESV) He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

The landlord “had still one other, a beloved son.” This is the third time we find the phrase “beloved son” in the Gospel According to Mark. At the baptism of Jesus in Mark chapter 1,

Mark 1:11 (ESV) And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Then on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John,

Mark 9:7 (ESV) And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

The landlord would send his beloved son. The tenants recognize the son: “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours!” (Cf. Genesis 37:20a.) Their recognition of the son “only intensifies the gravity of the crime.”[4]

The tenants are shrewd and wise in their own eyes.

Isaiah 5:21 (ESV) Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

The Jewish authorities will do away with the Son. They will look out for themselves. They will protect their own positions of power and prestige. They will brook no competition to their position as leaders of Israel. All competitors must be eliminated.

The tenants took the son and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard to be devoured by the birds. This was Tuesday. On Friday, Jesus would be crucified outside the city walls. They would be rid of Jesus once and for all. Or so they thought.

The Jewish authorities think that they will have won the day once they kill the Son. But they seem to have forgotten that they will still have to deal with the owner, God. How self-defeating it is to try to “outmaneuver the owner of the vineyard.”[5]

2.2.     Warning

How unlikely it seems that a landlord would send servant after servant, and then finally his son, all in the hope that the wicked tenants would respect his son. And yet, that is exactly what God did. Through the centuries, with great patience and compassion, time and again, God sent his prophets to warn the people and to call them back to himself. Now he speaks to the Jewish authorities and to us through his Son:

Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Jesus tells this parable of the wicked tenants to warn these Jewish leaders that their shameful failure to fulfill their duties will bring God’s judgment upon them. They cannot escape by killing the Son, for God himself will bring judgment upon them.

God’s warnings are evidence of his patience and love for us. How careless we would be to ignore his warning and turn away from his voice.

What will you do with Jesus?

2.3.     Jesus’ Consciousness of His Sonship

Mark 12:6 (NIVO) “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

“Last of all” points to the finality of Christ. Yes, in these last days, God “has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2). We are not looking for more prophets. Christ has spoken the final word.

Last of all, he sent his beloved son. Jesus knows who he is and where he came from and what he came to do. He knows exactly what is going to happen to him. He has already told the disciples on three separate occasions what would happen to him in Jerusalem.

Mark 8:31 (ESV) And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

 

2.4.     Rejection: The Rejected Stone Becomes the Cornerstone

So how does the parable end? Jesus caps it off with a quotation from Psalm 118:22-23

Mark 12:10-11 (ESV) Have you not read this Scripture: “’The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

“Have you not read?” Jesus asks. “Do you not know your Bibles? Do you not know that your plan will be overturned? You are the religious leaders of Israel and you do not know this?”

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

On the previous Sunday, as Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the crowd had chanted from Psalm 118:25,

Psalm 118:25-26 (ESV) Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

Now on Tuesday, Jesus quotes from the same Psalm (118:22-23). The Son of Man would be rejected, but the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

In Hebrew, the word son is ben. The word stone is eben.

The rulers of Israel would make a decision about Jesus, but God would overturn that decision. The Son of Man would “be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” He would be crucified on that Friday, but raised from the dead on Sunday. For forty days, Jesus would show himself to be alive by many infallible proofs. Ten days later, on Sunday, the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit would be outpoured and Apostle Peter would preach that God had overturned the decision of sinful men:

Acts 2:23-24 (ESV) this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Again he would preach in the next chapter,

Acts 3:15 (ESV) and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

These men who rejected Jesus and put him to death, demanded to know by what authority Peter and John had healed a lame man. Peter boldly proclaimed,

Acts 4:11-12 (ESV) This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The temple would soon be no more. But the cornerstone for the spiritual temple was laid. Jesus is the stone that the builders rejected. But he is now the cornerstone. He is the foundation upon which the church is built. Everything must line up with Christ. According to Ephesians 2, the Church is

Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Writing to Christians, the Apostle Peter described Christ as the cornerstone and Christians as living stones being built up as a spiritual house:

1 Peter 2:4-8 (NLT) You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. 5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. 6 As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 7 Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” 8 And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.

So what will you do with Jesus? God is patient, not wanting any to perish, so he warns us, calling us to himself. So it is time to make a decision. You cannot live in the land of indecision. Refusing to decide is a decision against Christ. Is he a rock of offense to you? Is he a stumbling stone? Or is he your cornerstone, the foundation of your life. Reject him no longer. God has made him the cornerstone, and it is marvelous in our eyes.


[1] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 6422). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 6374-6376). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 6439). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[4] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 151.

[5] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 151.

Image: http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/hm-parable-tenants/


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

Mark 11v01-33, The Triumphal Entry and Judgment on the Temple

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngIn the Gospel According to Mark, chapter 11, we find some of the best known stories of the life of Jesus Christ. We read about his so-called Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. This even took place the Sunday before his crucifixion and is celebrated by the church every year on what we call Palm Sunday.

This story of the Triumphal Entry is followed the next day by the cursing of the fig tree and the condemnation of the temple when Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple and declared, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers” (Mk. 11:17 ESV)

In the meantime, the chief priests and scribes were seeking a way to destroy him (Mark 11:17), so this chapter concludes with a confrontation between Jesus and the religious authorities. They demand to know what right Jesus had to condemn the temple.

So this eleventh chapter of Mark starts with the Triumphal Entry of the King to the shouts of “Hosanna!” And it finishes with the hostility of the Jewish authorities who are determined to do away with him.

Leading Events

Already in Mark 8, we arrive at the turning point of this gospel. On three occasions, Jesus has told his disciples what to expect. He has told them in detail exactly what is going to happen to him. He has told them that he will suffer many things and be rejected and be killed and after three days rise again (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33).

First Announcement of His Death

Jesus first announced his death in the far north of Israel in Gentile territory. When Peter made his famous confession that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus then responded by telling his disciples that his mission as the Christ was to die, Peter rebuked him and told him that he was wrong to think such thoughts. Jesus in turn rebuked Peter that he was setting his mind on the things of man, rather than the things of God.

The Bible teaches us that we must abandon our ways of thinking and embrace God’s thoughts:

Isaiah 55:6-9 (ESV) “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Second Announcement of His Death

After Jesus and his disciples returned to Jewish territory in Galilee, he taught them a second time,

Mark 9:31-32 (ESV) … “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Third Announcement of His Death

Jesus announced his death to his disciples a third time when they were in Judea on the road to Jerusalem.

Mark 10:32-34 (ESV) And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

No one wants to be crucified! Anyone else would have avoided it. Anyone else would have gone into hiding. People hide when their lives are in danger:

  • Baby Moses was hidden from Pharaoh.
  • The 12 spies hid from their pursuers in Jericho.
  • David hid from King Saul.
  • Elijah hid from King Ahab.

But Jesus, knowing everything that would happen to him, set his face like a flint toward Jerusalem. On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem. By Friday, he would be crucified, dead, and buried. And on Sunday, he would rise from the dead.

1.      Palm Sunday, the Triumphal Entry

Mark 11:1-10 (ESV) Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Jesus and Muhammad

Steve Lambert is a Christian brother who lives in Washington, D.C., and is a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He reflects on the differences between Christianity and Islam:

In no other manner are the differences between Muslims and Christians more sharply contrasted than in the difference between the characters and legacies of their prophets. Perhaps the contrast is best symbolized by the way Mohammad entered Mecca and Jesus entered Jerusalem. Mohammad rode into Mecca on a warhorse, surrounded by 400 mounted men and 10,000 foot soldiers. Those who greeted him were absorbed into his movement; those who resisted him were vanquished, killed, or enslaved. Mohammad conquered Mecca, and took control as its new religious, political, and military leader. Today, in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, Mohammad’s purported sword is proudly on display. . . . Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, accompanied by his 12 disciples. He was welcomed and greeted by people waving palm fronds— a traditional sign of peace. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the Jews mistook him for an earthly, secular king who was to free them from the yoke of Rome, whereas, Jesus came to establish a much different, heavenly kingdom. Jesus came by invitation and not by force (Dever, It Is Well, 65)[1]

Fit for a King

Jesus normally walked wherever he went, but he does not walk into Jerusalem. Nor does he ride in a horse. Jesus sent two of his disciples to the village to get a colt “on which no one has ever sat” (Mark 11:2). Jesus demonstrates through the use of this symbol that he is claiming to be the king of Israel. Matthew specifies that this colt is a donkey (Matthew 21:2, 5, 7) and says that “this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet” Zechariah (Matthew 21:4):[2]

Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

They brought the colt to Jesus. No one had ever sat on it. According to the Jewish Mishnah (m. Sanh. 2:5), no one may ride a king’s horse.[3] The disciples spread their robes on the colt and Jesus sat on it. The King of Israel comes riding into Jerusalem, “humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

People spread their garments on the road leading into Jerusalem, just as the Jews had done when Jehu was anointed king (2 Kings 9:12-13). They spread palm branches on the road and shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10).

Mark wants us to know that these acclamations are addressed to Jesus, the Son of David. He is the Lord who had need of the colt (Mark 11:3). “He, the Son of David, has come and has brought the messianic kingdom of David, as he has proclaimed from the beginning (1:15).”[4]

Passover would take place that week. It was a time of celebration, a time of remembering that God had delivered his people from Egypt. It was a time to pray that God would once again deliver his people and establish the kingdom for Israel. But Jesus was a different kind of a king, and his kingdom was not of this world.

Unlike Muhammad, Jesus did not come to set up an earthly kingdom, but the rule and reign of God in the hearts of men. He did not come to conquer and kill, but to be killed on a cross to bear the sins of all men everywhere.

Yet, “[O]ur King has come, and our King is coming again. And what a difference there will be in His first and second advents.”[5]

The First Coming of Jesus The Second Coming of Jesus
He came to die. He will come to reign.
He came on a little donkey. He will come on a warrior horse.
He came as a humble servant. He will come as an exalted King.
He came in weakness. He will come in power.
He came to save. He will come to judge.
He came in love. He will come in wrath.
He came as deity veiled. He will come as deity revealed.
He came with 12 disciples. He will come with an army of angels.
He came to bring peace. He will come and make war.
He was given a crown of thorns. He will receive a crown of royalty.
He came as the Suffering Servant. He will come as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

 

2.      The Lord of the Temple

As Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, we might have expected something spectacular to happen. But the Lord’s arrival in Jerusalem seems anticlimactic:

Mark 11:11 (ESV) And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Jesus enters Jerusalem. He goes to the temple. He looks around. It’s late. He goes to Bethany.

But there is more here than meets the eye. Jesus is focusing on the temple. He does not simply look around. He is looking at everything that is going on in the temple. The same word is used in Mark 3:5 when Jesus looked around at the synagogue leaders with “anger, grieved at their hardness of heart.” It is used several times to indicate that Jesus was inspecting the temple (Mark 3:34; 5:32; 10:23). Jesus has come to the temple. He has weighed it in the scales of God’s divine justice and found it wanting.

“It was already late.” Not only was it late in the evening, on God’s timetable, it was already too late for the temple.

The Cursing of the Fig Tree

Mark 11:12-14 (ESV) On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

This is the last miracle in the ministry of Jesus, and it is a miracle that brings death, not life.[6] Jesus and his disciples spent the night in Bethany where we can imagine that they enjoyed hospitality in the village of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. It is Monday morning, and they are returning to the temple. Jesus was hungry. He saw a fig tree in full leaf. It was not the season for mature figs, but with the full leaf, there should have been early or unripe figs. But when Jesus came to it, he found nothing but leaves. It had the appearance of fruitfulness, but that appearance was deceptive. Jesus cursed the tree, saying, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

The Condemnation of the Temple

This story is not about a fig tree; it is about the temple. “The barren fig tree represents the temple that is unprepared for the coming of its Lord.”[7]

Jesus is acting out a parable. The fig tree often represents the nation of Israel. For example, in reference to Judah, we read in Jeremiah,

Jeremiah 8:13 (ESV) When I would gather them, declares the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.”

The temple is like a fig tree without fruit. Jesus has inspected the temple and is on his way to pronounce his judgment upon it.

Mark 11:15-16 (ESV) And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.

Jesus comes to the temple. The outer court of the temple was the court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles was the only place in the temple area where Gentiles could gather and worship God. The Jews had transformed it into a noisy, smelly public market where people changed money and purchased cattle for their sacrifices. How could the Gentiles pray in such a place?[8]

Mark 11:17 (ESV) And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

The Jews expected the Messiah to purge Jerusalem and the temple of Gentiles. Jesus came to do the opposite. “He does not clear the temple of Gentiles…” He clears the temple for Gentiles.[9] God’s house must not be a house of commerce; it is a house of prayer, and not for Jews only, but for all nations.

Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Malachi 3:1

Malachi 3:1 (ESV) “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. [That’s John the Baptist.] And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

Jesus comes suddenly to the temple. Yet the next verse of Malachi continues,

Malachi 3:2 (ESV) But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? …

It is “already late.” It is too late now. Judgment is being passed.

Jesus does not intend to reform the temple. He is not cleansing the temple. Jesus is bringing God’s judgment of rejection upon the temple. Time’s up. It’s all over.

Before the week is finished, Jesus will teach about “the coming judgment upon the temple, Jerusalem, and the nation.”[10] Before the week is over, at the crucifixion of Jesus, “the curtain of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom (15:38).”[11] Israel’s privileged position will be taken away and given to others (Mark 12:1-12). Jerusalem itself will be destroyed.

Singlehandedly, Jesus drives out the merchants and money-changers. He does not merely predict the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem; it is something that he will do.[12]

Mark 11:18-21 (ESV) And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city. 20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”

The fig tree was withered to its roots. There was no hope of renewal. The cursed tree was a symbol of God’s judgment upon the temple. It was already too late.

Too often we miss life’s greatest opportunities. We think that there is always more time, always one more chance. There’s always tomorrow. But that it not true. There is not always tomorrow. You only have this moment. You have no guarantee for tomorrow.

The Israelites were brought to the border of the Promised Land, but in spite of God’s miraculous signs and provision, they did not believe that they could take the land. They refused to enter the Land of Promise. That generation was condemned to perish in the wilderness. The next day they had a change of heart and decided to go up against the Amorites. But it was too late. God was not with them. They were defeated and condemned to perish in the wilderness during the next 40 years (Deuteronomy 1). They had missed their opportunity.

So God continually appeals to you on the basis of today.

Hebrews 3:7-8 (ESV) Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,

Hebrews 3:13 (ESV) But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 3:15 (ESV) As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Hebrews 9:27 (NLT) And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment,

You may not have tomorrow:

2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT) … Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

3.      A Challenge to Jesus’ Authority (11:27-33)

Jesus had prophesied that the chief priests and scribes would reject him (8:31) and condemn him to death (10:33). They are now looking for a way to destroy him because, above all else, they wanted to preserve their own religious and political power (11:18).

Mark 11:27-28 (ESV) And 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 they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”

These are the chief priests and elders. They oversee the operation of the temple. None of them gave him the authority to drive out the money-changers. None of them gave him a license to preach or teach. This is their territory and they intend to keep it that way. So they demand to know what right he has to do these things. They assume that “no one possesses authority on his own to carry out such an outrageous sign of judgment on God’s temple.”[13]

Jesus boldly presumes to have divine authority to But Jesus seizes control of the situation.

Mark 11:29-30 (ESV) Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.”

The question is easy enough. Everyone knew about John the Baptist. And the question was multiple choice: heaven or man? Was the baptism of John from God or from man? Was it of divine origin or human origin? Did God send John the Baptist, or did he come of his own accord?

The question would have been easy for men of integrity. But these men are calculating, conniving men, who do everything and who answer every question in terms of its impact on their own power and position.

Mark 11:31-32 (ESV) And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet.

It is a horrible thing when religious leaders become politicians, when they are more concerned with protecting their position than with proclaiming the truth. These men were corrupt through and through.

Mark 11:33 (ESV) So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

Jesus has them. If they say that John’s ministry was from heaven, Jesus will ask them why they did not believe him. If they say that it was from man, the people will see them as spiritually unfit to lead. So they say that they do not know. But that only shows that these spiritual leaders “cannot tell the difference between what is from God and what is from men.”[14]

Mark 11:33 (ESV) … And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

But Jesus is not simply avoiding the question. He has revealed the spiritual bankruptcy of the Jewish authorities. At the same time, he points to the baptism of John. Jesus himself was baptized by John. And when he was baptized by John,

Mark 1:10-11 (ESV) And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

“By what authority do you do these things?” As the Son of God, Jesus is Lord of the Temple and has every right to condemn it.

Because of Jesus, we Gentiles are no longer kept in the outer court. Because he went to the cross, we Gentiles can enter the Most Holy Place that only the high priest could enter, and that only once a year. Because of Jesus, you and I can freely enter today and every day.

Hebrews 10:19-22 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean…

[1] Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 242). B&H Publishing Group.

[2] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 148.

[3] Garland, loc. cit.

[4] Stein, Robert H. Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). 2008.

[5] Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 248). B&H Publishing Group.

[6] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 149.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Walter W. Wessel, Mark in EBC, v. 8, p. 727-728.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R. The Gospel according to Mark. Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009. 23.31.

[10] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Kindle Locations 13467-13468).

[11] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Kindle Location 13472).

[12] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Kindle Locations 13476-13478).

[13] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 306.

[14] Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 150.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 10:46-52, “The Man Who Stopped Jesus”

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Introduction[1]

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What kind of influence does it take to stop a parade? Do you have that kind of influence? We find in Mark 10, the story of the man of great faith who stopped Jesus in his tracks.

 

Mark 10:46-52 (ESV) And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

1.      The Origin of His Faith

We are first impressed with the faith of Bartimaeus. We are not told how Bartimaeus came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. We can be sure that he did not come to faith in Christ from what he saw. Jesus had worked many miracles.

  • He had cleansed the leper (Mark 1:42).
  • He had healed the lame man (Mark 2:12
  • He had healed the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:5).
  • He had healed the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:29).

Jesus had done all these things and many more, but Bartimaeus had seen none of it. He was shut up in his own world of total darkness. How did he come to faith?

We can imagine that since Bartimaeus was a beggar, he would go where there were people. He would sit on the roadside near Jericho that was most travelled. There he would hear people talking about Jesus. Bartimaeus would stop them and ask them the news. He would ask them to tell him the story. He would hear that

  • Jesus had unstopped the ears of the deaf (Mark 7:35).
  • He had cast out demons (Mark 3:11).
  • He had raised the dead (Mark 5:42).

Bartimaeus would wonder if Jesus could give sight to the blind. And then one day, he heard the story. He heard that Jesus had restored the sight to a man born blind (John 9). Never before had such a healing ever been heard of, that a man born blind had received his sight.

As Bartimaeus heard that story for the first time, hope was born in his heart. “There is hope for me!” he said. “If Jesus passes my way, I will call out to him and beg him to open my eyes! If he gave sight to a man born blind, he can surely heal me!”

Day after day, Bartimaeus would sit by the roadside. He would call out to people and ask them to tell him again and again, “Come tell me the story of Jesus opening the eyes of the man born blind!” Again and again, people would tell him the story, confirming the truth of what Jesus had done. Again and again, Bartimaeus would listen intently with a smile of hope.

Day after day, he would sit alone on the roadside, turning the story over and over in his mind, imagining that he was the one whose eyes had been opened and what it would be like to see.

Perhaps he would meditate on a Scripture from Isaiah 61:1-2 that he had heard in the synagogue, that the Messiah — when he came — would open the eyes of the blind. He had heard that Jesus had opened the eyes of a blind man, and with keen spiritual insight, he came to believe that Jesus must be the Messiah, and from that day, Bartimaeus became a secret disciple of Jesus.

Others would follow the example of the religious authorities who were hostile to Jesus. Others would call Jesus an impostor, a deceiver, a fake, but Bartimaeus would never join in with them. How could a deceiver open the eyes of a blind man? Receiving his sight became the dream of his life. For one, two, perhaps three years, the one thought that dominated the thinking of Bartimaeus was that Jesus had opened the eyes of a man who was blind. This Jesus must be the promised Messiah.

And so, dear listener friend, how is it that you are still spiritually blind? You have heard of all that Jesus did

  • his virgin birth,
  • his sinless life,
  • his miracles,
  • his death for you on the cross,
  • his bodily resurrection from the dead,
  • the many proofs that he was indeed alive,
  • and his bodily ascension to the right hand of God.

You have heard of all that Christ did so that you could be forgiven, and cleansed of your sin, and adopted as a child of God into his family. How is it that you have not given sufficient thought to God’s grace and kindness and patience toward you? How have you been content to remain in spiritual darkness instead of coming to the Light of the World? (John 9:5).

This blind man had heard the story of Jesus healing another blind man, and faith was born in his heart. You have heard of Jesus forgiving others; will you not accept the forgiveness that he offers you? Perhaps you do not yet believe, but only hope. You have heard the Good News that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and you hope that it might be true. You hope that it might be true for you. Let me assure you today, dear friend, that it is true, and that there is hope for you, whoever you are!

2.      The Response of Faith

Mark 10:46-47 (NLT) Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Bartimaeus is sitting beside the road on the outskirts of Jericho. This was the main road between Jericho and Jerusalem. Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem. Walking ahead of his disciples, Jesus was on the road to suffering and rejection and death on the cross. It was an uphill climb of 3,500 feet (1,066 m) to Jerusalem and a distance of some 17 miles (27 km).

Passover was near and there were great crowds of people, but there were even greater crowds than usual, for many were following Jesus. Mark tells us that “as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him.”

Bartimaeus is sitting on the roadside when he hears the noise of the approaching crowd. He hears the shuffling feet and the hum of voices. He wonders what it is and calls out, “Why all the commotion? What’s going on?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” someone says. “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

“Jesus of Nazareth.” There is no spiritual insight there. In the Gospel of John, when Bartholomew heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, he asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The crowd had various opinions about Jesus. They said that he was John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the prophets, but they had completely failed to understand that Jesus was not a forerunner of anyone else. He was not a prophet pointing to someone else. He was the one that all the prophets had pointed to. Jesus was himself the focal point of the plan of God. He was the promised One. He was the promised Son of David. He was the Messiah. He was the Word made flesh. He was God in the flesh.

“Jesus is passing by!” That was enough for blind Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus had already concluded that Jesus was the promised Messiah, anointed and sent to proclaim the recovering of sight to the blind.

Others without faith would have said, “Oh, Jesus is passing. He must be busy. He has no time for me. He is about to leave. There is no hope for me. This is the way I’ve always been. Things will never change for me.”

It might not be enough for us for Jesus to pass by. We would want Jesus to come to us. We would want someone to tell us that he is standing still and looking for us. But this Bartimaeus’ faith is like that of the Syrophoenician woman who would not take no for an answer. When Jesus told her that the children’s bread was not for the puppies, she replied that even the puppies ate the crumbs that fell from the table.

Blind Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, and that was enough for him. He might otherwise have told himself that Jesus was leaving Jericho and could not stop for a poor blind beggar. But that is not how faith thinks. Faith says, “Now is the time! This is my opportunity! If Jesus is leaving Jericho, I must act now! This may be my only chance!”

Unbelief would have said, “Jesus is surrounded by a great crowd of people. There is no way to get to him. And then, there are his disciples. Jesus is busy with his disciples; he will never hear me.”

The crowd could have been a reason for letting the chance pass him by, but the crowd became his reason to cry out with all his strength. Unbelief would have shut the mouth of Bartimaeus, but faith opened it wide as he called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

What about you? How many times has Christ not only passed you by, but knocked at your door, and called out to you? Time and again he has invited you,

Mat 11:28 (ESV) Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Isa. 55:1 (ESV) “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Jn. 7:37 (ESV) … “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.

Rev. 22:17 (ESV) The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires, take the water of life without price.

The poor blind beggar did not have the encouragements and invitations that you have had. Bartimaeus did not have multiple opportunities to call upon Jesus as you have had, and yet he did not waste the one opportunity that he received. How many times have you heard the gospel message? How many times have you heard Christ calling to you? How many times have you been invited to surrender your life to the One who died for you? Wait no longer! Today is the day of salvation. Call upon him and be saved.

3.      The Cry of Faith

Mark 10:47-48 (ESV) And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

As soon as hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing his way, he cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” But the people rebuke him. “Be quiet! Hold your tongue, man! This is Jesus passing by. He has no time for the likes of you!”

Yet, Mark tells us that Bartimaeus will not be silenced. No amount of opposition can shut him up. “He cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

“Do not interrupt the Master!”

“Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Bartimaeus would not be denied.

In the Old Testament, Jacob wrestled with the angel and declared, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

Bartimaeus was determined. He was desperate. He had no other hope: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

That is what faith looks like. If you are to be saved, your call must be one of desperation. Bartimaeus did not repeat some sinner’s prayer. He was not quoting some memorized text. This prayer was the cry of his heart. The gates of heaven are only opened to those who know how to knock. Your eyes will never be opened until your mouth is opened.

True prayer is like Mount Yashur. It may or may not be loud, but it has fire inside. It erupts in the burning lava that shoots up toward heaven and finds its way to God.

Have you called out to Christ in prayer? It was not a one time thing with Bartimaeus. He called out again and again. In earnestness he persevered until he was heard.

The man or woman who finds grace with God is the one whose desire for grace is greater than the obstacles to grace. His prayer will not be stopped by the opposition of family or friends or even religious authorities who try to silence him. His prayer is desperate because he has come to understand his great need of Christ. When your sinful flesh and Satan and your own heart would cause you to cling to the comfort of your rags of sin and be quiet, it is time to cry out all the louder, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

This man’s prayer was simple. He did not find his prayer in a prayer book. It was not a flowery oration. His prayer was not filled with impressive theological terms. He had simply recognized that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Son of David. The words that came from his lips were first formed in his heart. They expressed his deepest desire for mercy.

Above the noise of the crowd and the voice of the teacher comes the piercing cry again and again, getting louder and louder each time it is repeated… until finally, Jesus stopped in his tracks.

Jesus will not ignore the earnest cry for help. He stops. He looks around. He sees a man who cannot see him. There on the roadside sits blind Bartimaeus, calling out to him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Mark 10:49 (ESV) And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”

Miserable friends! Moments before, they had tried to shut him up. Now that Jesus was calling, they want to help him: “Cheer up, “they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” (NLT).

Here we see…

4.      The Obedience of Faith

Mark 10:50 (NLT) Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Jesus called. Bartimaeus answered. There was no waiting. No hesitation. No one needed to convince him. No one dragged him to Jesus. Bartimaeus threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Why have you not yet come? Did you not hear Jesus when he called you?

Matthew 11:28 (NLT) … “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Will you not come now? Get rid of your rags of sin and self-righteousness, and come. Do not think that he is not calling you.

  • He calls all who are weary.
  • He calls all who carry the heavy burden of sin.
  • He calls all who are thirsty for true life.

He is calling you.

Mark 10:51 (CSB) Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” “Rabbouni,” the blind man told Him, “I want to see!”

Bartimaeus knew what he needed from Jesus. There was no stammering, no stuttering, no, “Well, I don’t really know what to ask.”

Bartimaeus was clear: “Lord, I want to see!”

Jesus came to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. If you have heard his invitation to you, find a place to pray and tell him without hesitation that you want forgiveness. Just tell him straight. Confess your sins to him, all of them. Hold nothing back. Just say, “Lord, I beg you to forgive me for my drunkenness, my filthy mouth, my lies, and…” whatever else you have been guilty of.

Ask him to keep you from these sins in the future. Tell him about your hard heart. Ask him to give you a new heart. Ask him to help you to set your heart on Christ himself.

As you call out to the Lord from the depths of your heart, he will hear and answer you. He will open your spiritual eyes so that you may see clearly. You come to him bearing your sin and your shame, and in an instant, your sin is forgiven and buried in the depths of the ocean. You are a child of God and an heir of salvation.

Mark 10:52 (ESV) And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

This man is no longer blind Bartimaeus. He is forevermore “seeing Bartimaeus.” Now that he can see, what does he want to see? Does he rush to see his father, or mother, or sister, or brother? Does he not want to go see the temple in Jerusalem? Does he not want to see the mountains and flowers and ocean?

No. There is one thing that his man wants to see. He wants to see the man who opened his eyes. “Immediately he recovered his sight and followed Jesus in the way.”

When a man comes to Christ, when his blinded eyes have been opened to the truth of the gospel and the glory of Christ, he wants to serve Christ. He wants to tell others that his sins have been forgiven. He sings a new song.

Now you see this man in the crowd, the one whose face is full of joy? He no longer looks like a blind beggar because he has been touched by grace. His eyes have been opened and joy has filled his heart. That man could be you.

Jesus Christ was passing by. He would never be in Jericho again. If Bartimaeus had not called out to Jesus, he would be blind for the rest of his life. Christ and salvation are offered to you now. Will you let him pass you by? You may not hear his call again. How much better to call him now and ask him to open your eyes that you may see the glory of his salvation.

[1] Adapted from Charles Spurgeon, “The Blind Beggar.” Also referenced: Alexander McLaren and commentaries by James Edwards and Robert Stein.

See also “Gospel of Mark”: