On one occasion Jesus told a parable about a landowner who leased his vineyard to some vine growers and left on a long journey. Upon returning he sent some servants to collect his share of the profit. The tenants seized the servants, beat some and killed others. So the owner sent a larger group of servants and they were treated the same way. Finally he sent his only son and the tenants, thinking they would inherit the vineyard, killed the son. Jesus asked the religious leaders how they thought the owner would respond and they were sure that he would “put those scoundrels to a miserable death” (Matt. 21:41). Then as the conversation continued, the Pharisees “began to realize that he was talking about them.” Caught in their own trap, they didn’t follow through with their plan to take him in custody because they were afraid of the crowds who regarded Jesus as a prophet.
The Greek text says that Jesus was talking pros autous, which would normally be normally translated “to them” but the preposition is understood in a number of ways depending on context. Of the several possibilities it could mean “in reference to” or “against,“ either of which would offend the religious legalist. Jesus wanted the Pharisees to understand that their religious practices were morally unacceptable. Interestingly enough, he didn’t just tell them but led them down a path where they came to that conclusion themselves.
Here’s my question: What can we learn from Jesus’ decision to tell this parable even though he knew if would offend a portion of his audience? What does it imply as to how we are to live as he did? If Jesus is our mentor then we ought to be reflecting more and more those ways of thinking and acting that he displayed. That he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind is clear (obviously he did it in the right way.) That he was concerned to correct religious hypocrisy is also true. What else? Read the account in Mark 3:1-6 (or in Matthew 12 or Luke 6) and let me know what you think. Are we actually to be like Jesus when he exposes the unacceptable view of the religious leaders?