5 June
Mk 12:1-12

Jesus began to speak to the crowds in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.  What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes'?" When they realised that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd.  So they left him and went away.

The vine was a symbol of the people of Israel.  Israel was the vine, a special object of God's care. 
You brought a vine out of Egypt;
            to plant it you drove out the nations.
            Before it you cleared the ground;
            it took root and spread through the land.  (Ps 80: 9,10)
Jesus took up this image and made his own of it.  As always, there is a snag in the story.  This is what makes it a story about life rather than a piece of escapism.  Life may have brief passages of plain sailing, but the whole journey is not plain sailing.  Jesus echoes a passage in Isaiah.  “My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.  He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes” (5:1-2). 

In his treatment of this image Jesus identified himself not as the vine but as the son and heir to the vineyard.   This version has a special poignancy for readers of the gospel, who see it with hindsight.  Mark says, “They killed him and threw him out of the vineyard” (v. 8).  But Matthew reverses the order: “they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him” (21:39).  Likewise Luke 20:15. They must have been thinking with hindsight about the way Jesus actually died.  He was led out of Jerusalem and killed outside the city, not killed inside and then thrown out. 

How they see Jesus in every detail, and every detail in Jesus!



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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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