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God Will Vindicate His Son! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 12:1-12


I was talking with someone in our church this morning and we were talking about the reality that studying God's Word is an adventure. It really is an exciting thing. When you're alone with the Scripture, with the Lord, and you're looking into the Scripture, you're trying to discern the original author's intent, and through the work of the Spirit, through the work of study, suddenly it comes alive, and you understand it, and you see it. Truly amazing.

And, sometimes that changes, a little bit of your perspective on a passage. That happened to me this week. In your bulletin I entitled tonight's message something like, "The Tenants Take Over the Vineyard", and that's true. That happens in the parable that we look at tonight. But, as I really got to studying it and looking at where Jesus was going with this parable, I had to rename my message, and it really comes down to this: God Will Vindicate His Son. God will vindicate His Son. It doesn't look that way where we find Jesus tonight. But the parable that Jesus tells makes this incredibly clear.

I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to Mark. Mark's gospel, and the twelfth chapter. Mark 12, and let me just read this account to you.

And He began to speak to them in parables: "A man PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT, AND DUG A VAT UNDER THE WINE PRESS AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others. He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those vine-growers said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!' 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 vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. Have you not even read this Scripture:

'The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes'?"

And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.

The message of this parable is unequivocally clear. The leaders of Israel were rejecting God's Son, just as they had rejected the prophets before Him. And God will ultimately vindicate His Son with all who reject Him.

I chose the word vindicate carefully and deliberately. It comes from the Latin word for vengeance. According to the Oxford Shorter English Dictionary, vindicate means these things. It means to avenge or revenge a wrong; to clear of blame, criticism, or doubt by demonstration; to justify a person by evidence. That is exactly what God will do with His Son. God the Father will avenge every rejection and mistreatment of His beloved Son. He will eventually clear His Son of all criticism and doubt, and He will justify His Son's claims by overwhelming evidence and demonstration. And God will do this with all who have rejected His Son.

Now in the context of this parable, Jesus is specifically talking about the nation Israel. Israel and her leaders had consistently rejected God's messengers, rejected God's truth, and in the first century they even added to their other sins the rejection of God's own beloved Son. As Jesus delivered this parable, they had already rejected Him, and in just three days from when He says this parable, they would demonstrate that rejection and hatred by murdering Jesus in cold blood. It was no less murder because it was carried out through the pretense of the judicial process.

But whatever Israel and her leaders might do to silence the Son, God will not, and would not, allow them to have the last word. In this parable Jesus makes the point that God will vindicate His Son and the claims of His Son.

Now don't forget the context of this parable. Just to remind you, it's Tuesday of the Passion Week. On both Monday and Tuesday Jesus had essentially taken control of the temple and its courts after He had cleansed it on Monday. Early Tuesday He and the 12 had returned to the city of Jerusalem, and He had begun to teach those who came early to hear Him. And there He was in the temple courts, and at the point He was teaching, while He was teaching, an official group of the leaders of the nation, appointed to represent the Sanhedrin, approached Jesus, and they questioned His authority. In response to their question, Jesus responded, you remember we saw last week, with a question of His own. Verse 30, of chapter 11, "'Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.'" Jesus' question was not to focus the attention off of Him, to shift that focus, but to show them that God had already answered their question about the source of His authority. And God's answer came in the form of a person named John. The Old Testament had prophesied that the forerunner would precede and announce the coming of Israel's Messiah, and John the Baptist was the perfect fulfillment of those prophecies. He was a prophet and the people acknowledged that, even though the leaders of Israel did not. And he identified the Messiah. John clearly stated, Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.

So, Jesus' authority then was not a self-authenticating one, but a divine authority. To accept Him was to accept God. To reject Him was to reject God. And since Israel's leaders had rejected John's divine authority and therefore Jesus' divine authority, they didn't deserve any further proof and Jesus and said I'm not going to give you any. I'm not going to answer your question.

Now immediately following that exchange, on the temple courts that Tuesday morning, crowded with thousands of worshipers who were there for the feast of Passover, Mark says Jesus began to speak to them in parables, plural. Only one of them is here. But that morning Jesus told three parables to the crowds that were gathered around him. Only Matthew records the first of these parables. It was the parable of the two sons. The one who said "Yes, I'll do what you want Father." And then did not. And the second, who said "No, I won't," but eventually did.

In that parable Jesus confronts the people of Israel, and specifically the leaders of Israel, for rejecting John the Baptist. The second parable is the parable of the vineyard. This is the parable we're going to study tonight and that I just read for you. In this parable, Jesus indicts Israel and its leaders for rejecting Him. The third parable is the parable of the wedding feast that Matthew records. In that parable Jesus confronts Israel for rejecting God's invitation to the wedding feast of His Son. He predicts Israel's complete destruction, and He explains then that the most unlikely and undeserving will be invited in their place to attend the wedding feast.

So, with that background then, let's examine the second parable Jesus told that morning. Jesus, don't forget, is surrounded by His disciples, by His extended followers, and a large crowd of people, perhaps in the thousands, who wanted to hear this famous rabbi teach. In addition, the official delegation from the Sanhedrin, made up of chief priests, scribes, and elders, who had come to question His authority, are still standing around as well. They hear this. Now according to Luke 20:9, Jesus turned from the leaders after that interchange about His authority. They're still standing there, but He turns away from them, and He spoke this parable to the crowd that was gathered around Him. Matthew tells us, in Matthew 21:43, that this parable was about the entire nation of Israel, but specifically Mark tells us in verse 12, it was about the leaders of the nation. The leaders knew Jesus spoke this parable about them, and therefore they wanted to seize Him. They wanted to arrest Him, and ultimately, they wanted to follow through on the threat they had made a few weeks before after the raising of Lazarus, and that was, let's kill Him. That's the only solution.

So that opens up our interpretation of this amazing parable. It is about the nation Israel. It's about the leaders of the nation. Now, as we look at this parable, notice first of all in verses 1 and 2, God's plan for Israel and her leaders. God had a plan and it's documented in these two verses. Now let me just warn you, we're not going to get any further than this tonight. Look at verses 1 and 2.

1 He began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 2 At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers.

Now if you look at the text of verse 1, and if you have a New American Standard, and I think this is true in other translations as well, it's clear that Jesus is quoting from the Old Testament. The NAS shows this by putting verse 1, or a portion of verse 1, in all capitals. Specifically, Jesus is quoting in verse 1 from His favorite Old Testament book, and that is the book of Isaiah. And specifically, He's quoting from Isaiah 5.

Now I want you to get the context, so go back with me to Isaiah 5. This is where the parable begins. Jesus takes a concept from the Old Testament and begins to develop it. Isaiah 5:1. Isaiah, writing in about 700 B.C., predicting what's going to happen to the people of God, he says, "Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. [Now] My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill." He's going to eventually tell us that the well-beloved here about whom he sings is God, and the vineyard is Israel. "My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill." Here comes the portion Jesus quotes,

He dug it all around, removed its stones, planted it with the choicest vine. … He built a tower in the middle of it; He also hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected it to produce grapes, but it produced … worthless ones.

"And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge between Me and My vineyard." [Now God is speaking. He says] -"What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done …? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will be trampled ground. I will lay it waste; It will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it." For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel and the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.

In other words, God says, "I planted Israel and I took special care of her, expecting her to produce fruit, and instead she produced only worthless fruit, and so I'm going to destroy the vineyard I've made. I'm going to break down all the preparations I've made because she produced no fruit." In context, what's the fruit? Notice verse 7, the fruit of righteousness.

This image of Israel as a vineyard it is in other places in the Old Testament. For example, in Psalm 80:8, "You removed a vine from Egypt;" [speaking of Israel, You brought them out of Egypt,] "You drove out the nations and [You] planted … [her]" in that land of Canaan." Jeremiah 2:21, "'Yet I planted you a choice vine, A completely faithful seed. How then have you turned yourself before Me Into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine?'"

How did it happen? How did this choice vine I planted become completely worthless? This image of Israel as a vineyard, or as a grapevine was such an accepted symbol of the nation that in Herod's temple, if you could have walked up to the front of that magnificent edifice, in Herod's temple the men who described that temple tell us that there was over the main door walking into the holy place, a magnificent vine, a carved grapevine that was 70 cubits high, cubit's about 18 inches; huge. The branches and the leaves were of fine gold, and the bunches of grapes on it were made of various precious jewels. Herod put it there, originally, and from time-to-time wealthy Jewish families added stones, and clusters made of the same precious stones, in the memory of loved ones and so forth. It was a magnificent reminder. It's likely that when Jesus was talking about Himself being the vine, He had that in mind. But clearly here, Jesus is referring to the nation of Israel.

Now, with that background from Isaiah, turn back to Mark. And notice what Jesus quotes, verse 1. We meet here a wealthy landowner. He apparently owns several pieces of property and based on where the land was situated and the kind of soil, he decided that the best agricultural use of this piece of land was a vineyard. Vineyards have always been part of the land of Israel. Here are just a few. These are on the plains and often they were on the plains. You remember even back in Deuteronomy 8:8, when God was telling Israel they're still on the plains outside of Jericho, and they're learning they're going to go in and take the nation, or the nations that they're going to dispossess there in the land of Canaan. It's described this way, Deuteronomy 8:8, it is "a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees." When the spies, you remember, inspected the land in the time of Moses, they returned with samples and with a report that the land was filled with vineyards.

Even the expression about Israel in the Old Testament, you remember that expression, it's a land flowing with milk and, what? Honey. When we hear the word honey we typically think of bees' honey. That's probably not what it's a reference to. Rather, it refers to a kind of grape honey. A heavy, sugar syrup that came from boiling down the grapes; a land flowing with milk and grape honey. Although the vineyards of Israel were completely destroyed by the Muslims, they have been brought back in modern times by one of the Rothschilds and there are some famous vineyards now, like this one, in Israel. Here are some of the grapes there in Israel. Often, though, instead of the plains in ancient times, , now that there is irrigation, they can plant them in the plains, but before that they typically planted them on the hillsides, in terraced hillsides like these. That's the description we have here in Jesus' story.

Now Isaiah, and Jesus here in Mark 12, tell us that the owner of this vineyard took every reasonable step to ensure that this vineyard would be a success. Notice, first of all, he planted a vineyard. In Israel, both in ancient times and in modern times, viticulture has been an important part of life. Although there have been vineyards on the plains, as I said, like those near Haifa and the Mediterranean, the plains of Jericho, most of the vineyards have been on gentle terraced hillsides, scattered throughout the land of Israel.

But before the vineyard could be planted on those hillsides, they first had to come in and clear out all the rocks. Now if you've been to Israel, you know that's true. The Arabs have a proverb that when God was creating the world an angel with two large bags of rocks flew over the land of Israel, and as he flew over Israel one of the bags broke, leaving half of the rocks of the whole world in Israel. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. So, he had to first go in on these terraced hillsides and clear out all of the stones. Then he planted the vines, typically in orderly rows about three paces apart. So, he planted the vineyard.

And then he put a wall around it. Here is a modern example of that. You see the wall built on the terraced hillside. It was to protect the vineyard, to keep out animals that would destroy the vineyard and the grape harvest. That's why you have in Psalm 80, you have these words:

Why have You broken down its hedges,
So that all who pass that way pick its fruit?
A boar from the forest eats it away
And whatever moves in the field feeds on it.

You put up a fence to protect the vineyard, to protect the grapes. In that culture that was your income, that was your money, and so you wanted to protect it.

In addition, we're told, in verse 1, that he "dug a vat under the wine press." Somewhere on that rocky, terraced hillside that he'd now cleared of rocks, the vineyard owner would discover some bedrock, and in that bedrock, he would cut both a wine press and a wine vat. Here are a couple of examples from modern times. You can see up on the top where the press is, there is also a place where the grapes could be spread out and they could be stamped with human feet. And then the juice will flow from the top down into those lower chambers where the juice was collected. Here's another example of that.

But back to this picture, just to give you an idea here, the press at the top was a large shallow area where the grapes were pressed or trampled, the juice would run down a small channel cut into the rock, into a smaller holding area called the wine vat. The top part is the wine press, the bottom part is the wine vat, and from that vat then it would be scooped into jars, where it would be allowed to ferment. So, this owner, the point here is this owner has not only prepared for the growing of grapes, he's done everything he can to ensure that the grapes will grow, but he's even prepared for their harvesting and processing as well.

Back to verse 1, we're also told that in addition to these steps he built a tower; he built a tower. Here is a modern example of what that tower would be like. This was the other use for the rocks. He would use some of the rocks he cleared from the land for that fence, the wall that would guard and protect the vineyard. The rest of the rocks he would use to build a tower. Usually it was circular, about 15 to 20 feet high, and this was absolutely crucial during the growing season of the vineyard because as the grapes began to ripen they would station a watchman in the tower in the vineyard in order to watch out for, and keep away, animals like jackals and foxes, and even as Psalm 80 mentioned, wild boars. Occasionally even thieves, but mostly the animals. The tower could also be used and was used for storage.

So, here is this owner, owns this piece of land, terraces it, prepares it, plants a vineyard, takes every conceivable step to ensure that it will be productive. And once he's prepared it, verse 1 says he "rented it out to vine-growers." Now the Greek word that's translated vine-growers there can also be translated tenant farmers. So, he basically rents out this vineyard he's prepared to tenant farmers. Why would he do that? Well, in an agrarian culture there were several ways to make profit on a piece of land.

You could, if you wanted to, farm it yourself. The advantage of this approach was that you kept all the profits of the produce that you harvested off the land. The disadvantage was you also absorbed all the labor cost. In addition, there was no incentive for the workers to work hard because usually they worked for an agreed upon price.

A second option was to rent the land to others. The advantage of this was you got a steady stream of income with the agreed upon lease amount. The downside was in those years when the land was especially productive and yielded a huge harvest of grapes, you saw none of that return, instead all that extra went to the person renting the property from you.

The third option was to plant the property and to lease out the farming rights to tenant farmers. Now, the advantages of this approach were that you had no direct costs, there was , after you built the vineyard, on-going direct costs. There was a built-in incentive for the tenants to make the land productive, and you benefited from their hard work as well because you would receive a percentage of the produce that they could sell. The common terms called for somewhere between a third and a half of the produce. So, they did the work, and you got somewhere between a third and a half of the grapes or the wine that was harvested.

So, in the case of this field, the wealthy landowner decides to take this third option. He rents out this vineyard that he planted and prepared to tenant farmers. It was theirs then to take and care for. And caring for a vineyard was a lot of work; constant care. After the rains the loosely packed rock walls had to be repaired, the ground had to be plowed or harrowed and cleared of weeds. In early spring the plants have to be pruned by cutting off dead and fruitless branches. If they really cared for the vineyard well, then they could profit personally from its success. Their responsibility was to give to the owner the agreed upon percentage of each year's grape harvest.

So, the owner then of this piece of land took every possible step to ensure a profitable vineyard and then rented it out to tenant farmers. Then verse 1 says he "went on a journey." Literally, he left the country. Luke adds, "for a long time." Now this makes perfect sense with what was happening in the first century Israel. In fact, the entire upper Jordan Valley and much of the Galilean site suitable for grapes were owned and controlled by foreign landlords at that time. Just as a great deal of our country has come to be owned by people from outside of it, in that time that's how it was with many of those fields that produced grapes. So that's what happens here.

But in keeping with the contract they've created, notice verse 2, "At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers," to the tenant farmers, "in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from them." Now this would have been several years down the time, because the typical growth cycle for grapes is going to be several years. In fact, according to Levitical law, the first three years really were not productive at all, the fourth year the harvest belonged to the Lord, so starting with the fifth year after you planted the vineyard, you would begin to see some of the fruit, literally and figuratively, of your labor.

So, the harvest comes. Typically, the grape harvest comes in September, although some plants can continue to bear fruit into October. , What was this all about? What was the hope? Well, there were several things you could make from a vineyard. Obviously, and most clearly, you pressed the grapes for wine for drinking. A second option was some of the bunches of grapes were laid out to dry, were sprinkled with olive oil to keep them moist, and turned over side after side, until they were dehydrated enough to be eaten as raisins. That was another form. And the other important product from the grape harvest was the grape honey I mentioned earlier. And this was really important because it was the major source of sugar in the ancient world until the discovery of cane sugar became common.

So, at the appointed season, when the time for grapes were harvested in the fall, probably around the fifth year, the owner of the vineyard sent a slave to the tenant farmers. Now they've had plenty of time to settle in. Five years, they have cared for this vineyard. Very easy in that time frame to forget, to forget who owns the vineyard, to forget whose property it really is. But he sends to receive from the tenant farmers, his percentage of the harvest that the vineyard had produced.

Now, what is this about? What's the point? Well, let's look at the interpretation. What did Jesus mean by this idea of Israel as a vineyard planted by God and rented out to tenant farmers? Well, let me reduce it to several propositions.

Number one, God owned Israel by redemption and had planted her in her land to produce fruit. Think about that for a moment. God had carefully planted Israel, whom He had redeemed, whom He had brought out of Israel. He carefully planted her in just the right place. You ever thought about why God gave Canaan to Israel, to Abraham? If you've ever been there, you'd wonder that. It's not exactly a place that you'd want if you had your pick of any place on earth.

So why? God placed Israel in that land because it was the most strategic spot in the ancient world. It was on the most important international highway of the ancient world. It was at the crossroads of three continents, Europe, and Africa, and Asia. If armies and peoples wanted to get from one continent to another in the ancient world there was only one piece of land that they had to go through and that was Israel. And so, God planted her there. So, what exactly was the fruit Israel was supposed to produce? God chose Israel to be salt and light in the middle of a wicked world.

Look at a couple of passages. Look at Genesis 12:3. You remember what God said to Abraham in the Abrahamic covenant? He said, "I will bless those who bless you; and the one who curses you I will curse." And you remember this, "And in you," that is in your offspring, "all the families of the earth will be blessed." I intend to bless everyone through you. Obviously, the ultimate fulfillment of that is Christ in the gospel. But specifically in that time, this was her mission. Here is a passage from Exodus 19. This was part of the ratification of the constitution of the nation at Sinai.

And here's what God said. Here was the Sinaitic Covenant. "Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant," it was a conditional covenant, "then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine." Now watch this, and here's your purpose, here's why you're going to be my possession, here's why I'm choosing you, "and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests." In other words, everybody in the nation is going to be a priest. For whom? For the world. For the world. In choosing Israel, God was not neglecting or rejecting the rest of the peoples of the world. Israel was chosen for one specific purpose, and that was to be God's witness nation to the rest of the world. She was to be a kingdom of priests representing God to the rest of the peoples on earth. God planted her there for that purpose, and when He planted here, He then cared for her and equipped her in every conceivable way so she would bear that fruit.

Let me have you look at a couple of passages. Turn over to Romans 3. You remember Paul here is convicting both the Gentile and the Jew of guilt before God, but in the middle of this he makes a couple of comments. Romans 3:1, "… what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?" In other words, is there any benefit to being a Jew if they're sinners too? And he says this in verse 2, no, their advantages are "Great in every respect." And the one he especially highlights is, "… they were entrusted with the oracles of God." So, God (like that vineyard that was carefully planted and prepared), God did this for His people Israel.

Turn over to chapter 9. As Paul laments the fact that they're not saved, verse 3, he says

For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, [to his Jewish brothers], "who are Israelites, [now watch their advantages here], to whom belongs the adoption as sons. [God chose them and adopted them,] … the glory [of all of the systems God put in place, the revelation of His own personal glories, His shekinah presence,] … the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the temple service, and the promises. [They have so much. God has so cared for them, to equip them for what He assigned them to do.] whose are the fathers, [they had so many spiritual leaders of such giant magnitude,] and from whom is the … Messiah according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. 35.52

Wow, God definitely treated Israel like that carefully pampered vineyard. He gave them every conceivable advantage, and He set them there to produce fruit; to be His witness nation to the world. That's what Jesus is saying. God owned Israel by redemption and had planted her in her land to produce fruit; to shine out to the world; to be a blessing to the world, and He gave her every conceivable advantage to do that.

A second part of what Jesus is saying in these verses we looked at tonight, is that God had entrusted the care of His vineyard Israel to her spiritual leaders. Jesus adds this, (this is not in Isaiah 5, this idea of it being rented out to tenant farmers, this is added by Christ Himself,) and He's essentially saying as the leaders are standing there, near Him, maybe right behind Him, behind Him or beside Him, as He speaks to the crowd He's essentially saying, "Look, Israel is God's vineyard, you are the vineyard, and these are the tenant farmers." God has entrusted the care of His vineyard Israel to them, and they were responsible to care for her and to ensure that she fulfilled her mission, that she bore the fruit of a witness nation. But what had happened? What had Jesus just done the day before? He'd gone in and cleared the temple. What part of the temple? Do you remember? The Courts of the Gentiles. The place where she was supposed to bear witness to the nations, she instead was too busy making money and crowding them out.

The third portion of what Jesus is saying in verses 1 and 2 is this, God expected Israel, under the care of her leaders, to produce an abundant harvest. But it didn't happen. And in fact, as we'll discover next week, or in the weeks to come, something entirely opposite happened. But I want to come back to application. What can we learn from just the first two verses of this parable? Clearly, Jesus was talking in this context about the nation Israel and her leaders. Okay, let's make that very clear. Jesus is talking in verses 1 and 2 about Israel and her leaders in the first century. That is the authorial intent of this text.

But is there a legitimate application of these verses for us today? I think there is, and I think the New Testament makes it clear. Because just like God did with Old Testament Israel, Christ owns His church by redemption and has carefully planted her across the world to produce fruit. Don't misunderstand me, the church hasn't replaced Israel in every sense. There is still a future for the physical descendants of Abraham. We believe that. But, (and this is important) the specific mission of being God's witness nation has passed from Israel to the church, to us, to you, and to me. Let me show you this.

Turn to 1 Peter, 1 Peter 2. Notice verse 9. Peter takes God's covenant with the nation Israel, and He makes it ours, the church. Verse 9, "But you," writing to the people of God, the people who belong to Christ's church in the first century, you and to us, "you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood," you're all priests, "a holy nation, a people for God's own possession," and what is the purpose of all this, "so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." God has made you His own people. He's made you a kingdom of priests, all of you are priests, for whom, for the world,

so that you may proclaim the excellencies of the God who has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light; for you were once not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

We now have a purpose as the church. It's the same purpose God assigned to Israel in the Old Testament and that was to be His witness nation in the world. And now it's us. You see this in other passages as well. Revelation 1:6, "… He has made us," [the church] "to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever." Revelation 5:10, the praise in Heaven says, "You have made your people to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." We have been given the same designation, the same mission, Israel was given in the Old Testament.

There's a second part of the application for us, playing off of what we learn in the interpretation, and that is this, just as God entrusted the care of His vineyard to Israel's leaders, Christ has entrusted the care of His church to spiritual leaders as well. Christ has delegated the responsibility of the leadership of the church to gifted men whom he holds personally responsible for their leadership.

Look at 1 Corinthians 3. This same image of planting and harvesting is used here. Look at 1 Corinthians 3. You remember the situation in Corinth. They were bickering about lining up behind the different leaders and their speaking styles, their oratorical skills, and so Paul is combating this, and in 3:5, he says, "What … is Apollos? … what is Paul?" We're just "Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one." So "I planted," here's this horticulture image,

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; and you are God's field.

You see the image? The church is now God's planting and the servants who serve the church, the leaders of the church, he's speaking here of the leadership that was in Corinth as well as those men who came in and out of Corinth to lead and direct it. They're just farmers, they're tenant farmers, and some plant, and some water, but it's still God's vineyard. And notice verse 8 says, their work, their harvest, is going to be evaluated.

Verse 9, Paul changes the image, and he goes to the image of a building. He ends verse 9 by saying, let me tell you, not only are you God's field; not only are you like God's vineyard; but you're also like God's building, and then he begins to develop that in the passage that follows. And we've studied this before, but just to remind you. Essentially, he's saying the leaders of the church are responsible for building. And their work on the building is going to be evaluated, and they'll be either rewarded, or they will be , but so as through fire. In other words, the building they built will be tested, and if it's made of precious materials that won't surrender to fire, and it stands, they'll be rewarded; but if it collapses around them, and they run out as if through the fire as it collapses, that's all they've got. They'll lose everything they worked for.

The point I want you to see is that just as Jesus that day on the temple mount was holding the leaders of Israel, the vineyard of God in the Old Testament, responsible for their leadership, God will hold the leadership of this church, the leadership of every church, responsible for what they have done in caring for the vineyard. In Hebrews 13:17, the writer of Hebrews says to them, "Obey your leaders, submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."

There's one other part of the application for us, and it's this. Just as God expected from Israel, Christ expects His church, under the care of her leaders, to produce an abundant harvest. God has a purpose for us folks. He has a purpose for you. And it's not all about your happiness and my happiness. We have been planted where we have been planted, as God's witness nation, and He has done everything He can to prepare and to care for us, so that we have every conceivable advantage, and Christ expects each one of us individually to produce fruit.

Look at John 15, John 15. This is part of the upper room discourse, I mentioned this passage earlier, this whole vine concept, Jesus describes Himself as

"… the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean [or pruned] because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned."

Skip down to verse 16. "'You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give it to you.'" Now what's going on here? I want you to notice that Jesus is obviously the vine, and we as individual believers are the branches. Now, there are two kinds of branches here. In verse 2 and again in down in verse 8, you have those branches that bear fruit. These are true Christians. They bear fruit. In verses 2 and 6 you have the other kind of branch, the branches that don't bear fruit. These are those who profess faith in Christ, but the absence of fruit shows that they have absolutely no life from the vine.

So, there are those who are connected to Christ, even as we were saying this morning, there are those who are connected to Christ, who are really connected to Christ, who really get life from the vine, they remain in Christ, Christ remains in them, they depend on His life, they live because He lives, and they bear fruit. They're real Christians. And then there are those who say I'm a branch, I belong to the vine, I'm connected to Christ, but there's no fruit. What happens to them. Verse 2, "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes it away." Verse 6, "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned." That's the description of condemnation and everlasting punishment. A professing Christian who bears no fruit. Christ expects His church, each of us individually, to bear fruit. So, the question is, what is the fruit?

Well, when you look at the Scripture, there are three kinds of fruit that are mentioned, and I think one or a combination of them is what Christ intends here. The first is spiritual attitudes. You're familiar with Galatians 5:22 and 23, the fruit the spirit produces when He's in your life is love, and joy, in fact, turn there with me. Look at Galatians. People often ask me; how do I know if I'm in Christ. Well, here's one wonderful way. Galatians 5:22,if the Spirit is in your life. If the Spirit of God is in your life, then He will produce this fruit in some measure. There will be "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness," which is probably generosity, faithfulness, gentleness," which is the opposite of self-assertion, and "self-control," particularly when it comes to sin and the life. Where the Spirit's present those things are going to be there.

Look back a couple of verses. Here's what you see when the Spirit is not in control and present, verse 19, "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality," those are different words describing both mental and physical sexual sin, and being consumed with sexual things, letting that be your talk and all that you are concerned about, "idolatry," something is more important to you than God, "sorcery," attempts to connect with the other world, "enmities," [now we get into relational issues],

enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and [oh, by the way, this isn't a complete list.] things like these of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice [as a habit of life] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

You're not in Jesus's spiritual kingdom, and you won't eventually be in His eternal kingdom, if your life is characterized as a habit by those things. Instead, there's the fruit of the spirit.

The other kind of fruit that's mentioned, a second kind, is righteous actions. Righteous actions. Doing the right thing. Doing what the Scriptures command. Living out the commands of Scripture.

And thirdly, new converts. In Romans 1:13 you see that. Paul wanted to have some fruit, he wanted to see some people come to faith in Christ in Rome. And you see that in 16:5, Philippians 4:22. Here's the point. We are now God's witness nation, and He has planted us and cared for us, and given us every spiritual advantage to bear fruit. And Christ actually expects every branch in Him to bear fruit. What kind of fruit? Spiritual attitudes, that the Spirit produces, righteous actions, doing the things that honor Him, and sharing the gospel so that others come to faith in Christ. Because we are, after all, God's witness nation.

Let me just ask you tonight, how's your fruit. Will the people around you, if I could ask the people in your life, would they say your life is characterized by love and joy and peace and patience and gentleness, and self-control? What about righteous actions? Is your life structured to obey what God has commanded us to do? Do you care? Are you in the Scriptures? Are you trying to learn? Do people around you sense that you really are trying to do what pleases Christ? And how about communicating the good news of the Kingdom to others? This is what Christ expects of every branch in Him.

Let's pray together.

Father, keep us from being self-righteous as we look at Israel and her leaders. Seeing the lack of fruit they bore, when we ourselves, now your witness nation, struggle so much.

Father, empower us by your Spirit. Lord, may You truly produce in us those spiritual qualities, those righteous actions that conform to Your revelation, Your word. And Lord, may we open our mouths to share the good news. Remind us, O God, that we are not here for ourselves, that you have planted us, and you've given us spiritual leaders to equip us so that each of us individually bears fruit. I pray Father, that by your grace, we would look back this coming week, this coming month, this coming year, and see fruit.

We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


By Whose Authority?

Tom Pennington Mark 11:27-33

God Will Vindicate His Son! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 12:1-12

God Will Vindicate His Son! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 12:1-12

More from this Series

Mark - The Memoirs of Peter


The Memoirs of Peter: An Introduction to the Gospel of Mark

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

A Voice Crying - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 1:2-8

A Voice Crying - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 1:2-8

The Baptism of Jesus

Tom Pennington Mark 1:9-11

The Heart of Jesus' Ministry

Tom Pennington Mark 1:14-15

Follow Me!

Tom Pennington Mark 1:16-20

A Day in the Life of Jesus - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 1:21-34

A Day in the Life of Jesus - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 1:21-34

A Day in the Life of Jesus - Part 3

Tom Pennington Mark 1:21-34

Divine Healing

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

The Compelling Priorities of Jesus

Tom Pennington Mark 1:35-39


Tom Pennington Mark 1:40-45

Authority to Forgive - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 2:1-12

Authority to Forgive - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 2:1-12

A Friend of Sinners - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 2:13-17

A Friend of Sinners - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 2:13-17

New Wine, Old Wineskins

Tom Pennington Mark 2:18-22

The Sabbath & the Heart of God - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 2:23-3:6

The Sabbath & the Heart of God - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 2:23-3:6

The International Ministry of Jesus Christ

Tom Pennington Mark 3:7-11

Twelve Unlikely Men - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 3:13-19

Twelve Unlikely Men - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 3:13-19

Twelve Unlikely Men - Part 3

Tom Pennington Mark 3:13-19

Jesus: Liar, Lunatic or Lord? - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 3:20-35

Jesus: Liar, Lunatic or Lord? - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 3:20-35

Jesus: Liar, Lunatic or Lord? - Part 3

Tom Pennington Mark 3:20-35

The Parable of the Soils - Mark's Perspective - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 4:1-20

The Parable of the Soils - Mark's Perspective - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 4:1-20

The Parable of the Soils - Mark's Perspective - Part 3

Tom Pennington Mark 4:1-20

Eyes to See, Ears to Hear - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 4:21-25

Eyes to See, Ears to Hear - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 4:21-25

The Mysterious Growth of God's Kingdom - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 4:26-34

The Mysterious Growth of God's Kingdom - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 4:26-34

The Wind & Waves Still Obey Him

Tom Pennington Mark 4:35-41

No Chains He Cannot Break!

Tom Pennington Mark 5:1-20

Lord of Life, Destroyer of Death - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 5:21-43

Lord of Life, Destroyer of Death - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 5:21-43

Just a Carpenter? The Deadly Danger of Familiarity - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 6:1-6

Just a Carpenter? The Deadly Danger of Familiarity - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 6:1-6

Jesus' Official Representatives

Tom Pennington Mark 6:7-13

The Slow Death of the Soul

Tom Pennington Mark 6:14-29

The Lord Will Provide!

Tom Pennington Mark 6:30-44

Walk on Water? Jesus' Incomparable Power Over Matter, Time & Space

Tom Pennington Mark 6:45-52

Pursuing Jesus for All the Wrong Reasons

Tom Pennington Mark 6:53-56

Tradition! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 7:1-13

Tradition! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 7:1-13

Tradition! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Mark 7:1-13

The Heart of All Our Problems

Tom Pennington Mark 7:14-23

The Children's Bread to the Dogs?

Tom Pennington Mark 7:24-30

He Does All Things Well!

Tom Pennington Mark 7:31-37

The Extravagant Provision of Jesus

Tom Pennington Mark 8:1-9

When Proof Is Not Enough

Tom Pennington Mark 8:10-13

Dangers to Look Out For

Tom Pennington Mark 8:14-21

Gradually Restored Sight

Tom Pennington Mark 8:22-26

Who Do You Think I Am?

Tom Pennington Mark 8:27-30

The Shocking Mission of the Messiah

Tom Pennington Mark 8:31-33

Following Jesus Will Cost You Everything

Tom Pennington Mark 8:34-37

He'll Be Back!

Tom Pennington Mark 8:38-9:1

A Glimpse of His Glory

Tom Pennington Mark 9:2-10

If You're Messiah, Where's Elijah?

Tom Pennington Mark 9:11-13

No Faith, Weak Faith, & Little Faith - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 9:14-29

No Faith, Weak Faith, & Little Faith - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 9:14-29

No Faith, Weak Faith, & Little Faith - Part 3

Tom Pennington Mark 9:14-29

The Shocking Plan Behind the Cross

Tom Pennington Mark 9:30-32

Jesus Defines Greatness

Tom Pennington Mark 9:33-37

Not One of Us: Overcoming Christian Provincialism

Tom Pennington Mark 9:38-41

The Disciple's Greatest Danger - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 9:42-48

The Disciple's Greatest Danger - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 9:42-48

Lessons From the Salt Shaker!

Tom Pennington Mark 9:49-50

Jesus on Divorce - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 10:1-12

Jesus on Divorce - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 10:1-12

Jesus on Divorce - Part 3

Tom Pennington Mark 10:1-12

Let the Children Come!

Tom Pennington Mark 10:13-16

The Rich, Young Ruler - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 10:17-27

The Rich, Young Ruler - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 10:17-27

The First Will Be Last!

Tom Pennington Mark 10:28-31

A Third Shocking Prediction

Tom Pennington Mark 10:32-34

So You Want to be Great?

Tom Pennington Mark 10:35-45

The Great Exchange: His Life for Mine!

Tom Pennington Mark 10:45

Kyrie Eleison

Tom Pennington Mark 10:46-52

A King's Entrance: Jesus Returns to Jerusalem

Tom Pennington Mark 11:1-10

The Fig Tree & the Temple: Two Unforgettable Object Lessons - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 11:11-18

The Fig Tree & the Temple: Two Unforgettable Object Lessons - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 11:11-18

Faith to Move Mountains

Tom Pennington Mark 11:19-26

By Whose Authority?

Tom Pennington Mark 11:27-33

God Will Vindicate His Son! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 12:1-12

God Will Vindicate His Son! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 12:1-12

Render to Caesar: Jesus on the Role of Government

Tom Pennington Mark 12:13-17

Jesus Publicly Affirms the Resurrection!

Tom Pennington Mark 12:18-27

What Commandment Is the Greatest?

Tom Pennington Mark 12:28-34

The Psalm That Proves Messiah Is God

Tom Pennington Mark 12:35-37

Unmasking False Religion

Tom Pennington Mark 12:38-40

The Widow's Mite: A Misunderstood Story with a Shocking Lesson

Tom Pennington Mark 12:41-44

Not One Stone!

Tom Pennington Mark 13:1-2

The Future According to Jesus - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 13:3-37

The Future According to Jesus - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 13:3-37

The Future According to Jesus - Part 3

Tom Pennington Mark 13:3-37

The Future According to Jesus - Part 4

Tom Pennington Mark 13:3-37

The Future According to Jesus - Part 5

Tom Pennington Mark 13:3-37

The Future According to Jesus - Part 6

Tom Pennington Mark 13:3-37

The Future According to Jesus - Part 7

Tom Pennington Mark 13:3-37

The Future According to Jesus - Part 8

Tom Pennington Mark 13:3-37

The Conspiracy to Murder Jesus

Tom Pennington Mark 14:1-2

The Worship Jesus Praises

Tom Pennington Mark 14:3-9

The Passover Plot

Tom Pennington Mark 14:10-16


Tom Pennington Mark 14:17-21

The Lord's Supper

Tom Pennington Mark 14:22-26

Unfaithful Disciples & A Faithful Lord

Tom Pennington Mark 14:27-31

Gethsemane! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 14:32-42

Gethsemane! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 14:32-42

The Illegal Arrest of Jesus of Nazareth - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 14:43-52

The Illegal Arrest of Jesus of Nazareth - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 14:43-52

Travesty of Justice: The Jewish Trial of Jesus - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 14:53-65

Travesty of Justice: The Jewish Trial of Jesus - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 14:53-65

When a Disciple Denies His Lord

Tom Pennington Mark 14:66-72

Jesus Before Pilate - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 15:1-5

Jesus Before Pilate - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 15:1-5

The Great Exchange

Tom Pennington Mark 15:6-15

The Soldiers' Game

Tom Pennington Mark 15:16-20

The Crucifixion

Tom Pennington Mark 15:21-26

The Comedy at Calvary

Tom Pennington Mark 15:27-32

The Death of God's Only Son - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 15:33-39

The Death of God's Only Son - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 15:33-39

Dead and Buried

Tom Pennington Mark 15:40-47

April 9, 30 AD

Tom Pennington Mark 16:1-8

The Biblical Case for the Resurrection

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

The End of the Story

Tom Pennington Mark 16:9-20