Mark 12:3

but they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.


what do we want
the result of our labor
when do we want it
yesterday

to be robbed before
putting enough away
to last until next season
unacceptable

we turn you away
as though you had visited
a barren fig tree or vine
you never knew what hit you

there is no time of day
much less quarter given
for playing proprietary games
by an absent partner


The “servant” is categorized as a δοῦλος (doulos, slave). These servants have some characteristics of a διάκονος or deacon—remember Peter’s mother-in-law. The doulos have even more of the characteristics of a slave totally at the discretion and direction of a master.

One way of distinguishing the differences is noted by LaVerdiere173:

Being diakonos describes the servant’s relationship to those who are served. Being doulos describes the servant’s relationship to the kurios in whose name he serves. Translating doulos as “slave” would consequently be more accurate, except for the term’s historical associations with the horrors of the African slave trade.

If it is known that the landowner is away, their slave is of no account and under the old dictum of those-that-have-will-receive-more, a sound dismissal of said slave promises more reward than loss.

As a result this slave who had come with hands ready to be filled went away “holding his own hands” [Bratcher365].

A beating and a dismissal is also a common way the prophets have been treated down through the ages. This also comes with a warning that increasing levels of violent response will be forthcoming should they try this again.

Both Swanson238–241 and Wright158–160 see this parable as one that flows opposite the parable of the seed in Chapter 4:1–9. “The Sower expects a good outcome, no matter what the obstacle. The parable of the Vineyard sees disaster erupt out of disaster as things go from improbably bad to inexplicably worse.” [Swanson] Early in Mark it is easy to project a victory bringing good news. Now, things are getting worse and will get far worse. Each Reader’s experience will surface a different tipping point from seed to vineyard. Where is yours?

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