Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Mark 12

1Then he began to speak to them in parables. ‘A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watch-tower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 2When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. 5Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” 7But those tenants said to one another, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” 8So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10Have you not read this scripture:
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;*
11this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes”?’

The set-up for this parable is an absentee landlord. At least from my point of view, absentee landlords are generally not the most favorable characters, or are usually not portrayed as such (there are likely exceptions). Since they don't know the community well, and often don't care about the community apart from the wealth they can glean from it, well...

But Jesus' parable make express comparison between God and an absentee landlord. What should we do with such a comparison? Well, for one, keep reading the parable. The tenants are about as unrealistic as the comparison is, for the tenants believe the completely unlikely (let's say impossible) possibility that if they kill the son, they will inherit the vineyard. What a ridiculous conjecture!

So, first God as absentee landlord, powerful enough to exact vengeance on the tenants, lenient enough to keep sending slaves, and finally a son. Second, tenants as complete fools, killing the son in anticipation of inheriting.

And then, the radical radicality beyond everything conceivable, God does not do what the parable teaches!!! Instead, the tenants who killed the son do inherit the vineyard. But not on their own terms. Only by becoming part of the life and death of this son. Only by becoming his friends, his brothers and sisters.

The parable functions as a kind of via negativa, at least to this reader.

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