Clear as onions

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Mark 12:1-12

12 Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

We cannot claim Jesus’ inheritance and live like He doesn’t exist. We kill Him over again and persecute His prophets if our behaviour is out of line with His standards.

“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

My wife, Lina, hates onions. Now I know a lot of people who prefer not to have too much onion, avoid raw onion or can only handle a little bit of it. But my wife hates them. She avoids them like the plague. It’s something she can’t explain. I try to encourage her by saying, “don’t worry you cant’ even taste them in there.” But as soon as she knows they’re there, that’s it. She has to pick them out.

Picture this. Early on in our relationship Lina accompanied me to Adelaide, to meet my parents. My mother had prepared a lovely vegetarian pasta meal with fresh salad on the side. As we caught up and joked, Lina sitting next to me was fairly quiet. I looked over and watched as she, face etched with concentration, picked through her pasta sauce to remove any skerrick of onion. Everyone else was close to finishing their meals but she was barely half way through. A bit of a silence fell as everyone turned to watch the extrication process. Eventually, Lina, aware of all the attention, looked up and said, “What? I don’t like onions!”

No matter how you dress them up, hide them, or prepare them, my wife hates onions. In this parable of Jesus, the meaning is pretty clear. The chief priests and elders know exactly what is meant and it’s strong and clearly distasteful. 

Jesus seems to be going on the attack after they refused to answer His question about authority in Mark 11. “Jesus then began to speak. . . “ It seems to be His message to them and to us. And like the onions, it can’t really be hidden, glossed over or snuck past. It’s pretty clear.

We are custodians of something we didn’t work for ourselves. Everything has been given—the authority and the power and the vines themselves were all granted by God. We cannot work for it or earn it. This means that a certain behaviour is required. We are to pay certain dues. We cannot claim Jesus’ inheritance and live like He doesn’t exist. We kill Him over again and persecute His prophets if our behaviour is out of line with His standards. There will be a judgement and our inheritance will be given to someone else if we don’t pull our weight.

This message was directly to the institutions in authority at the time. And they got it. They became angry and plotted to kill Jesus. Usually His parables were mysterious but this one was clearly against them. This time there was no hiding the onions in the sauce. They were enough to make the eyes water! But I believe it is not just for them, it is also for us.

We cannot live six days a week like the landlord is far away and then suddenly “be nice” at church. We can’t wrest control of everything, from the one who owns it all and created it all. We must give credit where it belongs and that is not with us. God requires us to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). Are you willing?