Saturday, August 30, 2014

Blinded by sin

Jesus tells the chief priests, scribes, and elders in Jerusalem a parable about them. It's the story of the vineyard and the wicked tenants. The owner (God) of the vineyard (Israel) leaves some tenants (the temple authorities and religious leaders) to work the land and produce fruit. When he sends servants (prophets) to collect some of the fruit (justice and righteousness in the land), however, the tenants beat them and kill them. The ever-patient owner sends his son (Jesus Christ) to the tenants, believing that they will at least respect him. Instead, however, the tenants decide to kill him and thus to steal his inheritance.

What will the owner do in light of all this? Jesus tells us: He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others (Mark 12.9). In other words, Jesus is prophesying impending judgment upon the religious establishment because they will kill him; they will be destroyed, and the leadership of God's people will be given to others (namely, the apostles, bishops, priests, etc.).

It is fascinating and disturbing to read the response of the authorities: When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away (v. 12). It is fascinating because they hear the parable, they hear the threat of judgment upon their heads for the murder of God's Son, and yet they still want to do it all! Their sin, when confronted with the announcement of its own destruction, compels them headlong into their own imminent doom all the same.

There is a certain irrationality about sin. It makes the persons whom it oppresses suicidal -- if not by making them actually want to kill themselves, then at least by obliging them to act in ways that lead to their eventual demise. Its purpose -- if we may speak of sin having a purpose -- is clearly to destroy and nothing else. Of course, as human animals we have a natural instinct for self-preservation that oftentimes keeps us from doing the clearly suicidal thing. Sin's deceit operates by aiming for a destruction that is far off into the future, further than we can see or think about, while promising an enjoyable and pleasant life along the way. We are convinced that we are going alright, that things are good, because we are not plainly suffering or agonizing at the present moment. The suffering comes later, by the time when sin has been cemented in our bodies and our habits are nigh unchangeable.

The religious authorities were convinced by their sin that destroying Jesus would resolve their problems. They didn't see, even though it had been plainly spoken to them, the impending judgment to come upon them if they went through with it. Sure of themselves and the rightness of their cause, their own dogged hatred of Jesus blinded them them to the trap into which they were falling.