A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. (Mark 12:1 NRSV)

The story of the vineyard

The owner of the vineyard is obviously God. The vineyard is God's people, Israel. Behind the image of Israel as a vineyard lies the Song of the Vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7, whose hedge, pit and tower are echoed in Mark 12. The tenants are the religious leaders of the day. The servants who came first and were murdered were the prophets. Finally, the son sent by the father is Jesus. Now, "absentee landlords" were common in Jesus' day. That was one thing which caused so much unrest in the hearts and minds of His people. The largest estates were held by foreigners. (Sound familiar?) But in ancient Palestine agrarian discontent went hand in hand with nationalistic feeling. From time to time, nationalistic leaders would rise up and urge the people to cast off the yoke of political and economic oppression.

This "parable" or allegory of St. Mark may well be taken as evidence of just the sort of thing that went on in Galilee during the century preceding the general revolt of 66 A.D., which culminated in the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., and the fall of Masada in 73 A.D. Jesus may have gotten the story right out of whatever was the equivalent of the daily newspaper. But, the people could find themselves somewhere in the story. Where are you?


Loving God, thank you for sending me a savior. May I fully accept his call to live righteously for you. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Ron Newhouse

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