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Killing the son to steal the inheritance

Mark 12:1-9

" 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."

This parable of vinedressers told by our Lord is so well known to us that we almost fail to read it when we come to it. In September I wrote a blog about this passage that will explain one of the meanings of it - you can find that post here- . That being the case, today I would like to briefly discuss this matter of “inheritance”. The term inheritance refers to something that is given to someone who did nothing to earn it, and it is generally given after the death of the one doing the giving. Here in this parable, the vinedresser’s reason that if they kill the son the inheritance will be theirs. In Matthew 21, where this parable is also related, they use the word seize which means to hold and not let go. The implication then is that the vinedressers wanted to hold and not let go of the son of the owner so that they could hold his life a ransom for the inheritance.

If we utilize the Mark translation - that they wanted to kill the son then it would stand to reason that once the son was dead, the owner of the vineyard could come, kill, or at least remove them from his land and then take possession of the land back. Thus nullifying their ultimate goal of obtaining the inheritance. Conversely, if we utilize the second translated word- seize- then it is less abrupt a situation. In that scenario, the owner could just come and rescue his son and remove the vinedressers again nullifying their goal. In either situation, the end result is the same, the vinedressers will not be able to retain the inheritance whatever.

I’m certain that your heart and mind are now resonating with the same revelation that those who heard Jesus speak this perceived. He, in that moment was speaking to and about the nation of Israel. That is all well and good, but is this relatable to us today?

The answer is yes it is.

An “inheritance” by nature cannot be earned otherwise it is payment inherited and not due. However, many many people attempt to “steal” the inheritance of Jesus today. In general, the idea that salvation is a free gift is accepted throughout Christendom, such as the vineyard was a free gift for the vinedressers to steward in the story. The issue is that the vinedressers somehow believe that the owner will not actually give them the land once their stewardship comes up for account. They are in unbelief. In the same way many “believers” are minded to think that they have to take salvation by force in order to really receive it. Once they are saved, or “in the vineyard” they begin to be judgmental and falsely pious so that they look like they “deserve” to be there instead of allowing the necessities of the vineyard to dictate their actions. In other words, working in a vineyard requires you to wear certain things, handle things a certain way, participate in certain activities and not in others, just like once you are saved, your salvation will require you to wear certain things, act a certain way, and participate in certain activities and not others. These changes should be a direct result of where you live your life- in the vineyard of salvation- not so that you can prove that you deserve to be there! At some point, if you are not careful, you will want to kill Jesus so that you may be the recipient of the inheritance instead. You may not articulate it this way, but your paradigms and actions will. You will begin to think that you deserve the inheritance because of your extremely good behavior- this is a religious mindset. You will think that since you have been so good that you deserve the blessings of God, and when not received, you become angry, withdrawn and prodigal. This is killing Jesus because you do not realize that there is nothing you can do to receive and inheritance that is not yours except accept it as a gift from the one who it belongs to. To illustrate further, I have heard Christians say things like “Why is this happening to me? I have been going to church and reading my bible. I even stopped drinking!” That type of heart sentiment is killing Jesus because you are relying on your own goodness to receive the inheritance that you are already standing in the middle of!!

What about “seizing” Jesus? To seize the son is to hold him ransom until you are given what you want from the Father. Today, Christians do this by bargaining with God. They will say, things in their hearts like- “God if you bless me with this or that, then I will do what you want me to do.” They become stubborn and prideful. They walk in resentment toward the commands of Jesus because they think that they somehow deserve God to bless them without obedience. This is what is commonly known as “Greasy Grace” as well. Here, Christians will maintain that they are saved, that they “have” Jesus, but they will retain a lifestyle that does not reflect an effectual relationship with Him. In other words, they are in sin and wish to continue in it because they “have Jesus.” However, Jesus, in this situation is bound from changing their lives, they make His love and guidance of no effect.

There is one final point and illumination I would like to reveal regarding this parable. It is the metaphoric association of this parable with what actually happened in Israel at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. When Jesus spoke it of course it was prophetic and now it is historical fact. The leaders of the nation of Israel already lived in the promised land. They already had the inheritance. They wanted the Messiah out of the way, so they killed Him. When Jesus’ physical body died in that moment, His soul went to Sheol- Hell. In Hell, the wicked one thought that he had won the battle because the son was bound spiritually to that place. Then the landowner- God burst through the gates of Sheol, retrieved His son and brought Him back up to the inherited land! In this way God fulfilled the prophetic implications of this parable.

There are always things to glean from the Word of God, but we cannot allow ourselves to become so familiar with Biblical text that we treat it with complacency.

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