THE GOSPEL OF MARK
Lesson 8: Chapters 11:1-12:12
Part IV: The Full Revelation of the Mystery
Jesus Performs Three Prophetic Acts
Increase the faith of Your people and hear our humble prayers and petitions, made according to Your divine will. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us, Lord, as we study Christ's triumphant entry into the gates of Jerusalem. The people acclaimed Him as the Messianic King, some believing and others just caught up in imitating others in the crowd. May our praise pour forth from our sincere belief founded on a personal relationship with Jesus and not from the imitating the actions of others. May we honor you every day by living always in Your divine will through the life of Your Son and our Savior, Christ Jesus. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me;
and suddenly there will come to the Temple the LORD [YHWH] whom you seek, and the messenger
of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of Hosts [Yahweh Sabaoth].
But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears?
For he is like the refiner’s fire or like the fuller's lye. He will sit refining and purifying
and he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may
offer due sacrifice to the LORD [Yahweh].
The precursor to the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah was spoken of as the "prophetic voice" in Isaiah 40:3, identified with Elijah in Malachi 3:23/4:5, and by the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:17. John the Baptist is the messenger who prepared the way for the coming of God to His people, as He promised in Ezekiel 34:11-12. The Gospel writers referred to John as the one prophesied by both Isaiah and Malachi who was sent to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus Christ (Mt 3:1-17; Mk 1:2-8; Lk 3:2-18; Jn 1:31-34; 3:26-36), and Jesus said it was John whose mission it was to announce His coming (Mt 11:13-14; 17:11-13; Mk 9:11-13). Now God the divine Son fulfills the prophecy of the prophets as He makes His final visit to Jerusalem, coming as the messenger of the New Covenant (Jer 31:31) who will enter the holy Temple to dispense justice and purify the people's worship in preparation for a new liturgy of worship and a new and eternal covenant. Jesus will perform three prophetic acts in two days and will connect His acts and their impact on salvation history in the "Parable of the Wicked Tenants."
Chapter 11: The Supreme Prophet Performs Three Prophetic Acts
Prophetic Act #1: The Davidic King Comes to Jerusalem
shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, while tribute
is brought to him, and he receives the people's homage. He tethers his donkey
to the vine, his purebred ass to the choicest stem. In wine he washes his
garments, his robe in the blood of grapes.
heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king
shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt,
the foal of an ass.
This is the day
which Yahweh has made, a day for us to rejoice and be glad. We beg you Yahweh,
save us [Hosanna]! Yahweh, give us victory! Blessed in the name of Yahweh is
he who is coming. We bless you from the house of Yahweh. Yahweh is God, he
give us light. Link your processions, branches in hand, up to the horns of the
altar. You are my God, I thank you, all praise to you, my God. I thank you
for hearing me, and making yourself my Savior.
Psalm 118:24-28 NJB
All these Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus' triumphant ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in the early spring of 30 AD.
Mark 11:1-10 ~ The Messiah's Triumphant Entry into
1 When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethpage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone should say to you, 'Why are you doing this?' reply, 'The Master [ho Kyrios = the Lord] has need of it and will send it back here at once [immediately].'" 4 So they went off and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. 5 Some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" 6 They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, and they permitted them to do it. 7 So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!"
St. John's Gospel gives the countdown to the Passover sacrifice on Jesus' last week in Jerusalem: 12:1 Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him .... 12:12 On the next day, when the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel." 14 Jesus found an ass and sat upon it, as is written: 15 "Fear no more, O daughter Zion; see, your king comes, seated upon an ass's colt" (Jn 12:1-2, 12-15; underlining added for emphasis and quotation from Zech 9:9 LXX).
On the day before Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, He
had dinner at the home of His dear friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Six days
later was the Passover sacrifice on the prescribed day of the 14th
of Nisan, as the ancients counted without the concept of a zero place-value (Ex 12:1-6; Lev 23:5; Num 28:16).(1)
Question: If Passover was six days from the dinner at Bethany and if the day of His entry into Jerusalem was on the day the Church celebrates as Palm Sunday, what day of the week was the dinner at Bethany and the Passover sacrifice six days later on the 14th of Nisan? Remember to count the days like the ancients with the first day in the cycle starting as day #1. The month was originally called Abib (Ex 13:4; 23:15; 34:18) but the name was changed to Nisan during the Babylonian captivity (Neh 2:1; Est 3:7).
Day #1 Saturday, Nisan 9th: Jesus ate the Sabbath dinner with His friends in Bethany
Day #2 Sunday, Nisan 10th: Jesus made His triumphal ride into the city of Jerusalem
Day #3 Monday, Nisan 11th
Day #4 Tuesday, Nisan 12th
Day #5 Wednesday Nisan 13th
Day #6 Thursday, Nisan 14th: The day of the Passover sacrifice
All the Gospels and two thousand years of Christian tradition agree that the Passover sacrifice was on a Thursday, the day before Jesus' crucifixion on Friday which was "Preparation Day" for the Jewish Sabbath (Jn 19:31).
A prophetic act performed by a prophet was called in Hebrew an ot. Between Sunday and Monday, Jesus will perform three prophetic acts in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets:
1 When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethpage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone should say to you, 'Why are you doing this?' reply, 'The Master [ho Kyrios = the Lord]* has need of it and will send it back here at once [immediately].'" Ho Kyrios is the Greek title that replaces the Divine Name in the Septuagint [LXX] translation of the Old Testament.
The village of Bethany is located at the foot of the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives about two miles (literally 15 Roman strades) from Jerusalem (Jn 11:18). The Mount of Olives is mentioned as the site where the elderly King David wept as he took flight from Jerusalem after his sovereignty was rejected by the Israelites (2 Sam 15:30), and it is also mentioned by the 6th century BC prophet Zechariah where it is associated with the eschatological manifestation of God's kingship, His judgment against Jerusalem, and His military triumph over the nations of the earth (Zec 9:9-11; 14:1-21).
The next village toward Jerusalem is Bethpage, whose name means "place/house of figs." It is at this village that the two disciples are to find a colt of an ass that has never been ridden. When questioned, they are to say it is "the Lord" who has asked for it. In the Greek the word kyrios can mean a ruler, but it is also the word that replaced the Divine Name in the Septuagint and this is the way Jesus means the use of the word to be understood. It is the only time in the Gospel of Mark that Jesus will explicitly refer to Himself as "Lord," pointing to His divine identity (although Mark refers to Jesus as "Lord" in 1:3 and 16:19-20, and Jesus does so implicitly in 2:28; 5:19-20; 12:35-37 and 13:35).
Question: Why is it significant that Jesus rode
into Jerusalem on a tethered colt of an ass that no one had ridden previously?
See Gen 49:10-11; Num 19:2; Dt 21:3; 1 Sam 6:7; Zec 9:9; Ps 24:7-10.
Judah's prophecy in Genesis 49:11 stipulates that He tethers his donkey to the vine, his purebred ass to the choicest stem. Isaiah 5:7b identifies the men of Judah as God's "cherished stem;" Judah is Jesus' tribe and the "cherished stem" of Judah is the faithful remnant of Judah who receive and believe in the Messiah.
7 So they brought
the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road,
and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 Those preceding him as well as those following
kept crying out: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!"
Question: What prophecy from the prophet Zechariah in the sixth century BC is fulfilled in Jesus' entry into Jerusalem in 30 AD? See Zec 9:9 and Ps 118:25-27.
Answer: Jesus enacts Zechariah's the prophecy of the Davidic king riding humbly into Jerusalem on "a colt, the foal of an ass," as the people proclaim Him the Davidic Messiah.
Jesus' ride into Jerusalem takes on the aspect of a royal
coronation. See 1 Kng 2:38-40; Ps 24:7-10; 118:27.
Question: Compare Jesus' entry into Jerusalem with David's heir Solomon who rode into the city of Jerusalem on his coronation day in c. 970 BC (1 Kng 2:38-40). Who is the king in Psalm 24:10?
Answer: Like Solomon, the son and heir of the King, Jesus, the divine Son and heir of God the great King was riding into the city of Jerusalem to the acclaim of the crowds. Unlike Solomon, Jesus was riding on the humble animal of the poor, an ass, while Solomon rode the royal mount for a king's son, a mule. And also, unlike Solomon who was the human son of the king, Jesus is both the Davidic heir and the "King of Glory." However, even though Jesus is the "King of Glory" riding into the holy city of Jerusalem He has not come as a conquering king like His ancestor David; He has come as a humble servant of God the Father.
Question: What does it mean that the crowd was
placing leafy branches before the donkey and that they shouted verses from the
Messianic Psalm 118:22-27? Note especially Psalm 118:27b.
Answer: The leafy branches the crowd spread before Jesus' mount and their shouting of verses 24-26a from Psalm 118 shows that they were acknowledging Jesus as the Davidic Messiah.
The crowd was not only thinking of Zechariah's prophecy of the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah (Zec 9:9-10) and the Messianic prophecy from Psalm 118, but also the deathbed prophecy of Jacob-Israel that kingship would never depart from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10-11). This prophecy was reinforced by God's eternal covenant with David's descendants that promised David's throne would endure forever (2 Sam 7:12-16; 23:5; 1 Kng 2:4; 2 Chr 13:5; Sir 45:25). All these prophecies were now converging on the rabbi from Nazareth. The Gospel of John even adds that in calling out Psalm 118:26b the crowd said: "Hosanna [Save us]! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the king of Israel" (Jn 12:13; underlined phrase added by the crowd).
Question: Why is it significant that it was the 10th
of Nisan that Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem? See Ex 12:3.
Answer: It was the day on which the victims for the Passover sacrifice were chosen in the first Passover event in Egypt that led to the freeing of the children of Israel from slavery. Jesus is the final, unblemished victim of the final Passover in which mankind will be freed from slavery to sin and death.
Mark 11:11 ~ Jesus goes into the Temple
11 He entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple area. He looked around at everything and, since it was already late, went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
The Temple that was rebuilt in the late 6th century BC after the Babylonian exile by the returning covenant people of Judah was located on the height of Mount Moriah. It was built on the same location as Solomon's Temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC. The Temple of Jesus' time was rebuilt by King Herod the Great into one of the most beautiful buildings of its time and was later destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. It was never rebuilt.(2)
11b He looked
around at everything and, since it was already late, went out to Bethany with
Jesus and the Apostles will spend every night on the Mount of Olives or in the village of Bethany (Mt 21:17; Mk 11:11; Lk 21:37). Bethany was the home of Jesus' friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead (Jn 11:17-44). During His last week He will eat two meals with His Apostles and His friends in Bethany; the first was the Sabbath meal at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and the second at the home of Simon the (former) Leper (Jn 12:1; Mt 26:6; Mk 14:3).
St. Mark does not record the Temple cleansing on Sunday of Jesus' first day in Jerusalem. That event is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Mark records Jesus' Temple cleansing on Monday. Not all the Gospels record the same events. St. John writes at the end of his Gospel: There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written (Jn 21:25). There is no discrepancy concerning the Temple cleansings, however, if you take into account the information provided in Scripture that points to three Temple cleansings:
Notice the significant repetition of "threes" connected to Jesus' ministry; here are a few examples:
Many of the "three sequences" are fulfilled the last week of His ministry.
Prophetic Act #2: The Judgment against the Barren Fig Tree
I will gather them all in, says the LORD [YHWH]: no
grapes on the vine, no figs on the fig trees, foliage withered! Why do we remain
here? Let us form ranks and enter the walled cities, to perish there; for the
LORD has wrought our destruction, he has given us poison to drink
Alas! I am as when the fruit is
gathered, as when the vines have been gleaned; there is no cluster to eat, no
early fig that I crave. The faithful are gone from the earth, among men the
upright are no more!
Mark 11:12-14 ~ Jesus Curses the Barren Fig Tree
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry. 13 Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. 14 And he said to it in reply, "May no one ever eat of your fruit again!" And his disciples heard it.
In Mark 11:12-18 Jesus will perform two more prophetic acts in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets. It is significant that Mark "sandwiches" Jesus' Temple cleansing between the continuing narratives of the cursed fig tree, thereby linking the two symbolic events (11:12-14 and 11:20-25/26).
Question: What day of the week is it?
Answer: It is the day after Palm Sunday, therefore it is Monday.
Only Matthew and Mark record the cursing of the fig tree (see Mt 21:18-19), and both Gospels agree that this event happened the day after Palm Sunday, on Monday of Passion Week. As Jesus is walking with his disciples from Bethany on the Mt. of Olives toward the Eastern Gate of the city of Jerusalem, they pass a fig tree growing beside the road.
13b When he reached it
he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. 14 And he said to it in reply, "May no
one ever eat of your fruit again!" And his disciples heard it.
Jesus is hungry and He reaches into the tree to pick some fruit, but He finds no fruit. Jesus then curses the fig tree for not bearing fruit. The significant comment St. Mark makes is that it was not the season of the year for the tree to produce its fruit. Fig trees in the Levant produce fruit from May to October, but the season is the early spring in March or April.
Question: In the symbolic images of the prophets, what does a "fruitless" fig tree represent? See the full chart on the symbolic images of the prophets, or a portion of the chart below and compare parts I and II. See the curse judgment in Jer 7:13-14, Jeremiah's vision of the good and bad figs in Jer 24:1-10, and also Hos 2:14; 9:10; Joel 1:7.
|Well-tended vineyard/fruitful fig tree||Vines grow wild/failure to produce fruit||Weeds overgrow vineyard/ ruin and destruction||
Vines are replanted/
|[examples in Scripture]||
Joel 1:7, 11-12
Jeremiah 8:13; 24:1-10;
|John 15:1-2, 4-6|
Answer: In the symbolic images of the prophets, the fruitful fig tree represents Israel in covenant with Yahweh. The fruitless fig tree or bad figs are symbolic of Israel in rebellion against God in the failure be obedient and to produce works of righteousness.
Question: What is symbolic about the use of the fig tree in
Jesus' second prophetic act? According to the chart on the symbolic images of
the prophets, what is the judgment against a "fruitless" Israel depicted as a
fig tree that does not bear the "fruit" of righteousness? What does Jesus'
prophetic act in causing the fig tree to wither to the roots foretell?
Answer: The fruitless fig tree represents a "fruitless" covenant people. The punishment for failing to produce the "fruit" of righteousness is destruction.
St. Mark tells us in 11:13 that when Jesus cursed the fig tree it was not even the season that a fig tree bore fruit! No excuse is acceptable for the covenant people in not being able to bear the fruit of righteousness in good deeds that exemplify that they are a holy people who belong to a holy God.
Question: What is the first time a fig tree is mentioned in
Scripture? See Gen 3:7.
Answer: It was leaves from the fig tree that Adam and Eve used to cover their nakedness. Their nakedness is a symbol for the consequences of their sin of rebellion against God's divine authority and being no longer "clothed" in God's divine grace but being "dis-graced."
The use the leaves of the fig tree to cover their nakedness may suggest that the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a fig. Jesus' prophetic act in cursing the fig tree will become clear after His third prophetic act and in what Jesus tells the disciples in Mark 11:20-26.
Prophetic Act #3: The Messiah Purifies God's House
there will come to the Temple the LORD [YHWH = Yahweh] whom you seek, and the
messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of
Hosts [Yahweh Sabaoth]. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who
can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner's fire, or like the
fuller's lye. He will sit refining and purifying and he will purity the sons
of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due
sacrifice to the LORD [YHWH]. Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will
please the LORD [YHW] as in the days of old, as in years gone by.
On that day there shall no longer be
any merchant in the house of the LORD of hosts [Yahweh Sabaoth]."
Mark 11:15-19 ~ Jesus Cleanses the Temple
15 They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the Temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 16 He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the Temple area. 17 Then he taught them saying, "Is it not written: 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples'? But you have made it a den of thieves.'" 18 The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 When evening came, they went out of the city.
Question: Is the prophecy of Malachi 3:1b-5 fulfilled in this
Answer: The prophecy of Malachi concerning the Messiah is fulfilled: He has come to the Temple in judgment to purify the Temple and the sons of Levi; the priests and Levites who are responsible for the Temple and for right liturgical worship.
Question: This was not Jesus' first Temple cleansing. When was
the first Temple cleansing and during what festival season of the year did it
take place? See Jn 2:13-25.
Answer: The first Temple cleansing was His first public act that took place after the miracle at the wedding at Cana. It occurred during the Passover festival, the same time of the year as this event.
The first Temple cleansing was to prepare the people for the beginning of His teaching ministry and proclamation of the Kingdom. Now He cleanses God's house of worship a second (Mt 21:12-17) and finally a third time, when He found the abuse was continuing. He does this in preparation for His final week of proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the new, restored Israel. The merchants in the Temple area were selling doves and pigeons that were the sacrifices of the poor, for ritual purification of a woman, and for lepers (Lev 12:6-8; 14:21-22; 15:14, 29) as well the as sheep goats and bull calves that the priests had approved as other "unblemished" sacrifices according to the Law. The chief priests made money under this arrangement from the "cut" they took from the vendors. The vendors were also exchanging coins that bore pagan images or the images of the Roman emperor that were not acceptable for the purchase of sacrifices or for Temple donations. These could be exchanged for Tyrian coins that bore no forbidden images (Ex 30:11-16). Notice that He did not overturn the tables of the dove sellers, an action that could have injured the delicate birds. Jesus' actions also fulfill the prophecy of the 6th century BC prophet Zechariah that in the era of the Messiah ...there shall no longer be any merchant in the house of the LORD of hosts (Zec 14:21b).
17 Then he taught them
saying, "Is it not written: 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all
peoples'? But you have made it a den of thieves.'"
In cleansing the Temple, Jesus quotes from two passages from Sacred Scripture in both the Sunday and Monday cleansings (see Mt 21:13). The first passage is from Isaiah chapter 56 and speaks of Gentiles coming to the House of God to worship (this is the reason it is likely the tables were in the Court of the Gentiles), and the second from Jeremiah chapter 7 condemns the priesthood and the people prior to the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC for turning God's house into a "den of thieves." Whenever an Old Testament passage is alluded to or quoted in the New Testament, the entire passage must be read in context to understand the significance of the quote or allusion (underlining identifies Jesus' reference to these passages):
*"Shiloh" in Jeremiah 7:14 was the location of the desert Tabernacle in the Promised Land and the center of worship from the time of Joshua to the time of Eli and Samuel when it was destroyed by the Philistines (Josh 18:1; Judg 18:31; 1 Sam 1:3-9: 3:19-21).
St. Mark uses the Greek word hieron for the area of the Temple complex where the merchants had their tables. This word does not refer to the Sanctuary that housed the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies but instead refers to the outer courtyards, probably the Court of the Gentiles, as is suggested in the Scripture passage Jesus chooses to quote from Isaiah 56:6-7 that refers to the Gentiles. Matthew and Luke's Gospels use the same Greek word for the area of the Temple that Jesus cleansed (Mt 21:12; Lk 19:45). It was the only area of the Temple complex were Gentiles were allowed to come to pray, to give sacrifices that priests would take to the altar for them, and to be instructed about the One True God. Non-covenant members were forbidden to enter the inner courts, or the Sanctuary of the Temple complex, or to approach the altar and could be executed for such an offense (see Lev 3:10 and read about the commotion when the Jews accused St. Paul of bringing Gentile-Christians into the Temple in Acts 21:27-29).
Question: Why did Jesus consider buying and selling in the Court
of the Gentiles a sacrilege that profaned the Temple? See Ex 19:6; Is 60:3.
Answer: The Court of the Gentiles was the only place in the Temple set aside for Gentiles to learn about Yahweh. The Jews had an obligation as God's holy people to be a "kingdom of priests" and a "light" to the Gentile nations of the earth. By using the Court of the Gentiles in this way, they were profaning the purpose of the space.
Question: Why does Jesus choose to quote from these two passages
from the books of the prophets?
Answer: The first is a reminder of Israel's mission to the other nations of the earth to bring the Gentiles to salvation. Instead of working to fulfill that mission, the religious hierarchy is abusing the court set aside to teach the Gentiles. The second quote is a warning of judgment for profaning God's "house," the Jerusalem Temple.
The judgment against profaning God's "house" will be fulfilled in the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD by the Romans, just as the earlier judgment from Jeremiah was fulfilled in 587/6 BC in the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Babylonians or the judgment that led to the destruction of the Sanctuary at Shiloh. It is not unusual in Scripture for prophecy to have layers of fulfillment. The past fulfillments should be a lesson for future generations. Sadly, generational memory is often sadly imperfect.
Question: In Jeremiah 7:1-15, what is the significance of what
happened at Shiloh and how does Jesus use the Jeremiah passage as a warning for
the present generation of religious authorities? See 1 Sam 4:3-4, 10-11;
Ps 78:56-61, 68;
Jer 7:12, 14; 26:4-6, 9;
Answer: The priests and the people's offenses against God and His Sanctuary brought about God's judgment in withdrawing His protection of the Sanctuary at Shiloh. The Philistines destroyed the Sanctuary and captured the Ark of the Covenant. The subtle warning is that what happened at Shiloh and what happened to Solomon's Temple in the time of Jeremiah can happen to the 1st century AD Temple for the same offenses.
Jesus judges the Temple and finds it has been desecrated. He cleanses God's holy house a third time in preparation for what will become a new covenant liturgy. Notice that there is no attempt to stop Jesus by the Temple police. It is an example of Jesus' powers over hostile forces. John records such an incident at the Feast of Tabernacles: Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him (Jn 7:44). See the chart: "In Defense of Three Temple Cleansings."
God the Son came to redefine Temple worship and to chastise Israel's "shepherds," the Temple authorities who were abusing their power as prophesied by the prophets Ezekiel and Malachi:
Mark 11:20-26 ~ The Withered Fig Tree
20 Early in the morning, as they were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." 22 Jesus said to them in reply, "Have faith in God. 23 Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. 25 When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions. 26 *[But if you do not forgive, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your transgressions]. *Left out of some manuscripts but found in Matthew 6:15.
Notice how Mark has purposely structure the narrative of the Temple cleansing between the narrative of the cursed fig tree so the reader does not miss the connection between the two prophetic acts.
Question: What day is it?
Answer: It is Tuesday, Nisan the 12th.
The next day, Tuesday, as Jesus and His disciples walk toward Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, they passed the cursed fig tree and the disciples saw that it had withered to the roots and died. Jesus says to them: "Have faith in God. 23 Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Jesus connects the two prophetic acts of the cursed fig tree and the Temple cleansing by referring to Mount Moriah where the Temple was located. He probably gestured toward Mount Moriah and the Temple that could be seen from the Mount of Olives. His actions and His teaching connect the subjects of bareness, faith, and the Temple.
Question: How are His prophetic acts connected to the prophecy
of Deuteronomy 18:18-19, and what is the connection between Jesus cursing the
fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple the day before? Remember that in
the Bible both the fig tree and the vineyard are symbols of Israel, the Old
Covenant Church. It may also be significant that under the shade of the
village fig tree was usually where Sacred Scripture was studied (Zec 3:10; Jn 1:48). See the chart on the Symbolic Images of the Prophets: the Vineyard and
Fig tree in part III above in the lesson, in Handout 3, or in the complete
Answer: In Deuteronomy 18:18-19 God promised to one day raise up another prophet like Moses with the power and authority to speak for God. Jesus is that prophet. In Scripture the fruitful fig tree is a symbol of Israel as God's faithful covenant people, but the fig tree is also presented as a symbol of Israel in rebellion. In judging and announcing the "curse of destruction" against the fig tree, Jesus is performing a prophetic act like the prophets of old. He is demonstrating a parable that is related to His act in the judging and cleansing of the Temple, which occurred the same day as the curse judgment against Israel, the "fruitless fig tree" (Mk 11:12-14 and 15-18).
His cleansing of the Temple was a judgment on those who ministered in the Temple. The Temple was supposed to be God's "house of prayer" where all people could come to worship and be instructed in holiness through the sound teaching for the Gentiles and for the Jews in the obligations and rituals of liturgical worship. The Temple was the means by which this holiness would "bear fruit" in the lives of the covenant people, thereby allowing the works of God to work through the covenant people, providing a blessing and a witness to the other nations of the earth who were invited to learn about the true God in the Court of the Gentiles. But, in judging the Temple, Jesus found that like the fig tree it had not produced "good fruit." The absence of faith and right worship that Jesus found in the Temple is signified by the fruitless fig tree's completely withered state which is emphasis by Mark in the second half of the fig tree narrative. At the time of the visitation of their Redeemer-Messiah, the Temple and its hierarchy are devoid of the spiritual fruit that God desires in a faithful covenant people, and Jesus' pronouncement, "May no one ever eat of your fruit again!" is a prophetic signal that Israel's Temple worship and sacrifices are drawing to an end.
The Old Covenant people had not kept their covenant obligations as defined in the Law of Moses. Instead of converting the Gentile nations, the covenant people either neglected their duty to the Gentiles, gave a bad example of holiness, or desired to be just like their Gentile neighbors in deciding for themselves what was good and what was evil, as Adam and Eve had done when they ate the forbidden fruit. Therefore, the Old Covenant Church had failed to bear the works of faith that God desired in bringing the other nations of the world into covenant and communion with Him.
Question: What is the significance of Jesus' teaching on faith
in connection with the cursing of the fruitless fig tree? How is His teaching
directed to the Old Covenant Church?
Answer: Jesus' warning to the Old Covenant people is that they have been judged and found "fruitless" like the barren fig tree.
Question: What is the connection to our faith bearing "fruit" in
the works of faith that are manifested in the life of the New Covenant
believer? Is faith alone enough for salvation? See Mt 25:31-46 and James 2:14-26.
Answer: God expects His Covenant people to be a people of living, active faith and the true manifestation of faith is to "bear good fruit" continuously in the works of God that are at work through the lives of believers in Christ Jesus.
25 When you stand to
pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly
Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions. 26 *[But if you do not forgive, neither
will your heavenly Father forgive your transgressions].
Jesus instructs the disciples on the right attitude for prayer before approaching God's holy altar. In the liturgy of daily worship, the faithful stood in prayer. We must forgive in order to be forgiven. Our forgiveness puts us in the right spiritual attitude to receive God's gift of forgiveness (see Sir 28:1-2; Mt 5:7, 23-24 and 6:14).
Question: Do we observe this command in the sacrifice of the Mass?
Answer: Yes, in the greeting/kiss of peace in which we are encouraged to make "peace" with our brothers and sisters in the faith before we approach the altar.
Mark 11:27-33 ~ The Religious Hierarchy Questions
27 They returned once more to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the Temple area, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders approached him 28 and said to him, "By what authority are you doing these things? Or who gave you this authority to do them?" 29 Jesus said to them, "I shall ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was John's baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me." 31 They discussed this among themselves and said, "If we say, 'Of heavenly origin,' he will say, 'Then why did you not believe him?' 32 But shall we say, Of human origin'?" They feared the crowd, for they all thought John really was a prophet. 33 So they said to Jesus in reply, "We do not know." Then Jesus said to them, "Neither shall I tell you by authority I do these things."
The chief priests and scribes, who have been insulted by Jesus'
accusations against them in quoting from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 during
His Temple cleansings two days in a row, confront Jesus on the question of His
authority to act as He does. They want to know if Jesus believes He is acting
on God's authority or on His own authority. Jesus challenges their question
with a question about St. John the Baptist, asking them if St. John's
prophetic mission was from God.
Question: What evidence do we have in Scripture that the religious leaders did not believe St. John's mission was from God? See Lk 7:30.
Answer: They refused John's baptism of repentance, an action that thwarted God's plan for their salvation.
31 They discussed
this among themselves and said, "If we say, 'Of heavenly origin,' he will say,
'Then why did you not believe him?' 32 But
shall we say, Of human origin'?" They feared the crowd, for they all thought
John really was a prophet. 33 So
they said to Jesus in reply, "We do not know." Then Jesus said to them,
"Neither shall I tell you by authority I do these things."
Once again Jesus has turned the religious hierarchy's attempt to discredit Him back upon them. Since they feared the peoples' response to a negative answer, they refused to answer Jesus and He in turn refused to answer them. The reason for their refusal to answer again illustrates their self-serving hypocrisy. In response to their hostility to God's plan for man's salvation through their rejection of the Son and the mission of God's servant, St. John the Baptist, Jesus tells a parable to the crowd that is intended for the religious hierarchy.
Chapter 12: Jesus Continues to Confront the Religious Authorities and to Teach Daily in the Temple Complex
Thus says the
Lord GOD: I swear I am coming against these shepherds. I will claim my sheep
from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no
longer pasture themselves. I will save my sheep that they may no longer be
food for their mouths.
Jesus' judgment of the actions of the Temple hierarchy in allowing the Temple to become profane recalls the prophecy of Ezekiel 34:1-10 in which the priesthood of the Old Covenant is warned that God has judged them and will come against them (see the quotation above). If Jesus has indeed cleansed the Temple two days in a row, you can imagine how enraged the Temple authorities have become concerning Jesus' actions. No wonder they decided there was no way to control Him and the only answer is to eliminate Jesus and His influence completely: The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death ... (Lk 19:47b). Knowing their enmity, Jesus boldly tells a parable that is directed at them.
The Meaning of the Three Prophetic Acts
The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is
the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked
for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!
Mark 12:1-12 ~ The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
1 He began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge round it, dug a wine press, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers [georgos] and left on a journey. 2 At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty handed. 4 Again he sent them another servant. And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully. 5 He sent yet another whom they killed. So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed. 6 He had one other to send, a beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 8 So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come put the tenants to death, and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this scripture passage: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes'? 12 They were seeking to arrest him, but they feared the crowd, for they realized that he had addressed the parable to them. So they left him and went away.
[..] = IBGE, vol. IV, page 132. The noun georgos generally means a farmer but when the planting is vines it refers to a "vinedresser," a distinction that is significant in the context of the parable.
This parable is told to the crowd of people standing in the Temple's
outer courts, but the teaching is a warning to the religious leadership
concerning their rejection of both St. John the Baptist and Jesus, thereby
rejecting God's divine plan for mankind. The parable should be studied within
the context of Jesus' warning in Luke 19:41-44 where He prophesied the
destruction of the city of Jerusalem when He said: "They will smash you to
the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon
another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."
Question: What is the time of their "visitation" that is also the "proper time" in verse 2 of the parable?
Answer: Jesus' presence within the holy city is the time of "visitation" and now is the "proper time" (Mk 12:2)
The situation in the parable would have been familiar to first century AD Jews. Landholders often rented out their property to tenant farmers who had to share a percentage of the profits from the harvest with the owner of the land. Jesus uses the parable as an allegory predicting His death at the hands of the Jewish religious authorities, their eventual loss of authority as God's representatives to His people, and the destruction of the "vineyard" that is Old Covenant Israel. In the New Covenant Church, the Church Militant is the tenant working the land of which God is owner. This connects to all of our covenant obligations, obebience and tithing. We have been studying the vineyard/fig tree as one of the reoccurring images of the Old Testament prophets depicting God's relationship with His covenant people throughout this lesson. You will recall that in the symbolic images of the prophets, the fruitful vineyard is a symbol of Israel in covenant with Yahweh (see the chart on the Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets, or the chart provided below).
St. Mark's audience would not have missed the comparison between Jesus' parable of the vineyard and the well-known parable of the vineyard in the book of the prophet Isaiah that also ends in a prophecy of judgment (Is 5:1-7). Isaiah's "Vineyard" parable and Jesus' parable of the "Wicked Tenants of the Vineyard" are always pared in the Lectionary Readings in all three cycles (see Mt 21:33-46 and Lk 20:9-19).
Isaiah 5:1-7 ~ The Parable of the Vineyard
1 Let me now sing of my friend, my friend's song concerning his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; 2 he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes.
3 Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? 5 Now, I will let you know what I mean to do to my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! 6 Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to send rain upon it. 7 The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!
Jesus' parable must be studied within the context of Isaiah's parable. It is the way the people listening to Jesus would have understood what He was saying. Isaiah's parable in 5:1-7 is a poem/song composed by Isaiah at the beginning of his ministry in 742 BC. His mission was to call a covenant lawsuit against the covenant people who had fallen away from their obligations to the covenant they made with Yahweh at Mount Sinai (Ex 24:3-8). They had fallen into apostasy, they disobeyed God's commandments, and they were worshiping pagan gods. Isaiah's warning included that God will use the powerful nation of Assyria as His instrument of divine judgment in calling the covenant people to repentance and back into communion with their divine Lord.
The theme of his parable is Israel symbolized as God's cherished vine that was chosen but because of its failure to produce acceptable fruit was now rejected. It is a theme that had already been introduced by the prophet Hosea (Hos 10:1), and it was one of the reoccurring symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets that was to be taken up by Isaiah (Is 3:14; 5:1-5; 27:2-5), by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 2:21; 5:10; 6:9; 12:10), by the prophet Ezekiel (Ez 15:1-8; 17:3-10; 19:10-14); and by the inspired writer of the Psalms (80:8-18). Notice that it is Isaiah speaking in verses 1-2 and then God speaking in verses 3-7).
In the symbolic imagery of Israel as God's fruitful vineyard and fig tree, the prophets presented four different stages of Israel's relationship with God. Notice that Isaiah presents the three parts of Israel's relationship with Yahweh in his parable of the vineyard:
|Well-tended vineyard/fruitful fig tree||Vines grow wild/failure to produce fruit||Weeds overgrow vineyard/ ruin and destruction||
Vines are replanted/
|[examples in Scripture]||
Joel 1:7, 11-12
Jeremiah 8:13; 24:1-10;
|John 15:1-2, 4-6|
Isaiah begins by speaking about his broken hearted "friend" who is the owner of the vineyard. Isaiah's "friend" is Yahweh who has done everything possible to prepare a fruitful vineyard:
Each of the preparations for the vineyard is symbolic of what God did for Israel in the conquest of the Promised Land of Canaan:
|He has planted in a fertile hillside that will get full sun.||God chose the land of Canaan as the place where His covenant people could thrive.|
|He spaded the ground and cleared it of stones.||God led Israel in the conquest of the pagan peoples and removed them from the land.|
|He planted the best vines.||God allotted the land to the twelve tribes of Israel; His chosen "vines"/"cherished plant."|
|He built a watchtower so servants ccould protect the vineyard.||God gave the Law as a guide and sent His prophets to watch over His people; He protected them from their enemies.|
|He dug out an in-ground winepress* to prepare for the fruitful harvest.+||In God's divine plan for mankind's salvation, Israel was to be His agent to bring the Gentile nations to salvation. It was a mission that was to bring the "fruit" of the great harvest of souls into heaven after their individual judgment and final harvest in the Last Judgment at the end of the Age of Man.|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013|
*In the Bible the "winepress" is frequently used as a symbol of
obedience or judgment (Is 63:3-6; Jer 48:33; Lam 1:15; Hos 9:2; Joel 4:13; Rev 14:19-20; 19:15).
+ The "harvest" is frequently used as a symbol of the gathering of "fruitful" souls into heaven and for the Last Judgment." (Is 17:11; Jer 50:16; Joel 4:13; Mt 13:39).
The people of Israel were chosen out of all the peoples of the earth to be God's "choicest vines" and His "cherished plant" (Is 5:2, 7). The Hebrew word for "choicest vines" in verse 2 is soreq; it is the name of a high quality plant designated by the blood-red color of its fruit (also see Gen 49:11; Is 16:8 and Jer 2:21). It was wine from these grapes that was used in liturgical worship at the Temple in the wine libation ritual at God's holy altar, and because of its color the wine was called the "blood of the grape" (see Sir 50:15). In our liturgical worship, it is the "blood of the grape" that becomes the "Blood of Christ."
3 Now, inhabitants of
Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: 4 What more was there to do for my
vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did
it bring forth wild grapes?
In verse 3 the speaker in the parable suddenly changes from Isaiah to God as Yahweh challenges Israel to tell Him, after all He had done for them, why they failed Him.
5 Now, I will let you
know what I mean to do to my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing,
break through its wall, let it be trampled! 6 Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or
hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to
send rain upon it.
In verses 5-7 God gives the terms of the covenant lawsuit and the redemptive judgments that will be inflicted upon an unrepentant people. These judgments are all the opposite of the covenant blessings God promised for obedience in Leviticus 26:1-13 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14. Instead, they recall the covenant judgments for disobedience promised in Leviticus 26:14-46 and Deuteronomy 28:15-69, including the judgment of invasion by foreign armies and exile (see Lev 26:32-35; Dt 28:49-52, 63-65). The words "thorns and briers" recall the covenant judgment against Adam for his sin in Genesis 3:18.
7 The vineyard of the
LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished
plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the
So there is no misunderstanding of the parable, Isaiah identifies the "vineyard" as Israel. In verse 7, the words "judgment", "bloodshed", "justice" and "outcry" in the Hebrew constitute a play on words.
The prophecy of divine judgment was fulfilled. The second half of the 8th century BC brought about the collapse of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the armies of Assyria. The end came in 722 BC with the defeat of Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, and the exile of the people into Assyrian lands to the east (2 Kng 17:1-6). In 701 BC the army of Assyrian king Sennacherib ravaged the nation of Judah and planned to besiege Jerusalem, the capital of the Southern Kingdom (2 Kng 18:13). But good King Hezekiah turned to God and prayed for His mercy and protection. Yahweh delivered Judah from the Assyrians, and the nation had a temporary reprieve as Isaiah foretold (2 Kng 19:20, 32-36). But after the death of King Hezekiah Judah fell again into apostasy and was conquered and exiled by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC.
God is the Lord of history, and Assyria and Babylon were only instruments of judgment in His hands to call His people to repentance and restoration. But while there was a temporary restoration with the return of the nation of Judah from the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC, full restoration didn't take place until the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah, Jesus Christ, who identifies Himself as the "vine" and the new Israel of His faithful disciples as the "branches" that will bear fruit in His New Covenant Kingdom of the universal Church (Jn 15:1-2, 4-6).
Question: In Isaiah's parable, who is the owner of the vineyard
and how does Isaiah identify the vineyard?
Answer: In verse 7 of Isaiah's parable, the owner of the vineyard is identified as God and the vineyard is Israel/Judah: The vineyard of the LORD [YHWH] of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his cherished plant.
In Jesus' time only the nation of Judah remained, and when the Romans
conquered the region in 63 BC it had been renamed the Roman province of Judea
(Israel ceased to exist after 722 BC). Notice that in Jesus' parable that the
lord of the vineyard identifies his son as his "beloved son" in Mark 12:6.
Question: What is significant about the use of the words "beloved son" in the parable? See Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11.
Answer: They recall God's voice from heaven identifying Jesus as His "beloved Son" at His baptism.
Question: To whom did Isaiah address his parable in the 8th
century BC? To whom is Jesus addressing His parable in 30 AD?
Answer: Isaiah's parable is addressed to the people of Jerusalem and Judah (Is 5:3), just as Jesus is addressing His parable to the same audience.
Question: What is the function of the tenant farmers who are the
vineyard's vinedresser? See Jesus' description of the work of the divine
vinedresser in Jn 15:1-2.
Answer: A vinedresser pruned the vines so that they produced more growth and therefore more fruit. Vines that did not produce fruit were cut away for the health of the plant.
Question: Who owned the land of Israel? What was owed by the
tenants of the land? See Lev 25:23.
Answer: The Promised Land of Israel belonged to God; the children of Israel were His tenants. The land could never be sold; it could only be leased and the "tenants" owed the Master their obedience to His commandments.
Question: What is the symbolism of the parable: Who is the
master who owns the vineyard? What does the vineyard represent? Why was the
master said to be absent for a long time? Who are the tenants/vinedressers in
charge of the harvest, who are the lord's servants who were rejected and
beaten, and who is the beloved son the tenants/vinedressers killed? Finally,
who are the "others" to whom the vineyard will be given?
|Symbolic Imagery in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants|
|The master of the vineyard||God|
|The vineyard with a hedge and watchtower||God's covenant people, Israel/Judah The "hedge" was the Law and the "watchtower" the prophets|
|The tenants/vinedressers in charge of the vineyard's harvest||The religious authorities whose duty it is to ensure the salvation of the covenant people|
|The master's journey/absence for a long time||No theophany of God since Mt. Sinai|
|The three sets of the lord's servants||God's prophets down through salvation history|
|The master's son||Jesus, God the Son|
|The tenants/vinedressers who decide to kill the son||The religious authorities and others who reject Jesus as the Messiah and seek His death|
|The "others" who will now receive authority over the lord's vineyard||The Jewish and Gentile Christians who will be the "new Israel"* of the New Covenant Church of Jesus Christ.|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013|
* see CCC 877: ... In fact, from the beginning of his ministry, the Lord Jesus instituted the Twelve as "the seeds of the new Israel and the beginning of the sacred hierarchy" ...
6 He had one other to send, a
beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, 'They will respect my
son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us
kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 8 So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the
This is a prophecy of Jesus' death outside the "vineyard" that was Judah's capital city, Jerusalem, when He was executed outside the walls of the holy city (Jn 19:17-20). According to the Law, all executions were to take place outside the city/camp of God; nothing unclean, like a corpse, could be present to pollute the ground of God's camp (Lev 24:14; Num 19:11-22; Acts 8:58). The Romans observed this custom.
9 What then will the owner of
the vineyard do? He will come put the tenants to death, and give the vineyard
Question: Compare the judgment in Mark's parable to the judgment in Isaiah 5:5.
Answer: Isaiah's parable speaks of God's judgment on an unrepentant people in verse 5: Now, I will let you know what I mean to do to my vineyard: Take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! The covenant people will lose their special status as keepers of God's "vineyard" in the same way that Mark's parable speaks of judgment on the wicked tenants/vinedressers and their loss of the "vineyard" that will be given to others.
Question: Did His audience understand His parable and the threat
it contained? See Lk 20:16b.
Answer: The people absolutely understood: When the people heard this, they exclaimed, "Let it not be so!" They understood that Jesus was talking about more than an ordinary vineyard and was saying that the "vineyard" of Israel that was the covenant with God was to be taken away from those to whom it was entrusted (the religious leadership) that rejects the teaching and preaching of Jesus the Messiah.
10 Have you not read this
scripture passage: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the
cornerstone; 11 by the Lord has
this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes'?
The crowds of the faithful sang Psalms 113-118 continually during the festival of Passover and the week-long feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus is quoting verbatim from the Septuagint translation of Psalms 118:22 [117:22 in some translations]. The point is the futility of the rejection of Jesus by the religious leaders and others; God's plan will not be thwarted by their rejection.
Question: What is the significance of the passage that Jesus
quotes from Psalms 118:22? Read Ps 118:19-29;
Is 8:11-15 and 28:16. Who are
the "builders" and who is the "Stone"? See Acts 4:11.
Answer: Jesus is identifying the rejection of the owner's son in the parable (verse 14-15) and Himself as the "Stone" rejected by the "builders," who are the religious authorities. The prophet Isaiah also spoke of a judgment on the people and of God's plan for one who will be a both a "cornerstone" and a "stumbling stone" to test the covenant people and especially the people of Jerusalem.
Isaiah's passage has the same force of prophecy as Jesus' parable in this passage. The allusion is the same to the "stumbling stone" which is to be a trap for "the house of Jacob" and a snare to "the inhabitants of Jerusalem" and those who "fall on it" will be crushed. St. Peter will combine the prophecies of Isaiah 8:14; 28:16 and Psalms 118:22 in 1 Peter 2:4-8: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame." Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall." They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.
St. Peter will quote the passage from Psalms 118:22 to the religious authorities of the Sanhedrin and apply it to Jesus in Acts 4:8, 11-12: Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them "Leaders of the people and elders: ... He is 'the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.' There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved." Also see Ephesians 2:20.
There is also probably a connection to Daniel 2:34-45 in which a divine "stone" breaks apart the "mountain" of the old Jerusalem Temple and its covenant. The scribes and chief priests certainly understood His references to Scripture and the force of His teaching. St. Mark notes that the leaders themselves clearly understood that the parable was directed at them: They were seeking to arrest him, but they feared the crowd, for they realized that he had addressed the parable to them. So they left him and went away (Mk 12:12).
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: In John 15:1-5, during His Last Supper homily, Jesus returns to the subject of vines and vineyards. Who does Jesus identify as the "true vine" and who is the "vinegrower" who prunes the branches attached to the vine? Who are the branches?
Answer: Jesus is the "True Vine," God the Father is the "Vinedresser," believers are the "Branches."
Question: In viticulture, the vines are pruned to produce more fruit. How does God "prune" believers in Jesus Christ to produce more "fruit"? Why? What is the "fruit"?
The spring of 30 AD was the time of God the Son's
"visitation" to the Old Covenant Church. He has warned us that He will return
at the end of the Age as divine Judge.
Question: What must the New Covenant Church do to ensure that Christ the Bridegroom will find His Bride the Church dressed in a wedding garment of grace and good deeds when He returns? What were the failures of the Old Covenant Church that we must avoid?
1. "The Romans would have said that Monday was the second day after Sunday rather than the first as we would say... Their process of inclusive counting meant that they started counting on the starting day and thus counted: Sunday (day 1), Monday (day 2), so that Monday was day 2 after Sunday" (Calendar, David Ewing Duncan page 81). The first significant appearance of zero used as a place-value in Europe "came during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, at roughly the same time that the other nine Hindu-Arabic numbers started to come into wide use" (Calendar, page 189). In Mapping Time, E. G. Richards writes: "From the end of the twelfth century on, al-Khwarizmi's treatise was translated into several European languages, and the gobar numerals [decimals] and zero began to be used in Europe" (page 79). It was Pope Sylvester II, a former monk and mathematician familiar with the work of Arab scholars, who first introduced the concept of zero to the Church in about 1000 (Calendar, page 187).
2. All that remains of the Temple of Jesus' day is the large retaining wall called the "Western Wall" (also the "Wailing Wall") that is below the western side of the Temple Mount. Part of the wall is visible from the Western Wall Plaza where it is 187 feet wide and 62 feet high. The actual western retaining wall of the Temple Mount plateau, however, is much larger, descending 42 feet below the plaza and stretching more than a quarter mile into the Muslim Quarter, where it is concealed behind residential structures. After years of protests by the Muslim residents, archaeologists were able to excavate and reveal the rest of the wall. It is possible to walk nearly the entire length of the wall via the Western Wall tunnel. It is an underground passageway running from the left side of the plaza not far from Wilson's Arch all the way to the Via Dolorosa. For images of the tunnel see: http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=western+wall+tunnel+jerusalem+israel&id=79D738D63EF5FC0652CC69E25C0A798D3CFF6B19&FORM=IQFRBA#a .
3. The Greek word naos indicates the central Sanctuary and most sacred shrine of the Temple.
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