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  • Writer's pictureCole Feix

Holy Tuesday: Jesus the Messenger

In the last week of his life, Jesus could have been doing many things. What would you do if you knew you only had a week to live? Of course, he spent time with the people he loved. He went to some of his favorite places. But more than anything else, he spent his last week teaching. The prevalent urgency in the last few days of Jesus’ life was to teach, re-emphasize, and highlight the things his disciples would need to know - all the way up to today - after his death, resurrection, and ascension.

In Mark, specifically, the last week of Jesus’ life comprises over a third of the Gospel. The same is true with John—8 of the 21 chapters cover Holy Week. On Monday, Jesus cursed a fig tree and cleansed the temple. In the evening, he went out of the city toward Bethany to spend the night. The next day, Holy Tuesday, Jesus returned to Jerusalem and began teaching in the temple courts. 

He told them a parable about a vineyard owner; “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son.

Finally, he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:1-9). 

This would have been a familiar story to the Jews standing in the temple courts. Isaiah told a similar version of the story seven hundred years before. In that version, God planted the vineyard, cleared out the stones, and planted a choice vine. But even though this vineyard was set up to yield wonderful grapes, it yielded “wild grapes,” literally “stink fruit.” As a consequence, God said he would remove the vineyard, break down the wall, and hold back the rain. As a result, the vineyard would be ruined! 

The word of judgment hung over Israel for another century as the prospect of repentance came and went with new kings, dashed hopes, and invading armies. Finally, the time had come. In 587 BC, a young Babylonian general turned world conquerer and king of the world laid siege to the city of Jerusalem and razed it to the ground. The temple was burned, the people were exiled, and the judgment of God was manifested to the world. 

But then they came back. By the order of Cyrus the Great, the Israelites came back to Jerusalem. Led by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, they rebuilt the temple, the walls, and the city of Jerusalem. For 400 years, through many tribulations and foreign interventions, the people of Israel lived in the Promised Land and worshipped in the temple. In the first century before Christ, Herod the Great renovated the temple, surpassing even the splendor of Solomon’s day. 

Jesus’s words on Holy Tuesday would have sounded like a nightmare from the past. Destroy the vineyard? Again? 

God was presenting them with a very different question: Will you reject another messenger? My very own son? As Jesus taught in the temple courts, he must have been thinking about Psalm 118—the great psalm of Passover. As he looked at the great stones of the temple - some as large as semi-trailers - he was lamenting that a crucial stone was missing. This was God’s house, and it had been turned into a den of thieves. His message was one of freedom and forgiveness, but it had been viewed as a challenge to the existing religious order. Therefore, in the final days of his life, Jesus issued a message of coming judgment.

These were God’s people, but when God sent his Son, they rejected and killed him. The very cornerstone that Psalm 118 describes, “the stone the builders rejected,” was in the temple that very moment, but soon he would be tried on false charges and sentenced to death. The Son of God would be sentenced to a slave’s death on a cross. 

Jesus’ message of judgment was not only directed at the people of Israel; the parable speaks to every person who would take what God has given and take the credit. The vineyard belongs to the Lord, not the servants. But they wanted to take the fruit, the property, and the business for themselves. It is a message against self-reliance of every kind.

So, we find ourselves in the crowd that Tuesday afternoon in Jerusalem, listening to a message of judgment. There are only two categories: those who take the gifts of God for themselves and those who surrender everything to God. There are those who cry, “Hosanna” and those who cry, “Crucify him!” There are some who chant for Barabbas and those who shout, “Give me Jesus!” Which group are we in?  

In the last week of Jesus’ life, he often spoke of judgment in these terms. It was time to be clear. Just as Joshua posed the question to the Israelites at Shechem, “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15), so now, Jesus offered life to all who would follow him, “And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:11-13). 

Dr. Cole Feix is the founder and president of So We Speak and the Senior Pastor of Carlton Landing Community Church in Oklahoma.


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