I flew on my first business trip yesterday, leaving Columbus at 5:30 in the morning and getting into Savannah at 4:30. (It shouldn’t have taken that long, but that’s another story for another day.) The thing I love most about flying is being able to see the ground from 30,000 feet, especially at night. It’s breathtaking.
I know that God doesn’t live in the clouds, but when I think about God looking out over the earth, I always imagine him having this airplane-level view. He can see far more than we can see on the ground.
Many of Jesus’ parables offer a picture of life from God’s perspective. The parable of the vineyard, in Mark 12, is one of them.
1 Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.
Jesus just took the entire history of Israel and turned it into a parable. That’s what this is about. It’s about what the kings and leaders of Israel and Judah did to God’s prophets from the time of Elijah until the time of Jesus. They were stoned. They were impaled on spikes. They were sawn in half. They were thrown into pits and left to die. They were rejected, scorned, mocked, ridiculed. They were treated shamefully, beaten, killed. This was the pattern that existed in Israel for almost a millennium. God’s people killed God’s messengers.
It’s an interesting way to look at it, isn’t it? From God’s perspective? How often do you look at the circumstances and events of your life from God’s perspective? And if you were able to see your life through God’s eyes, what would you see? How would you see things differently?
The other night my wife and I were talking about stress, and the things that add stress to our lives. She talked about how she gets stressed when I’m in a bad mood, or when I’m angry. It doesn’t even have to be at her, but she still feels stressed and guilty. I said I feel the same way. When she’s stressed or frustrated, I have an emotional reaction to that, even when she’s not upset with me.
In that moment we experienced this wonderful thing called empathy. We understood each other. We saw things from one another’s perspective. And that felt like a relational breakthrough.
What we need in our relationship with God is empathy. We need to see things from his perspective. That’s what Jesus offers us in this parable. In fact, that’s what Jesus offers us in himself. He is God’s living and breathing perspective. He is God. Knowing Jesus, having a personal relationship with him, means empathizing with God.
And here’s the amazing thing about Jesus. Yes, he is God. But he is also human. And he empathizes with us. Jesus understands. Whatever you’re going through, Jesus gets it. He knows how it feels to be lonely, rejected. He knows the meaning of suffering. He was victimized. He was tortured. He was mocked. Jesus gets it. Jesus gets you.