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Mark 12

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Parable of the Vineyard and the Tenants The Parable of the Wicked Vine Dressers Parable of the Vineyard The Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard Parable of the Wicked Tenants
12:1-11 12:1-12 12:1-11 12:1-8 12:1-11
      12:9-11  
12:12   12:12 12:12 12:12
Paying Taxes to Caesar The Pharisees: Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar? Paying Taxes to Caesar The Question About Paying Taxes On Tribute to Caesar
12:13-17 12:13-17 12:13-17 12:13-14 12:13-17
      12:15  
      12:16a  
      12:16b  
      12:17a  
      12:17b  
The Question About the Resurrection The Sadducees: What About the Resurrection? Questions About the Resurrection The Question About Rising from Death The Resurrection of the Dead
12:18-27 12:18-27 12:18-23 12:18-23 12:18-23
    12:24-27 12:24-27 12:24-27
The Great Commandment The Scribes: Which is the First Commandment of All? The Great Commandment The Great Commandment The Greatest Commandment of All
12:28-34 12:28-34 12:28-34 12:28 12:28-34
      12:29-31  
      12:32-33  
      12:34  
The Question About David's Son Jesus: How Can David Call His Descendant Lord? David's Son The Question About the Messiah Jesus Not Only Son but Also Lord of David
12:35-37 12:35-37 12:35-37 12:35-37a 12:35-37
The Denouncing of the Scribes Beware of the Scribes Sayings On Pride and Humility Jesus Warns Against the Teachers of the Law The Scribes Condemned by Jesus
      12:37b-40  
12:38-40 12:38-40 12:38-40   12:38-40
The Widow's Offering The Widow's Two Mites The Widow's Offering The Widow's Offering The Widow's Mite
12:41-44 12:41-44 12:41-44 12:41-44 12:41-44

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

SYNOPTIC GOSPEL PARALLELS

A. Representatives of the Sanhedrin ask questions (cf. Mark 11:27-12:12) and Jesus responds by a parable (Mark 12:1-12). This is paralleled in Matt. 21:33-46 and Luke 20:1-19.

 

B. The Pharisees and the Herodians ask about paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17), which is paralleled in Matt. 22:15-22 and Luke 20:20-26.

 

C. The Sadducees ask a question about the resurrection (Mark 12:18-27), which is paralleled in Matt. 22:23-33 and Luke 20:27-40.

 

D. A scribe asks about the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-34), which is paralleled in Matt. 22:34-40.

 

E. Jesus asks the Jewish leadership a question about the Messiah's relationship to David (Mark 12:35-37), which is paralleled in Matt. 22:41-46 and Luke 20:41-44.

 

F. Jesus denounces the scribes (Mark 12:38-40) and it is paralleled in Matt. 23:1-39 and Luke 20:45-47.

 

G. The widow's sacrificial offering (Mark 12:41-44) is paralleled in Luke 21:1-4.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MARK 12:1-11
 1And He began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 2At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. 3They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 5And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others. 6He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 7But those vine-growers said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!' 8They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. 10Have you not even read this Scripture: 'The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; 11This came about from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes'?"

12:1 "to speak to them in parables" "Them" refers directly to the representatives from the Sanhedrin (cf. Mark 11:27), but indirectly to the large crowd.

This whole chapter is a series of questions from the religious leaders:

1. from the Sanhedrin (Mark 11:27-12:12)

2. from the Pharisees and Herodians (Mark 12:13-17)

3. from the Sadducees (Mark 12:18-27)

4. from a scribe (Mark 12:28-34)

5. from Jesus (Mark 11:29-33; 12:9,35-37)

 

"'planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower'" This is a quote from the Septuagint of Isa. 5:1-2. The grapevine was one of the symbols for the nation of Israel (as was the fig tree in Mark 11:12-14,20-25). Isaiah 5 uses a vineyard folk song to address Israel. Matthew includes several other parables that also address the nation of Israel (cf. Matt. 22:1-14). It is hard to determine whether God rejected

1. Israel's illegal, non-Aaronicc leaders

2. her self-righteous, judgmental legalism

3. the unbelief of the nation as a whole. Israel, with all her covenantal privileges (cf. Rom. 9:4-5), was also held responsible for the Mosaic covenant responsibilities (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28)

It is striking how different Isaiah 5's procedure in describing God's free and available love for all who would come is compared to the stringency and violence of these tenant farmers in this parable.

12:2 "'At the harvest time'" Usually it took at least five years for grapevines to begin to produce at commercial levels. The owner expected to participate in his investment.

12:2,4,5,6 "'sent'" God attempted to communicate by sending several representatives, even His own son. This represents the longsuffering of God and His desire to establish a covenantal relationship.

12:2,4,5 "'a slave'" These slaves represent the OT prophets. Matthew, as is characteristic, has two slaves (cf. Matt. 21:34). This text clearly shows how Matthew combines Mark's account of several slaves one at a time into one occurrence.

12:3 "'beat'" This refers to a severe beating. It literally means "to skin" or "to flay" (cf. Mark 13:9).

12:4 "'wounded him in the head'" This refers to being repeatedly struck on the head. It shows the abuse suffered by those who represented God and spoke for Him (i.e., the OT prophets) to His rebellious covenant people.

▣ "'and treated him shamefully'" This is a verbal form of the name Timothy, which means "honor" or "worth" with the alpha privative. It connotes "to treat with contempt" or "total disrespect" (cf. James 2:6).

12:5 Why did God send servant after servant? God created humanity for a purpose—fellowship with Himself. He wants to establish a people like Himself, but they/we will not. Yet, God tries again and again to reach us! He has a "love that will not let go" for His creation.

12:6 "'He had one more to send, a beloved son'" This obviously refers to Jesus. This same phrase is used by the Father at Jesus' baptism (Matt. 1:11; 3:17) and transfiguration (9:7; Matt. 17:5). This same truth is seen in John 3:16 and Heb. 1:1-2. It is a combination of a Royal Psalm (i.e., 2:7) and a Suffering Servant passage (i.e., Isa. 42:1).

12:7 "'and the inheritance will be ours'" This refers legally to the Jewish law of "ownerless property" that could be claimed by right of possession. It reflects mankind's fallen attitude of "more and more for me at any cost." Humanity wants to be its own god (cf. Genesis 3).

12:8 "'threw him out of the vineyard'" Improper burial shows the tenant's complete contempt for the owner and his son!

The Gospel parallels describe the sequence as they threw the son out of the vineyard and then killed him (cf. Matt. 21:39; Luke 19:15). This was probably to identify further with Jesus' death outside of the city walls of Jerusalem.

12:9 This verse shows God's response toward those who killed His only Son. In Mark's Gospel Jesus asks the crowd a question. This reflects Isa. 5:3-4, where the prophet asks a question. The hearers are condemned out of their own mouths (i.e., Matt. 21:41). God will hold all conscious creation accountable for the gift of life. We will reap what we sow (cf. Mark 4:21-25; Matt. 13:12; 25:14-30; Gal. 6:7).

▣ "will give the vineyard to others" The "others" seems to refer to the church, made up of believing Jews and Gentiles (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).

12:10 "'Have you not even read this Scripture'" This is Jesus' introduction to a verse that was used every year in their processionals welcoming pilgrims into Jerusalem (i.e., Ps. 118:22-23). This question is a recurrent theme in the NT (cf. Matt.21:42; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Rom. 9:32-33; 1 Pet. 2:7). It explains the problem of how Israel could miss her Messiah (cf. Rom. 9-11). This statement was a slap in the face to the very ones who claimed to know the Scriptures!

▣ "stone" This is a quote of Ps. 118:22-23 from the Septuagint. In rabbinical writings, this stone referred to Abraham, David, or the Messiah (cf. Dan. 2:34-35). This same Psalm was quoted as part of the Hallel Psalms, used to welcome the pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the Passover.

▣ "builders" In rabbinic writing this term referred to the scribes. The comments Jesus added are recorded in Matt. 21:43-44. Notice here the builders are condemned for missing the most important truth: Jesus is the promised Messiah.

"'the chief corner stone'" The metaphor of the Messiah as a stone comes from several OT usages.

1. YHWH's strength and stability (cf. Ps. 18:1-2)

2. Daniel's vision in chapter 2 (cf. Dan. 2:34-35,48)

3. the building component which either

a. starts the building (i.e., cornerstone)

b. holds the weight of the building (i.e., center stone or keystone in the arch)

c. finishes the building (i.e., top stone or cap stone)

The building refers metaphorically to the people of God, the true temple (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22).

SPECIAL TOPIC: CORNERSTONE

12:11 This verse implies that everything which occurred in the rejection and death of Jesus was foreknown and prophesied (cf. Isa. 53:10; Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 1 Pet. 1:20).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MARK 12:12
 12And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.

12:12 "they were seeking to seize Him" The Jewish leaders understood the parable was referring to them and they acted in the predicted way (i.e., tried to kill Him).

"they feared the people" These leaders looked to current opinions (cf. Mark 11:18,32; Matt. 21:26,46; Luke 19:48) rather than to God's Word in order to decide their actions.

▣ "they understood that He spoke the parable against them" This pronoun "they" can be understood in one of two ways: (1) the leaders were afraid of Jesus' popularity with the crowd (cf. Matt. 21:45) or (2) the crowd also understood that the parable was addressed to the religious leaders.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MARK 12:13-17
 13Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. 14They came and said to Him, "Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? 15Shall we pay or shall we not pay?" But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, "Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at." 16They brought one. And He said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" And they said to Him, "Caesar's." 17And Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at Him.

12:13 "they sent" This refers to the Sanhedrin, which was the Jewish religious authority (cf. Mark 11:27).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SANHEDRIN

▣ "Pharisees" This was the religious group that developed during the Maccabean period. They were very committed to the Oral Traditions (i.e., Talmud). See SPECIAL TOPIC: PHARISEES at Mark 2:16.

▣ "Herodians" This was a political group that supported the reign of the Idumean Herods. They were also in favor of the Roman status quo. Normally Pharisees and Herodians were enemies. The fact that they were cooperating shows how serious they perceived Jesus' teachings to be. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HERODIANS at Mark 1:14.

▣ "in order to trap Him" This is literally "to catch." It was used of capturing wild animals. It had become a metaphor for acquiring information so as to show a fault or error (cf. Luke 11:54). They thought that by asking Him this question they had Him trapped between two opposing groups: the Roman authorities and the people.

12:14 "'Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for you are not partial, but teach the way of God in truth'" These leaders were flattering Jesus in order to find fault, but in reality, they were speaking correctly about Him. Jesus handled truth exactly like YHWH handles truth. This is supreme irony! Their tricky statements were in reality the greatest compliment.

"'You are not partial'" The literal Hebrew idiom is "for You do not look at the face of men." This historically referred to the Judges of Israel. When they tried a case, the defendants kept their heads bowed so that their identity could not be seen. If a judge put his hand under the chin and lifted the face so as to see the person's identity, the chances for bias increased. Therefore, justice was to be blind!

"'Is it lawful to pay'" This is a legal question related to the Mosaic legislation, but also relating to Israel's current domination by Rome. This is the type of question that scribes dealt with daily. There were two ways to answer the question, one based on the Mosaic texts and one related to the reality of Roman law and occupation. These leaders wanted legal grounds to bring the Roman government into their religious dilemma (cf. Luke 20:20). By answering "yes" He would offend the zealots; by answering "no" He would be arrested by the Roman government.

▣ "poll-tax" This was a transliteration of the Latin term "census." It was a head tax which Rome placed on all conquered peoples. This empire-wide tax (i.e., a.d. 6-20) on males fourteen years through sixty-five years and on women twelve to sixty-five, who lived in imperial provinces went directly to the Emperor. It was the reason why Joseph had to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem with the pregnant Mary (cf. Luke 2:1-6).

12:15 "He, knowing their hypocrisy. . .why are you testing Me" The term hypocrisy (hupokrisis) originally referred to actors playing a part behind a mask. They pretended to be someone they were not (cf. Matt. 23:28; Luke 12:1; 20:20; 1 Tim. 4:2; 1 Pet. 2:1). It came to be used of manipulative people who tried to trick others into thinking that which was untrue. Everything these leaders said (ironically) to Jesus in Mark 12:14 was contradicted in their actions of Mark 12:15. The term testing (peirazō) had the added connotation of testing with a view towards destruction or failure. See Special Topic: Terms for Testing at Mark 1:13.

▣ "a denarius" This silver coin was the only way this tax could be paid. It was a day's wage for a common laborer or soldier. It was a symbol of Rome's control. See Special Topic at Mark 12:42.

12:16 "'Whose likeness and inscription is this'" Tiberius (a.d. 14-37) was the current Emperor. On this coin was a claim of the deity of the Emperor. On the front of the coin it said "Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the Divine Augustus." On the back of the coin was a picture of Tiberius seated on a throne and the inscription "Highest Priest."

12:17 "'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's'" Believers are to obey civil authority because God has ordained it (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). The Greek term "render" may imply "give back to someone that which belongs to him."

▣ "'and to God the things that are God's'" Although the state has divine sanction, it does not have divine status. If the state claims ultimate authority, this is to be rejected by the followers of the one true God. Many have tried to promote and support the modern political doctrine of the separation of church and state from this verse. In a very limited sense this verse does address the issue, but it is surely not a Scriptural support for this modern political theory. This theory is a truth seen from history, not primarily from Scripture.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MARK 12:18-27
 18Some Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection) came to Jesus, and began questioning Him, saying, 19"Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves behind a wife and leaves no child, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother. 20There were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and died leaving no children. 21The second one married her, and died leaving behind no children; and the third likewise; 22and so all seven left no children. Last of all the woman died also. 23In the resurrection, when they rise again, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had married her." 24Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? 27He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken."

12:18 "Sadducees" This was an aristocratic, priestly sect of Judaism that controlled the High Priesthood and the Sanhedrin. They were the wealthy, politically powerful "in" group. They were very conservative and accepted only the writings of Moses (i.e., Genesis through Deuteronomy) as authoritative (i.e., rejected the Oral Tradition).

SPECIAL TOPIC: SADDUCEES

12:19 "'Moses wrote for us'" This is referring to Moses' discussion of Levirate marriage found in Deut. 25:5-10.

"'that if a man's brother dies'" This Jewish law came to be known by "Levirate marriage." The term was from Latin for "a husband's brother." Inheritance rights were very important in Israel because God had given the Promised Land to the tribes by lot (cf. Joshua 12-19). Therefore, if a man died with no male heir, his brother was expected to marry the widow and father a child by the widow; the child then became the heir of all of the dead brother's property.

12:23 Here is the purpose of the question, to ridicule the concept of a bodily resurrection in a physical afterlife.

12:24 Jesus' withering question focuses on the Sadducees' lack of understanding of both the Scriptures and God. Its grammatical form expects a "yes" answer.

12:25 "'but are like angels in heaven'" This brief reference has caused much speculation. Angels in the OT are usually masculine (except for Zech. 5:9). Does this brief comment of Jesus refer to their sexuality or sexual unions? How does this affect one's understanding of Gen. 6:1-2? Maybe we are trying to infer too much theology from this Sadducean encounter. Heaven is an entirely different relational experience than earth. Exactly how this new interpersonal, eternal, spiritual realm functions is uncertain. The Bible has chosen not to reveal much information about the afterlife. The Sadducees took this lack of information as an excuse to deny the reality of the afterlife. It is better to affirm the reality based on the promises of God and Christ, but be willing to remain uninformed until death. The Bible provides all that believers need to know!

  Jesus asserted that there is no sexual aspect (i.e., procreation) to existence in heaven. There are many questions one would like to ask about this, but no further clarification is given in the NT. It may simply refer to the fact that angels are created by God and not by sexual procreation.

12:25-26 "'angels. . .But regarding the fact that the dead rise again'" The Sadducees denied both the existence of angels and the resurrection. The Pharisees affirmed both.

12:26 "'But regarding the fact that the dead rise again'" There are several texts in the OT that affirm this truth (cf. Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27; Ps. 23:6; Isa. 25:6-9; 26:14-19; Dan. 12:2). Yet the afterlife in the OT is a veiled reality. The progressive revelation of the NT clarifies and defines the reality, but still in veiled, metaphorical language. Heaven is a sure promise and truth, but its exact nature is a mystery.

▣ "'in the book of Moses'" Jesus asserts that Moses is the source of Deuteronomy. This question also expects a "yes" answer.

SPECIAL TOPIC: MOSES' AUTHORSHIP OF THE PENTATEUCH

▣ "'I am the God of Abraham'" This reference to Exod. 3:2-6 is a play on the tense of the Hebrew verb "to be." A form of this verb (i.e., causative) becomes the covenant name for the God of Israel, YHWH (cf. Exod. 3:14). The title implies that God is the ever-living, only-living One. Because He lives, His people live also (cf. Mark 12:27; Ps. 103:15-17; Isa. 40:6-8; 1 Pet. 1:24-25). Notice that Jesus affirms the reality of the afterlife from the writings of Moses, which was the only section of the Hebrew canon that these Sadducees accepted as authoritative for doctrine.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MARK 12:28-34
 28One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" 29Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30and 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.' 31The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no other commandment greater than these." 32The scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.

12:28 "scribes" These were usually non-priestly (i.e., not Levite), who became scholars in the Oral Traditions (i.e., the Talmud) of the Jews. In the OT local Levites interpreted the sacred writings to the people (cf. Neh. 8). As the local synagogue developed in Babylonian exile, the role of local teachers and interpreters grew in significance. By Jesus' day most of these scribes were Pharisees. They developed historically (i.e., after the destruction of the Temple) into rabbinical Judaism. See Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

▣ "heard them arguing" The parallel in Matt. 22:34-35 seems to imply ulterior motives, but Mark's Gospel implies he was truly interested in the theological question.

12:29 "'hear'" Jesus quotes from Deut. 6:4-5, but not from the Masoretic Text or the Septuagint (the parallel in Matt. 22:37 is closer to the MT, but not exact). Jesus' quote adds a phrase to both the Masoretic Hebrew text and the Septuagint Greek text. This exact quote is unknown from any OT text. The LXX changes the Hebrew "heart" to "mind" or "understanding." But this quote adds the phrase "with all your mind" to the three-fold phrasing (i.e., heart, soul, strength) in the MT and LXX. The NJB recognizes this by printing the phrase as not part of the OT quote (i.e., not in italics). It is interesting that the Greek uncial manuscript D (i.e., Bezae) from the fifth century omits the phrase "and with all your mind" entirely. This may reflect the original because its absence matches the scribes' response in Mark 12:33.

In the Matthew parallel (i.e., 22:32) Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Here the Hebrew clause "with all your strength" is left out. It is so surprising that Mark and Matthew disagree with each other and with both the MT and the LXX. This is a perfect example of the looseness of many of the OT quotes in the NT (even those attributed to Jesus). Here is where precision is impossible. They all (i.e., LXX, Matt. and Mark) reflect the general sense of the quote from Moses.

This OT text (i.e., Deut. 6:4-5) is called the Shema, which is the Hebrew word "hear." It means to hear so as to do. It has become the Jewish affirmation of monotheism. It is prayed daily by faithful Jews and on every Sabbath. There are other texts on the oneness and uniqueness of God in the Prophets, but this one is in the writings of Moses (i.e., Gen. ― Deut.) and is, therefore, binding on all of Jesus' listeners (i.e., Sadducees and Pharisees).

12:30 Jesus' answer shows that there are two aspects to God's primary commandment: (1) the unity and uniqueness of God and (2) our total commitment to Him and Him alone!

▣ "heart" See Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

12:31 "'you shall love your neighbor'" This is a quote from Lev. 19:18 in the Septuagint. Jesus linked theological truth to practical, ethical demands (cf. Zechariah 7-8). It is impossible to love God and hate those made in His image (cf. 1 John 2:9-11; 3:15; 4:20).

It is impossible to love your neighbor (i.e., covenant brother or sister) as yourself if you do not love yourself. There is an appropriate self-love which is based on God's priority love for mankind. We are His creation, fashioned in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26,27). We must rejoice in our giftedness and accept our physical, mental, and psychological makeup (cf. Ps. 139). To criticize ourselves is to criticize our Maker! He can transform our fallenness into a reflection of His glory (i.e., Christlikeness).

Christianity involves a personal faith commitment to God through Christ. It starts as an individual volitional decision of repentance and faith. However, it issues in a family experience. We are gifted for the common good (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7). We are part of the body of Christ. How we treat others reveals our true devotion to Christ. The oneness of God and mankind made in the image and likeness of God demands an appropriate response toward God and toward other humans (i.e., especially those of the household of faith).

"'There is no other commandment greater than these'" This statement is so hard for legalistic (i.e., weak; cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13) believers to accept. With a total love for God and covenant brothers (and even the lost) there are no rules. Rules are to flow from a changed heart and mind; they do not produce godliness!

12:32-33 "'He. . .Him'" These pronouns refer to YHWH. Because of Exod. 20:7, most Jews would have been uncomfortable pronouncing the Covenant name of God.

▣ "'there is no one else besides Him'" This phrase does not deny the existence of other spiritual beings such as angels. This literally meant that no one was before or beside YHWH. He is a unique category (cf. Exod. 8:10; 9:14; Deut. 4:35,39). This scribe is expressing YHWH's uniqueness!

12:33 "'love. . .is much more than all burnt offerings'" This scribe had great understanding about the relationship between faith and rituals (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22; Isa. 1:11-14; Hos. 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8). This is not to depreciate temple ritual, but to assert that proper motive and faith are crucial (i.e., joining the priestly and prophetic insights).

12:34 "'You are not far from the kingdom of God'" This statement was another way that Jesus asserted the centrality of a positive and immediate faith response to Himself. The kingdom was available then (i.e., through faith in Jesus), not somewhere in the future. Although this man understood OT theology, he was not right with God without placing his faith in Christ. Correct theology does not assure salvation! Knowledge of the Bible does not assure salvation! The performance of religious ritual and liturgy does not assure salvation! Faith in Christ does!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MARK 12:35-37
 35And Jesus began to say, as He taught in the temple, "How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36David himself said in the Holy Spirit, 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet." 37David himself calls Him 'Lord'; so in what sense is He his son?" And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him.

12:35 "'How is it that'" This chapter records a series of questions

1. from the Sanhedrin (Mark 11:27-12:12)

2. from the Pharisees and Herodians (Mark 12:13-17)

3. from the Sadducees (Mark 12:18-27)

4. from a scribe (Mark 12:28-34)

5. from Jesus (Mark 11:29-33,35-37)

Now Jesus asks them a question as He did in Mark 11:29-30. This question-and-answer method is characteristic of rabbinical Judaism.

▣ "'Christ is the son of David'" Read Matt. 12:23ff; 21:15; 2 Sam. 7:11-16 and compare it to Ps. 110:1. Jesus was trying to reach the religious leaders. He cared for them so He used their type of reasoning and exegesis. They had so much light, but were so blinded by tradition.

12:36 "David himself said in the Holy Spirit" This asserts the inspiration of Psalm 110 by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is divine truth (i.e., from the Spirit), but written in the language and culture of its original authors.

▣ "'the Lord said to my lord'" This is a quote from Ps. 110:1 from the Septuagint. In Hebrew the first "Lord" (i.e., translated in English by all capitals) is our English translation's way of translating YHWH. This occurred because the Hebrews were very reluctant to use the covenant name for deity. Therefore, when one came to YHWH in a text to be read aloud, he substituted the Hebrew term Adon, which means "lord," "husband," "owner," or "master." In Greek this was translated by kurios. This distinction does not show up in the Greek text where kurios is translated both YHWH and adon.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY

▣ "'Sit at My right hand'" The "My" refers to YHWH. This anthropomorphic phrase (i.e., speaking of God in human bodily terms) was meant to show the Messiah's place of power, authority, and preeminence. This would reflect the King of the universe sharing His throne with another (i.e., His Messiah, cf. Mark 14:62).

"'Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet'" This continues the quote from Ps. 110:1. This phrase asserts YHWH's victory on behalf of His Messiah (cf. Psalm 2). This truth is further revealed in 1 Cor. 15:24-27 and even carried on ultimately in the eternal kingdom of the Father in 1 Cor. 15:28!

Mark's (and Matt. 22:44) quote of Ps. 110:1 deviates from the Masoretic Hebrew text and the Septuagint (as does Mark's quote of Deut. 6:4-5 in Mark 12:29-30). The MT and the LXX have "until I make your enemies a footstool for Your feet" (cf. Luke 20:43; Acts 2:34-35). The scribes (i.e., MSS א, A, L, and the Vulgate and Peshitta translations) changed Mark's quote to conform to the OT quote.

12:37 This was the crux of the question. It shows that (1) the religious leaders did not understand (i.e., were spiritually blind to) the Scriptures, even about the Messiah or (2) Christ, though son of David, was spiritually superior to David and in fact, had a divine origin. As they had tried to trick Jesus with questions, so now He asked them a question that silenced them.

I think #2 is theologically the appropriate answer. YHWH of the OT chose the Messianic line apart from human effort or cultural traditions (i.e., all the Patriarchs married infertile women and never did the eldest son become the chosen line)! This is a subtle, but strong, affirmation that the Messiah will be greater than David (i.e., David's "lord" or "master"), which surely implies a divine act, even a divine person.

"And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him" Large crowds are a recurrent characteristic of Mark's Gospel. The people of the land, who were often ridiculed and overlooked by the religious elite (cf. Mark 12:38-40), enjoyed seeing Jesus turn the tables on the arrogant religionists using their very method.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MARK 12:38-40
 38In His teaching He was saying: "Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, 39and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 40who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation."

12:38 "'the scribes who like to'" The temporal connection between Mark 12:25-27 and Mark 12:38-40 is uncertain. Obviously He is addressing the same category of leaders (i.e., scribes), but it is uncertain if the scribes of 35-37 are being addressed or other scribes who like to flaunt their religion. Surely Jesus' words also relate to the Sadducees and the Pharisees who put on a religious show in order to be recognized by the people.

▣ "'who like to walk around in long robes'" This refers to a distinctive white linen tallith with large blue tassels worn by the scribes. The Talmud taught that one is required to stand in the presence of a rabbi. These men liked this special treatment (i.e., distinctive prayer shawls, respectful greetings, best seats in worship, and place of honor at meals). They had it all, but missed Christ!

12:40 "'who devour widow's houses'" This may be metaphorical language referring to (1) the burden of almsgiving that these leaders required of all the people or (2) the practice of convincing widows to give their inheritance (i.e., livelihood) to the temple. This thereby refers to the manipulative fund-raising techniques of the religious leaders.

"'for appearance's sake offer long prayers'" They prayed to be seen by others, not heard by God. Their religion was an outward show (cf. Isa. 29:13; Matt. 7:21-23; Col. 2:16-23), but they did not recognize God's greatest gift!

▣ "they will receive greater condemnation" Their religious faith was an outward show, not an active inner faith of love and service (cf. Mark 12:28-34). This phrase may reflect (1) degrees of punishment (cf. Matt. 10:15; 11:22,24; 18:6; 25:21,23; Luke 12:47-48; 20:47; James 3:1) or (2) Oriental metaphorical overstatement (i.e., hyperbole).

SPECIAL TOPIC: DEGREES OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENT

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MARK 12: 41-44
 41And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. 43Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; 44for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on."

12:41 "the treasury" The Mishnah (and Alfred Edersheim's Temple, pp 48-49) says there were thirteen trumpet shaped chests, each marked for a specific charitable purpose, located in the Court of the Women. There has never been found any physical evidence of these nor any other literary confirmation beside the Mishna of their existence.

12:42 "two small copper coins" This is literally "lepton" (the thin one), which was worth only a fraction (1/24 or 1/96) of a denarius. It was the least valuable Jewish copper coin.

▣ "which amount to a cent" This is the Latin term quadrans, which was equivalent to the lepton, the smallest Roman copper coin (1/4 of an assarion, which was itself 1/16 of a denarius). Mark was probably written to Romans.

SPECIAL TOPIC: COINS IN USE IN PALESTINE IN JESUS' DAY

12:43 "'Truly'" This is literally "amen." See Special Topic at Mark 3:28.

12:44 This woman's complete faith is contrasted with the scribes' religious pride and shallowness. They rip off widows' resources. This widow gives all her resources to God and thereby depends on Him by faith to provide her needs. In giving, God looks at the heart, not the amount (cf. 2 Cor. 8-9). But also notice the amount was all she had. Giving, like deeds and words, reveals the heart! See SPECIAL TOPIC: WEALTH at Mark 10:23.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. List what each of the following items stood for in the parable (12:1-12)

a. Owner of the Vineyard_____________________________________________________________

b. Vineyard________________________________________________________________________

c. Tenants_________________________________________________________________________

d. Slaves__________________________________________________________________________

e. Son____________________________________________________________________________

2. Why is the partial quote of Psalm 118 so appropriate here (i.e., Mark 12:10)?

3. What is the significance of the parable (i.e., Mark 12:1-12) to the Jewish nation (cf. Matt. 21:43-44)? Also examine Rom. 9-11 for a balancing statement.

4. Summarize the central truths of Christ's statements.

a. In regard to civil authorities (Mark 12:13-17)

b. In regard to resurrections (Mark 12:18-27)

c. In regard to the law (Mark 12:28-34)

d. In regard to the title "Son of David" (Mark 12:35-40)

e. In regard to giving and commitment (Mark 12:41-44)

5. Are there degrees of punishment (cf. Mark 12:40)?

 

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods