Jun 23, 2013
Mark 11:27-12:12

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Scene of Activity

We presently find ourselves in the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

On Sunday, Jesus presented Himself to Israel as the spotless “Passover Sacrifice.” 

Jesus’ timing was not accidental - It was customary that 4 days before Passover the sacrificial lamb was to be presented to the priests for inspection in the temple.

On Monday, Jesus curses Israel for their fruitlessness, before entering Jerusalem to drive out the money changers effectively shutting down the temple business.

In refusing “anyone to carry wares” Jesus was actually stopping the “carrying of the ritual vessels” ending the presenting of the Passover sacrifices.

Q: Why would He do this when the sacrifices were commissioned by God? 

A: Jesus had just presented Himself to Israel as the permanent Passover Sacrifice. No longer would there be a need for the people to offer temporary sacrifices. 

It was customary that during the 4 days following the presentation of the sacrifices on Sunday, the lambs would undergo a rigorous inspection by the priest insuring that the sacrifices were without spot or blemish.... this process is about to begin with Jesus. 

[Mark 11:27-28] “Then they came again to Jerusalem (it’s Tuesday morning). And as Jesus was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him (Jesus is ambushed). And they said to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?”

Remember: Though the religious establishment had already hatched a plot to destroy Jesus, their greatest fear was His popularity with the people. 

Judas had already agreed to give them a time and place where they could arrest Him away from the multitude; but even then, in order to justify their actions, they would first need to chip away at His credibility. 

Reality: This would be easier said than done! 

Jesus was a carpenter by trade and the nature of His credibility had always been an issue His critics felt they could exploit; and yet, Jesus was the Teflon man: no attempt thus far had proved successful.

Though Jesus was clear His calling came from His heavenly Father, His credentials came, not from a piece of paper - diploma - degree - internship - or endorsement, but instead from 2 other sources:

1. His knowledge of the Scriptures.

2. The lives transformed by His ministry.

The religious leaders knew it would be difficult to debate either of these 2 realities, which is why they instead targeted the nature and origin of His authority. 

The Religious Leaders ask 2 questions that addressed the same core issue:

1. “By what authority are You doing these things? 

2. “And who gave You this authority to do these things?”

The essence of their question: “Who made you the authority over us?”

They’d ask, “Who gave you the authority to accept the praise of the people - to speak for God - to drive the money changers out of the temple - to put an end to the temple sacrifices - to judge us as being fruitless.... who made you the authority over us?

[Mark 11:29-30] “But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John - was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.”

3 reasons Jesus responds to their question with a question:

1. Jesus had already answered this question before. 

2. Jesus’ response was consistent with the way the Rabbi’s would debate.

3. Jesus’ designed His question to reveal why they wouldn’t accept His answer.

3 reasons why Jesus’ question was shrewd:

1. Jesus’ authority originated from the same place as John’s.

2. John’s message centered their acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah.

.3 The people loved John and regarded him as a prophet.
.    .    .    .    .    .    .

[Mark 11:31-33] “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’” - they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed. So they answered and said to Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

At least the religious leaders used sound logic:

If John was a prophet, they knew they were guilty of rejecting a prophet of God.

If they claimed John wasn’t a prophet, they knew the people would turn against them.

However, their answer “we do not know” was totally disingenuous! 

Either they were guilty of rejecting a prophet of God or they were guilty of placating to the wishes of the people. In either scenario they were being mendacious! 

The truth is that they knew John was a prophet, but were to cowardly to admit it!

“Jesus answered, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Jesus’ approach revealed these religious leaders were not sincere seekers of the truth, which is why He ultimately refused to answer their question. It’s as though Jesus said, “If you won’t recognized John’s authority, then you’ll never recognize mine!”

1st Observation: Jesus receives truth seekers, but never entertains the disingenuous!

2nd Observation: Similar questions concerning authority abound today!

I find that this question (Who made you the authority over us?) is the ultimate chorus sung by our culture rapidly embracing the philosophy known as relativism.

Relativism is the philosophical position which states that all points of view are equally valid, and therefore all truth is relative solely to the perspective of each individual. 

Because Relativism was birthed from a philosophical perspective that removed God from the human equation, it abandons all absolute moral truth embracing instead a position in which everyone acts upon their own perspective of what’s right or wrong. 

Nietzsche, “You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, it does not exist.”

Since all perspectives carry equal weight, anyone who stands for a universal moral absolute is labeled intolerant. 

“Intolerance has become the only punishable crime of relativism.”

Relativism has even taken root in the modern church. 

Our parents asked the question “what does this verse say to you?” 

The truth of Scripture was considered absolute and it was only the application of truth that was left to the individual’s perspective.

Today’s generation asks instead “what does this verse mean to you?” 

The definition of truth and its application are now left to an individual’s perspective. 

In many ways personal interpretation of Scripture has usurped its literal meaning.

Why is this significant?

In our culture, if you take a moral stand against homosexuality on the basis of what the Bible says concerning appropriate sexual behavior, you will be labeled as intolerant, judgmental, and bigoted - even by some Christians. 

“Who are you to say what kind of sexual behavior is or isn’t permissible?” 

“Who gave you the authority to tell another person what they can or cannot do?” 

Reality of Relativism: If there is no God, then there is actually no basis for anyone to place any of their own moral standards upon anyone else. 

Ironically, it’s then hypocritical that the same culture forcing society to normalize homosexual relationships tells three consensual adults in love they can’t marry.   

However, since we do believe there is a God who is by definition true and has established what is true for mankind (the basis for right and wrong) through His Word, what is morally permissible is now no longer a matter of one’s own perspective, but instead a matter of what God has to say concerning that behavior.

Understand, when you take a stand against immoral behavior on the basis of the Truth of the Bible - and people accuse you of being intolerant and judgmental - whether they realize it or not, their issue isn’t really with you, but in actuality with God. 

Here’s the irony: These critics are actually quite correct in their accusations. 

God is intolerant of sinful, unrepentant, human behavior; and there will come a day when He’ll judge human beings of the basis of whether or not they accepted or rejected His Truth!

You would be wise to consider two fundamental questions: Does God exist? And if so, does God have the authority to tell you what to do?

[Mark 12:1] “Then (directly following His exchange with the religious leaders) Jesus began to speak to them in parables: (for more on parables check out the study we did in Mark 4) “A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. 

Define the Terms within the Parable:

The “man” who “planted the vineyard” is God and the “vineyard” is Israel.

God then “set a hedge around Israel, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower” meaning God not only personally planted the vineyard, but provided everything necessary to insure its growth, protection, and fruitfulness.

“God then leased Israel to vinedressers and went into a far country” 

God entrusted the spiritual development (fruitfulness) of His people (vineyard) to a group of “vinedressers” - the religious leaders of Israel.

[Mark 12:2-5] “Now at vintage-time (time when fruit should be yielded) he (God) sent a servant (a prophet) to the vinedressers (religious leaders), that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard (His people) from the vinedressers. And they took him (the prophet) and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he (God) sent them (religious leaders) another servant (prophet), and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated. And again he (God) sent another (prophet), and him they (religious leaders) killed; and many others (multiple prophets), beating some and killing some.” 

Jesus is using the parable to describe God’s past interactions with Israel: He says time and time again God would send His prophets to Israel hoping to find fruit, but instead His representatives would be persecuted - rejected - and often killed.

Hebrews 11:35-38, “Others were tortured.... others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.... They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.”

“And again he sent another” - Even after the continued rejection of His prophets, God continued to demonstrate His great grace by sending another and another. 

Jesus point: At this juncture what more could God have done?

[Mark 12:6-8] “Therefore (God) still having one son, his beloved, (this is not simply a prophet, but God’s Son) he also sent him to them (religious leaders) last, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those vinedressers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance (the rights to the vineyard) will be ours.’ So they took him (the Son of God) and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard.”

I want you to imagine the power of this moment! 

Jesus has been retelling God’s past dealings with Israel and her leaders through the prophets; but in this moment, Jesus very subtly transitions to the present.

Q: What more could God have done?

A: “Having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last....”

There has never been a greater demonstration of God’s love for Israel (and the world) then when He sent His only begotten Son.

John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Religious Leaders Reaction: They would knowingly reject and kill the Son of God!

Jesus is cutting to the heart of the issue. These religious leaders were trying to challenge His authority when they already knew who He was! They knew He was the Messiah! They knew He was the Son of God! 

Implication: They were not acting out of ignorance!

[Mark 12:9] “Therefore (in response to their willful rejection of God’s Son) what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.” Matthew 21:41 says that they replied to Jesus’ question, “They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

Q: How did they know the answer?

A#1: This would have been the just reaction of any owner.

A#2: They’d heard this parable before.

Isaiah 5:1-7, “Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; so He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? 

Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.”

Jesus discusses God’s past dealings with Israel through the prophets - then He describes their present rejection of God’s Son - before prophetically explaining what would soon follow this willful rejection.... Judgment!

Few observations about the coming Judgment:

1.The Son was God’s final messenger before His judgment. 

2. Their destruction would be initiated by God.... “He will come and destroy.”

3. God’s favor would be given to another.... “And give the vineyard to others.”

Fulfillment of this prophecy would come in 2 phases:

1. Because Israel rejected Jesus, the Gospel would be extended to the Gentiles. 

On Pentecost the church would be born by the Spirit of God and His favor would transition off of Israel and onto His church.

2. Because Israel reject Jesus, in 70 AD, Israel would be destroyed.

[Mark 12:10-12] “Have you not even read this Scripture (Psalms 118:22-28): ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?” And they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away.”

This passage demonstrates the saddest reality: Even with the clear revelation of God coupled with the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, people will still reject Jesus!

Truth: In your life Jesus is the final point of God’s revelation before His judgment. Jesus and Jesus alone is our last hope - our final line of defense! If you’re waiting for someone other than Jesus to remedy your sinful condition, you will be sorely disappointed.

Spurgeon, “If you do not hear the well beloved Son of God, you have refused your last hope. He is God’s ultimatum. Nothing remains when Christ is refused. No one else can be sent; heaven itself contains no further messenger. If Christ be rejected, hope is rejected.”