Reading: Mark 12
Thoughts from Lent for Everyone by N.T. Wright
Mark Twain is reputed to have said that history never repeats itself, but that it often rhymes. In other words, although every event is unique, many events resemble others.
Jesus is still explaining why he has done what he has done in the Temple. The Temple will be destroyed, but his kingdom-work will go on and be vindicated by events. This time the echo is of Psalm 118:22-23, which speaks of a ‘stone’, lying perhaps in the builders’ yard, but of the wrong shape to fit anywhere in the wall. Only when the builders get to the very top, and look around for a stone which will do to finish off the top corner, will they realize that the stone they have ignored up to that point is the very one they now need. In the same way, Jesus is saying, he has come to Jerusalem with the message of God’s kingdom, but this message simply won’t fit into the ‘building’ of Judaism the way the present builders (the chief priests, Herod, the Pharisees) have been constructing it. They will realize too late that he belongs at the very top of the true building. But by then the vineyard owner will have come to ‘destroy those tenants, and give the vineyard to others’.
This story is as shocking today as it was to Jesus’ first hearers. That can’t be avoided. We are on a Lenten journey, after all, which we know will end at the foot of the cross; and the cross, as Paul said, is foolishness to pagans and a scandal to Jews. All those other sayings about selling everything to buy the one great pearl, or giving everything you’ve got to get the field with the buried treasure, come to mind. The story, in other words, ‘rhymes’ with so much else in Jesus’ teaching.
But what does it rhyme with in our own lives? Has God been sending one message after another to us, corporately or individually, which we’ve been steadfastly ignoring? Which prophetic words has our proud modern culture refused to hear, pouring scorn on the messengers and making fun of those who listen to them? Which voices have you done your best not to hear? Listen for the rhymes. When push comes to shove, are we going to celebrate Jesus’ enthronement at the top of the new ‘Temple’, or are we going to treat him as simply a misshapen piece of stone for which we can see no purpose?