Mar 24 // Day 31
The authority of Jesus has undermined the authority of the Jewish leaders. They retaliate by trying to reverse this, questioning Jesus’ authority so as to restore theirs (v.2). Jesus’ response in asking about John isn’t a decoy, but highly relevant to their questioning – if John was who he claimed to be (a prophet with heavenly authority – v.4) then the identity given from heaven to Jesus’ when John baptised him is also legitimate. Jesus’ authority is likewise from heaven, giving Him the right to overturn the temple and speak of the coming judgement of Jerusalem. The leaders, now Jesus’ opponents, are torn between their need for public approval and their offense at what He says and are left unable to respond (v.7).
Jesus tells the parable of the tenants in response to His opponents. In some ways the meaning is clear: God is the owner of the vineyard. The people of Israel are the tenants, in a covenant relationship with the owner. The servants are the prophets sent before Jesus to speak to the tenants and demand that they share the fruit, not just keeping it for themselves. Jesus is the beloved son (v. 13 – this again echoes the words spoken by God the Father at Jesus’ baptism, thus confirming Jesus’ identity and authority) who is killed by the tenants, who have woefully misunderstood the nature of the owner. Instead of being the heirs of the vineyard (perhaps they thought that the son’s arrival meant that the father, the owner, was dead and therefore, by killing the heir, the vineyard would become theirs) it will be taken from them and given to others. They will face the judgement of the owner.
The response to this parable is one of shock – surely not (v.16)? Jesus quotes Psalm 118 here (the same messianic psalm that was sung to Jesus as he headed down the mountain on the colt) and, in doing so, uses another metaphor. The Jewish leaders are the builders who have rejected the cornerstone: the central stone to the building. As such, God is rebuilding His plans, with Jesus at the centre. He will be its chief feature, the standard by which everything and everyone else is to be judged (v.18).
Incensed by Jesus’ message, Jesus’ opponents try and kill him straight away but are afraid at the hold Jesus has over the Jewish people (v.19). Having been unable to trap him over His interpretation of the Jewish law, they now try and trap Him using the laws of the Roman state. Their hope is that if they are unable to put an end to Him, Jesus will incriminate himself and thus be executed by the Romans. To ask Jesus about taxes was (admittedly) rather clever on their part: the heavy taxes imposed by the Roman Empire were a volatile issue in Israel. As devout Jews observing God’s law, how could they possibly agree to pay taxes to pagan Caesar? Even the coins themselves were considered blasphemous in their depiction of Caesar as the ‘son of God’. His opponents think they have Jesus trapped into a corner. But Jesus answer stuns them all: He is not establishing a kingdom in opposition to Caesar. In fact, best give these blasphemous coins back to him! No, His Kingdom would be far greater and would demand more than just coins. We are to give God what is His – our very selves (v.21).
Thanks for joining us today! Remember you can use the tools we’ve provided in the Reading Plan to help you engage with each passage of scripture.