March 13, 2015 | By Sean Mathew
And he began to speak to them in parables. “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. Have you not read this Scripture:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
(Mark 12:1-12 ESV)
As I read over this passage afresh and anew, I found myself tempted to become appalled at the audacity, insensitivity, and downright evil ways of the vinedressers. How could do they do such a thing? How could they take for granted the owner of the vineyard and deny him his due fruit? How could they treat the owner’s servants the way they did? And how could they treat the owner’s son in such a shameful way? In other words, how could they perpetrate such suffering?
While I am tempted to start judging the vinedressers (who represent the scribes and chief priests of Israel), the Holy Spirit convicts me. While I do in fact often pay attention to the suffering and pain around me (it’s actually part of my profession), I often quickly forget these things and get self-absorbed in my own issues and my own small world.
After all, don’t I have my own suffering to deal with? The Bible has a lot to say about our own suffering and how God uses it. While there are many passages that I could pick, I would like to focus on just one today: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 which says, “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
When I was involved in men’s ministry several years ago, I chose this passage because it highlights how God can ultimately use our own pain and suffering to bring comfort to others. Several recent discussions remind me that suffering is very much around us both inside and outside the church. Is that okay with us? What if that person was you? Or a loved one? Wasn’t it Jesus that said, “0 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
What if we, as the church, chose to focus less on talking about the outrageous suffering around us and instead decided to start walking life out with those who are suffering around us? What if we allowed the One who suffered for us – the “Chief Cornerstone” – to comfort us through His Spirit, through his Word, and through the fellowship of the Body of Christ, so that we can be used to comfort others both inside and outside our church? After all, isn’t it true that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4)?
Lord Jesus Christ, we come to you sharing the suffering that you endured. Grant us patience,that as we live with pain, disappointment, and frustration, we may realize that suffering is a part of life, a part of life that you know intimately. Touch us in our time of trial, hold us tenderly in your loving arms, and let us know you care. Renew us in our spirits, even when our bodies are not being renewed, that we might be ever prepared to dwell in your eternal home, through our faith in you, Lord Jesus, who died and are alive for evermore. Amen.
[adapted from The Worship Sourcebook]
This is part of a series of Lent related blog posts written by various members of The Crossroad body and inspired by the free devotional guide Journey To The Cross. Closing Prayer added from The Worship Sourcebook.