Chardon church of Christ

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The Wicked Tenants

Posted by Chardon in Mark 12

The Wicked Tenants

Mark 12:1-12


Good evening.   I would like to continue with our look at the parables that Jesus taught, but first I would like to share with you some real quotes from notes which were sent by tenants to their landlords. Dear landlord:

 “I know the lease says “NO PETS”, but I’m just dog-sitting for a friend for 3 months.”

“I found a family of mice in my pile of empty pizza boxes. I want a discount on rent.”

“The smoke detector kept going off whenever we cooked, so I removed the batteries.”

“My rent check wouldn’t have been late if the Post Office had just delivered it on Sunday.”

“That hole in the wall totally falls under ‘normal wear and tear'”.

“They’re not subletters, they are just friends who are staying with us for a few months.”

“A five-day grace period means that rent is not really due until the 5th, right?”

This evening we’re going to look at the parable of “The wicked tenants” and we are going to try and understand what Jesus was saying about these tenants. Please turn your Bibles to Mark 12. Some people like to say that this parable is about “The wicked tenants” but by the time we have finished you’ll see that it is more like the parable of “The rejected Son”.

 We all know what the Pharisees and Sadducees were like. They hated Jesus and they were continually looking for a way to get rid of Him.  There were several reasons for this, but one of the main reasons they wanted Jesus out of the way was because they could not or would not accept who Jesus was.

They were always questioning Jesus’ authority. In Mark 1:21-22 Mark tells us that; “… on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.   And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Jesus taught as one who had authority, not the way the teachers of the law taught.

Mark describes in Mark 11:27-33 that Jesus was walking in the temple, and it’s there that the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders come to him and ask Him two questions. Mark 11:28 – “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?”  Jesus answers them by asking them a question. He asks them in Mark 11:30 – “The baptism of John was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.” They wouldn’t answer Him because they feared the people.  It is with this rejection of the source of the Lord’s authority that Jesus goes on to tell them the parable.

Please read with me now; Mark 12:1-12 – “Then He began to speak to them in parables: "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.   "Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers.   "And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.   "Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated.   "And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some.   "Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them 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 will be ours.'   "And they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard.   "Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.   "Have you not read this Scripture: `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 hold of Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away.”

This parable tells us a lot about our God, mankind and Jesus Himself.  First, let’s look at the four things about God told to us in this parable…


  1. Our God is a gracious Jesus says in Matthew 20:1 – “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.”

    1. I heard a story about a father who was reading Bible stories to his young son. He read, "The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned to salt." His son was intrigued with this and then asked his father, "What happened to the flea?"
    2. Sometimes our attention is not where it should be. Here the Jewish leaders forgot to look back into their history and recognize just exactly who they were and where they came from. In Ezekiel 16 we find a very graphic picture of what the nation of Israel was like when God took them under His care. God says in Ezekiel 16:4-7 “As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor swathed in swaddling cloths.   "No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born.   "And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, `Live!' Yes, I said to you in your blood, `Live!'   "I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair grew, but you were naked and bare.”
    3. God describes how they grew up into something beautiful and how they were like a queen. What a pathetic, helpless and hopeless picture this is. These religious leaders had forgotten just who they were and where they came from. They were God’s people and God owned them. It was God who made them into the nation that they were. It was God who cared for them when they were lying in the field hopeless.
    4. When Mark tells us in Mark 12:1 that a man planted a vineyard, he’s telling us that, the man was God.   It was God who planted the vineyard.  Notice that the vineyard was given everything it needed to do its work. It was given a wall around it to mark out its boundaries, to keep out robbers and to defend it from wild animals. There was also a wine press in the vineyard where people would press the grapes. Underneath the winepress there was a wine vat and that’s where all the juice from the grapes would flow.
    5. There was a tower.  It’s in this tower that the wine would be stored and the people would watch from there.  It’s from there, that they could look out for robbers at harvest time. That’s why it’s called a watchtower. Isaiah 5:2 “He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well.”[para]
    6. The vineyard owner gave the vineyard everything it needed to make the work easy and profitable.  Notice that God didn’t just give them a task to do. He also gave them the means with which to do those tasks.
      1. Today there are Christians who say, “Well, I don’t have any talents.” Wrong, Christian. Every Christian has talents, the problem is often we don’t want to recognize them and use them. 1 Peter 4:10 “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
      2. When Jesus is talking about those who were given talents, He said one had 5 talents another had 2 talents and yet another had one talent.  Jesus clearly tells us in Matthew 25 that all were given talents. Jesus says “you have a talent”.   The problem is that some people are just too lazy or too frightened to look for it and use it to serve God.
      3. God has given us an ability to serve Him whether it is preaching or teaching, whether it is giving help to the needy, comfort to those who need comfort or helping in the worship or giving encouragement to those who need lifting up. He says, we have a talent and we need to use and develop that talent the best we can because if we don’t, He will give it to someone else who will use it.
    7. Next our God trusts us to do the work at hand. Mark 12:1 tells us that the owner of the vineyard went away on a journey. He trusted the tenants to run the vineyard by themselves while He was away.
      1. I heard a story about when Jesus ascended up to heaven and all the angels met him and asked Jesus what He did with the gospel of salvation. Jesus said, “Oh it’s in good hands, I left it in the hands of men.”
      2. Imagine that! The creator and author of our faith leaving the gospel in the hands of men! He did, you know. We sing a song about it.   #90 “Into Our Hands”. Swiftly we’re turning life’s daily pages; Swiftly the hours are changing to years. The Chorus says; into our hands the gospel is given, into our hands is given the light. Starting with the 12 apostles, yes, but not ending there.   The responsibility of sharing the good news about Jesus Christ with others is in our hands. God trusts us enough to do that. He trusts us enough to give us freedom of choice about how we do it, and how we live our lives.
        1. If you were to look on the internet under the topic “Tenants from hell” you will find many stories from many places in the world where landlords are just pulling their hair out because their tenants are wrecking the property, or breaking the lease rules, but the landlord must tread carefully because the tenants have rights too.
        2. God has entrusted us to look after His work here on earth but unlike those tenants we don’t have any rights. We don’t have any right to abuse the word of God. We don’t have any right to compromise the word of God. We don’t have any right to abuse any of the gifts He has given us. Yet in our fallibility, God trusts us enough to allow us to make mistakes and do so much for ourselves.
  • Our God is patient. Notice how the master sent servant after servant. Mark 12:2-5 – “Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers.   "And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.   "Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated.   "And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some.” Who is He talking about here?   He is talking about the prophets.

    1. We know that Jeremiah was a prophet of God who was beaten up time and time again by the so-called leaders of God’s people. Jeremiah 37:15 – “Therefore the princes were angry with Jeremiah, and they struck him and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe. For they had made that the prison.”

      1. Urijah is another prophet that was killed by the so-called leaders. Jeremiah 26:23 – “And they brought Urijah from Egypt and brought him to Jehoiakim [ja-hoy-uh-kim] the king, who killed him with the sword and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.”
      2. Zechariah was yet another prophet who was killed by the so-called leaders. 2 Chronicles 24:21 – “So they conspired against him, and at the commandment of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord.”
      3. Hebrews 11:37 tells us about many of God’s servants “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 ”
    2. These servants of God were God’s holy prophets who were treated like this. Even after the first one was abused and ill treated, God still didn’t get angry with them and come after them with vengeance. Oh no! He gave those tenants chance after chance, after chance to respond to His appeals.
    3. God does the same with people today. God puts up with our continuous sinning and He doesn’t cast us away after we sin as Christians. He gives us chance after chance to repent and live holy lives and He gives those who aren’t Christians time to become Christians. 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
  1. Our God is the righteous judge. In the very next verse we find the 4th thing we learn about our God; 2 Peter 3:10 – “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.”

    1. These tenants pushed their luck; they pushed God’s patience. Like this parable in Mark tells us, the world can push its luck with its disobedience and rebellion but there will come a time when justice will be done. Hebrews 9:27 – “… it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,”
    2. You see folks, people will either be born again or wish they hadn’t been born at all. Not politically correct and certainly it is unlike what the world believes, - our God has the right to judge the world. Our God is a patient God and He, as the owner of our souls, has the right to expect us to work in the field with the gifts He has given us, it is our duty.
    3. 2 Peter 1:3 – “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue”. We have everything we need to live the life that pleases God.
    4. This parable also tells us 2 things about mankind…
  2. Mankind thinks it can get away with sin. Sometimes in the world’s judicial system people fall through the cracks and get away with their crimes, but God’s justice system doesn’t have any cracks. At the time of this parable God’s people hadn’t heard a word from God for 400 years.   They hadn’t heard a word from any prophet until John the baptizer came along.  Out of site, out of mind, is the phrase they might have used.
    1. They must have thought that God was too far away to do anything about the situation. Luke tells us in his account in Luke 20:9 that He was away for a “long time”.  Because of that silence, they may have thought that God was dead and out of the picture. Oh, but how wrong they were and how wrong people are today who think that there is no God or God is dead.
    2. People today think they can get away with their sinful behavior, but our God is very much alive. Acts 14:15 – “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,” Jesus says in Revelation 1:18 – “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”
    3. We don’t come here every week to remember a dead God.   Our God is alive and well today and when He returns the whole world is going to know about it.  
    4. And the next thing we find out about mankind is;
  3. You can lose your privileges. This parable has the story of what was still to come.
    1. The Jews had all the privileges of being God’s chosen people. They also had many responsibilities, which went along with those privileges.  These people enjoyed all the blessings from God. He looked after them. He provided their everyday needs. He provided wisdom and guidance, food and shelter. He took care of them.
    2. As soon as Jesus mentioned a vineyard, the Jews would know exactly what it meant. They would cast their minds back to Isaiah 5 where Isaiah is talking about the vineyard. This may not mean much to us today but to a Jew Isaiah 5:1-7 was a very important part of Israel’s history, which they could not ignore or forget.
    3. I’m going to paraphrase Isaiah 5:1-7 – “I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.” The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.” [para]   .
    4. Have you ever sat and listened to a sermon and thought to yourself is that preacher speaking about me? Is God speaking to me through the preacher? I know I have. Sometimes I think, maybe he’s not speaking about me, but there are times when it’s so much in my face that I know that God is speaking to me.  That’s what’s happening here, the religious leaders knew exactly what Jesus was talking about, because it was very much in their face and it was very much about them. These tenants or Jewish leaders knew Jesus was speaking about them but as usual - they failed to listen and do their job.
    5. In Matthew 23 we find Jesus talking about the so-called spiritual leaders of the Jewish nation and he says in Matthew 23:16 "Woe to you, blind guides!” He calls them “Blind fools!” in verse 17. In verse 19 He calls them “Blind men!” In verse 24 He says, " Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”. And in verse 26 He says “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish” Why does He call them blind? Because they have their eyes closed to what they need to see.
    6. The point is that the Jewish leaders were supposed to produce fruit, and they were supposed to protect the rest of the vineyard. They were supposed to watch out for robbers, but they didn’t.   They didn’t do their job, their duty. It’s because of their lack of faithfulness to God, that Jesus asks these leaders in Mark 12:9 – “Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others”
    7. In other words, all the privileges, all the responsibilities of being a child of God was going to be taken away from the Jews and given to a people who will be grateful for everything He has done and will do for them. The Jewish nation will be done away with and another nation will be raised.
    8. A nation of people who will obey His words and take their responsibilities seriously, a nation of Christians.  Those words would have hurt. They would have wanted to reject those words with all their being. Then we read in the letter to the Ephesians 3:4-6 – “by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ,   which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:   that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,” All the privileges the Jews had with God were now going to be available to all who would be obedient to the gospel of Christ.
  • That brings us to the final point… The coming of the Messiah. Mark 12:6-8 – “Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them 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 will be ours.'   "And they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard.”

    1. Notice that Jesus doesn’t call Himself a servant here. He deliberately removes Himself from the succession of prophets. He says they were servants, but He is the Son. Because Jesus was always being questioned about His authority, He tells them right to their face, that He is the Messiah. They knew that He was the heir.   They knew they were trying to kill Him.
    2. It is then that Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23 - “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.” This stone, which was the cornerstone for the building, the most important stone of all, was being rejected. The Jewish leaders rejected the Christ, their long awaited Messiah.
    3. Because they knew that but didn’t want to accept Him, Mark 12:12 tells us that, “Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.”[para] This was a “right in your face” parable.




When it comes to dying most of us don’t know how or when that is going to happen.  But Jesus knew when and how He was going to die. The cross of Christ didn’t come as a surprise to Jesus, but it was still a brutal and shameful way to die.


Hebrews 10 tells us that it had to be the cross; there was no other way. Hebrews 10:5-10 – “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.   In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure.   Then I said, `Behold, I have come in the volume of the book it is written of Me to do Your will, O God.' ''   Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them'' (which are offered according to the law), then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.'' He takes away the first that He may establish the second.   By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”


Jesus Christ was born to die.   That’s why He came to earth in the first place. He knew He was going to have to suffer and be mocked both physically and mentally. It is because of His willingness to go to the cross for our sake that we come together and worship Him every week. The stone the Jewish leaders rejected has now become the cornerstone of a new building, the kingdom, the church.


Acts 4:8-12 – “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel:   "If we this day are judged for a good deed done to the helpless man, by what means he has been made well,   "let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.   "This is the `stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.'   "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.''”


In other words, the life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ, the very words and teachings of Christ are the very foundation that Christianity is built upon.  What a privilege it is, to be a part of God’s kingdom! The question is, what are you going to do with Him? Are you going to reject Him as your savior or are you going to accept Him as your savior?


The Jews were awaiting their Messiah, He came and they missed it. If you’re not a Christian today, then like we said earlier, God is patient with you, not wanting you to perish. He offers you salvation today.   He wants to be your savior.  Don’t be like the Jews and miss out.




We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.


Reference Sermon - Mike Glover


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