Mark 12.1–12: A twist in the tale (9 February 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters. Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

Joseph's Brothers Go to Egypt to Buy Corn

1When Jacob learnt that there was corn in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why don't you do something? 2I hear that there is corn in Egypt; go there and buy some to keep us from starving to death.” 3So Joseph's ten half-brothers went to buy corn in Egypt, 4but Jacob did not send Joseph's full-brother Benjamin with them, because he was afraid that something might happen to him.

5The sons of Jacob came with others to buy corn, because there was famine in the land of Canaan. 6Joseph, as governor of the land of Egypt, was selling corn to people from all over the world. So Joseph's brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the ground. 7When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he acted as if he did not know them. He asked them harshly, “Where do you come from?”

“We have come from Canaan to buy food,” they answered.

8Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9He remembered the dreams he had dreamt about them and said, “You are spies; you have come to find out where our country is weak.”

10“No, sir,” they answered. “We have come as your slaves, to buy food. 11We are all brothers. We are not spies, sir, we are honest men.”

12Joseph said to them, “No! You have come to find out where our country is weak.”

13They said, “We were twelve brothers in all, sir, sons of the same man in the land of Canaan. One brother is dead, and the youngest is now with our father.”

14“It is just as I said,” Joseph answered. “You are spies. 15This is how you will be tested: I swear by the name of the king that you will never leave unless your youngest brother comes here. 16One of you must go and get him. The rest of you will be kept under guard until the truth of what you say can be tested. Otherwise, as sure as the king lives, you are spies.” 17Then he put them in prison for three days.

18On the third day Joseph said to them, “I am a God-fearing man, and I will spare your lives on one condition. 19To prove that you are honest, one of you will stay in the prison where you have been kept; the rest of you may go and take back to your starving families the corn that you have bought. 20Then you must bring your youngest brother to me. This will prove that you have been telling the truth, and I will not put you to death.”

They agreed to this 21and said to one another, “Yes, now we are suffering the consequences of what we did to our brother; we saw the great trouble he was in when he begged for help, but we would not listen. That is why we are in this trouble now.”

22Reuben said, “I told you not to harm the boy, but you wouldn't listen. And now we are being paid back for his death.” 23Joseph understood what they said, but they did not know it, because they had been speaking to him through an interpreter. 24Joseph left them and began to cry. When he was able to speak again, he came back, picked out Simeon, and had him tied up in front of them.

Joseph's Brothers Return to Canaan

25Joseph gave orders to fill his brothers' packs with corn, to put each man's money back in his sack, and to give them food for the journey. This was done. 26The brothers loaded their donkeys with the corn they had bought, and then they left. 27At the place where they spent the night, one of them opened his sack to feed his donkey and found his money at the top of the sack. 28“My money has been returned to me,” he called to his brothers. “Here it is in my sack!” Their hearts sank, and in fear they asked one another, “What has God done to us?”

29When they came to their father Jacob in Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them: 30“The governor of Egypt spoke harshly to us and accused us of spying against his country. 31‘We are not spies,’ we answered, ‘we are honest men. 32We were twelve brothers in all, sons of the same father. One brother is dead, and the youngest is still in Canaan with our father.’ 33The man answered, ‘This is how I will find out if you are honest men: one of you will stay with me; the rest will take corn for your starving families and leave. 34Bring your youngest brother to me. Then I will know that you are not spies, but honest men; I will give your brother back to you, and you can stay here and trade.’ ”

35Then when they emptied out their sacks, every one of them found his bag of money; and when they saw the money, they and their father Jacob were afraid. 36Their father said to them, “Do you want to make me lose all my children? Joseph is gone; Simeon is gone; and now you want to take away Benjamin. I am the one who suffers!”

37Reuben said to his father, “If I do not bring Benjamin back to you, you can kill my two sons. Put him in my care, and I will bring him back.”

38But Jacob said, “My son cannot go with you; his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. Something might happen to him on the way. I am an old man, and the sorrow you would cause me would kill me.”

The Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard

1Then Jesus spoke to them in parables: “Once there was a man who planted a vineyard, put a fence round it, dug a hole for the winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he let out the vineyard to tenants and left home on a journey. 2When the time came to gather the grapes, he sent a slave to the tenants to receive from them his share of the harvest. 3The tenants seized the slave, beat him, and sent him back without a thing. 4Then the owner sent another slave; the tenants beat him over the head and treated him shamefully. 5The owner sent another slave, and they killed him; and they treated many others the same way, beating some and killing others. 6The only one left to send was the man's own dear son. Last of all, then, he sent his son to the tenants. ‘I am sure they will respect my son,’ he said. 7But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the owner's son. Come on, let's kill him, and his property will be ours!’ 8So they seized the son and killed him and threw his body out of the vineyard.

9“What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do?” asked Jesus. “He will come and kill those tenants and hand the vineyard over to others. 10Surely you have read this scripture:

‘The stone which the builders rejected as worthless

turned out to be the most important of all.

11This was done by the Lord;

what a wonderful sight it is!’ ”

12The Jewish leaders tried to arrest Jesus, because they knew that he had told this parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.

The Question about Paying Taxes

13Some Pharisees and some members of Herod's party were sent to Jesus to trap him with questions. 14They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you tell the truth, without worrying about what people think. You pay no attention to anyone's status, but teach the truth about God's will for people. Tell us, is it against our Law to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor? Should we pay them or not?”

15But Jesus saw through their trick and answered, “Why are you trying to trap me? Bring a silver coin, and let me see it.”

16They brought him one, and he asked, “Whose face and name are these?”

“The Emperor's,” they answered.

17So Jesus said, “Well, then, pay the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay God what belongs to God.”

And they were amazed at Jesus.

The Question about Rising from Death

18Then some Sadducees, who say that people will not rise from death, came to Jesus and said, 19“Teacher, Moses wrote this law for us: ‘If a man dies and leaves a wife but no children, that man's brother must marry the widow so that they can have children who will be considered the dead man's children.’ 20Once there were seven brothers; the eldest got married and died without having children. 21Then the second one married the woman, and he also died without having children. The same thing happened to the third brother, 22and then to the rest: all seven brothers married the woman and died without having children. Last of all, the woman died. 23Now, when all the dead rise to life on the day of resurrection, whose wife will she be? All seven of them had married her.”

24Jesus answered them, “How wrong you are! And do you know why? It is because you don't know the Scriptures or God's power. 25For when the dead rise to life, they will be like the angels in heaven and will not marry. 26Now, as for the dead being raised: haven't you ever read in the Book of Moses the passage about the burning bush? There it is written that God said to Moses, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 27He is the God of the living, not of the dead. You are completely wrong!”

The Great Commandment

28A teacher of the Law was there who heard the discussion. He saw that Jesus had given the Sadducees a good answer, so he came to him with a question: “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

29Jesus replied, “The most important one is this: ‘Listen, Israel! The Lord our God is the only Lord. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second most important commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment more important than these two.”

32The teacher of the Law said to Jesus, “Well done, Teacher! It is true, as you say, that only the Lord is God and that there is no other god but he. 33And to love God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, is more important than to offer animals and other sacrifices to God.”

34Jesus noticed how wise his answer was, and so he told him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

After this nobody dared to ask Jesus any more questions.

The Question about the Messiah

35As Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he asked the question, “How can the teachers of the Law say that the Messiah will be the descendant of David? 36The Holy Spirit inspired David to say:

‘The Lord said to my Lord:

Sit here on my right

until I put your enemies under your feet.’

37David himself called him ‘Lord’; so how can the Messiah be David's descendant?”

Jesus Warns against the Teachers of the Law

A large crowd was listening to Jesus gladly. 38As he taught them, he said, “Watch out for the teachers of the Law, who like to walk around in their long robes and be greeted with respect in the market place, 39who choose the reserved seats in the synagogues and the best places at feasts. 40They take advantage of widows and rob them of their homes, and then make a show of saying long prayers. Their punishment will be all the worse!”

The Widow's Offering

41As Jesus sat near the temple treasury, he watched the people as they dropped in their money. Many rich men dropped in a lot of money; 42then a poor widow came along and dropped in two little copper coins, worth about a penny. 43He called his disciples together and said to them, “I tell you that this poor widow put more in the offering box than all the others. 44For the others put in what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, put in all she had — she gave all she had to live on.”

Bildad

1-2Are you finally through with your windy speech?

3God never twists justice;

he never fails to do what is right.

4Your children must have sinned against God,

and so he punished them as they deserved.

5But turn now and plead with Almighty God;

6if you are so honest and pure,

then God will come and help you

and restore your household as your reward.

7All the wealth you lost will be nothing

compared with what God will give you then.

 

8Look for a moment at ancient wisdom;

consider the truths our ancestors learnt.

9Our life is short, we know nothing at all;

we pass like shadows across the earth.

10But let the wise ancestors teach you;

listen to what they had to say:

 

11“Reeds can't grow where there is no water;

they are never found outside a swamp.

12If the water dries up, they are the first to wither,

while still too small to be cut and used.

13Godless men are like those reeds;

their hope is gone, once God is forgotten.

14They trust a thread — a spider's web.

15If they lean on a web, will it hold them up?

If they grab for a thread, will it help them stand?”

 

16The wicked sprout like weeds in the sun,

like weeds that spread all through the garden.

17Their roots wrap round the stones

and hold fast to every rock.

18But then pull them up —

no one will ever know they were there.

19Yes, that's all the joy wicked people have;

others now come and take their places.

 

20But God will never abandon the faithful

or ever give help to evil people.

21He will let you laugh and shout again,

22but he will bring disgrace on those who hate you,

and the homes of the wicked will vanish.

Life in God's Service

1So then, my brothers and sisters, because of God's great mercy to us I appeal to you: offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God — what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.

3And because of God's gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you. 4We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different functions. 5In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body. 6So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us. If our gift is to speak God's message, we should do it according to the faith that we have; 7if it is to serve, we should serve; if it is to teach, we should teach; 8if it is to encourage others, we should do so. Whoever shares with others should do it generously; whoever has authority should work hard; whoever shows kindness to others should do it cheerfully.

9Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10Love one another warmly as Christian brothers and sisters, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13Share your belongings with your needy fellow-Christians, and open your homes to strangers.

14Ask God to bless those who persecute you — yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.

17If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. 18Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. 19Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God's anger do it. For the scripture says, “I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord.” 20Instead, as the scripture says: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this you will make them burn with shame.” 21Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good.

Reflect

Daily Reflection: Mark 12.1–12

The Parable of the Tenants is, on the face of it, quite straightforward if you know your Bible reasonably well. The man who plants the vineyard and rents it out is God; the messengers he sends to collect the rent are the Old Testament prophets; the son whom the tenants kill is Jesus himself.

It does reflect the social situation of the time, when large landowners preferred a life of leisure lived Roman-style to working their land themselves. But it isn't just a bleak prophecy of death and judgement. '“What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do?” asked Jesus. “He will come and kill those tenants and hand the vineyard over to others”' (verse 9). That's the logical conclusion of the story. But then he adds a twist: ‘The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all' (verse 10). In other words, the conclusion of the story is not its end, because God will raise Jesus from the dead. Furthermore, the 'tenants' aren't destroyed. When Peter tells the crowd at Pentecost what they have done through their complicity in Christ's death, 'they were deeply troubled and said to Peter and the other apostles, “What shall we do, brothers?”' (2.27, GNB). According to the logic of the story, the answer should be, 'Nothing; it's too late.' But they are offered the chance of repentance and a new life.

So instead of this parable being about condemnation, it turns out to be about mercy. God is far more merciful than we imagine – and far more than we deserve.

Pray

Pray

God, help me to give you what's rightfully yours: to do justly, to love mercy and walk humbly with you. And thank you that when I fail that's not the end of the story, because you are merciful and forgiving.

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