We have looked at a few parables in our studies of the Gospel of Mark and we have noted that parables are NOT allegories, so that a meaning must not be sought for every detail. Remember also, that they were intended to be heard and contained the one central thing to challenge the hearer- for example, the Prodigal son, the Good Samaritan have that about them. This tale is more of a hybrid between parable and allegory than those. Jesus spoke to the heart of His Jewish listeners because He used imagery which was part and parcel of Jewish life and thought.
It is clear here then that the owner of the vineyard is God and the vineyard is the people of Israel. We can confirm this in reading Isaiah 5 v 1-7, especially the last verse. The vineyard was provided with everything needed to make it successful. It had a wall to mark its boundaries and to keep out robbers and wild animals; it had a vat, a wine press, a tower which housed the wine and provided accommodation for the workers.
These workers stand for the rulers of Israel and the servants whom the owner sent to receive the owner's share symbolize the prophets. In the prophetic books the term 'servant of God' is used to describe them.
This whole set-up would have been common in Israel which experienced a lot of labour unrest and absentee landlords
So, this parable tells us things about God:
1. The generosity of God. The vineyard had been given every tool to make it work well. We generally experience the great generosity of God in our lives.
2. The trust of God. The owner leaves the workers to run the vineyard, God trusts us to give us the freedom to run life as we choose.
3. The patience of God. Many times the master gave the workers the chance to pay their debt.
4. The justice of God. God may bear disobedience and rebellion for a time, but ultimately His justice will prevail.
The parable tells us some things about Jesus:
1. That Jesus regarded Himself not as a servant- prophet- but as the son.
2. That Jesus knew He was going to die.
3. That He was certain of His ultimate triumph.
This parable also talks to us about human nature:
1. Some people still think that they can act against God and get away with it. But, just as with these workers, the day of reckoning is coming.
2. If people refuse to accept and use their privileges and responsibilities they pass on to someone else. The Jews will be rejected and the Gentiles will receive their privileges and responsibilities.