In our self-guided tour through the Passion Week, we come to Tuesday and a TON of dialogue. Most of it is between Jesus and religious leaders, who are already plotting to trick him, trap him, arrest him, and kill him. Of course, Jesus sees right through it all and doesn’t give an inch.
Four times in Mark 11 and 12 they try to catch him in his words. They aren’t trying to have a robust theological debate. They are trying to find in him an offense worth punishing. The punishment they have in mind is death.
There’s no way all the conversation that happened on Tuesday can be covered here. This back and forth takes up the greater portion of Matthew 21-25, Mark 11-13, and Luke 20-21. John, who doesn’t say much about Monday, stays quiet about Tuesday, also. A great summary of all the things that happened can be found at this link.
For the purposes of our reflection, we’ll have to settle for one confrontational exchange.
In Mark 12:1-12, Jesus tells them this parable:
“…A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘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.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.”
Needless to say, the religious leaders perceived correctly.
Jesus tells this parable without shrinking back. He is confronting their wickedness head-on.
“You–that’s the Jews–killed every prophet God ever sent to get you back on track. I’m not going to be any different, even though I’m begotten of God and should be the object of your worship.”
We see a return to misunderstanding the likes of which were present in the Triumphal Entry just the day before yesterday. The poeple wanted a Messiah, but Jesus wasn’t going to save them the way they thought he would. The religious leaders want an inspirational figure, but one that will color inside their lines.
They didn’t realize Jesus drew the lines.
Though warned, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Teachers of the Law do not shrink back either. They proceed with their plan to kill Jesus, and in doing so seal their own fate. From now on, they will be linked with hyprocrisy, pride, and manipulation. They jump in bed with the Roman government to kill Jesus in an effort to save their nation. About forty years later, the Romans will burn their capital city to the ground, wiping their community off the map. They would not be a nation again until 1948.
Every single day we are given the choice to bow our knee to Jesus or live according to our own selfish pursuits. We go about the business of running our vineyard of a life, which was given to us by the Good Lord to begin with. When we get a little off track, he comes to straighten us out, not because he’s a mean Master, but because he loves us and wants what is best for us. We spend a lot of time struggling and arguing with him and trying to get our own way. In the case of the jealous Jewish leaders, they went so far as to kill him. He was standing in the way of what they wanted.
But when we live according to our own selfish pursuits instead of bowing our knees to Christ, we usually end up having our lives crumble down on our heads eventually, anyway. We may delay our fall, but our fall becomes crushing and forced, often causing more pain than if we’d fallen on our knees voluntarily.
What the Pharisees & Co. did not realize, and often neither do we, is that Jesus wants what is best for us. What is best for us is to trust him. Doing our own thing deprives us of much–not the least of which is a right relationship with our Maker.
As we appraoch the crucifixion of Jesus on Friday, and his subsequent defeat of death on Sunday, let’s not forget this lesson on Tuesday:
When Jesus pays us a visit, the last thing we should do is slam the door in his face.
Photo cred to http://linguistics-research-digest.blogspot.com (quote marks) and flickr.com/jasecurtis (locked door)