Watershed Formation Studies

Second Testament Story

First Testament story

What it meant to early church

What it means for us

Parable of the vineyard - A vineyard owner goes on a trip and leases the farm to tenant farmers. Three servants are sent to collect the profits and are each beaten up. The owner sends his son, hoping the tenant farmers will respect him because he's the heir, but they kill him. Story from the prophet Isaiah (don't know the specific reference) Israel is the vineyard; God is the owner. The religious leaders are the tenant farmers who are entrusted with the land, and the harvest that it is supposed to produce. God sends servants to call them back to covenant faithfulness, but the leaders reject them. These servants/prophets were beaten, abused and ignored. God then sends his Son Jesus and the listeners of the parable realize that Jesus will be killed by the leaders. They are horrified but Jesus says, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." The leaders knew Jesus told this story against them. Just like the tenant farmers, we have had many messengers sent to us, reminding us that the "fruit of our lives" is due. When we learn a lesson deeply, it is often easy to look back on our lives and see how God used the people and events of our lives to teach us all along, but because of our thick-headedness or our pride/stubbornness/blindness etc, we rejected the prophets sent to call us back to covenant faithfulness. For instance, I could have seen many years ago that my headaches had their origin in the prideful sin of trying to find love in "my own way" (as opposed to relying on God). Paul told me 18 years ago, I recall, that they weren't physical. But I persisted in finding my own solutions until I came to the end of my rope. Perhaps this is the only way we learn, but I could have saved myself a lot of grief by relying on God a lot more than I did.
Jesus tells them that the beautiful Temple which they admire will end up as a heap of rubble. The people are disconcertingly reminded of the earlier destruction of the temple, a time when life was disoriented and they were in exile. Jesus reminds them that even though the destruction in imminent, every detail of their lives is in God's care. "Nothing of you will be lost. Endurance - staying with it - that's what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won't be sorry; you'll be saved." What is false within us will eventually be destroyed, like the dross in the refiner's fire. But the gold of God-in-us will not be lost. All that is required of us is that we endure.
Jesus' disciples hear the Torah in Jesus' words. They are reminded of the old covenant which involved the death of a lamb so that death would pass over them. The Passover meal Jesus has with them before his death becomes a new covenant. He says this new covenant can deliver the people from the power of sin and death. The disciples did not understand at first, in fact, they just argued about who was the greatest. Jesus didn't try to convince them with words but with his actions. He got up and washed their feet, and in doing so, reminded everyone for all time what the heart of the new covenant is about. It's not about who is greatest, but who serves. God's power is not in violence coercion, but in sacrificial love. Our solutions, our ideas of what is the right way, are not the way. We are not in charge and we cannot save ourselves. As the scripture says, "Everything of God finds its proper place in Jesus."
Tearing of the veil before the holy of holies Everyone knew that the great veil guarded the Holy of Holies, preventing the "unclean" from entering the inner courts of the Temple. To hear that it was ripped in two disrupted everything they thought was true about God. Now the sick, the deformed, the ostracized foreigner, all are now invited to see and touch God made flesh. With Jesus' death, the way is now clear for all humanity to return from exile, and to come home to God. Like the prodigal son, and the angry elder brother, we now see that nothing can separate us from God's love. Our HPtFtU is not enough to keep us from the inner holy of holies. We are invited to keep covenant with Jesus, to love as we have been loved.
Jesus death brings the new exodus, deliverance from sin and death. In doing so, he cries to God, "Why have you forsaken me?" In hearing Jesus' cry from the cross, the people are reminded of the cry of exile, the cry that escapes us all, "living as we do, so far east of Eden". The people were not delivered from Rome's oppression. Rather, Jesus' kingdom of non-coercive love would be a kingdom that would grow up in the midst of the kingdoms of this world, like yeast in a batch of dough. Even while we think God has forsaken us and are living for ourselves, thinking rebellious thoughts, Christ still brings us over to God's side. We are mended despite ourselves.
The religious leaders ask a politically charged question of Jesus, hoping to trap him: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" When Jesus gives his answer, they are reminded of the second Commandment, "You shall have no graven images before me." The Temple leaders were breaking the second Commandment, the heart of the covenant the people had made with God, right there in the Temple. Jesus had to ask for a coin because he did not have one, and showed up the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. They were in the heart of the Temple, yet cared not an iota for what it really stood for. Jesus taught the rest of the people to beware of the religion scholars who love to show off outward riches, pray long public prayers and receive flattery. What really counts is a gift from the heart, no matter how small, like the widow's 2 coins. We often get busted just like the religious leaders, caught "in the act of what is in our pockets" so to speak. What are we truly concerned with — casting a positive image in the world, receiving flattery, appearing competent and together etc, or with humbly giving God what we have? All God really wants is our heart and our trust.

back to blog