GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 40
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2011|
|Learn how selfish greed can obscure the true identity and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, which can result in destruction both in this life and in the life to come for us.|
Selfish Greed Sovereign Authority
The title of the message this morning is Selfish Greed Obscures Sovereign Authority, Selfish Greed Obscures Sovereign Authority. I want to show you this morning how selfish greed can obscure the true identity and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, which can result in destruction both in this life and in the life to come for us. What we’re going to see this morning is something pretty wild. We’re going to see people rejecting and challenging the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. They move on to rejecting the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. But at the end, through the providence of God, we will see God’s authority vindicated once again.
Yesterday, just to paint the scene, there were thousands of people outside of Jerusalem. Jesus gets on a donkey, rides into town as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They’re crying out hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. The Son of David, it is he! They’re ascribing messianic titles to him. The garments are on the ground. The palm branches are being waved. Jesus walks past the people, the next day comes into the temple, walks in front of the religious leaders, flips over tables, turns over the money changers, doves flying everywhere, lambs running in the distance, people are screaming and squealing, the place is in disarray and then Jesus walks out.
So the natural question is: who do you think you are? I mean, what authority do you have to come into this place and to do that? I mean, that’s the natural question, think about it. That’s what the religious leaders were asking Jesus. I want you to imagine if I were to go to Rome to the Vatican and I would walk into the Vatican among all those hundreds and thousands of people and right in front of everybody I start flipping over tables, kicking things over, causing a disarray and then walking out. What would people say to me? Who do you think you are? What right do you have to do this? This is what the people were asking Jesus, as we’ll see this morning.
Now, before we dive into the text, I want to give you an interesting insight. Leading up to Passover on the tenth of Nisan—and that’s not an automobile, that’s March or April—the tenth of Nisan on the Jewish calendar, they were to set aside a lamb to be determined if it was without spot or blemish. On the tenth of Nisan. They were to examine the lamb for the next four days from the tenth to the fourteenth of Nisan to see if this lamb was perfect. They would slaughter the lamb on the fourteenth, on the eve before the fifteenth, and then on the fifteenth they would partake of the Passover.
They were to determine—the high priests, the religious leaders—to see if this lamb was without spot or blemish. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, who graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary, who’s a Jewish scholar, says this: As the Passover lamb who will be offered for the sins of Israel, Jesus Christ the Passover Lamb, will be determined and tested to see over the next three or four days if He is without spot or blemish. Get this: Jesus enters into Jerusalem and then from the tenth of Nisan to the fourteenth of Nisan, he will be tested by every religious leader in Israel. I’ll prove it to you.
Look at Mark 11 and watch what happens over the next two chapters. Mark 11:27 says the scribes, the elders and the high priests, the chief priests, test him. Go over to 12:13. Then the Pharisees and the Herodians came to test him. Move down to 12:18. The Sadducees came to test him. And if that wasn’t enough, 12:28, the scribes came to test him. Look at verse 34: “And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.”
Jesus consistently over the next few days fields questions, pronounces a final judgment. Next; fields questions, pronounces a final judgment. Next. And at the end of the day they say we have nothing more to criticize this man. We have no more questions to ask.
Mark 11 starts the interrogation. Let’s dive in. Verse 27: “And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.’ And they discussed it with one another, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say, “Why then did you not believe him?” But shall we say, “From man”?’—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’”
Now here’s the deal. The religious leaders are not happy with Jesus and so for the next few sections we see Jesus’ authority challenged. Look at it. Write the first one down. Jesus’ authority is challenged. And the first question is a question of confession. We want to know who you think you are. That’s what they say. What right do you have to come into this place and do what you did? Go to Luke 20. This instance is recorded in the synoptics, Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Luke 20:1. Luke provides a little insight into the drama, almost heightening the drama. “One day, as Jesus was [What? Look at it] teaching the people….” So he’s just not meandering through the temple. Jesus actually sets up shop and he’s teaching and explaining and preaching the gospel. That’s when the people come up to him. I don’t think they’re interested in finding out the true answer to Jesus’ ministry. Why? I don’t think they’re coming trying to figure out if Jesus really is the Son of God. Why? Because they had their chance over and over throughout Jesus’ ministry. They had every ample opportunity to determine his identity, his authority, his power, his origination, his source, by how are you doing these things. But they’re not interested in that. They’re only there to criticize and condemn. Why? Because false religion never seeks the truth of God. False religion never seeks after God.
These men were unbelieving hypocrites. They were spiritually hardened to the things of God and I’ll prove it to you. It didn’t just happen here. It actually happened in the beginning of the book of Mark. Go to Mark 3. Early on in Jesus’ ministry, the same scribes who are attacking him here attacked him in the past. And they came up to him in verse 22 and look what they say, “He is possessed by [Who?] Beelzebul….”
And Jesus responds in verse 28, “‘Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’—for they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’”
They have a question about the confession and the authority of Jesus Christ but then Jesus answers them with a conviction. Write it down. Question of confession, Jesus provides an answer of conviction. Now you’re saying, well, Jesus really didn’t provide an answer. He asked a question. Well, he always does that. See, a rabbinic way of teaching in the Old Testament, the rabbis would use questions to teach and in order to ask a question that caused you think on another level. And so Jesus answers the question with a question: “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.”
Now why does he use John? John is the greatest and last of all the prophets. He was the forerunner to the Lord Jesus Christ. From birth, he’s filled with the Holy Spirit. He comes out and begins preaching his ministry in the wilderness eating locust and wild honey. I believe John would have eaten sushi today. He was one of those guys. He was different. He wore different clothes. He acted in a different manner. He walked to a different beat of the drum and he preached a message of repentance and belief. Turn from your wicked ways. And then he sees the Lord Jesus Christ and points to him as the Messiah. Behold, the Lamb of God who [what?] takes away the sins of the world. The Lord Jesus Christ must increase so that I must decrease.
See, the problem is the people loved John. They knew John’s mission and message was authentic and the corrupt religious leaders were in a dilemma here. See, here’s the dilemma. If the religious leaders discount John and say he’s not of God, they are blaspheming the Lord and the people will riot right before their eyes. See, the leaders are too worried about what people think of them. They’re concerned about their reputation. They’re concerned what people would say about them so their pride gets in the way. These know-it-alls are dumfounded. And they say, We don’t know. And Jesus responds, Well, good. Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. Jesus knew these men were not seeking truth. See they didn’t come seeking truth. They came to challenge the Lord Jesus Christ and they have something to deal with way worse than just a challenge.
Notice, secondly, what happens in the text. Jesus’ authority is rejected. See, there’s a deeper issue here, deeper seated issue. They not only challenge Jesus’ authority, they reject the authority of Christ. Notice what happens in Mark 12. We move on. Jesus says, I’ll tell you a parable.
“A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard”
Now write down the first part of this parable. The purpose of God realized. The purpose of God realized. God is explaining his purpose for the vineyard and here’s the deal. God says I’ve planted a vineyard. Immediately, the audience would have understood that the vineyard was the universal symbol of Israel. You have to follow this to get the impact of the parable. The vineyard was the universal symbol to describe Israel. It’s said in many places but go to Isaiah 5:1. Let me show it to you there. “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard. [There it is.] My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.”
Well, Robby, that doesn’t say much. Look at verse 7: “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the [What?] house of Israel….” Pretty easy to understand. In the spot where Jesus is explaining this parable, there was a carved vine in the wall a hundred feet high. It would have heightened the drama to know that there were pieces of gold that aligned the branches. They were made of the finest gold. And if that wasn’t enough, there were precious jewels for the hanging grapes on this vine that was in the wall. It would have heightened the drama as the people would have seen this in the backdrop as Jesus is telling this parable. The vineyard was of great importance to the people of Israel.
But notice what happens with the vineyard. God is the one who gives the vineyard. God is the one who prepares the vineyard. In fact, the owner provides productivity because he does all the right things. This is what he does. He goes out into the field and he buys the land. Then he puts up a wall around the outside to keep intruders and wild animals from coming in. And if that wasn’t enough, he creates a vat. He makes a big stone area to crush the grapes and he builds this channel in order for the grape juice to go down into the container. And if that wasn’t enough, he puts this huge tower in the distance to provide protection for the land. Now, people would’ve understood that. He realized and the people realized that it was God who did this.
But there’s a twist in the story. The twist is the owner, after creating the vineyard, does the unthinkable. What does he do? He gives it away! That’s the twist. He prepares this great vineyard and he gives it away to tenants. Now, that was not uncommon. See, in the land of Israel, owners would provide the land to tenants with this stipulation, that when the fruit was harvested, I get a third or a half of the fruit. That was the stipulation. The hearers would have understood that completely.
Now let me give you the cast of characters for the parable. Write them down quickly. The first one is this: God is the owner of the vineyard; the house of Israel is the vineyard. Even further, the leaders of Israel are the tenants in the vineyard as we’ll see. The servants of the vineyard—the servants of the owner sent into the vineyard—were the prophets, John the Baptist being the last. And then, finally, the son of the owner is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice first of all, the purpose of God realized. God prepares the vineyard and He gives it away to the people. But notice secondly in the text, the patience of God revealed. The patience of God revealed. Verse 2: “When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed.”
See, hostility between farmers and tenants was not uncommon. In fact, even in the first century probably at the time of writing, the hearers would have known of actual instances happening in Jerusalem. So this was not uncommon. Jesus is not exaggerating this story. He’s telling the truth and teaching the truth. Bible teacher and commentator Warren Wiersbe says, if the owner wanted to retain legal rights to his property [don’t miss this] he had to receive produce from the tenants even if it was only some of the vegetables that grew between the rows of trees and the vines. This explains why the tenants refused to give the servants anything.
So here’s what he’s saying. In order for the owner to claim right to the land within five years of being away, in order for him to have right to the land, he had to receive fruit from the land, which explains why the tenants killed the servants. Then when the owner’s son came, the only heir, they thought they could have clear claim to the property if he was gone. That’s why they killed him, to gain ownership to the property. So the servants were the prophets. God sends His choicest men to Israel.
Let me give you a history of it. Elijah was driven into the darkness by King Ahab. Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks. Zechariah, the son of Jehoda, was stoned to death near the altar, 2 Chronicles. Isaiah, tradition says, for being the prophet of God, he was sawn in two. Many believe he was the one talked about in Hebrews 11. The last of all of them, John the Baptist, died by the sword.
But don’t miss what God is speaking here. What is on display in the text is the longsuffering of God, that God would do the inconceivable. God is patient with his people and even though the people refused the love of God, God continued to express his love by sending prophet after prophet after prophet. If you and I would have owned the land, we would have decimated it, maybe after one, maybe after two. But, oh the longsuffering and love of our Father, who continues to love the unlovable. How long can someone put up with rebelling? How long can someone put up with insults or denying? The love of God is unending.
Tortures, deaths, and beatings did not deter the landowner and even when he killed—they killed them all—God sends his best, his Son, to collect the rent. He gives them an opportunity to repent and receives the fruit of the harvest. What looks like foolishness on the part of the landowner is actually the greatest act of love and wisdom. Do you see it? Charles Spurgeon says it best, If you reject Him, He answers you with tears. If you wound Him, He bleeds out cleansing. If you kill Him, He dies to redeem. If you bury Him, He rises again to bring resurrection. Jesus is love made manifest.
Look at verse six. “He had still one other, a beloved son. [Only—that word beloved—only son.] Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.”
You would expect the story to say when the son gets on the scene, they welcome him with dignity. I mean, the hearers would have expected to say when the son comes on the scene, they welcome him with respect. They serve him greatly. That’s not what it says. When the son comes on the scene, these jealous, greedy tenants kill him, thinking he’s the only heir to the property. They’re thinking the landowner is dead, the son is coming to claim the land, so if we kill him it’s ours. So what do they do? They assassinate the son, they throw him out of the city. Now this is inconceivable. Don’t gloss over that. It was inconceivable not to bury someone in Israel. And what do they do? They not only don’t bury him, they throw him out like wasted garbage. The parable is also a prophecy, because in three days Jesus Christ would be drug before the religious authorities, crucified on the cross and killed.
What does this look like in your life? Listen to me, my friends. When you reject Jesus Christ as being one with the Father, you actually kill Christ. Did you catch that? Because you are rejecting the only means by which you have access to God. You’re rejecting the only sacrifice for your sins. There are some in here this morning who have rejected and denied the Lord Jesus Christ. Maybe you haven’t done it vocally, but you’ve done it with your actions. Maybe you’re like the Pharisees and the scribes. You’ve denied him with your attitude and your action. Maybe you’re like the Sadducees. You’ve denied him for money and possessions. Maybe you’re like the chief elders and the chief priests. You’ve denied him for power and prestige. My friends, how long has God been patient with you? How long has God been patient with us?
Not only do we see the purpose of God realized. Not only do we see the patience of God revealed. But, finally, we see the punishment of God received, the punishment of God received. Now this is an attack on the temple leadership of Jesus’ day. This is not an attack on the people of Israel as a nation as a whole and it says it right in the text. Look at verse 12: “And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people [Why?], for they perceived that he had told the parable [against who?] against them.”
Hey, you guys reckon he’s talking about us? You know, parables were mean to hide the truth of God, the kingdom of God, but this parable is so simplistic they understood exactly who Jesus was talking about.
Let me open the door for you of the corruption of the first century this morning, and I want to walk in to what was happening in Jesus’ day. Traditionally, the high priest was chosen by drawing lots among the Levites. They would draw lots. There would be a random picking of the Levites. What would happen is Herod the Great comes in to power and he begins this system of corruption. He goes to the priesthood and he says, if you stay on your side and I stay on my side, I will give you great benefit. But the stipulation is I choose the high priest and if I choose the high priest, I will give you a portion of the temple tithe and I will let you charge as much as you want for sacrifices and I’ll even let you provide the lambs for the sacrificial system. That’s all you have to do is work together with me. And so the priesthood became corrupt.
The priestly family in control in the first century was the family of Anis or Ananias. Anis was the godfather. It was similar to the mafia today, if you will. Anis controlled it all and he put his sons into power and even his son-in-law, Caiaphas, who we know from the Bible. It was a system of corruption and greed. What would happen is when people would come to buy sacrifices as we saw a week ago, they would have to buy from Anis’s flock. Oh, we have the choicest animals, but you have to buy from my flock. And then they would exchange currency and Anis would raise the taxes and the prices to whatever he wanted them to be. Inflated prices, dirty money, and stealing from people were regular practices in the temple of all places.
So what does God do with the tenants of the vineyard? He will come and destroy [look what the text says] destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. The judgment will come when the temple is utterly devastated and the transfer of privileges will be given to others temporarily.
Now, don’t miss this. He is not talking about taking Israel and giving it to the Gentile church. That’s not what he’s talking about at all. In fact, Romans 11:25 clarifies what is happening here. Listen to the word of God. Paul says, “I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” Why? Because the leaders would not repent. Instead, they’re bent on building their own kingdom. They’re bent on building their own personal pocketbooks. They have a personal cash cow going in the temple and they will not hesitate at destroying anyone or anything that gets in their way.
We see in the text Jesus’ authority was challenged. God’s authority was also rejected when he sent his servants and his own Son. But friends, look at the end of the story. God’s authority is also vindicated. God’s authority is vindicated. Look in Mark 12:10: “Have you not read this Scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
Jesus finishes by quoting Psalm 11:22-23, which was known to the Jewish people as a Messianic psalm. Mark—watch this for those keen Bible scholars in here who caught this—Mark, of all the synoptics, is the only one that adds the last line of verse 23 of Psalm 118. Did you catch it? Look what Marks says: “this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
You know what Mark’s saying here? This is a demonstration of the providential hand of God to use the rejected stone as a means for his own glory. The stone the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone. Christ is the keynote and the keystone in the eternal temple of God. The highest honor was going to be rejected and then now become exalted.
So what’s the walking point for us? Okay, Robby, I understand that. Here’s the walking point. The tenants lived in a self-centered world. It was all about them. They were bent on building their own kingdoms. They were bent on having it their own way and they rejected the reality that the vineyard was not theirs. Listen to me. They didn’t understand that what they were working in was not their own and they tried to grab a hold of it, they tried to control it, and they ultimately lost it.
You know, a lot of Christians are like that, right? We start to think that these things are ours, that it’s our vineyard. For some reason we think that we have the right to our own ministry. I have people say this all the time, this is my ministry. Let me tell you what God’s doing in my ministry. Is it? Is it your ministry or is it God’s? We think we have ownership here, ownership here as believers, that these things belong to us. Friends, listen to me. The sin of covetousness will come into people and make them think they should have things that are not theirs to begin with.
Let me ask you a question. Whose church is this? Is this my church? No. It’s God’s. Is this your church? No. It’s God’s. Let me ask you this. Is this your pulpit? Does anyone own this pulpit here, anyone? Does anyone own the piano? Does anyone own the chairs in the choir loft? Does anyone own this building? Does anyone own the BX, as great as it is? No. But pastor, you don’t understand. I give over 10 percent of my income to this church. So do I. So does she. So does he. Friends, when we start to realize that everything we have belongs to the Lord and he has entrusted us as tenants in the vineyard, it puts a different a different perspective on ministry, right? Because we don’t own any of this. It’s God’s.
So let me ask you how well are you tending to your vineyard? How well are you working in the vineyard that God has entrusted you with? Some he’s given one, some he’s given three or two. Some he’s given ten talents. And at the end of the day there will be a reckoning. And Jesus says if you reject the Son, the only means by which you have access to salvation, there will be a problem. See, what God is saying is this. He wants his people to live in a way that is welcoming, that is loving, that is praying, that is worshipping, that is honoring to the Lord Jesus Christ and if you live any other way than that, there will be judgment and destruction.
In Luke, he captures it best. Luke 20:18: “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” This is what Jesus is saying. Everyone who rejects the Son will be destroyed. See, the crowd was given a choice that day. Standing in the temple with the vine in the distance, the people of Israel as the vineyard in their mind, they were given the choice. Do you accept the authority and the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ or do you challenge it? Do you reject it? And unfortunately for them, guess what happened. They rejected it. It’s the only option you have. You either accept or your reject. Let me ask you, have you accepted that or have you rejected that?