The fearful tenants abusing God's vineyard

Posted Mar 21, 2018

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Daily Scripture

Mark 11:27-12:12

27 Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem again. As Jesus was walking around the temple, the chief priests, legal experts, and elders came to him. 28 They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?”

29 Jesus said to them, “I have a question for you. Give me an answer, then I’ll tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things. 30 Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”

31 They argued among themselves, “If we say, ‘It’s of heavenly origin,’ he’ll say, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But we can’t say, ‘It’s of earthly origin.’” They said this because they were afraid of the crowd, because they all thought John was a prophet. 33 They answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus replied, “Neither will I tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things.”

12:1 Jesus spoke to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the winepress, and built a tower. Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip. 2 When it was time, he sent a servant to collect from the tenants his share of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they grabbed the servant, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again the landowner sent another servant to them, but they struck him on the head and treated him disgracefully. 5 He sent another one; that one they killed. The landlord sent many other servants, but the tenants beat some and killed others. 6 Now the landowner had one son whom he loved dearly. He sent him last, thinking, They will respect my son. 7 But those tenant farmers said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

9 “So what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this scripture, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 11 The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes?” [Psalm 118:22-23]

12 They wanted to arrest Jesus because they knew that he had told the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.

Reflection Questions

Jesus’ vineyard story drew on a beloved Scripture (Isaiah 5:1-7), which called Israel God’s vineyard. Jesus told it in sadness, answering people who assumed that their positions and titles gave them the authority to rebuke and refuse him. Jesus loved the people of Jerusalem (cf. Luke 19:41-42), but their heedless leaders did not love him. As they plotted his death, Jesus told a story that pointedly exposed the murder in their hearts.

  • Mark 11:18, 28 and 12:12 graphically showed the atmosphere charged with hatred that surrounded Jesus during his last week. We’re tempted to look down on the Jerusalem leaders, but like them we’re subject to blind spots. Is there anything God’s spirit is nudging you to face honestly in your life? Do you have the courage to face it, to grant Jesus the authority to guide you in tending the vineyard of your life?
  • The temple priests and legal experts held all the visible, human power at the Temple. Why didn’t they just arrest Jesus on the spot? “They were afraid of the crowd.” Jesus didn’t blindly follow “the crowd” (cf. John 2:23-25), but in this case they saw more clearly than the religious leaders. What blocked the leaders’ vision? How can you keep your spiritual eyes and ears clear to recognize God’s work in either expected or unexpected places?


Lord Jesus, you’ve entrusted the gift of life to me, and you ask me to lead that life in a way that bears fruit for your kingdom. Make me a faithful tenant farmer, one who respects and values your lordship. Amen.

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GPS Guide

Whether you’re just starting to explore the Christian faith, or you’re a long-time Christian, we want to do everything we can to help you on your journey to know, love and serve God. The GPS (Grow, Pray, Study) Guide provides Scripture and insights to enhance your journey. If you have a question or comment about the GPS Guide, please send it to

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

The GPS Guide today asks a great question: “Is there anything God’s spirit is nudging you to face honestly in your life?” It’s not easy to honestly face some things. God loves us enough to challenge us to live authentic lives, real and true. This can mean God nudges us to stop hiding from ourselves or to dismantle assumptions about church or about faith or about our lives, just as it did for the Jerusalem leaders Jesus is talking about in Mark 12. Far from easy or comfortable!

So back to the question. “Is there anything God’s spirit is nudging you to face honestly in your life?” How can you know? Nudges can show up as a stray thought, an “aha” moment of insight, a flash of emotion or a longing ache. We will miss it if we aren’t paying attention. Jesus invites us to have “eyes to see and ears to hear” all the ways God is present with us here and now. When we are mindful, God’s nudges can become invitations into abundant life.

For me, a key source of holy nudges is my body. Too often, I spend the day stuck in my head and miss God’s persistent nudges in my body. But when I get still and listen to my body, really listen for only a few minutes, God draws my attention, for example, to renewed energy I feel as I look at spring blooming, or the tension in my upper body that suggests I’m spending my time on the wrong things. 

These holy nudges may happen in other ways for you. Mindfulness practice invites us to pause and notice the way God’s spirit is nudging us, moment by moment, toward abundant life. Try a short Christian mindfulness practice:

1.      Pause and take 3-4 slow, deep breaths. Close your eyes to focus on your breathing.

2.      Turn your awareness to your body. Give loving attention to each part of your body, moving from your head to torso to limbs to feet, attentive to even minor sensations or feelings.

3.      What do you notice? Invite God to notice it with you. Don’t evaluate, judge or fix anything you identify. Simply notice it and let God hold it with you for a moment.

What do you discover? How is God offering a holy nudge?

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