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Mark 12:1-44

“Turn to Mark chapter 12. Last few weeks as we’ve been studying in Mark, we’ve seen this true state of the House of Israel [really the House of Judah, the real House of Israel having been deported to the shores of the Caspian Sea by Assyria in 721 B.C. and never returned]. We saw last week, Jesus cursed this fig tree that was a great picture of the state of the nation of Israel, the House of Israel [and at this point, Judah represented both the House of Israel and Judah, as Judah was the last remaining representative of the 12-tribe nation of Israel to actually be left in the land]. God desired to see some fruit but instead, as Jesus was looking for figs, the tree didn’t have figs, there was no fruit. And in turn Jesus cursed the fig tree, the tree withered up. And that’s not far from the time that we read here in Mark 12, where God is going to curse the nation of Israel. And last week we talked too from John 15 that like that, Jesus says to us in John 15, he says to us, you know, ‘I desire to see fruit in your lives…’ And if there’s not fruit, then we’re in a dangerous position. We saw that in John 15, much like this fig tree, much like the House of Israel. And the fruit, of course, that he wants to see is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of thanksgiving and praise, the fruit of the gospel. But I think, if I was to summarize that in one main word, it would be “love”. And we do talk about that at times. The main thing that God desires to see in my life and in your life is love. That is the primary thing. And we’re gonna look at that and consider that a little bit this morning. Yesterday we had this renewal of vows, a little wedding sort of ceremony. I don’t know what you’d call it technically, in the church, but it was a wedding. It was fun. And, two people decided to renew their vows, a husband and wife. And other folks joined in with that too. God desires a love relationship with us, and that we would express that love in our life, that our heart would beat for him. He’s not so interested in the other things, the other duties and performances that we have. But he really wants our heart, he wants to walk in the garden with us, wants us to enjoy him, spend time with him-just to walk hand in hand with him and fellowship with him. Maybe today you’re at a place where you need to renew your vows to the Lord, you know. You’ve been a Christian awhile, and like the Church at Ephesus there’s not a lot of flame in the fire, you know. So maybe this morning would be a good time to renew those vows to the Lord. It’s about love, you know a wedding is always a great opportunity to speak about love. What God desires with us is intimacy and an intimate relationship. Maybe you’re here and you’ve never received Christ into your life and maybe today should be sort of a wedding where you express and you choose the Lord this morning. Let’s say a word of prayer, and then we’re gonna look at Mark chapter 12. ‘Thank you, Lord, that we can once again come together and spend time with you as a body. I would imagine though for some of us it’s been a busy week and maybe we haven’t spent a lot of time with you. And I would imagine that that does bother you, because you want to walk with us, you want to just spend time with us. You love us. You want people that love you. And I pray Lord that you speak to us more about that this morning as we’re together, as we spend time with you. That we would realize the love you have for us, but also realize how you desire us to love you. And I pray we would, all the more. But thank you for this time, in Jesus name, Amen.’

Let’s read verse 1 of chapter 12. “Then he began to speak to them in parables, ‘A man planted a vineyard and planted a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine-vat and built a tower, and he leased it to vine-dressers and went into a far country. Now at vintage time he sent a servant to the vine-dressers that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vine-dressers. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another servant and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head and sent him away shamefully treated. And again he sent another and him they killed, and many others, beating some and killing some. Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, They will respect my son. But those vine-dressers said among themselves, This is the heir, come let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard. Therefore, what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-dressers and give the vineyard to others. Have you not even read this Scripture, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.’ And they sought to lay hands on him, but feared the multitude for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them, so they left him and went away” (Mark 12:1-12). This parable, to the listeners here before Jesus, especially the religious leaders, they tune into what he’s saying here, it’s pretty clear. If you have just a basic understanding of the Old Testament, it’s clear what he’s saying to the people of Israel. And he’s given us just a picture of their state again and of the history, their history. In this parable, Jesus is referring to this man that’s planted this vineyard, and that man is God [the Father], that man refers to God. God has planted this vineyard. The vineyard is the House of God, is the House of Israel [at this time the literal House of Judah is all that remains], the nation of Israel, his people. Psalm 80, we read the Psalmist says that very fact. He says, “You have brought a vine out of Egypt, you have cast out nations and planted it. You prepared room for it and caused it to take deep root and if filled the land. The hills were covered with its shadow and the mighty cedars with its boughs. She sent out her boughs to the sea and her branches to the river.” He said, you took this vine, a wild vine in Egypt, you took it out and planted it in the Promised Land, and it just prospered and became a nice vineyard that went from the river to the sea, and you did this Lord. And the vine very clearly in Scripture, this vineyard is this House, the people of Israel. The vine-dressers are those that have stewardship there, and that’s the religious leaders. They have the Law, the Prophets, that specifically. And they were to take care of the House of Israel, minister to the House of Israel. The servants, here, are God’s Prophets, typically. Those that he sent to warn over and over the people of Israel. But they’re off track, they’re missing the point. Eventually, as you read there, they treated the Prophets poorly, he sent his one and only Son. That’s what he’s doing at this very moment as you read. Jesus is the Son, standing before them. And he says, he prophetically says, you know, they took the son, threw him out and killed him, and that’s what they’re gonna do in just a few days. Then Jesus says prophetically after that, 'What’s the owner of the vineyard gonna do? God? He’s gonna destroy the vineyard, and of course that happens just thirty or forty years after this time [69-70 A.D.]. God sent many a prophet to the nation of Israel. Many times he sent folks to them to tell them what it was all about, to warn them, say, ‘Hey man, just love God with your heart, man. Just walk with him, just adore him, just praise him.’ Repeatedly he would send people, you know, you read the book of Hosea, a beautiful book. But he would even try to woo them, just woo them back to him, that they would have a heart for him, many times. And yet they would abuse these prophets, over and over, and eventually they rejected his son and killed his son. And soon, as we read, God is gonna deal with the vineyard as a whole and the vine-dressers. He’s gonna take the vineyard and give it to another. Of course the Church ages starts at this point, and now God has this very special relationship with us as the Church-the nation of Israel was on hold for awhile in a sense, you could say [70 A.D. to 1948 to be specific-and won’t totally be restored till after the return of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth]. And God still has a work to do with them. But this is similar to prophecies we read in the Old Testament in other places such as Isaiah. In Isaiah we read, “And now, please let me (this is God speaking) tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will take away its hedge, it shall be burned, and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste and it shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briars and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it. For the vineyard of the Lord is the House of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold oppression, for righteousness but behold a cry of help (Isaiah 5:1-7). [Look up this Scripture in the NIV and read it. It is quite revealing, he’s talking about Judah, verses 3-4.] He came looking for fruit but instead he found a very different state. And in Isaiah’s case God spoke of the exile when he was gonna really lay waste to the vineyard. Well here you see a similar thing. God was so patient. You know, I read this, I was thinking, you know, just how I could encourage you about God. As I read this, you just can’t help but consider the love of God again. You read through the Scriptures over and over you can just see God’s love. But here what is the thing that you see is that God’s love is longsuffering. My goodness, his love is so longsuffering. People in Israel, he was just so patient with them, just waiting and waiting, sending all these representatives, trying to get them back on course, over and over again, so longsuffering with them. The Psalmist cried in Psalm 86, he said, “But you O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in mercy and truth.” Paul said a similar thing to the church of Rome, he says, “Now may the God of patience and comfort…” His love is so patient, is so longsuffering with you and I, so longsuffering. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us the same thing about the love of God, that it’s longsuffering, a love of tremendous patience. I tell you, I’m so thankful for that. As I consider my life, that God has been so longsuffering with me. Some of the roads I’ve been down and some of the things that I have done, I’m glad I don’t serve Buddha, have to worry about going back later, as a bug or something, because of some silly thing I did. Or even Allah, it seems Allah is like a bug-zapper, he just zaps you as soon as you get out of line, you know. I serve Jehovah, a God that’s longsuffering and patient, so patient to me. If you’re struggling, maybe today, you’ve been struggling with this or that sin in your life, be encouraged that God is longsuffering. He is patient with you--trying to work through something in your life. Maybe you haven’t got there yet. God will take his time, man, he is patient, longsuffering, waiting, waiting for you and trying to help you along to just get things right. But you know I think sometimes folks misunderstand the longsuffering of God and they start to think that maybe God approves of certain lifestyles or decisions that I [we] have made or behaviors that I [we] have. Sometimes we go down roads of certain lifestyles or decisions that we have or behaviors that we have, sometimes we go down roads and God is longsuffering and we think, ‘Well, he’s just approving of what I’m doing.’ Hasn’t done anything necessarily yet, and yet I look in my life and I still think, ‘I still see some blessing in my life, I must be doing OK.’ But yet you know from the Word of God, you’re clearly outside what he’s said, and maybe you’re trying to rationalize in another way, but consider his longsuffering love. But understand that it is not necessarily that he approves when you get outside his Word. That’s for sure, he doesn’t approve of that at all. Don’t confuse the two. If we do not repent, if we get on a certain road and we’re saying ‘Alright, it’s OK, I’ve been doing this for awhile. No problem. Nothing’s happened yet.’ If you don’t get off of that road, just follow the parable through. Eventually, eventually, you do break that last straw. God’s love is righteous. And he waits, and he waits just as you do sometimes with your children, if you’re parents and they’re out of line, you don’t necessarily walk right up and smack ‘em. You know, you try to sometimes, but you try to wait awhile, work with them, try to be longsuffering with them, to a degree anyway. But eventually they break that last straw. Now there’s consequences, so today if you are outside of God’s desires, his will for your life, and you know that-maybe you think it’s been fine-the day will come. The day will come, God will chastise you, if you’re a child of God. If you’re not a child of God then you will someday certainly see judgment. We considered this a little bit on the “men’s breakfast” on Saturday. You know the Israelites, God did so much for them, all those miracles, all those miracles, just providing for them. Whenever he did something good they were happy. But if it was ever contrary to what they desired they were very displeased, always refusing to love him, to trust him. Just wanting someone to take care of them rather than, you know, a real Lord, a God to love. They were very self-centered, they complained a ton, belly-ached a ton. And we looked on Saturday morning that eventually they broke the last straw. They just keep complaining and complaining. Then in the wilderness, God sends the 12 spies. Ten of them come back and say ‘Hey, we can’t get this Promised Land. No way, these guys are big over there.’ Two of them come back, Joshua and Caleb, and say, ‘Hey, we can do it with the Lord.’ But then, of course, the ten were influential, and the whole community in Israel were like, ‘Awe, let’s go back to Egypt’, and again they got into that mode, and this time they broke the last straw. And God said to them, ‘Alright, I heard what you said, you don’t want to go into the Promised Land, you’re not going to the Promised Land. That’s what you said, that’s what you want, that’s what you get this time. I’ve worked with you, I’ve been patient, I’ve been moving you along. You’ve complained, I kept moving you along. But today is it. You’ve got to that point. For every day the spies were in the Promised Land, you’re gonna spend a year in the wilderness. And you’re gonna die in the wilderness.’ He said, ‘The only two that are gonna make it to the Promised Land is Joshua and Caleb. And your kids, you said that your kids were going to get destroyed in this Promised Land. No they’re gonna make it, and they’re gonna prosper there.’ But eventually, eventually, we get to that point, if we don’t repent, we get to that point and break that last straw because God is a righteous God. He’s so longsuffering, so patient for our own good, that he’s gonna [eventually] deal with it. And how he often will punish us is by giving us just what we ask for, giving us just what we’re seeking after. He’ll give it to us, “Alright, you want it? You got it man.’ ‘You want that to be your lord? Want that to consume your time? You can have it? It’s yours, keep it. You really don’t want me, I won’t bother you too much.’ Eventually he gives us what we ask for. But we don’t understand today, the reality, the full impact of what that means. The people of Israel, once they started to clue in, said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not good.’ Well then they tried to get to the Promised Land on their own, and that didn’t work out very well either. [Lesson:] You can’t just grab hold of what you want, you’ve got to let God give it to you. And of course, he wants to give you so much. If we would just love him and receive what he wants to give us. Thank God, that he is so, so longsuffering towards us. But may it not give us a false sense of security. Instead may it just cause a love to well up in our hearts for him. And that love will be expressed ultimately in obedience. I pray that we are like Joshua and Caleb. “But my servant Caleb” God said “because he has a different Spirit in him and has followed me fully, I will bring him into the land where you went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” He had a different spirit, a different heart, God said. ‘He obeyed me fully, so he’s gonna get there.’ Didn’t get into this rut of complaining and belly-aching. You know, what is the Promised Land today? All the more if we just realized what it was for you and I. Paul says in Colossians ‘It’s attaining to all the riches and full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ He says the Promised Land for you and I today is just growing and understanding what we have in Christ, and then appreciating that and then experiencing that, because he is everything. That’s the Promised Land. God is a God of love and he wants us to love him, and as we love him we experience all that we could ever ask for. Because in loving him and spending time with him and worshipping him is what it’s all about. He’s got all the answers. As Colossians says, he’s got all the treasures. So when we go on these other roads like the people of Israel in Hosea, we go on these other roads, man, these other idols, they just don’t quite do much for us, but with him it’s true. He’s truly all we need. If you’re here today and you’ve not received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior I’d encourage you to consider this text today. No matter where you’ve been, no matter how rebellious you think you’ve been, maybe undeserving, God is a God of longsuffering, God is patient. If the people of Israel would have just repented, things would have been all set. So today if you are not a Christian and you’ve decided to turn to God, well, he’s gonna receive you, that’s for sure. No matter what road you’ve been on, just look at how longsuffering he is. If you chose not to, consider the text too, that God is a God of righteous love, and he’ll bring judgment. But boy is he longsuffering. You know, we read in Peter, “But consider that the longsuffering of the Lord is salvation.” Maybe you’re here today as a non-Christian, haven’t received Christ as your Lord and you’ve just been down all sorts of roads. God has just been patient, just waiting. And Paul said the same thing. He said, “However, for this reason I obtain mercy that in me first Christ Jesus might show all longsuffering as a pattern for those who are going to believe on him for everlasting.” And God of course, Paul was really against Jesus there initially, wanted to kill Christians. You know as I was reading this, I was thinking some of these guys that were confronting Jesus as we go through Mark 12, and we know after the cross, that a decent number of Pharisees and religious leaders do actually come to Christ. Probably a small percentage, but a good number of them, because you read about them, later in the epistles and things, these guys that come to Christ. I was just wondering, you know, some of these guys standing before Jesus, you know, confronting him and trying to trap him, not realizing at that time what they were doing. And then later, coming to Christ, some of those that did, and thinking back to those times where they actually stood physically with Jesus and were trying to trap him in his words and just against him. I just-boy God is a God of tremendous love and compassion and mercy. So wherever you are today, consider that and rejoice in that. And I guess lastly before we move on, if God’s love is longsuffering-our love to one another should be longsuffering. That says it’s a forgiving love, a love that continues to forgive and forget, longsuffering. You know, you slap me, I forgive you and I come back, and you slap me and I forgive you and I come back, you slap me and I forgive you and come back, and that’s what it is, it’s longsuffering, you know. That’s the love of God. That’s the way he is with you and I, 1 Corinthians 13, that’s the love that we should have one to another, a love that’s longsuffering. “Enduring all things”-1 Corinthians 13-“Bearing all things.” But also we’re to show this love to those in the world. “But you have fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love [agape love], patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came to me at Antioch…But out of them all the Lord delivered me…Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:10-12). For he says ‘I’ve been longsuffering, I was persecuted and persecuted, they even stoned me and I got back up and went right back into the city, began to preach and love ‘em.’ So you and I, Christians here this morning, are to be longsuffering with one another, but also with those in the world. And persecution is a promise, to get poked and slapped, is a promise. But we’re to be longsuffering, that’s our response.

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