Mark 12. Last-day Confrontations in Jerusalem.
Key Notes: Israel loses the vineyard. Taxes to the government. Hints of the After-life. The greatest commandment. David's son is God's Son? What is a penny worth?
This chapter contains meaty material on the future of Israel, the relationship of the Church and the State, the After-life, the heart of the Law, and the Deity of Christ. It is set against the threats of the hostile forces that are arrayed against Him. He lives without anxiety for His life and pours out knowledge for the disciples and the Jewish leaders.
“Tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” (Matt.6:34 RSV)
“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (KJV).
12:1–10 Jesus taught a parable of a vineyard. He was speaking to the chief priests, scribes and elders. (Mk.11:27). The story of the vineyard- keepers is simple enough for a child to understand, and allegorical in its detail. The parable brings to mind Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard in Isaiah 5.The difference is that in Isaiah it is the fruit that is sour and wild; in Jesus' parable, the share-crop farmers are rebellious.
The vineyard is the land of Israel, and it is a representation of the Kingdom. Matt.21:43
The vineyard is carefully planned for protection and productivity. Deut.8:7–10
The Owner is God and the fruit He desires is His reward: godliness, righteousness and justice. Isa.5:7
The share-croppers are the people of Israel and the time span is long. Lk.20:9
The servants are the prophets who were rejected, abused, and sometimes killed over hundreds of years of Israel’s history. Matt.23:29–39
The beloved Son is Jesus Himself. Mk.1:11. They kill Him and throw Him out.
Giving the vineyard to others prophesies that Israel will be displaced (70AD) and the Kingdom given into the hands of Gentiles. Acts 28:2
12:11–12 Jesus then quoted from the same psalm that was sung during His Triumphal Entry—citing the previous verse, just before the Hosanna. (Psa.118:22).
""The very Stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." How could Jesus form the foundation and center-piece of God's Kingdom? He was going to His death. Far from being cast off, He will be the center of the Kingdom.
They knew the parable was against them. They knew Isa. 5 and the sack of Jerusalem (587BC) that followed Isaiah's warning 700 years before. They thought to attack Him then, but retreated, fearing the crowds gathered for Passover. They heard His warning and their reaction was to kill the Messenger.
12:13–17 The ungodly alliance of Herodians (secular, favoring the Romans) and Pharisees (devout, hating the Roman occupation) appeared again. (Mk 3:6). Their flattery was oily and hypocritical but correct:
Caring not what others think
Indifferent to their positions
Truly teaching the way of God.
Truthful? He does not equivocate. Is it lawful to pay taxes (tribute) to Caesar or not. Lawful? Try to get away without paying taxes! They were under Roman law. Then what was the real issue? They were trying to put Jesus on the horns of a dilemma.
If He said “yes” to paying taxes, He would be disloyal to Israel, to the delight of the Pharisees.
If He said “no”, He was a traitor to the Romans, playing into the hands of the Herodians.
Why were they testing Him? They never won, but they kept trying to trip Him up so that He could be discredited or betrayed. He put them to the test.
Jesus asked to look at a coin. He did not produce the coin but required them to give it out of their purses. They offered a denarius, a Roman coin, not one of their own temple shekels. They were acknowledging their subservience to the Romans because they used the denarius in every day commerce.
He asked again: "Whose likeness (image) and inscription (name) is this? The coin face was the image of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, with the inscription “son of the divine Augustus”. Jesus answered that they should give to Tiberius Caesar what was his. The Roman government provided peace and safety, food and sanitation. The reverse side shows Tiberius seated on a throne with the inscription “highest priest” (Latin “pontifex maximus“). They should not give worship to Caesar, but give to God the worship worship which is rightly His.
Jesus did not denounce the tyranny and idolatry of the Roman emperor! In fact, He acknowledged the existence and importance of the government. Paul and Peter will add more detailed support of the Roman government but not without first acknowledging our allegiance to God. (Rom.13:1-; I Pet.2:17; I Tim.2:17). This is the beginning of the Two Governments view of politics that Luther revived 1500 years later, and which continues to be a focus of debate in democratic societies—the separation, and interaction, of Church and State.
12:18–23 The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, but they knew Jesus had taught it. (Jn.5:25–29). So they made up a case from the law of levirate marriage (Deut.25:1–10), which provided that a widow would be given her husband’s brother in marriage, protecting her status and enabling her to hold onto the family estate. In this case the Law would be carried to its extreme-- seven fragile brothers all died-- leaving the one widow. Since they did not believe in the resurrection,they made a joke about it. They hatched a story that marriage would be continued on in Heaven and that the woman faced with seven dead spouses would present an absurd situation for God to deal with.
12:24–27 Jesus said they were wrong (and at the end “very wrong”) because they did not know the Scriptures or the power of God. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, nor angels nor spirits. (Acts 23:7). For the Scriptures, He would be limited to teach them from the Pentateuch, since they did not believe the rest of the OT—history, wisdom, major and minor prophets. One of the clear testimonies to the resurrection of the dead is Dan.12:2, but there are three references in Job, and many in the Psalms. On the other hand, angels are mentioned repeatedly in Genesis. (3:24;’:1,15; 28:12; 32:1). So they did not know the Scriptures or believe the five books they had.
Then He clarified the resurrection life--the After-life--without citing the OT in defense of it. The dead who are raised do not marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in Heaven. So the question the Sadducees raised on levirate marriage was moot.
As for the power of God, Jesus quoted God speaking to Moses; “I am the God of your father Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Ex.3:6). Then Jesus said “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living”. That is, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive! A revolutionary concept! They are at home with the Lord, as Paul expected to be. (IICor.5:6–7). This teaching is against “soul sleep”, the idea that on death time stands still (total unconsciousness) until the resurrection brings us into an awakened state.
Thus Jesus has clarified the status of believers in their future life. Death is not in question. But what becomes of saints after they die? Jesus said they live. They are not yet resurrected, but are alive by the power of God in what is now called “the intermediate state”. So when Jesus was visited by Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration, they have not come to life for this occasion. They were talking to Him about His coming Exodus in Jerusalem (Lk.8:31), a topic of current interest to them! And are we not also surrounded by a cloud of witnesses? (Heb.12:1).
And what of the Final State, the resurrection? Jesus again gives us vital detail. It is a life of people who know each other, but do not engage in sexual activity. We will be like angels, endowed with power we have never known. The enjoyment will be greater.
12:28–31 A scribe asked a question which Jesus did not counter as He usually did, but answered in full. Which commandment has priority? The rabbis had carefully extracted all the laws from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. There are 613 commands: 248 are positive, 365 are negative. (The numbers are easy to remember.) The rabbis debated their relative weight, so it was a fair question to ask for another opinion. Jesus declared Deut.6:5 and Lev.19:18 to be most important, giving us two commandments instead of one.
“…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deut.6:5)
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev.19:18)
These two commands summarize the Ten Commandments, the first five dealing with our relationship to God and the second five our relationship with our neighbors, our fellow human beings. Loving God most of all and other people as much as we love ourselves is the summary of the Law. These in turn summarize all of the other 611 OT commandments which are hedged about by ten thousand instructions in the Talmud.
Jesus added a fourth dimension to Moses’ command of Deut.6:4, the word “mind”. The command demands “all” of all of our being. I have no hope of ever obeying it by my own effort. The second command, to love my neighbor as myself is only slightly less rigorous. I break the commandments many times each day. How can we ever meet God’s demand for righteousness? We cannot. How then can we be saved? With God, all things are possible.
For once, Jesus and a religious leader were on the same page. The scribe agreed with Jesus and added that obedience was better than sacrifice. (I Sam.15:22). Jesus was pleased with his answer and declared that he was not far from the Kingdom. Entering the Kingdom requires right thinking--loving obedience.
12:35–37 Teaching in the temple, Jesus asked them to solve a riddle.
The scribes say that Messiah is the Son of David.
Yet David says Messiah is His Lord.
How can the Lord God be Messiah, the human son of David?
He quoted Psa.110:1, written by David, in which David uses two names for God. In the English Bible, LORD stands for JHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah) and Lord stands for Adonai, another name for God.
“The LORD (JHWH) said to my Lord (Adonai), 'sit at my right hand till I put Your enemies under Your feet'.”
The prophets and psalms help with the perspective of the Son of David as Lord and anointed king.
“..and His Name shall be called ...Mighty God....Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over His kingdom, to establish it and uphold it…. “(Isa.9:7)
The second psalm adds:
“The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and His Anointed….” (KJV) “Then He will speak to them in His wrath, and terrify them in His fury, saying “I have set My King on Zion, My holy hill.” “I will make the nations Your heritage and the ends of the earth Your possession.”
So God’s anointed King is David’s son. That is a testimony to the Incarnation, A son of David is God’s Messiah-- Christ--and our Lord as it was announced at His birth.
“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Lk.1:32)
“Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord….”
12:38–40 The crowds were delighted with His preaching. What came next in Jesus teaching was a warning against the scribes for their luxury, pride and greed. Some commentators think Jesus was not entirely justified in His accusation. Had not one scribe come close to the kingdom? (12:34). Jesus' indictment is mild compared to the parallel passage in Matthew which outlines the legal stumbling blocks the lawyers laid before the people (Matt.23:1–4, 13–22), their hypocrisy (Matt. 23:23–28) and their attacks on the prophets. (Matt.23:29–36). What Mark's Gospel emphasizes is their hatred as a group for Jesus:
Blasphemy for claiming to forgive sins. 2:6
Possessed by Satan and healing by the power of Satan 3:22
A man to be trapped (11:27) and destroyed 11:18.
13:41- Jesus observed a poor widow giving two half-pennies into the temple treasury. It was all she had. With the scribes indicted for robbing widows (12;40), this segment has an ironic twist. Jesus said this widow had given more than the others who had given much larger amounts from their surpluses. The gift she gave was a sacrifice given to God even though it was used as income for the priests. (Num.5:9). He was not concerned in the economics of the temple. Similarly, the gifts we give to the church and other Christian causes are dedicated to God but are income for the church staff and the maintenance of facilities. Our pledges are made to God, not to the church. Our gifts are meaningful based on our hearts and our love for God.
•Israel has been rejected as keeper of the kingdom and is due to be thrust out.
•Christians do not live in theocracy as the Hebrews did during David’s monarchy. Since NT times, we live under allegiance to two governments, civil and spiritual, and must not attempt to unite them, or do disservice to either.
•There are two aspects of our life after death. We are alive in Christ now and at home with Him after death, but later freed by resurrection and in possession of greater power when He unites soul and body again.
•Loving God exclusively and loving our fellow human beings form the main objectives of our lives.
•Jesus is Son of David according to the flesh and Son of God according to the Spirit. (Rom.1:4)
•Attempts to make legal religion are destructive to the makers and the doers.
•Our money gifts are sacrifices given to God and valued by Him according to our hearts rather than the real value of the money.