Find Yourself in the Story
Series: The Gospel Truth
Text: Mark 11:27-12:17
Because Jesus used parables in His teaching, it was often difficult for those hearing Him to recognize themselves in His teaching. In the same way those of us reading the parables today may overlook the fact that we are actually in the story. In these next few messages we will have the opportunity to look for ourselves in the teaching of Jesus.
1. Trapped by their own Plot. (11:27-33)
The day after Jesus chased the vendors out of the Court of the Gentiles in the temple He had a confrontation with the chief priests and their entourage.
“They came again to Jerusalem. As He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came and asked Him, ‘By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do these things?’” (vv 27-28)
It is not clear if they only heard about the event after the fact or if they were there to see it in person. Either way, a day had passed and now they confronted Jesus. As usual Jesus did not give a direct answer, but rather asked them a question. This was a common practice for rabbis.
“Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you one question, then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was John’s baptism from heaven or of human origin? Answer Me.’” (vv 29-30)
Jesus was not being flippant or dodging the question of the scribes & chief priests & elders. He was making a point. If they could not recognize God’s authority in John the Baptist’s ministry, then there was no way they would be persuaded that Jesus acted on God’s authority. In many cases today when you talk with an non-believer about spiritual things, especially if you quote scripture, they often will respond by saying “Well, I don’t believe the Bible.” At that point your will need to take a different direction in the conversation. I was in a Denny’s restaurant in Miami, meeting with a group of businessmen for a Bible study and prayer breakfast. The waitress was quite chatty and volunteered that she did not believe in God or the Bible. At that moment God gave me a response for her that left her with no answer. I said to her, “If you are right that the Bible isn’t true and God doesn’t exist, it doesn’t make any difference. However, if we are right that unless you repent and receive Jesus you will spend eternity in Hell, then it makes all the difference in the world.” She had no response and quickly moved away to wait on others.
In vv31-33a the religious leaders responded. “They discussed it among themselves: ‘If we say, “from heaven” He will say, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin...’ They were afraid of the crowd, because everyone though that Jesus was truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’”
One misconception many make regarding witnessing is that you must be able to defend the scriptures. Many people use that as an excuse not to witness. They will say, “I just don’t know the Bible well enough.” The truth of the matter is that the believer should never be on the defensive but rather on the offensive side of the conversation. That is also the reason that I often encourage you to use your own experience of surrendering to Christ. I’ve often quoted Leonard Ravenhill, late British evangelist who said, “A person with an experience is never at the mercy of a person with an argument.”
In v 33b we find, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’”
Look at the progression in this encounter. The religious leaders aggressively approached Jesus with a demand that He, an untrained, unrecognized, seemingly self-appointed rabbi---reveal who gave Him authority not only for the events of the preceding day, but also for His teaching. Jesus then immediately turned the tables on them and put them on the defensive. When they could not answer His question to them, He refused to answer their demands. This was clearly a case like what Jesus spoke of in Matt. 7:6 “Don’t give what is holy to dogs, or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.” One commentator points out that there are basically three reasons that people refuse to surrender to Jesus as LORD.
1. They don’t want to submit to His Authority.
2. They refuse to examine honestly the evidence. and
3. They fear men more than they fear God.
In your witnessing, ask God for discernment so that you may know if you are sowing on rocky, brier filled ground or fertile soil. If these are people are clearly antagonistic and will not listen, change your approach. After Jesus refused their demands, He turned His attention to telling some stories. Although He was teaching all those who were present, He knew that the chief priest, scribes and elders were listening. The first parable was based on Isaiah 5:1-7 called “The Song of the Vineyard”. His accusers would know this passage well.
2. Can you ID the characters? (12:1-12)
“He began to speak to them in parables: ‘A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug out a pit for a wine press and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to a tenant and went away. At harvest time he sent a servant to the farmers to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard from them. But they took him, beat him, and sent him away empty handed. Again he sent another servant to them, and they hit him on the head and treated him shamefully. Then he sent another, and they killed that one. He also sent many others; some they beat and others they killed. He still had one to send, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenant farmers said to one another; ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill the farmers and give the vineyard to others.”
Let’s identify the characters in this parable. The man who planted the vineyard is, of course, God. He created the world and all that is in it, and provided everything that was needed. The tenant farmers are the people of the world. Once God finished creation, He turned it over to Adam and Eve and those of us who came after them. The servants that were sent to get the share due to the owner were the prophets. Many were beaten and despised and some were killed. The son, of course, was Jesus. His treatment was no different from that of the prophets, except that His suffering and death was highly visible. After telling this story, Jesus gave an invitation.
“Haven’t you read this scripture. ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This came about from the LORD and is wonderful in our eyes?” Jesus ended by quoting a scripture that they probably had memorized, Psa 118:22-23. In light of the parable He told, they had to recognize that He was the cornerstone. It was up to them to accept or reject Him. In v 12 we see their response. “They were looking for a way to arrest Him but feared the crowd because they knew He had spoken this parable against them. So they left him and went away.”
3. Bumfuzzled! (vv 13-17)
The chief priests, scribes and elders recognized that they were the tenant farmers Jesus mentioned in the parable. Suddenly they were no longer in control of the situation. Frantically they tried to regain an offensive position.
“Then they sent some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to Jesus to trap Him in His words. When they came, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, we know you are truthful and don’t care what anyone thinks, nor do you show partiality but teach the way of God truthfully. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?’”\
This is more than a hint of sarcasm in the way they addressed Jesus. They sought to “butter him up” before they sprang what they thought was a trap that He could not avoid. You can almost see the smug expression on their faces as they posed their question and waited for an answer that they thought would expose Jesus. However, they didn’t really know who they were dealing with.’
“But knowing their hypocrisy, He said to them, ‘Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.’ Thy brought a coin. ‘Whose image and inscription is this? He asked them. ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. Jesus told them, ‘Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at Him.”
Once again the ruse of the legalistic religionists back fired on them. They thought that they had the upper hand, only to find that Jesus always has an answer. We can take a hint from Jesus as to how to deal with belligerent unbelievers. It does no good to argue with them. Instead we must move from defense to offense in our witnessing. Tell your story, which they can’t refute, and then ask if they have ever had such an experience. If they say no, ask if they would like to know how they could. Either way they have heard the gospel in your story. God is the One who gives the increase…we just scatter the seed.
Application: (How should I apply this message to my life?)
Today there are more and more people who have no clue about a relationship with Jesus. Few, if any of them will attend a church service. If they are to come to Christ it will be because some believer who knows them shows them the way.
Ask God to reveal to you which character in the story you most resemble. (The tenant farmers or the servants.) If God shows you that you fall into one of those categories, you need to confess, repent and either surrender to Jesus or return to Him.
Ask God to give you a burden for a lost family member, friend or neighbor.
Pray earnestly the God would draw them to Jesus & send someone (maybe you) to share the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Remember, the gospel came to you on the way to someone else. Did it stop with you or have you passed it on? Are you willing today to take be used by God to expand His kingdom?