On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. (Mark 12:4,5, NIV)
Jesus had been asked by the religious leaders, “What is the source of your authority?” He answered their question with one of His own: “John’s baptism — was it from heaven, or from men?” (11:30). When they said they did not know, He then began telling them a parable of a vineyard owner who leased his property to tenants.
When the time came to collect the first payment, the owner sent a servant, whom the tenants beat up and sent away empty handed (12:1-3).
If you were the owner, at that point what would you do?
For sure, I would not have sent another servant! I would have called the sheriff to come with armed deputies and evict the tenants off the land.
But this is a most unusual owner. After his first servant is treated violently and disgracefully, he sends a second one with no rifle, sword or truncheon demanding, “Pay up!” The second servant is treated worse than the first. He is struck on the head, and the treatment is so dishonorable that it’s not described in detail, summarized only by the word “shamefully.”
With the deplorable treatment given two successive servants, it’s time to call in the heavy artillery! What is this owner up to? He needs to send in the militia and evict these people. They are not to be fooled with. They’re evil and have forfeited possession of the property by refusing to pay rent.
In forbearance, the owner sends yet a third servant. This one is killed. Enough! Time to drop the bombs on these ungrateful and violent tenants!
The owner still does not give up though. He continues to send in succession other servants — an unspecified number — some of whom are roughed up badly and others killed.
The story Jesus tells is enough to get your blood boiling. The owner has every legal right to prosecute the lease holders to the full extent of the law. He has the right to go to court and secure a notice of eviction that carries with it the authority of law enforcement agencies to forcibly remove the tenants, indict and convict them for assault, battery and murder.
Amazingly, he does not!
Of course, Jesus is talking about the history of His own people that is stained with backsliding and the persecution of the prophets. Time after time God sent messengers like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others. On occasion there were momentary repentances that lasted as long as a generation or two. But, sooner or later, backsliding set in.
How did God deal with the rebellion and recalcitrance of His people? He sent His prophets with words and not weapons, with an invitation to repent that would result in mercy.
Jesus is telling us about the incredible patience and long-suffering of God; that instead of acting like a jilted lover who strikes back petulantly, the Lord keeps coming to us with roses and a promise that “all’s forgiven” if we will just give Him what is due — our love.
This is how God treats you. He does not compel you with force to serve Him. He is remarkably patient with us all, seeking always to win us with love.
A prayer of response
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark