Let us begin by seeing how well designed our entry is into chapter 12 of Mark and starting with verse 1. Then He began to speak to them in parables: A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.
From the Fig Tree which symbolizes national Israel with the religious leaders at its head, to the Vine Tree which symbolizes spiritual Israel, we see how both trees show us the sad state into which some have dragged the country down.
Again, the chapter opens in a grandiose way. With just the first words of this verse, they must have already known where Yeshua was heading with this parable because we are immediately faced with a quotation from another parable of a vineyard taken from the Book of Isaiah chapter 5. In Isaiah’s parable, it predicted the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem, this coming to pass as a result of the religious leadership. We find the very same situation in Mark 12.
Just following the parable, Isaiah also spoke of six woes, very severe in nature. These are also known as the oye ( ה֗וֹי) of judgments. Six times we have paragraphs beginning with “Woe unto them.” (Isa. 5:8, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22). So fierce are Isaiah 5’s woes against Israel, that one well known rabbi of the 1400’s, Abarbanel, disclaimed the prophetic nature of these oracles, and interpreted it as being a song instead. He tried to divert these strongly condemning words away from the religious leaders. But this is the very passage which Yeshua chose to connect with His own parable of the Vineyard.
The Nation Israel
Isaiah 5 helps us to more clearly understand Yeshua’s parable for in both Isaiah 5 and Mark 12 we see that the vineyard is the nation of Israel. That the vineyard represents Israel is not only seen in Isaiah but throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. In Psalm 80:8 we read that the LORD had brought a vine out of Egypt. Also, it was Solomon who spoke of Israel as God’s personal vineyard in Song of songs 8:11. So, while the vineyard is Israel, the winegrowers are the religious leaders. The owner of the vineyard is God Himself. This parable then represents the condemnation of man-made religion.
In this parable, we see the rejection, the brutal assaults and even murders the vinedressers had in store for the owner’s messengers. But this did not stop the Lord’s compassion and persistence. It did not provoke vengeance and anger on His part. Instead, the Lord sends His best. See what happens next. We read in vs. 6: “He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.” And this is the great news, God sent His Son to save the nation of Israel and the world.
See how He called Him; a beloved Son. This is the third time He is called beloved in Mark.
We saw this same word used at His Baptism (1:11), at the Transfiguration (9:7) and here, so that there is no mistaking His identity. This final messenger is Yeshua Himself. And consider this word for beloved, Agapetos. In Greek, it is rich in meaning. Agapetos comes from the word Agape, which describes the highest level of love, the love God has for us. This definition of agape though, is unique in how the Scriptures use it. In secular Greek, this word was not only used to describe one who is very special, but also, as an only one, unique individual.
And do you know into which Greek word the Septuagint translated the Hebrew word yachid, remembering that yachid is found in Genesis 22:2 when God told Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son Yachid (Agapetos), whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
See how this word Agapetos brought them right to Isaac who was a type of the Messiah when he was offered on the altar. Of course, it was the ram which eventually replaced Isaac. And let us remember that the Lord specifically told Abraham to go to the mountain of Moriah, that is Jerusalem, at the very same place where Yeshua was present at the time of Mark 12. All of these things must have played in the mind of those who heard this parable, for they were familiar with these words and passages.
These two words, Yachid and Agapetos, are also found, respectively in Zechariah 12:10 in the Hebrew Bible as well as the Septuagint’s translation of : “They will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only Son. Agapetos is the only Son who is Yeshua. So, Jesus is the beloved Son of God they were about to deliver to death.
And it is not only the Septuagint that translated this word as describing one and only son. We also find this in different writings in classical Greek (LSJ ). So clear is it that even the Greek speaking Jews and Gentiles present should have understood.
The Rule of Four
And notice, that in the parable, the beloved Son comes as the 4th attempt to call the people to repentance. Let’s remember the rule of 4 when it comes to judgment. In the Book of Amos, the Lord, repeats this phrase 8 times over: For three transgressions and for four…I will forgive.
He pronounced these words for every nation around Israel; Syria, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan and even for Israel herself. He forgives 3 times, but at the refusal of the fourth attempt, there is no other appeal made, for then the judgment comes.
Yeshua is the last of God’s attempt to forgive for after Him there is nothing else to stand on, no other way to get right with God. Today, Yeshua is right at the edge of the 4th offer, with open arms for all people to come to Him for forgiveness and redemption. The Bible is clear. There won’t be another chance after death. We are all going to die one day, and who knows if today is your day? Go then to Yeshua and accept Him as your personal Savior. Being the 4th and last one to rescue confirms that He is the Way the Truth and the Life and that in Him, and only Him we can salvation be found for all people.
The Unique Praise Offering
During the Mosaic Dispensation, when a tree was planted, the Law required that for 3 years, no one was allowed to eat from its fruits, not even on the 4th year, even though the fruits were very ripe. It was only to be eaten in the 5th year. Why is that?
This is what the Law prescribed in Leviticus 19:23–26 : When you enter the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. In the fifth year you are to eat of its fruit, that its yield may increase for you; I am the LORD your God.
While they could see the fruits in the third year, they were asked to wait another year when the fruits would be fully ripe, but not even then could they eat them. They were to take them and offer them to God at the Temple as an offering of praise.
In the Parable of the Vineyard from Mark 12, the offering of praise is the Beloved Son. He came as the 4th one, and He could be seen as an offering of praise given on the 4th year. Offering of praise is one word in the Hebrew: Hiloulim הִלּוּלִים. It comes from the word hallel, like the song they sang when Yeshua entered Jerusalem at the Triumphant Entry. And so, we have in the Law the true offering of the Lamb of God, the true Hallel, the Hiloul, the greatest and unique offering of praise.