Scripture for Today: Mark 11:12-12:44
“And God will give the vineyard to others.” (12:9)
Although there are a few interpretations of the parable of the wicked tenants, the most widely accepted idea is that Jesus uses the landlord to illustrated God’s displeasure with the religious authorities (the tenants) at that time.
Why is God so displeased? They weren’t doing their job.
This isn’t in the literal sense of tending to the vineyards — the religious authorities neglected the responsibility to care for the people of God. This failure to seek the welfare of the people motivates Jesus’ actions in this chapter.
Jesus is furious that, rather than make God accessible to people, the chief priests were charging impoverished people unreasonable amounts of money to buy the required sacrifices to worship God. The even rob the most vulnerable (the widow) of all she owns. As the chiefs become wealthier, the people of God suffer more.
Jesus acts in reaction to this unjust treatment. He creates havoc in the established place of power and religion. He shuts down their racketeering business and calls out their wicked ways. And, in perhaps his most subversive act of this reading, he says that instead of profiting off of people you are called to love others as dearly as you love God. That love demands a deep identification with those around you and a commitment to their welfare. He insists that, in the words of Cornel West, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”
They were not loving their people.
They were not seeking justice.
They were not doing their job.
Naturally, the chief priests become angry when Jesus challenges their competency. They begin to grasp at anything that will stabilize their threatened power and wealth. They throw out every theological and legal challenge they can summon, hoping that something will discount this call to a radical and justice-oriented love.
Jesus’ unrelenting commitment to love his people eventually leads to his death. Pay attention to the depths of love he expresses and receives along the way to Golgotha. How does he demonstrate his love? How do others react to his way of love? This is more important than all else.
Pray: Give me the courage to love boldly.
Reflect: How has love motivated you to seek justice? Where do you notice resistance, either in your personal or public spheres, to such bold love?
Art: Jesus Clears the Temple by Melani Pyke
Resources: This reflection was largely inspired by this sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley of Alfred Street Baptist Church.