But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. Mark 12:3-7 (Read earlier verses if you need context.)
The movie Captive opened this past weekend, telling the real life story of Ashley Smith, a drug addict whose life turned around when she was held hostage by escaped convict and murderer Brian Nichols.
I watched a recent interview Katie Couric did with Ashley Smith. It was truly amazing to hear Smith tell how she managed to say “no” to doing meth on the night she was held hostage, when she had not been able to resist it before.
At this time her life was in ruins. She had lost custody of her daughter. It was only when she thought her life was over that she had the motivation to, as she put it, make the right choice one time before she died.
And once she made that choice, God began to work, and her life began to change. She was able to build a rapport with Nichols. She got away from him. She never did drugs again. She got married and had a family.
God is good at orchestrating things so we have the motivation to finally make that one good choice we haven’t been able to make.
I’ve been listening to Exodus lately. There are some parallels here. God brought Pharoh to the point where he was finally motivated to do what God asked.
In the same way, the parable above speaks of how God would bring the Israelites to the point where they would be finally motivated to do the right thing.
Mark 12 goes on to read:
What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’
The disaster of killing the Messiah would turn into something marvelous.
As Peter preached in Acts 4:
“Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
It’s amazing. In the most unlikely of ways, SALVATION came to Israel, to the Gentiles, to US.
The crucifixion brings us all to the point of making of one right choice: the decision to give our life fully to Christ in faith.
When we realize that we personally are responsible for the death of God’s own son, and that God freely sent His son to be abandoned, abused, spit on, tortured, killed, when all the while we were stubbornly rejecting Him over and over, it breaks our heart, it drives us to our knees in awe. It’s the only thing that can motivate us to turn our life around.
It’s hard to think we are personally responsible, because we weren’t living back then. But our willful wrongdoing ensured that Christ had to die even if everyone else was perfect.
The picture of grace here is astounding. How could God have reached out to the Israelites, over and over again, in the face of their rejection? “He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.”
How could God reach out to us, time after time, when we turn away and run after what WE want?
I am so inspired, so filled up with the wonder of this.
And I remember times God has brought me to the point of change. When I was in my 20’s my marriage had problems and I was unhappy. I dedicated myself more wholly to God and I have been deeply joyful ever since. Later, Ken and I were very discouraged because three couples in our family group got divorced. We moved to Auburn, rededicated our lives to God, and grew in great ways. Recently, it’s been hard because of my friend’s cancer, and setbacks in the church. We decided to become more mission focused. We’ve been invigorated.
It’s the same for all of us. Here are a few lessons to take away from this:
- What seems like a crisis can be a turning point.
- Sometimes experiencing crisis is the only way to bring us to character change.
- God works through processes over time to bring us to the point of change.
- Sometimes we need to see the consequences of our stubborn hard heart, of doing it our way, in order to change.
- When we make that one good choice, it can alter our whole future.
- God, in His mind boggling grace, gives us many more chances than we deserve to make the right choice.
Love so amazing, so divine. Demands my soul, my heart, my all.