The wicked tenants


“This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours” (NRSV, Mark 12:7)

When the Jewish rulers committed themselves to their fateful plan of killing Our Lord, they did so with their eyes wide open, for they had just been told the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Husbandmen).  This parable was a thinly disguised warning that in rejecting him they would be rejecting God’s own Son, and this rejection would have consequences.

The picture of the Jewish people as the Lord’s vineyard is familiar enough in the Old Testament, and as soon as Our Lord began the parable, “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it…”, his hearers would understand what he meant.  Directly the vineyard was ready for cultivation the owner “leased it to tenants and went to another country” (NRSV, Mark 12:1).  The rent was payable annually, not in money but in kind, and so at the time of the grape harvest, one of the owner’s servants duly arrived to collect it on his behalf.

Safe in the knowledge that the owner was now far away, the tenants beat the servant up and sent him back empty-handed.  The next one was wounded in the head, but still no measures were taken against them and with growing recklessness they began to think they could get away with anything.  And so the third servant to arrive was murdered, and the same fate was meted out to others in their turn.  And still no retribution overtook them.

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