Barry Newman's Blog

December 15, 2012

The Parable of the Tenants (part III)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus,The Parable of the Tenants — barrynewman @ 12:18 pm

The circumstances leading to the telling of the parable

The historical and literary setting for the parable is much the same for all three Gospels.  In was uttered a few days before Jesus was killed. Each record the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem with the throwing of garments on the road along which he travelled, with many uttering the cry, “Blessed is he (Luke ‘the king’) who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Each refers to Jesus entering the temple driving out all those who sold there and his saying, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called (Luke: be) a house of prayer (Mark: for all the nations) but you have made it (Matthew: make it) a den of robbers.” Each record how the chief priests and scribes reacted to what he did there, with Mark and Luke writing how they sought to destroy him. Matthew and Mark refer to the cursing of the fig tree and how on the following day, the disciples observed the fulfilment of the curse.  All three Gospels relate how Jesus, being in the temple again, was questioned by the chief priests, the scribes and the elders as to under what authority he was operating and as to whom had given him such authority. Each mentions how Jesus in his counter-questioning of them concerning John’s baptism, said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”  Mark and Luke then recount Jesus telling the parable of the tenants.

Matthew, alone, before proceeding to that parable, records Jesus speaking of the parable of the two sons, with his exclaiming, at the end of the parable, to those who had questioned him about his authority, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and sinners will enter the kingdom of God before you.”

Bailey sees special significance in the actions of Jesus in the temple at this time. For example, in not allowing anyone to carry anything through the temple (Mark 11: 16), he believes that Jesus would have been in control of the 39 acres (14 hectares) of the temple complex, preventing among other things the afternoon sacrifice. “Jesus and his followers … had made their public statement.  The new messianic King had claimed his own and had signalled the obsolescence and destruction of the temple.”[1] Such a situation would have infuriated the religious hierarchy.  No wonder the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the city sought to destroy Jesus (Luke 19: 47) and why members of the Sanhedrin demanded Jesus to declare by what authority he had acted in the way he had done.

It will become important to reconsider these circumstances when we come to examine the significance and meaning of the parable later on.

[1] Bailey, op. cit., 411. In stating this he writes “as argued by N.T. Wright.”


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