Mark 12:1–12 also Matt. 21:33–46; Luke 20:9–19
1 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. 2 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. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated. 5 And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some. 6 Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those vinedressers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard.
9 “Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not even read this Scripture:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
11 This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 And they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary – Mark 12:1-12
This parable reflects the social situation of first-century Palestine, especially Galilee. Wealthy foreign landlords owned large land estates which they leased to tenant farmers. The tenants agreed to cultivate the land and care for the vineyards when the landlords were away. A contract between them designated that a portion of the crop was to be paid as rent. At harvest time the owners sent agents to collect the rent. Inevitably tension arose between the absentee owners and the tenants.
12:1a. This brief summary statement (cf. introduction to 2:1–2) introduces the single parable (cf. introduction to 4:1–2) Mark recorded here. Jesus addressed it to them, the Sanhedrin interrogators who were plotting against Him (cf. 11:27; 12:12). It exposed their hostile intentions and warned them of the consequences.
12:1b. The details of the vineyard’s construction are derived from Isaiah 5:1–2 (part of a prophecy of God’s judgment on Israel), as the vineyard is a familiar symbol for the nation of Israel (cf. Ps. 80:8–19).
A man, a landlord (cf. Mark 12:9), planted a vineyard, analogous to God’s relationship to Israel. The wall for protection, a pit beneath the winepress to gather the juice of the pressed grapes, and a watchtower for shelter, storage, and security, show the owner’s desire to make this a choice vineyard. Then he leased it to tenant farmers, vine growers, representing Israel’s religious leaders, and went away on a journey probably to live abroad. He was an absentee owner.
12:2–5. The owner sent three servants—agents representing God’s servants (the prophets) to Israel—to the tenant farmers to receive a share of the fruit as rent at harvest time (lit., “at the right time,” i.e., the vintage season of the fifth year; cf. Lev. 19:23–25). But the tenant farmers behaved violently. They seized the first servant … beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. They seriously wounded the second servant and insulted him. They killed the third servant.
The long-suffering owner also sent many others, some of whom were beaten and others … killed. Time and again God had sent prophets to Israel to gather fruits of repentance and righteousness (cf. Luke 3:8) but His prophets were abused, wounded, and killed (cf. Jer. 7:25–26; 25:4–7; Matt. 23:33–39).
12:6–8. The owner still had one messenger to send, a son, whom he loved (lit., “a beloved son”—a designation representing God’s Son, Jesus; cf. 1:11; 9:7). Last of all, a phrase unique to Mark, he sent his son, expecting the tenant farmers to give him the honor denied his servants.
The son’s arrival may have caused the tenants to assume that the owner had died and this son was his only heir. In Palestine at the time, a piece of land could be possessed lawfully by whoever claimed it first if it was “ownerless property,” unclaimed by an heir within a certain time period (cf. Mishnah Baba Bathra 3. 3). The tenant farmers assumed that if they killed the son they could acquire the vineyard.
So they conspired together and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. Some say this predicts what would happen to Jesus: He would be crucified outside of Jerusalem, expelled from Israel in a climactic expression of the leaders’ rejection of Him. But this presses the parable’s details too far here. It is better to see the throwing of the son’s dead body over the wall without burial as a climax to their wicked indignities. Mark’s emphasis of their rejection and murder of the son took place within the vineyard, that is, within Israel.
12:9. Jesus’ rhetorical question invited His audience to share in deciding what action the owner should take. He affirmed his listeners’ answer (cf. Matt. 21:41) by alluding to Isaiah 5:1–7 again. This was a strong appeal for those plotting His death to consider the serious consequences of their actions. He saw Himself as the “only Son” sent by God (John 3:16).
The rejection of the owner’s son was really a rejection of the owner who would come with governmental authority and kill the murderous tenants and give the vineyard to others. Likewise the Jewish leaders’ rejection of John the Baptist and of Jesus, God’s final Messenger, was a rejection of God Himself. This would inevitably bring His judgment on Israel and would transfer their privileges to others temporarily (cf. Rom. 11:25, 31).
12:10–11. Jesus sharpened the application of the parable to Himself as the Son and extended its teaching by quoting verbatim Psalm 118:22–23 (Ps. 117 in the LXX), a familiar text recognized as messianic elsewhere (Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:4–8). The figure changed from the son/ tenants of the parable to the stone/ builders of the psalm, making possible a parabolic allusion to Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation. A slain son cannot be revived but a rejected stone can be retrieved and used.
The quotation begins where the parable ended. The stone (Jesus, like the son), which the builders (the Jewish religious leaders, like the tenant farmers) rejected has become the capstone (“cornerstone,” niv marg.; lit., “head of the corner”). This was considered the most important stone of a building. This dramatic reversal of the builders’ decision and exaltation of the rejected stone was God’s sovereign doing, a remarkable thing. God overrules in amazing ways rebellious human attempts to block His purposes.
12:12. They, the Sanhedrin representatives (11:27), were seeking (cf. 11:18) to arrest Him because they realized Jesus had addressed the parable against them (“with reference to” or directed “toward” them). But fearing the excitable Passover crowd, they left Him alone and departed.
The fact that Jesus’ adversaries understood this parable is a new development (cf. 4:11–12), suggesting that at Jesus’ initiative the “secret” of His true identity would soon be openly declared (cf. comments on 1:43–45; 14:62).
God is testing us every day and has given us the right to make our own choices. Do you know which ones are the right choices in Gods mind?
Fear God, love God, honor God, and trust God with all your heart, mind and soul and you will receive and experience the joy of the promises of God’s blessings in His time. And always remember to ask the Father for His help and guidance in all things.
Prayer: Father, blessed is your Holy name. We praise you for your Son and the Holy Spirit. Human words cannot describe how grateful we are for Your Son and our risen Christ. We praise You for the opportunity to be able to choose Jesus as our Lord and Savior and to be elect children of Yours. We praise you for the laws You have set down to teach us, keep our lives in harmony , how to treat others and how to live within your boundaries. Please bless those who have read this article for they too are seeking Your righteous truth, love, wisdom and understanding. I pray these brothers and sisters have or will come to realize that Your existence is a treasure of grace and love that You have for all Your elect children.
May God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Christianity be our guiding lights for eternity. Let it be Your will Lord not mine. Please come Lord Jesus.
I pray in Jesus sweet name and to His glory through the power of The Holy Spirit,