“The owner of the vineyard had one person left to send. It was his son, and he loved him. He sent him last of all. He said, ‘They will respect my son.’ So the renters took him and killed him. They threw him out of the vineyard.”
Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest Jesus. They knew he had told the story against them.
Mark 12: 6, 8, 12. NIRV
Throughout his ministry Jesus pointed out that the religious leaders of Israel had abandoned the spirit of the law and had embraced a damaging, legalistic application of the Law of Moses. Jesus didn’t mince his words when he spoke out about what he thought of them. He said that they were hypocrites, whitewashed tombs that looked good on the outside but were full of stinking sin inside. He said that they were blind guides who concerned themselves with the minutia of the law but ignored the really important, moral aspects of the law. He accused them of crushing other people with unbearable religious demands but never lifting a finger to help them carry their burdens.
Why was Jesus so hard on these leaders?
Consider that, although Jesus was on Earth as a true human being, he is also God. If anyone had a right to assess and judge the behaviour of these religious leaders, it was the God they purported to serve. God had given the Law of Moses as a way in which the Israelites could live happily with each other, and with God. Since God had made His covenant with Abraham, it was His intention that through Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites, all nations of Earth would be blessed. They would show the world what it was like to live in harmony with each other and God.
Israel’s failure to serve both obediently and lovingly had far-reaching implications for God’s plan to reach the whole world and invoked the anger and judgment of God.
When Jesus announced his mission statement in Luke 4:18-20 and gave his first sermon in Matthew 5:3-10 his focus couldn’t have been more different than that of the religious leaders. He announced that he was coming to set humans free from the oppression of sin, and he then proceeded to show unequivocally that he was sent with the authority of Heaven through the miracles, signs and wonders that he performed. In doing so he continuously offended the religious leaders to the point that they were actively plotting to kill him.
Today would be a good day to examine yourself as you continue to walk with Jesus to the cross – and beyond. Ask yourself: have I become hypocritical, religious and cold? Or do I still embrace and live out Jesus’ mission – to set the captives free?
Dear God, draw me closer to You so that I can embrace and live the words embodied by Jesus' mission statement.
For the family
Explain the devotion in an age-appropriate way, then watch this video of Jesus and the story of the two sons