June 29 – Do We Accept Jesus for Who He Is?

Mark 11: 27 – 33 NLT

“The Authority of Jesus Challenged

27 Again they entered Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. 28 They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?”

29 “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus
replied. 30 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!”

31 They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. 32 But do we dare say it was merely human?” For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. 33 So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”

And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Remember that Jesus is coming into Jerusalem daily in the week or so prior to Passover, and the time that he will be crucified. Various Temple leaders have been following Jesus throughout his 3 years of ministry, but now they are beginning to intensify their opposition to Jesus. Two days prior to this question about Jesus’ authority, he had come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey to the worship and praise of a throng of people. The next day, he went into the Temple and created a huge ruckus as he turned over the tables of the moneychangers and released the sacrificial doves. Jesus is definitely challenging their authority and the way they feel the Temple should operate. So, now on day 3 they want to know – who does he think he is? “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?”

Jesus often answers with a question, and he does this time too. “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Jesus knows that question will stymy them because the leaders know that the people in Israel revered John, and John is connected to Jesus – so they are stuck and have to back off.

The Holy Spirit has a tendency to put questions in our minds as well. God doesn’t barge his way into our lives. He waits patiently for us to come to him. But as he waits, we each do a lot of thinking and pondering about who God is, and what does he want from me. At some point in all of our lives, we have faced the question about whether we should turn to God or not. Some think about it, and decide it’s all a hoax and can be ignored. Others realize they need God’s forgiveness and presence in their lives. Jesus is bringing the Jewish leaders to that point as well. Do they accept who Jesus is – or not?

At the beginning of chapter 12, Jesus makes clear who he is. The more the Temple leaders are confronted with Jesus’ identity and authority, the angrier they get. After he had cleared the Temple the day before Mark tells us: “When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him.” (11: 18) Now Jesus is going to tell a story/allegory that they will understand and become even more upset.

Mark 12: 1 – 12 NLT

“Parable of the Evil Farmers

12 Then Jesus began teaching them with stories: “A man planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. 2 At the time of the grape harvest, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. 3 But the farmers grabbed the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed. 4 The owner then sent another servant, but they insulted him and beat him over the head. 5 The next servant he sent was killed. Others he sent were either beaten or killed, 6 until there was only one left—his son whom he loved dearly. The owner finally sent him, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’

7 “But the tenant farmers said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ 8 So they grabbed him and murdered him and threw his body out of the vineyard.

9 “What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do?” Jesus asked. “I’ll tell you—he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others. 10 Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
11 This is the LORD’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.’” (Psalm 118: 22 – 23)

12 The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.”

As soon as Jesus said this – “A man planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower” – they knew what he was talking about. These Temple leaders knew the Old Testament, and here is what Isaiah 5: 1 – 7 says:

“Now I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a rich and fertile hill.
2 He plowed the land, cleared its stones,
and planted it with the best vines.
In the middle he built a watchtower
and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks.
Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes,
but the grapes that grew were bitter.

3 Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah,
you judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What more could I have done for my vineyard
that I have not already done?
When I expected sweet grapes,
why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes?
5 Now let me tell you
what I will do to my vineyard:
I will tear down its hedges
and let it be destroyed.
I will break down its walls
and let the animals trample it.
6 I will make it a wild place
where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed,
a place overgrown with briers and thorns.
I will command the clouds
to drop no rain on it.

7 The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
The people of Judah are his pleasant garden.
He expected a crop of justice,
but instead he found oppression.
He expected to find righteousness,
but instead he heard cries of violence.”

Isaiah was talking about Israel’s tendency to abandon God which we know is true today from the Old Testament history books. But as you read those verses, I’m sure you also realized it was a direct condemnation of the Temple leaders standing right in front of Jesus.

Jesus continues with his story of the several servants sent by the owner who were beaten or killed. That is a reference to the many prophets who came to Israel over several hundred years. But then the owner’s son came, and the vineyard workers decided to kill him too. Jesus refers to that son’s arrival with his quote from Psalm 118.

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
11 This is the LORD’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.’” (Psalm 118: 22 – 23)

The leaders understood the building requirements of that day to have a solid foundation. In Psalm 118, God says they rejected a certain stone as unsuitable for the foundation, but God decided that stone was the cornerstone – the key stone to the foundation of a building. Jesus was standing right in front of those men who were rejecting him, and in fact were trying to figure out a way to have him killed. I think they heard Jesus say Jesus was the cornerstone, and they were furious because they didn’t believe that was true.

The religious leaders totally understood that story. “The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers.” (v. 12) You would think after seeing all the miracles that Jesus did – even raising Lazarus from the dead in Bethany, just a few miles away from Jerusalem – that they would be seriously thinking that he might be who he said he was. You might have thought they might reconsider their actions when Jesus finished his story with God killing all the vineyard workers and finding new ones. Again, they have watched Jesus for 3 years, and they totally understood the story of the vineyard. Why would they have remained totally against Jesus? Why would they plan to kill him?

When I read these accounts in the Bible, I realize that we in 2020 are not unlike the Temple leaders. In 2020, we still have to face whether we accept who Jesus said he is, or we reject it. Despite the reliability of the Scriptures over thousands of years, and despite the amazing things done by Christ followers over the years, many still reject Jesus. Why? If we accept Jesus, his authority has a big claim on our lives. We are no longer in control; we no longer decide what is important or not. It’s actually a huge decision that changes our lives completely.

As we continue to look at chapter 12 tomorrow, Jesus will continue to tell us what it means to follow him – and it’s not an easy path.

One Reply to “June 29 – Do We Accept Jesus for Who He Is?”

  1. Audrey, what a challenge to consider the ways that I reject Christ’s leadership in my life. Are His ways perfect for me or not? I believe they are, yet, I negotiate and question and wrestle with God like Jacob before coming to a place of acceptance and trust. How good to know that Jacob came away injured but blessed. me, too!

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