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THE WICKED HUSBANDMEN.
MARK XII. 1–12.
“And he began to speak unto them by parables. A
certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the wine-fat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant ; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir ; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. And have ye not read this scripture, The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner : this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes ? And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people ; for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them : and they left him, and went their way.”
St. LUKE tells us that this Parable was delivered in the hearing of the Chief Priests and Scribes; and that they soon saw that it was spoken against them.
Here again we have a Vineyard, as we had in the last Parable. And the Owner of it is described as making a Hedge round it; and a Wine-fat, that is, a place in which the grapes are pressed; and also a Tower, for the purpose of keeping watch against intruders. Having planted it, and let it out to certain Husbandmen, he goes away for a time; and at the proper season he sends one of his servants to see that all is going on well, and to receive a portion of the grapes, by way of rent.
The first messenger who goes is illtreated, and returns empty-handed. Another
and another is sent; and each fares worse than the one who went before him. These wicked Husbandmen were not content with wronging their Landlord, but they also vented their rage upon his servants, beating some, and killing others.
At length the Master, having a favourite Son-an only Son—and one whom he greatly loved-determined to send him, saying, “ They will reverence my Son. However they may have treated others, it may be, they will respect him.” But no; for no sooner do they see him coming, than they exclaim, “ This is the heir : let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.” And forthwith they follow up their threat, and put him to death.
It is not difficult to see what our Lord meant by this Parable.
First, He meant to describe the wicked conduct of the Jews, especially as regards their treatment of Himself. And, no doubt, He intended also to shew us our sin, if we reject the message of salvation which He has sent us.
Let us see how exactly the conduct of the
Jews is here described. Their nation was like this Vineyard of which He speaks. The greatest pains had been taken with them. No people were so cared for, as they had been from the very first. And yet no people made so bad a return for all the mercy bestowed upon them.
When for instance they were suffering in Egypt, the Lord sent Moses to deliver them, to declare His will to them, and to be their guide to the Promised Land. But how unthankful were they for this great blessing ! They murmured against their Deliverer, and at times were almost disposed to destroy him. Then afterwards He sent Judges, from time to time, to rescue them from their enemies; and Prophets also, to tell them of their duty, and to call them back from their sinful ways. But most of these Messengers met with the same reception. Though they were God's servants, they were treated with scorn. They had “ trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea moreover of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword.” We read of Saul killing fourscore and five Priests in one day. We find the Prophet Elijah exclaiming, “ The children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars; and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away.” Jeremiah was cast into prison by order of King Zedekiah, for faithfully declaring the truth of God. Zechariah was stoned. And Isaiah is supposed to have been put to a cruel death by King Manasseh. You remember too our Lord's lamentation over the wicked inhabitants of Jerusalem "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the Prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto
Thus then the treatment of the servants, by those wicked Husbandmen in the Parable, exactly described the treatment of the Prophets and other Messengers of God, by the very Jews in whose hearing it was spoken.
But this was not all. Their sin was even graver and deeper than this. “ God, who at sundry times and in divers manners,” had spoken “in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,” was now speaking to them “by his Son.” And how had they received Him ? However they might have treated the inferior