Saturday, March 4, 2017

March 4

Numbers 2:1-3:51; Mark 11:27-12:17; Psalm 47:1-9; Proverbs 10:24-25

In the middle of a bajillion questions about Numbers (Why is the tribe of Levi so much smaller than the others [Lev. 3:39]? Why is it significant that the priests are toward the east, toward the sunrise [vs. 38]? How did Moses determine which 273 men had to pay the redemption money [vs. 46-47, 49]?) and my on-going attempt to discern wisdom literature properly (Is the desire of the righteous granted because the righteous desire only God, who then meets that desire? Or am I not seeing my desires granted because I'm not righteous?), there's the parable of the vineyard owner and his wicked tenants in Mark 12.

It's an interesting and unsettling parable - a man prepares land, and prepares it well.  He then rents the land out and goes on a journey.  Instead of sending some of the harvest as rent, the tenants reject the authority of the owner and grow increasingly violent in their attempts to deny their proper place under the owner's authority.  Their rebellion culminates in murder.  It's an unfinished parable; we don't see the final action, but we're given every indication that the owner will sweep down in a fury and mete out judgment and justice.  He will then begin afresh with a new set of tenants.  Not an easy story to swallow.

My attention, however, was particularly caught by the fact that the Pharisees understood Jesus.  Though we read earlier in Mark that Jesus spoke in parables so that "those on the outside...may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding" (Mk. 4:12), these Pharisees "knew [Jesus] had spoken this parable against them" (Mk. 12:12) and this moves them to hate.  I was flabbergasted when I put two and two together and came up with four!  These outsiders, these men who so deeply oppose Jesus, understand rightly the parable that he is speaking.  The disciples often have to ask Jesus for an interpretation (see Mk. 4:10), but the Pharisees get it.  In a tremendous irony, these Pharisees "[have] ears to hear" (4:9), but they are not moved to "turn and be forgiven" (4:12).  How sad!  To have the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven (Jesus calls it a 'secret' in 4:11) and to push it away.  Their own beliefs and traditions are more important to them that the words of the living God.

And I'm uncomfortably reminded to consider what kind of tenant I am and how I respond when I hear the voice of Jesus.

- Sarah Marsh

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