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Gospel of Mark #45 ~ (12:1-12)

Started by Al Moak, August 12, 2004, 09:16:55 AM

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Al Moak

August 12, 2004, 09:16:55 AM Last Edit: November 05, 2008, 04:14:26 PM by Al Moak
Mark 12:1-12
Are You Complacent?

It's so easy to become complacent. It's so easy to become satisfied with our daily living in relationship to Jesus Christ.  We just begin to feel less urgent about improving any more. Today I'd like us to see that our Lord calls us to gather around Him.  I'd like us to gather around to listen to some things that might still need changing in our lives.

The parable before us today really summarizes much of the Old Testament. In it the lord of a vineyard sends one servant after another to collect the proceeds from the vineyard he's rented out to some workers. Similarly, one of the most obvious themes of the Old Testament is God's sending His prophets again and again to Israel and of their recurring rebellion. In some ways it's a morbid and discouraging story.

In Matthew's Gospel, our Lord spoke the same message without using a parable. In Matt. 23:29-35, He said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your father's guilt. Serpents! Brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar!"

When you've read these things, it's hard to avoid wondering why it happened, why those people were so stubborn and rebellious.  But then, little by little, you begin to realize that we're not so different! We too are stubbornly indifferent to God's Word. We repeat many, many times the same foolish sins. We often desire to go our own way.

So, because we're not so different from these priests, scribes, and elders, I'd like us to look with a little care at the attitudes represented in the parable.

Notice, for instance, what the vinedressers did to the first servant sent to them. We read that "they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty." Why did they "take him and beat him?" Wasn't he just doing his job? How could they blame him for coming to collect the rent?

Apparently it was just that his coming made the vinedressers angry. Why? Weren't they aware that they had to pay their rent? Oh they were aware alright. They knew whose vineyard it was. They probably signed an agreement at the beginning of their tenancy in the vineyard, an agreement indicating what percentage of the crop belonged to the lord of the vineyard.

There was such an agreement between God and His people Israel, too. It's called a covenant. The covenant God made with His people was first published in Abraham's day, then renewed and enlarged under Moses, and finally renewed again in David's time. It states very clearly that God is the Lord of the "vineyard" – that Israel is His. The "fruits" He expected were the fruits of righteousness. He expected His people to care for orphans and widows, not to charge too much for interest or for goods and services, not to make slaves out of their brethren. And our Lord summarized it when He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself." In other words, they were to rejoice to be the special people of God, they were to be loyal to Him, and they were to love all His people in such a way as to reflect God's own wonderful Character.

Well then - what went wrong? It's really quite simple. After each time the covenant was made or renewed and little by little, the people became absorbed in caring for their own needs and wants, and they gradually forgot their Lord above. They became so wrapped up in seeking riches - or even in just making ends meet - that they became materialistic, totally taken up by the here and now, totally oblivious to the unseen God and eternity. Can you imagine such a thing?  You probably can!

Then God sent prophets to them. The prophets had to bring God's message to them. They had to tell them that they were becoming too self centered and too little concerned for their God. They had to tell them that they weren't glorifying their covenant God by displaying in their lives the same kind of loving attitude He Himself displayed.

To receive that message the right way they would have had to give up some of their money-making activities, live in slightly less luxurious circumstances, and give up some of their precious time for the sake of their fellow Israelites. Do you think they welcomed such a message? Do you welcome such a message? Don't we get angry at people who bring such a message? After all, where do they get off telling us how to live? Not realizing that the message is not theirs but God's, we tell them where to get off. For all practical purposes, we beat them and kill them - we try to "beat some sense into their heads," and, if that doesn't work, we get rid of them. And we "send them back empty." They can't report a good response to their ministry.

And, just as it was with these Jewish leaders, that's why we have a problem with Jesus Christ. After all, He's the chief Prophet sent to call us back into a right relationship to God. He wants to change our lives. He wants us to live in a new way. He wants us to be completely renewed. So He's not only the chief Prophet, but He's the chief problem for our self-centered lives!

So this parable could have been spoken to us! It wasn't just for the chief priests, scribes, and elders - it was for the modern Christian Church as well. Well, you say, I can see why it's addressed to individual Christian people, but why the Church?

To answer that, we need to remember that many of God's lawsuits against His people, as brought by the prophets, concerned the people's relationship to one another - with how they dealt with the poor, the oppressed, the widows, the orphans, etc. And that's the problem for us as well. Like a New-Testament prophet, Paul, said, "Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phil. 2:1-4)

You and I need to "look out not only for our own interests, but also for the interests of others." But that isn't natural to us!  We all believe in minding our own business. And indeed we should mind our own business, but that doesn't excuse us from the obligation to be concerned enough for other people's interests to help, to supply needs, to encourage, etc. We should be involved enough to at least pray for others!  But specific prayer requires specific knowledge, so we need to know one another well enough to love one another in prayer.

Most basically, we need to remember whose servants we are. We need to remember the joy of being in His Kingdom. We need to remember how much He ministers to us. And we need to reflect His love by ministering to others as well.

Let's at least allow God's only Son to come to us and make our lives over. Let's allow Him to speak to us about the vineyard rent we owe to God our King. Let's allow Him even to tell us what's wrongly self centered about our lives. And let's remember that He's willing to draw us back, time after time after we've gone astray, into fellowship with Himself and with his Father. He's willing to help us become more loving and caring toward each member of His church.

Why do you come to church? Do you come merely to take, or do you come to give as well?

Chris & Margit Saunders

Our Pastor  began his preaching last Sunday with the question "Why do I come to church?"
Answer--- because we need each other, and here in church we can find out rejoicings and praises, and needs too.
We can worship together yes, but also meet as family.

Al Moak

May God move us to giving and receiving both here and there.