Welcome back as we continue working through the Gospel According to Mark. Last week was a rough week for me, personally, so I was unable to share anything until Friday. The week prior, we covered Mark 11, where we saw Jesus enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We saw Him curse the fig tree, cleanse the Temple, and be challenged by the scribes and Pharisees regarding His authority.
Today, we’ll resume reading, beginning in Chapter 12 of the Gospel According to Mark.
Mark 12:1-12 (ESV) | The Parable of the Tenants
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.
The focus of this parable is its conclusion, this parable was a rebuke against the Pharisees, the chief priests and elders of Jerusalem. They were the tenants in the story who rejected and beat the servants sent to them (the Prophets) and killed the Master’s Son (Jesus Christ). We see later in Peter’s Epistle a reflection back to this teaching point using this wording regarding the stone that the builders rejected.
1 Peter 2:4-10 (ESV) As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Getting back to the Parable of the Tenants, the meticulously laid out vineyard complete with fence, winepress, and tower represents Israel. The tenants are those placed as stewards over Israel, the chief priests and elders. Notice at the conclusion of the parable, rather than repent, the enemies of Christ hardened their hearts.What follows is an attempt to trip Him up theologically. If they can get Him to commit blasphemy or fail the test of a false prophet (but teaching false doctrine), they can claim their victory over Him.
Mark 12:13-17 (ESV) | Paying Taxes to Caesar
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
Here, they were so sure they had Jesus in an inescapable trap between either speaking against the Temple or against Caesar, they were marveled by His answer. Truth has that effect. Jesus IS the Word of God made flesh, after all… He knows the Father and the Father knows Him. There is no tripping Him up.
Mark 12:18-27 (ESV) | The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the manmust take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring.And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died.In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
Pardon the anachronism, but this is a total #micdrop moment. Jesus began and ended with a flat-out “you’re wrong”. Sit down, Sadducees, you’re done here.
Mark 12:28-34 (ESV) | The Great Commandment
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this:‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
This one is very curious to me. It seems as though this question started as a “gotcha” question anticipating some sort of answer that might over-emphasize one commandment against the others… but Jesus instead summarizes the whole Law and includes the second table in His answer. What is interesting is the apparent realization by the scribe at how completely Jesus answered the trick question… his response to Jesus demonstrated this understanding and garnered a comment of approval from Jesus. Here, Mark lets us know that from this time forward, no one dared ask Jesus any more questions. I think, given the context, Mark is talking about these sort of trap-questions, not legitimate questions.
Mark 12:35-37 (ESV) | Whose Son Is the Christ?
And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.”’
David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.
Mark 12:38-40 (ESV) | Beware of the Scribes
And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
Mark 12:41-44 (ESV) | The Widow’s Offering
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Here, we see Jesus warning against the sin of pride and sinful pietism. The religious acts of the scribes were not done in service of their neighbors, but to make much of themselves. They enjoyed being regarded as the honorable ones, the pious ones. When Jesus comments on the widow’s offering, He isn’t so much rebuking the wealthy for contributing out of their abundance; rather, He is drawing attention to the offering of the widow. Unlike the scribes, He isn’t accusing the wealthy of sin; rather, He is pointing out that greater attention is given to the one who gave out of her poverty. This offering is clearly a gift of faith, for reason or abundance cannot explain this offering. It is her faith in the provision of God that is being credited to her as righteousness.
Brothers and sisters, let us resist the temptation of turning this into some sort of formula for manipulating the favor of God through “sacrificial giving”. Let’s look to Paul’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 9.
2 Corinthians 9:6-14 (ESV) | The Cheerful Giver
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.
When you serve your neighbor, do so bountifully in faith and love, as an extension of the surpassing Grace of God upon you.
Consider the empty tomb this week, consider the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, consider your baptism into eternal life in Christ Jesus. Until next week, spend time in the Written Word of God and do not forsake the gathering of the saints, hearing of the Preached Word… both Law and Gospel.
Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,