By this point in Jesus ministry the Jewish leaders feel so threatened and afraid of Him that they seem to be spending all their time watching Him, waiting for Him to slip up, and seeking out ways to entrap Him. They want Him out of their hair and seem to be willing to try just about anything they think they can get away with, without getting found out by the people.
In the first 8 verses of this chapter, the leaders go to Jesus and try to trap Him by asking where He gets His power. So Jesus responds with a question about John the Baptist’s power. They have to pull over to the side to confer. As they talk they realize that they are stuck so they go back to Him and say, we don’t know. I laughed out loud when I read Jesus response to their lame answer. “Okay, then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”
In verses 9-19 Jesus tells the people (along with the Jewish leaders) about a farmer who plants a vineyard and leases it to some farmers to manage while He is out of the country. Turns out that this story is calling out the Jewish leaders for rejecting God’s gift of Jesus, which made way for Gentiles and outcasts to be accepted into God’s Kingdom while Jews who refused Jesus would not be added.
The rest of the chapter is filled with discussions about paying taxes, Jewish law around marriage and who will be married to whom in heaven, and questions about how the Messiah can be David’s son. So much trickery, scheming, planning and trapping…why? The Jewish leaders were powerful. Their power and celebrity caused them to become filled with greed and pride. They craved attention, prominence, and more money. Jesus threatened the good things they had going in life and they weren’t about to lose their benefits by being replaced by Him.
Before I am tempted to rant about their stupidity and the lies they told themselves and each other to continue pursuing the end of Jesus, lets back up and look at that list again. They craved power, attention, prominence and more money. I’m trying to let those words soak into my mind. I’m trying to be honest with myself about how motivated I am by the prospect of more power, attention, prominence and money. Stings a little this time around, right? I think we have to be honest and realize that this list is our human nature. On some level every one of us, at one time or another (or every day) is tempted to wish and strive for at least one of these. So how do we rearrange our minds and fill our hearts with the desire to be different than our human nature? We have to look at what motivates Jesus. The answer is simple but more powerful and meaningful than I can express. It’s His love for us. He loves us so deeply that He desires relationship with each one of us. Since we are unable to be good enough to be in His perfect presents, He gave His life to pay the price for us missing the mark. By the gift of His life, we are washed clean and able to have relationship with God. This is a different kind of nature than I have. While I cannot fully understand this kind of love and I certainly am not capable of replicating it, He offers to change me. He is willing to help me be motivated by His love for me instead of my old desires.