Mark Chapter 12
Mark 12:1 TPT Then Jesus began to speak to them in parables: “There once was a man who planted a vineyard and put a secure fence around it. He dug a pit for its winepress and erected a watch tower. Then he leased it to tenant-farmers and traveled abroad.
Guzik: He leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country: This sort of tenant farming relationship was a common practice in Jesus’ day, especially in the region of Galilee. Archaeologists have discovered records of this same sort of dispute between landowners and tenant farmers.
i. “In a day when title was sometimes uncertain, anyone who had had the use of land for three years was presumed to own it in the absence of an alternative claim.” (Morris)
Russell: Began to speak -- A part of our Lord's discourse on the last day of his public ministry.
A certain man -- Jehovah God.
Planted a vineyard -- The Jewish nation, typifying Christendom in the harvest of the Gospel age. "For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel." (Isa_5:7)
An hedge about it -- The divine Law, the testimony of the prophets, the special supervision and fatherly guardianship of God and the ministration of his faithful servants, all of which served to separate them from ungodly, surrounding nations, and to protect them from their influence.
For the winefat -- Or wine press, including the vat for the reception of the juice. Representing Israel's advantages; the worship of the sanctuary, the leadings and teachings of Jehovah, etc.
Built a tower -- A watch tower, for the protection of the vineyard, representing God's care over it in setting watchmen, the prophets and others, upon the towers of Zion. (Eze_3:17; Isa_62:6; Jer_6:17)
Let it out -- From the time of the exodus to the coming of Messiah--nearly 19 centuries.
To husbandmen -- The Pharisees and Doctors of the Law, whose duty it was to care for the vineyard. The divinely constituted leaders of the nation from the time of the exodus to the time of the coming of Messiah.
Benson: He began to speak unto them by parables — “Christ having showed the rulers, chief priests, and scribes, the heinousness of their sin, in rejecting John the Baptist, (Mat_21:28-32,) judged it proper, likewise, publicly to represent the crime of the nation, in rejecting all the messengers of God from first to last, and among the rest his only-begotten Son; and in mis-improving the Mosaic dispensation, under which they lived. … But because these were topics extremely disagreeable, he couched them under the veil of a parable, which he formed upon one made use of long before, by the Prophet Isa_5:1.”
Gill: And he began to speak unto them by parables,.... This was not the first time of his speaking by parables to the people, though it might be the first time he spake in this way to the chief priests and elders, and who are particularly designed in them.
and set an hedge about it, or "wall", as the Persic version renders it; meaning either the law, not the Jews oral law, or the traditions of the elders, which were not of God's setting, but the ceremonial and moral law; or the wall of protection by divine power, which was set around the Jewish nation especially when they went up to their solemn feasts.
and built a tower. … for this also was built in the vineyard, …where the priests watched, and did their service, day and night.
And let it out to husbandmen; or "workmen", … who wrought in it, and took care of the vines. The Ethiopic version renders it, "and set over it a worker and keeper of the vineyard"; by whom are meant the priests and Levites, to whom were committed the care of the people, with respect to religious things:
and went into a far country; left the people of the Jews to these husbandmen, or rulers, whether civil or ecclesiastical, but chiefly the latter, to be instructed and directed by them, according to the laws and rules given them by the Lord.
Barnes: And digged a wine-press in it - Mark says, “digged a place for the wine-fat.” This should have been so rendered in Matthew. The original word does not mean the “press” in which the grapes were trodden, but the “vat or large cistern” into which the wine ran. This was commonly made by digging into the side of a hill. The “wine-press” was made of two receptacles. The upper one, in Persia at present, is about 8 feet square and 4 feet high. In this the grapes are thrown and “trodden” by men, and the juice runs into the large receptacle or cistern below.
And built a tower - See also the notes at Isa_5:2. In Eastern countries at present, these towers are often 80 feet high and 30 feet square. They were for the keepers, who defended the vineyards from thieves and animals, especially from foxes, Son_1:6; Son_2:15.
And let it out ... - This was not an uncommon thing. Vineyards were often planted to be let out for profit.
Into a far country - This means, in the original, only that he departed from them. It does not mean that he went out of the “land.” Luke adds, “for a long time.” That is, as appears, until the time of the fruit; perhaps for a year.
Mark 12:2 TPT When the time of harvest came, he sent one of his servants to the tenants to collect the landowners’ share of the harvest.
Guzik: Again, what the owner of the vineyard looked for the fruits in their seasons. In the same way, God looked for fruit from Israel’s leadership, but found little (as shown in the fig tree incident).
That he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers: Because Jesus spoke to a Jewish audience, they would be aware that the vineyard is used in the Old Testament as a picture of Israel (Isa_5:1-7). Therefore, the vinedressers represent the rulers of Israel and the vineyard represents the people of God as a whole.
Russell: At the season -- The appointed harvest time, in which those addressed were then living.
A servant -- A prophet or teacher.
That he might receive -- "He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry." (Isa_5:7)
From the husbandmen -- The rulers in Israel, because of their influence and power, were held responsible for the course of the nation.
Of the fruit -- The Lord had a right to expect gratitude, love, obedience, meekness, and readiness of mind and heart to follow further leadings into new paths.
Barnes: And when the time of the fruit drew near ... - The time of gathering the fruit.
The vineyard was let out, probably, for a part of the fruit, and the owner sent to receive the part that was his.
Sent his servants - These, doubtless, represent the prophets sent to the Jewish people.
Mark 12:3 TPT But the tenants seized him and beat him and sent him back empty-handed.
Guzik: c. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed: The vinedressers didn’t buy the vineyard, and did they make it. A generous owner allowed them to work in his vineyard, yet they turned against the owner, and one day had to answer for it.
i. Again he sent them another servant . . . And again he sent another . . . and many others: How patient the owner is! He sends messenger after messenger, even though they are all abused and mistreated. How many messengers of God have we rejected?
ii. Because the owner of the vineyard was not present right at the time, the vinedressers doubted and mocked his authority. They would find out soon enough that even though they couldn’t see the owner, his authority was still real. When we think God is too distant to really exert His authority, we will be proven just as wrong.
iii. This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours: How foolish the vinedressers are! They apparently thought that if they killed the owner’s son, then the owner would just give up and let them have the vineyard.
d. So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard: This parable tells us that Jesus knew He was the Son - the Son of God - and that He knew that He would be killed soon.
i. The Son was the final messenger. There would be no other. Either they would accept the message of the Son, or face certain judgment. “If you do not hear the wellbeloved Son of God, you have refused your last hope. He is God’s ultimatum. Nothing remains when Christ is refused. No one else can be sent; heaven itself contains no further messenger. If Christ be rejected, hope is rejected.” (Spurgeon)
Barnes: And beat one - The word translated here as “beat” properly means to flay or to take off the skin; hence to beat or to whip so that the skin in many places is taken off.
And killed another - Isaiah is said to have been put to death by sawing him asunder.
Many other of the prophets were also put to death. See Luk_13:34; Heb_11:37; 1Sa_22:18; 1Ki_19:10.
And stoned another - This was among the Jews a common mode of punishment, Deu_13:10; Deu_17:7; Jos_7:25. Especially was this the case in times of popular tumult, and of sudden indignation among the people, Act_7:58; Act_14:19; Joh_8:59; Joh_10:31. This does not I imply, of necessity, that those who were stoned “died,” but they might be only severely wounded. Mark says, “At him they cast stones and wounded him in the head, and sent him away,” etc.
There is a little variation in the circumstances as mentioned by Matthew, and by Mark and Luke, but the substance is the same. Mark and Luke are more particular, and state the order in which the servants were sent one after another. They all denote the dealing of the people of Israel toward the prophets. All these things had been done to them. See Heb_11:37; Jer_44:4-6; 2Ch_36:16; Neh_9:26; 2Ch_24:20-21.
Mark 12:4 TPT So the owner sent another servant to them. And that one they shamefully humiliated and beat over the head.
Mark 12:5 TPT So he sent another servant, and they brutally killed him. Many more servants were sent, and they were all severely beaten or killed.
Mark 12:6 TPT The owner had only one person left to send—his only son, whom he dearly loved. So he sent him to them, saying, ‘Surely they will restrain themselves and respect my son.’
Barnes: Last of all ... This beautifully and most tenderly exhibits the love of God in sending his only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die for people. Long had He sent the prophets, and they had been persecuted and slain. There was no use in sending any more prophets to the people. They had done all that they could do. God had one only-begotten and well-beloved Son, whom he might send, and whom the world “ought” to reverence even as they should the Father, Joh_5:23. God is often represented in the Bible as giving His Son, His only-begotten and well beloved Son, for a lost world, Joh_3:16-17; 1Jn_4:9, 1Jn_4:14; Rom_8:3, Rom_8:32; Gal_4:4.
Saying, They will reverence my son - To “reverence” means to honor, to esteem, to show deference to. It is that feeling which we have in the presence of one who is greatly our superior. It means to give to such a person, in our feelings and our deportment, the honor which is due to his rank and character.
Gill: Having yet therefore one son, his well beloved,.... The Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the one, and only Son of God his Father, his only begotten Son, for he has no other Son in the same way of filiation; and who is his dear Son, the Son of his love, who was loved by him before the foundation of the world; and whom he declared to be his beloved Son, both at his baptism, and at his transfiguration upon the mount, by a voice from heaven: this Son he having with him, in his bosom, as one brought up with him, and rejoicing before him.
How do you react when the Word of God brings to light wrong or sinful actions of yours?
Mark 12:7 TPT But the tenants saw their chance and said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come! Let’s kill him, and then we’ll inherit it all!’
Barnes: But when the husbandmen ... - They determined to kill him, and as he was the only son, they supposed they could easily seize on the property It was rented to them; was in their possession; and they resolved to keep it.
This circumstance has probably no reference to any particular conduct of the Jews, but is thrown in to keep up the story and fill up the narrative. An heir is one who succeeds to an estate, commonly a son; an “inheritance” is what an heir receives.
MacLaren: Two things are to be pondered in this part of the parable. First, that wonderful glimpse into the depths of God’s heart, in the hope expressed by the Owner of the vineyard, brings out very clearly Christ’s claim, made there before all these hostile, keen critics, to stand in an altogether singular relation to God. He asserts His Sonship as separating Him from the class of prophets who are servants only, and as constituting a relationship with the Father prior to His coming to earth. His Sonship is no mere synonym for His Messiahship, but was a fact long before Bethlehem; and its assertion lifts for us a corner of the veil of cloud and darkness round the throne of God.
The other noteworthy point is the corresponding casting of the vine-dressers’ thoughts into words. Both representations are due to the graphic character of parable; both crystallise into speech motives which were not actually spoken. It is unnecessary to suppose that even the rulers of Israel had gone the awful length of clear recognition of Christ’s Messiahship, and of looking each other in the face and whispering such a fiendish resolve. Jesus is here dragging to light unconscious motives. The masses did wish to have their national privileges and to avoid their national duties. The rulers did wish to have their sway over minds and consciences undisturbed. They did resent Jesus’ interference, chiefly because they instinctively felt that it threatened their position. They wanted to get Him out of the way, that they might lord it at will. They could have known that He was the Son, and they suppressed dawning suspicions that He was. Alas! they have descendants still in many of us who put away His claims, even while we secretly recognise them, in order that we may do as we like without His meddling with us! The rulers’ calculation was a blunder. As Augustine says, ‘They slew Him that they might possess, and, because they slew, they lost.’ So is it always. Whoever tries to secure any desired end by putting away his responsibility to render to God the fruit of his thankful service, loses the good which he would fain clutch at for his own. All sin is a mistake.
The parable passes from thinly veiled history to equally transparent prediction. How sadly and how unshrinkingly does the meek yet mighty Victim disclose to the conspirators His perfect knowledge of the murder which they were even now hatching in their minds! He foresees all, and will not lift a finger to prevent it. Mark puts the ‘killing’ before the ‘casting out of the vineyard,’ while Matthew and Luke invert the order of the two things. The slaughtered corpse was, as a further indignity, thrown over the wall, by which is symbolically expressed His exclusion from Israel, and the vine-dressers’ delusion that they now had secured undisturbed possession.
Russell: Those husbandmen -- The chief priests and rulers. The scribes and Pharisees who sat in Moses' seat.
Among themselves -- They plotted privately and deceitfully.
This is the heir -- This man claims to be the King, the Messiah of the Jews.
Let us kill him -- Crucifying our Lord.
Shall be ours -- We shall retain our prestige and power.
They did not realize that the course they were taking was the very one which would lead to the destruction of that typical kingdom of God.
Gill: this is the heir; that is, "of the vineyard", as the Persic version expresses it they knew him by the prophecies of the Old Testament which had described him, and by the miracles which were wrought by him; and they could not deny but that the vineyard of the house of Judah belonged to him, and he was right heir to the throne of Israel; though they refused to embrace him, confess him, and declare for him: but, on the other hand, said,
come let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours; that is, "the vineyard", and the Persic version again read. The priests, Scribes, and elders of the people consulted together to take away his life, with this view: that they might continue in the quiet possession of their nation, temple, and worship, in the office they bore, and in the privileges they partook of; and that the Romans might not come, and take away their place and nation, Joh_11:47.
Mark 12:8 TPT So they violently seized him, killed him, and threw his body over the fence!
Barnes: And they caught him ... - This refers to the conduct of the Jews in putting the Saviour to death.
So they understood it, Mat_21:45. The Jews put him to death after they had persecuted and slain the prophets. This was done by giving him into the hands of the Romans and seeking his crucifixion, Mat_27:20-25; Act_2:23; Act_7:51-52.
And cast him out of the vineyard - The vineyard in this parable may represent Jerusalem. Jesus was crucified “out” of Jerusalem, on Mount Calvary, Luk_23:23. See the notes at Heb_13:12.
Benson: Our Lord reviews the history of the theocracy. He recounts the long roll of God’s servants who had been persecuted and misused from the first to the last, including Himself. In doing so, He openly implied that He was the Son of God and made the Pharisees realize how clearly He foresaw the fate which they were preparing for Him. They were accustomed to apply Psa_118:22 to the Messiah, and recognized at once what Jesus meant, when He claimed it as an emblem of His own rejection.
Mark 12:9 TPT So what do you think the owner of the vineyard will do? He will come and put to death those tenants and give his vineyard to others.
Guzik: Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? The vinedressers were foolish enough to think that if they only killed the owner’s son, the vineyard would be theirs. Jesus draws the correct point - they rejected messenger after messenger, finally rejecting the Son, so their day of reckoning will come (He will come and destroy the vinedressers).
Barnes: When the lord, therefore ... - Jesus then asked them a question about the proper way of dealing with those people.
The design of asking them this question was that they might condemn themselves, and admit the justice of the punishment that was soon to come upon them.
Mat 21:41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
They say ... - They answered according as they knew people would act, and would act justly in doing it.
He would take away their privileges and confer them on others. This was the answer which Jesus wished. The case was so clear that they could not answer otherwise. He wished to show them the justice of taking away their national privileges, and punishing them in the destruction of their city and nation. Had he stated this at first they would not have heard him. He, however, by a parable, led them along to “state themselves” the very truth which he wished to communicate, and they had then nothing to answer. They did not, however, yet see the bearing of what they had admitted.
Clarke: And will give the vineyard unto others - The vineyard must not perish with the husbandmen; it is still capable of producing much fruit, if it be properly cultivated. I will give it into the care of new vine-dressers, the evangelists and apostles. - And under their ministry, multitudes were brought to God before the destruction of Jerusalem.
Mark 12:10 TPT Haven’t you read what the psalmist said? The stone the builders examined and rejected has become the cornerstone, the most important stone of all?
Guzik: b. Have you not even read this Scripture: Jesus instructs them from the “Hosanna Psalm” (Psa_118:22-28), because the Messiah has been officially presented to Israel. The hostility of the Jewish leaders shows that He is being rejected, even if He was initially greeted with hosannas quoting from Psalms 118.
Barnes: Jesus saith ... - Jesus, having led them to admit the justice of the great “principle” on which God was about to act toward them proceeds to apply it by a text of Scripture, declaring that this very thing which they admitted to be proper in the case of the “husbandmen” had been predicted respecting themselves.
This passage is found in Psa_118:22-23. It was first applicable to David, but no less to Jesus.
The stone - The figure is taken from building a house. The principal stone for size and beauty is that commonly laid as the cornerstone.
Which the builders rejected - On account of its want of beauty or size it was laid aside, or deemed unfit to be a cornerstone. This represents the Lord Jesus, proposed to the Jews as the foundation or cornerstone on which to build the church, but rejected by them - the builders - on account of his lack of comeliness or beauty; that is, of what they esteemed to be comely or desirable, Isa_53:2-3.
The same is become ... - Though rejected by them, yet God chose him, and made him the foundation of the church. Christ is often compared to a stone, a cornerstone, a tried, that is, a sure, firm foundation - all in allusion to the custom of building, Act_4:11; Rom_9:33;
Mat 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
Mat 21:44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
The kingdom of God ... - Jesus applies the parable to them - the Jews.
They had been the children of the kingdom, or under the reign of God; having his law and acknowledging him as King. They had been his chosen and special people, but he says that now this privilege would be taken away; that they would cease to be the special people of God, and that the blessing would be given to a nation who would bring forth the fruits thereof, or “be righteous” that is, to the Gentiles, Act_28:28.
Whosoever shall fall ... - There is a reference here, doubtless, to Isa_8:14-15. Having made an allusion to himself “as a stone,” or a rock Mat_21:42, he proceeds to state the consequences of coming in contact with it. He that falls upon it shall be broken; he that “runs against it” - a cornerstone, standing out from the other parts of the foundation shall be injured, or broken in his limbs or body. He that is offended with my being the foundation, or that opposes me, shall by the act injure himself, or make himself miserable “by so doing,” even were there nothing further. But there is something further.
On whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder - That is, in the original, will reduce him to dust, so that it may be scattered by the winds.
Russell: Taken from you -- "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for." (Rom_11:7) Taken from them as a nation, not as individuals. Israel was not ready to be used of God in the blessing of other nations; only a remnant was found worthy.
Given to a nation -- Spiritual Israel, whose existence began at Pentecost. "An holy nation, a peculiar people." (1Pe_2:9) A class they esteemed less than the publicans and sinners, the Gentiles, whom they esteemed as "dogs," and from among whom the Bride of Christ is being selected.
And whosoever -- "And he shall be for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel." (Isa_8:14)
This stone -- Our Lord was a stone of stumbling to natural Israel in their harvest, and similarly to spiritual Israel in the present harvest; especially his presence and his work.
Shall be broken -- By stumbling over Jesus they injure themselves. In stumbling over Christ at his first advent, the Jewish nation was indeed broken to pieces.
Grind him to powder -- When the Church is glorified, upon whomsoever this stone falls, it will utterly destroy. "Every soul that will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people." (Act_3:22-23)
Mark 12:11 TPT This was the Lord’s plan—and he is wonderful for our eyes to behold!”
Barnes: Lord’s doing - The appointment of Jesus of Nazareth to be the foundation of the church is proved by miracle and prophecy to be the work of God.
Marvellous in our eyes - Wonderful in the sight of his people. That he should select his only Son - that he should stoop so low, be despised, rejected, and put to death - that God should raise him up, and build a church on this foundation, embracing the Gentile as well as the Jew, and spreading through all the world, is a subject of wonder and praise to all the redeemed.
Gill: This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. That is, the exaltation of the Messiah, after he had been so ill treated, and at last put to death by the Jews. These words are a continuation of the passage cited out of Psa_118:22.
Mark 12:12 TPT Now, the chief priests, religious scholars, and leaders realized that Jesus’ parable was aimed at them. They had hoped to arrest him then and there, but they feared the reaction of the crowd, so they left him alone and went away.
Guzik: They knew He had spoken the parable against them: They were cut to the heart, and convicted by the Holy Spirit. They reacted to the conviction of the Holy Spirit by rejecting, not by receiving. They plotted to murder Jesus instead of repenting before Him.
(Mat_21:42-46) Jesus warns them of the result of their rejecting Him.
The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone: Jesus reminds them that their rejection of Him says more about their guilt and coming judgment than it says about Jesus Himself. Though they reject Him, He is still the chief cornerstone, fulfilling the great Messianic Psalms 118.
i. Like a painting from a great master, Jesus is not on trial - we are. These people rejected Jesus had to hear the eventual consequences of their rejection.
b. Whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder: The choice before the religious leaders is the choice before every person. We can be broken in humble surrender before God or be completely broken in judgment.
c. They sought to lay hands on Him: Instead of repenting, the religious leaders respond with anger, continuing to increase the enormity of their sin of rejecting Jesus.
Russell: So aptly did it represent their state of heart that its only effect was to rouse them to renewed energy to fulfil the final prediction of the parable. (verse 13)
How do you react when the Lord shows you your sinful heart?
Mark 12:13 TPT Then they sent a delegation of Pharisees, together with some staunch supporters of Herod, to entrap Jesus with his own words.
Guzik: They sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words: Public opinion kept them from laying hold of Jesus, so now they try to turn the tide of public opinion against Him. Using a clever question, they want to make Jesus appear to side with the Roman government against the Jews.
- We again see the Pharisees and the Herodians working together (last time was in Mar_3:6). Former enemies come together because of Jesus, but it is because they both oppose Jesus and want to destroy Him.
Russell: They send unto him -- On the last day of our Lord's public ministry.
Of the Pharisees -- Who privately taught that the Jews as the people of God should never pay taxes to other rulers.
And -- The counsellors were of different factions, quite opposed to each other, but drawn together by mutual interest in their opposition to Jesus. Thus it ever is with error; the most contrary theorists are ready to cooperate with each other in opposition to the truth.
Of the Herodians -- Not Jews at all, but, like Herod, Ishmaelites--sons of Abraham through Hagar; as the Jews were his sons through Sarah. They were not religious, but, in a considerable measure, politicians. Who stood firmly, boldly and publicly for the suzerainty of the Roman Empire, claiming that it was to the advantage of the people of Israel to be under Roman power, and that the paying of tribute was right and proper.
To catch him -- If possible to get him to commit himself to some treasonable statement, on account of which they could bring him before Pilate as an enemy of the Roman empire, and thus have him legally executed in a manner which the people could not resist.
In his words -- To get him to either declare with the Herodians that the tax was right and thus break his influence with the people, or to publicly side with the Pharisees, denounce the tax, and thus be open to the charge of treason.
Have you ever tried to trap anyone with their own words?
Mark 12:14 TPT So they approached him and said, “Teacher, we know that you’re an honest man of integrity and you teach us the truth of God’s ways. We can clearly see that you’re not one who speaks only to win the people’s favor, because you speak the truth without regard to the consequences. So tell us, then, what you think. Is it proper for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Guzik: Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth: Jesus knew enough to not regard this flattery from His enemies. Sometimes our enemies flatter us because they want to hurt us. Sometimes our friends flatter us because they want to be kind and helpful. Either way, it is a mistake to put too much stock in what others say about us, either good or bad.
i. Charles Spurgeon said to pastors, “It is always best not to know, nor wish to know, what is being said about you, either by friends or foes. Those who praise us are probably as much mistaken as those who abuse us.” Benjamin Franklin said, “The Devil sweetens poison with honey.”
ii. “Here is a fair glove drawn upon a foul hand . . . There are those who will smile in your face, and at the same time cut your throat.” (Trapp)
Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Since the year 6 A.D. the Jews were forced to pay taxes directly into the emperor’s treasury. Some Jewish patriots (like the Zealots) refused to pay this tax, because they did not want to recognize Roman rule as legitimate. Most others grudgingly paid it, but everybody hated it. It wasn’t just the money, but also the principle of paying your Roman oppressor.
i. There were three taxes imposed by the Romans on Judea. The first was the ground tax, which was 10% of all grain and 20% of all wine and fruit. The second was the income tax, which amounted to 1% of a man’s income. The third was the poll tax, paid by men aged from 12 to 65 and women from 14 to 65. This was one denarius a year, about a day’s wage for a working man.
ii. “It is important to appreciate the emotional trauma which pervaded the issue of the tribute money ever since it had first been imposed on the Roman province of Judea in A.D. 6.” (Lane)
Shall we pay, or shall we not pay? They seemed to put Jesus on the horns of a dilemma. If He agreed the tax should be paid, then Jesus seemed to deny the sovereignty of God over Israel, and He would lose popular support. If Jesus agreed that the tax should not be paid, He would openly declare Himself an enemy of Rome, and be treated like a revolutionary.
i. We can almost see the smug, self-satisfied smiles of the Pharisees and the Herodians as they skillfully threw this question on Jesus. They thought they put Him in a classic “no-win” situation, but you can’t put Jesus in a no-win situation.
Gill: And when they were come,.... Unto Jesus in the temple:
they said unto him, master; they saluted him in like manner, as they did their doctors and Rabbins, calling him "Rabbi", though they were not his disciples; but one part of them were the disciples of the Pharisees, and the other had Herod for their master;
we know that thou art true; an honest, sincere, and upright man,
and carest for no man, for thou regardest not the person of men; no, not Caesar himself;
but teachest the way of God in truth; instructest men in the word, will, and worship of God, with all integrity and faithfulness; answer therefore this question,
is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? The Syriac and Persic versions read, "head money"; and so it is read in Beza's most ancient copy; a tax that was levied on the heads of families; or on every particular head in a family; See Gill on Mat_22:16, Mat_22:17.
Do you use flattery? Why?
Mark 12:15 TPT Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why are you testing me? Show me one of the Roman coins.”
Matthew 22:18 KJV But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
Barnes: Hypocrites - Dissemblers. Professing to be candid inquirers, when their only object was to lead into difficulty
Benson: But Jesus perceived their wickedness, (and craftiness, Luke,) in this their address, however pious and respectful it appeared; and said, Why tempt ye me? — That is, Why do ye try me by such an insnaring question, and seek to draw me into danger by it?
Ye hypocrites — Making conscience and a pure regard to the divine will your pretence for asking the question, while your design is to bring about my destruction.
Mark 12:16 TPT They brought him a silver coin used to pay the tax. “Now, tell me,” Jesus said, “whose head is on this coin and whose inscription is stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Guzik: Bring Me a denarius that I may see it: On the denarius they showed to Jesus, there would be a head of Tiberius, the reigning Roman Emperor. Around his head was written the abbreviation for “Tiberius Caesar, the Divine Augustus.” On the back was the title “Pontifex Maximus,” declaring Caesar the “high priest of the Roman Empire.”
i. As Jesus held the coin, He knew the government of Caesar would soon pierce His hand and crucify Him - and He still said, “pay your taxes.”
Whose image and inscription is this? Essentially, Jesus said “You recognize Caesar’s civil authority when you use his coins, therefore you are obliged to pay him the taxes he asks for.”
i. “There is a world of bitterness in the terseness of their one-word reply,
Benson: Show me the tribute-money — Which is demanded of you. It seems the Romans chose to receive this tribute in their own coin. And they brought unto him a penny — A denarius, stamped with the head of Cesar. He saith, Whose is this image — Which is struck upon the coin? They say unto him, Cesar’s — Plainly acknowledging, by their having received his coin, that they were under his government. And indeed this is a standing rule. The current coin of every nation shows who is the supreme governor of it.
Mark 12:17 TPT Jesus said, “Precisely. The coin bears the image of the emperor Caesar, so you should pay the emperor his portion. But because you bear the image of God, you must give back to God all that belongs to him.” And they were utterly stunned by Jesus’ words.
PNT: They marvelled greatly at him (Mar_12:17). The original is stronger than in the parallel passages. It also intimates that they continued to do so. The other accounts are fuller as to the effect of His answer. These young Pharisees (Matthew) and Herodians with feigned scruples of conscience, the flower of the youth of Jerusalem, scarcely expected such a blow from a Galilean,—and their astonishment was more than momentary. No wonder: the answer of Christ is the wisest ever given to an entangling question, and contains in principle the solution of the great problem of church and state, or the relation of the spiritual and secular power.
Benson: Render therefore, ye Pharisees, to Cesar, the things which ye yourselves acknowledge to be Cesar’s: and, ye Herodians, while ye are zealous for Cesar, see that ye render to God the things that are God’s. When they had heard, &c., they marvelled and left him — “So unexpected an answer, in which Jesus clearly confuted them on their own principles, and showed that the rights of God and the magistrate do not interfere in the least, (because magistrates are God’s deputies, and rule by his authority,) quite disconcerted and silenced those crafty enemies. They were astonished at his having perceived their design, as well as at the wisdom by which he avoided the snare, and went off inwardly vexed and not a little ashamed.” — Macknight.
Guzik: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s: If we take advantage of the benefits of governmental rule, we are obliged to submit to government, as long as it does not infringe on our service to God. Simply said, Jesus tells us to pay our taxes. The Apostle Paul repeated the same idea in Rom_13:6-7.
i. “Jesus is saying that we are citizens of heaven and earth at the same time.” (Morris)
ii. Had the Jews rendered God His due, they would have never had to render Caesar anything - the fact that they were under Roman domination was due to their own departure from the Lord.
And to God the things that are God’s: Just as it is important to render to Caesar, we must also render to God the things that are God’s. The coin belonged to Caesar because his image was stamped on it. We should give ourselves to God because His image is stamped on us.
i. Give the coin to Caesar, but give your life to God.
ii. Jesus’ answer tells us that Caesar does not have all authority; there are things that should be rendered to God alone. When the State treads on this ground that belongs to God, we are duty bound to obey God before the State.
iii. “This answer is full of consummate wisdom. It establishes the limits, regulates the rights, and distinguishes the jurisdiction of the two empires of heaven and earth.” (Clarke)
And they marveled at Him: They marveled, but they did not change. In fact, they twisted this wise answer of Jesus into a lying accusation against Him. In Luk_23:2, they accused Jesus of forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar - when He actually said just the opposite!
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good an answer you give; some people will still twist your good words. They did this to Jesus, yet God’s truth prevailed. In the answer of Jesus, God is glorified, Caesar is satisfied, the people are edified, and His critics are stupefied.
Mark 12:18 TPT Some of the Sadducees, a religious group that denied there was a resurrection of the dead, came to ask Jesus this question:
Gill: Then came unto him the Sadducees,.... The same day, immediately after he had silenced the Pharisees and Herodians: these were a set of men distinct from the former, in some of their sentiments, especially in their religions ones, and particularly in the following:
Guzik: In the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? The Sadducees were well educated, sophisticated, influential and wealthy. They did not believe in immortality, spirits or angels. With their question, they wanted to make the idea of resurrection seem absurd.
- Morris on the Sadducees: “They were the conservative, aristocratic, high-priestly party, worldly minded and very ready to cooperate with the Romans, which, of course, enabled them to maintain their privileged position.”
Benson: The Sadducees also were a sect of great antiquity, having existed, as well as the Pharisees, according to Josephus, from the time of the Maccabees. They had their name from their founder, Sadoc. Antigonus of Socho, president of the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, and teacher of the law in the divinity school in that city, having often in his lectures asserted to his scholars that they ought not to serve God in a servile manner, with respect to reward, but only out of filial love and fear; two of his scholars, Sadoc and Baithus, inferred from thence that there were no rewards or punishments after this life; and therefore, separating from the school of their master, they taught that there was no resurrection nor future state. Many embracing this opinion gave rise to the sect of the Sadducees, who were a kind of Epicureans, but differing from them in this, that, though they denied a future state, yet they allowed that the world was created by the power of God, and governed by his providence, whereas the followers of Epicurus denied both.
The Sadducees, says Luke, (Act_23:8,) say, there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit. Add to this, that they not only rejected all unwritten traditions, but all the books of the Old Testament, excepting those of Moses. They were not very numerous, but being the wealthiest of the three sects, the rich and great gave in to their opinions; whereas the people were firm in the interest of the Pharisees, and so attached to their notions, that, if a Pharisee should happen to throw out reflections, either upon the high priest or king, he was sure to be believed; for every thing that concerned divine worship was regulated by the Pharisees. So that when the Sadducees took upon them any public employment they were obliged, though never so much against their own interest, to obey the injunction of the Pharisees, which had they presumed to refuse, the consequences would have been dangerous, and would have set the people in an uproar.
Mark 12:19 TPT “Teacher, the law of Moses teaches that if a man dies before he has children, his brother should marry the widow and raise up children for his brother’s family line.
Mark 12:20 TPT Now, there was a family with seven brothers. The oldest got married but soon died, and he had no children.
Mark 12:21 TPT The second brother married his oldest brother’s widow, and he also died without any children, and the third also.
Mark 12:22 TPT This repeated down to the seventh brother, none of whom had children. Finally, the woman died.
Mark 12:23 TPT So here’s our dilemma: Which of the seven brothers will be the woman’s husband when she’s resurrected from the dead, since they all were once married to her?”
Guzik: ii. The Law of Moses (in Deu_25:5-6) established something that came to be called levirate marriage, from the Latin word levir, meaning “brother-in-law.” Essentially, the practice made sure that if a married man died childless, his brother had to take the widow as a wife so a son and heir could be provided for the deceased man, and his family name and inheritance would not perish.
iii. Ironside said this question was “An imaginary tale designed to cast ridicule upon the doctrine of resurrection.”
b. Now there were seven brothers: Their question is absurd; it is similar to asking, “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” or “did Adam have a belly-button?” An absurd question isn’t less absurd because we direct the question to the Lord.
MHCC: The doctrines of Christ displeased the infidel Sadducees, as well as the Pharisees and Herodians. He carried the great truths of the resurrection and a future state, further than they had yet been reveled. There is no arguing from the state of things in this world, as to what will take place hereafter. Let truth be set in a clear light, and it appears in full strength. Having thus silenced them, our Lord proceeded to show the truth of the doctrine of the resurrection from the books of Moses. God declared to Moses that he was the God of the patriarchs, who had died long before; this shows that they were then in a state of being, capable of enjoying his favour, and proves that the doctrine of the resurrection is clearly taught in the Old Testament as well as in the New. But this doctrine was kept for a more full revelation, after the resurrection of Christ, who was the first-fruits of them that slept. All errors arise from not knowing the Scriptures and the power of God. In this world death takes away one after another, and so ends all earthly hopes, joys, sorrows, and connexions. How wretched are those who look for nothing better beyond the grave!
Mark 12:24 (ERV) Jesus answered, "How could you be so wrong? It's because you don't know what the Scriptures say. And you don't know anything about God's power.
Gill: And Jesus answering said unto them,.... Which they thought he was not able to do, but would have been silenced at once by them, as many of their antagonists had been:
do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God? what is expressed in Matthew affirmatively, is here put by way of interrogation, which, with the Jews, was a more vehement way of affirming.
Guzik: Are you not therefore mistaken: The Sadducees thought that if there was a resurrection, it was just this same life lived forever. With the principle when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, Jesus shows that in the age to come our lives will be lived on a completely different principle, in a dimension that we can’t imagine.
i. Many people make the same mistake as the Sadducees when it comes to their ideas about heaven. They think of heaven as just a glorious version of earth. So the American Indian thinks of heaven as the “happy hunting ground.” The ancient Viking things of heaven as Valhalla, where they fight as warriors all day and at the end of the day all the dead and wounded rise whole again, and the celebrate all night at a banquet, drinking wine from the skulls of their enemies. All this mistakes heaven for just a “better” earth. Heaven’s life is of a different order all together.
b. Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? Jesus explains why the Sadducees had wrong ideas about resurrection. Their wrong thinking came from ignorance (you do not know) of both the Scriptures and the power of God.
i. When we don’t know the Scriptures, we don’t have an anchor for truth and belief.
ii. When we don’t know the power of God, we doubt God’s ability to actually do what He has promised in the Scriptures.
- “The Sadducees posed as men of superior intelligence and knowledge in opposition to the traditionalists among the Pharisees . . . and yet on this very point they were ignorant of the Scriptures.” (Robertson) Many today who are regarded as intelligent become dull when it comes to Jesus.
Do you know what the scriptures say about the Resurrection?
Do you believe in the resurrection?
Do you believe when you die you cease to exist on any level until the resurrection?
Mark 12:25 (TPT) For when they rise from the dead, men and women will not marry, just like the angels of heaven don’t marry.
Russell: When they shall rise -- Without designating the resurrection of the Church or the resurrection of the world, stating the matter broadly in such a way as to apply to both.
They neither marry -- The restored human family will, during the period of restitution, lose their sexual distinctions, and at the end of the thousand years be all of them in perfection, like Adam was before Eve was taken from his side.
Are as the angels -- As the angels do not die, neither will the perfected human beings die.
Guzik: They neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven: We can’t take our present relationships and just figure they will be the same in heaven. On earth, human relationships are largely a matter of time and place - a man can be a son, then an adult, then a husband, then a father, and so on. In heaven, all that changes.
i. From everything we know, angels don’t have babies. Angels are made directly by God. In the resurrection, we won’t have babies any more. In that respect, we will be just like the angels. “Marriage ceases to have any sexual significance in heaven.” (Cole)
i. We know it won’t be the same as what we know on earth, but we can’t say for sure what it will all be like in heaven - other than to know that we won’t be disappointed.
Knowing the resurrection of the dead is true doesn’t answer all of our questions. There are mysteries that remain, but they don’t take away from the basic truth of the resurrection.
Marriage on earth is until death do us part, what do you think it will be like in heaven or even in the earthly resurrection?
Have you looked into the scriptures to come up with your answers?
Mark 12:26 TPT Mark 12:26 (KJV) And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
Mark 12:27 (TPT) God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, and you are all badly mistaken!”
Barnes: How in the bush - At the burning bush. See Exo_3:16. The meaning is, “in that part of the book of Exodus which contains the account of the burning bush. When there were no chapters and verses, it was the easiest way of quoting a book of the Old Testament “by the subject,” and in this way it was often done by the Jews.
Guzik: (Mar_12:26-27) Jesus proves the resurrection from the Scriptures.
Concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read: Jesus assures the skeptical Sadducees that there is indeed a resurrection of the dead, that they do rise, and that this is demonstrated by the Scriptures.
i. “He has already explained what He meant by their ignorance of God’s power; now He will explain what He meant by their ignorance of the Scripture.” (Cole)
ii. The Sadducees said they believed in the Bible, but they said the true Bible only contained the first five books of the Old Testament. That is one reason why Jesus proved the resurrection from this passage in Exodus 3, one of the books of the Bible the Sadducees said was genuine.
I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: If Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would not continue to live, God would not say that He is their God, speaking in the present tense. He would have to say that He was their God. Therefore, the Scriptures prove there is a resurrection of the dead.
Russell: As touching the dead -- It is the dead who need a resurrection. Note our Lord does not say "as touching the living that they shall arise."
That they rise -- They are to be raised, they are not extinct.
In the book of Moses -- To show that there were various features of the Old Testament which indirectly taught the resurrection, without mentioning it in so many words.
God of Abraham...Isaac...Jacob -- They had reasoned the Old Testament said little about resurrection. Jesus showed them that the Scriptures indirectly taught the resurrection without mentioning it in so many words. If they were dead, extinct, without hope of a resurrection, God would never speak of them in this manner.
God's grounds for speaking of humanity as yet having a hope of life beyond the grave rests not upon any change of the sentence, but upon a predetermined plan to provide a Savior.
Mark 12:28 (TPT) Now a certain religious scholar overheard them debating. When he saw how beautifully Jesus answered all their questions, he posed one of his own, and asked him, “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest of all?”
Guzik: (Mar_12:28-34) Which is the greatest commandment?
Which is the first commandment of all? With this question, they tested Jesus to see if He would show disregard or neglect for some area of the Law of Moses. Instead of promoting one command over another, Jesus defines the law in its essence: love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself.
Barnes: Perceiving that he answered them well - That is, with wisdom, and with a proper understanding of the law. In this case the opinion of the Saviour corresponded with that of the Pharisees; and the question which this scribe put to him now seems to have been one of the very few candid inquiries of him by the Jews for the purpose of obtaining information. Jesus answered it in the spirit of kindness, and commended the conduct of the man.
Russell: Asked him -- Quite probably in all sincerity, and not to entrap Jesus.
Which is the first -- Quite a common question among the Jews. A theological question much discussed amongst the Jewish rabbis; a question upon which they were very generally divided.
Do you ask questions?
Do you seek the Truth?
Mark 12:29 TPT Jesus answered him, “The most important of all the commandments is this: ‘The Lord Yahweh, our God, is one!’
Wesley: The Lord our God is one Lord - This is the foundation of the first commandment, yea, of all the commandments. The Lord our God, the Lord, the God of all men, is one God.
Russell: Jesus answered -- With a quotation from the Old Testament. (Deu_6:4-5) He added nothing, because nothing could be added.
Hear, O Israel -- This declaration which the Jews called "The Shama" was considered sacred. Therefore, there could be no objection to our Lord's answer.
God is one Lord -- And not three Gods. The Son of God is not the Father, but the Son, who "proceeded forth from the Father," who was the beginning of the creation of God. (Joh_8:42; Rev_3:14)
Gill: hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. This passage of Scripture, to the end of the ninth verse, is the first of the sections which were put into their phylacteries; See Gill on Mat_23:5; and was repeated twice every day, morning and evening; which is by the Jews called from the first word קריאת שמע, "the reading of the Shema": concerning the exact time of the reciting of this, morning and evening, and of the posture in which they do it, reclining in the evening, and standing in the morning, and of the prayers before and after it, various rules are given in their Misna (p), or oral law; it is a precept of great esteem and veneration with them, and attended to with much solemnity.
Barnes: The Lord our God ... - Literally, “Yahweh, our God, is one Yahweh.” The other nations worshipped many gods, but the God of the Jews was one, and one only. יהוה Yahweh was undivided; and this great truth it was the design of the separation of the Jewish people from other nations to keep in mind. This was the “peculiar” truth which was communicated to the Jews, and this they were required to keep and remember forever.
JFB: Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord — This every devout Jew recited twice every day, and the Jews do it to this day; thus keeping up the great ancient national protest against the polytheisms and pantheisms of the heathen world: it is the great utterance of the national faith in One Living and Personal God - “One JEHOVAH!”
Mark 12:30 TPT You are to love the Lord Yahweh, your God, with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, with every thought that is within you, and with all your strength. This is the great and supreme commandment.
Russell: Thou shalt love the Lord -- Love is the principal thing. God is love. "Love is the fulfilling of the law " (Rom_13:10) Only in proportion as love is in the heart can this divine law be fulfilled by any.
This fullness of love for the Father represents, not the beginning of the consecrated Christian's condition, but its fullness, its completeness. The Mark of character, which is that which the law of God places as the smallest condition which would be acceptable to him--the Mark of perfect love.
The reason why the Jews could not keep the Law was that they did not have perfect love in their hearts.
Thy God -- Jehovah. First reverence--later love. We cannot love God until we have become acquainted with him and ascertained the lovable qualities represented in him.
With all thy heart -- By perfect obedience to this Law even unto death, our Lord fulfilled the Law Covenant, redeemed mankind, and became heir of the Abrahamic promise.
This means the full consecration of time, talent, influence, everything. Our affections must all reverence and love him. Heart conversion results from the knowledge of God and the love for him.
The Lord thus epitomized the Ten Commandments, which are in themselves a brief epitome of the whole Law. Any one who kept this Law would not be serving self. Such love does not wait for commands but will appeal for service.
With all thy soul -- Our being, our bodies, must all be controlled by the love of God. You cannot do more than that, except as Jesus did, by laying down that life.
With all thy mind -- Our minds must recognize, reverence and love the Lord.
With all thy strength -- Our strength of mind or body must recognize him as worthy of every loving service we can render.
Gill: with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; that is, with all the powers and faculties of the soul; or with the affections, as under the influence and guidance of the more noble faculties of the soul, the mind, the understanding, judgment, and will: it is added here, which is not in Matthew,
and with all thy strength; which answers to the phrase in Deu_6:5, "with all thy might"; that is, with the greatest vehemency of affection, in the strongest expressions of it, and with all the strength of grace a man has.
Have you been able to achieve this commandment?
Mark 12:31 TPT And the second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.’ You will never find a greater commandment than these.”
Guzik: Love the LORD your God . . . love your neighbor as yourself: In this we see that what God really wants from man is love. We can obey God without loving Him, but if we do love Him obedience will follow.
Russell: And the second -- He divided the Law into two parts, as on the two tables of stone; the one part relating to God and man's obligations to his Creator; and the second part relating to man's responsibilities toward his fellow-man. Second only to the previous statement of the love to God.
Namely this -- Quoting from Lev_19:18.
Love thy neighbour -- The government instituted by Moses was a model of fairness and justice between brethren, and also the stranger and foreigner.
"If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?"
As thyself -- The keeping of these two commends would touch upon, cover and include every item of the divine Law.
Do you love your neighbor?
Do you love your brother?
Are your actions in harmony with your profession?
Mark 12:32 TPT The religious scholar replied, “Yes, that’s true, Teacher. You spoke beautifully when you said that God is one, and there is no one else besides him.
Mark 12:33 TPT And there is something more important to God than all the sacrifices and burnt offerings: it’s the commandment to constantly love God with every passion of your heart, with your every thought, and with all your strength—and to love your neighbor in the same way as you love yourself.”
Guzik: To love Him with all . . . and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices: The scribe’s response to Jesus was right on the mark. It is easy to think that religious ceremony and devotion are more important than love for God and our neighbor, but this isn’t the case. A thousand empty burnt offerings are not more to God than a single act of love done in His name.
Benson: The scribe — Who had proposed the question to try him, being struck with the solidity and spirit of his answer, said, Well, Master — In the original it is, καλως, excellently, finely, or beautifully; a phrase which expresses his high satisfaction in the reply much more strongly than the word well. Thou hast said the truth — Thy declaration is perfectly correct, and unspeakably important; for there is one God, &c., and to love him with all the heart — To love and serve him with all the united powers of the soul, in their utmost vigour; and without a rival;
and to love his neighbour as himself -- To maintain the same equitable and charitable temper and behaviour toward all men, as we, in like circumstances, would wish from them toward ourselves, is a more necessary and important duty, and a more acceptable service, than the offering the most noble and costly sacrifices; nor could the most exact and pompous ritual observances be acceptable without such graces and virtues as these.
PNT: Well, Master, thou saidst with truth. Without doubt the scribe spoke candidly, though Matthew states that his question was put, ‘tempting’(or ‘trying,’ i.e., putting to proof) our Lord. He may have been chosen by the Pharisees as their unconscious tool, because of his candor. Besides our Lord’s words may have awakened a spiritual apprehension of the law. He represents a large class, outside the kingdom, in a more hopeful condition than Pharisees in the visible church, but he had not yet taken the decisive step.
Mark 12:34 TPT When Jesus noticed how thoughtfully and sincerely the man answered, he said to him, “You’re not far from the reality of God’s kingdom realm.” After that, no one dared to question him again.
Benson: When Jesus saw that he answered discreetly — And thereby showed that he had just views of true religion; he said, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God — He applauded the piety and wisdom of the scribe’s reflection, by declaring, that he was not far from embracing the gospel, and becoming a true member of Christ’s Church, possessed of all the blessings belonging to his disciples. Reader, art thou not far from the kingdom of God? Then go on: be a real Christian; else it had been better for thee to have been afar off.
Barnes: Discreetly - Wisely, according to truth.
Not far from the kingdom of God - Thou who dost prefer the “internal” to the “external” worship of God - who hast so just a view of the requirements of the law - canst easily become a follower of me, and art almost fit to be numbered among my disciples. This shows that a proper understanding of the Old Testament, of its laws and requirements, would prepare the mind for Christianity, and suit a person at once to embrace it when presented. One system is grafted on the other, agreeably to Gal_3:24.
And no man after that durst ask him any question - That is, no one of the scribes, the Pharisees, or the Sadducees durst ask him a question for the purpose of “tempting” him or entangling him. He had completely silenced them. It does not appear, however, but that his “disciples” dared to ask him questions for the purpose of information.
PNT: Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. Intellectually on the right road, nearer to the kingdom than a mere formalist could be, recognizing the spirituality of the law, perhaps conscious of the folly of self-righteousness; but, though standing as it were at the door, still outside.—Alexander. While the worst of His opponents were unable to convict Him of an error, or betray Him into a mistake, the best of them, when brought into direct communication with Him on the most important subjects, found themselves almost in the position of His own disciples.
And no man any more durst ask him any question. A natural effect of the previous experiments. No further question is put to Him, but He asks one which they cannot answer. Matthew however, gives more prominence to the fact that no one ‘was able to answer Him a word,’ and so puts this statement after the victorious question of our Lord. Such independent testimony is the most valuable, especially here where our Lord asks a question respecting His own Person, in some respects the central question of Christianity.
Mark 12:35 TPT While Jesus was teaching in the courts of the temple, he posed a question to those listening: “Why do the religious scholars say that the Messiah is David’s son?
Matthew 22:41 TPT While all the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus took the opportunity to pose a question of his own:
CTR: How say the scribes -- Not endeavoring to entrap them as they endeavored to do with him; but because there is no better method of presenting a truth strikingly than through a wisely directed question
Guzik: (Mar_12:35-37) Jesus asks a question: how can the Messiah be both the Son of David and the Lord of David?
How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? Since Jesus is the Christ, here He speaks of Himself. With the questions of the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees to Jesus, they tried to make Him look bad or trap Him. Jesus did not do the same in His questions to them; instead He got to the heart of the matter: “do you really know who I am?”
- These religious leaders thought they knew just about everything there was to know about the Messiah. Jesus is challenging this notion, and He asks them to consider that they may have something to learn.
Do you know the answer?
Mark 12:36 TPT Yet it was David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who sang: The Lord Jehovah said to my Lord, ‘Sit near me in the place of authority until I subdue all your enemies under Your feet.’
Mark 12:37 TPT Since David calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” The large crowd that had gathered around Jesus took delight in hearing his words.
Guzik: b. David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son? Jesus is not only the Son of David He is also the Lord of David. As Rev_22:16 says, He is both the root and offspring of David. With this question Jesus challenges the religious leaders, asking them “do you understand this truth about the Messiah?”
Gill: For David himself said by the Holy Ghost,.... In Psa_110:1, being inspired by the Spirit of God:
the Lord said to my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. This is a proof, that David did call Christ his Lord; and that he called him so in spirit; since these words were delivered by him under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: that the psalm was wrote by David, the title shows; and that he spake it as he was influenced by the Holy Ghost, our Lord declares: the passage relates to what God said to Christ, when being risen from the dead, he ascended on high, and entered into the most holy place; he bid him sit down at his right hand, as having done the work of man's salvation…where he should continue, till all his enemies, Jews, Pagans, Papists, and Mahometans, as well as Satan, and all his principalities and powers, were so subdued under him, as to be as a footstool to his throne: and when David prophetically speaks of this, he calls the Messiah his Lord; saying, the "Lord said to my Lord"
Benson: And the common people heard him gladly — They heard him with great attention and pleasure; for the clear and solid answers which he returned to the insnaring questions of his foes, gave them a high opinion of his wisdom, and showed them how far he was superior to their most renowned rabbis; whose arguments to prove their opinions, and answers to the objections that were raised against them, were, generally speaking, but mean and trifling in comparison of his.
Clarke: The common people heard him gladly - The success of the Saviour in his preaching was chiefly among the common or the poorer class of people. The rich and the mighty were too proud to listen to his instructions. So it is still. The main success of the gospel is there, and there it pours down its chief blessings. This is not the fault of “the gospel.” It would bless the rich and the mighty as well as the poor, if they came with like humble hearts. God knows no distinctions of men in conferring His favors; and wherever there is a poor, contrite, and humble spirit - be it clothed in rags or in purple - be it on a throne or on a dunghill - there He confers the blessings of salvation.
Mark 12:38 TPT Jesus also taught the people, “Beware of the religious scholars. They love to parade around in their clergy robes and be greeted with respect on the street.
Mark 12:39 TPT They crave to be made the leaders of synagogue councils, and they push their way to the head table at banquets.
Mark 12:40 TPT For appearance’s sake, they will pray long religious prayers at the homes of widows for an offering, cheating them out of their very livelihood. Beware of them all, for they will one day be stripped of honor, and the judgment they receive will be severe.”
Guzik: Beware of the scribes: The scribes were the “Bible Scholars” of Jesus’ day. They were entrusted with preserving, learning, and teaching the Word of God to the world. These are the men that the people of God should have been able to trust, but Jesus says instead they should beware of the scribes. The scribes represent a complete contrast to the picture of how a disciple should be - as a servant, as a child, as one carrying a cross. Jesus says that we should notice what they do as well as what they say.
i. Beware the scribes, because they like to wear their long robes. The scribes were men of leisure, who watched while others work.
ii. Beware the scribes, because they love greetings. They demand recognition from others in their walk with God, and love the “image” of a holy man.
iii. Beware the scribes, because they love the best seats in the synagogue and at feasts, showing they demand the “perks” of status and privilege.
iv. Beware the scribes, because they devour widows’ houses. They sin against the weak and vulnerable, but excuse it because they are so “spiritual.” In that day, a Jewish teacher could not be paid for teaching - but he could receive “gifts.” Apparently, many scribes used flattery and manipulation to wrangle big gifts from those who could least afford to give them - such as widows. The Jews of Jesus’ day taught that teachers were to be respected almost as much as God; they said that they deserved more honor and respect than any other people in life. They taught that the greatest act someone could do is give money to a teacher. Of course, it was the teachers themselves who taught this!
v. Beware the scribes, because they for a pretense make long prayers. Their relationship with God is far more show than substance. The scribes thought they were more spiritual because of their long prayers; but Morgan says that when a man is away from his wife, and the journey is short, the letters are short. The farther he is from his wife, the longer the letters become. Morgan said that some people must be a long way from God because their prayers are so long!
b. These will receive a greater condemnation: As in Mar_6:11, Jesus presents the idea of a greater condemnation - that some will receive a worse judgment, a worse condemnation, than others will.
Russell: Beware -- If any find in themselves the enumerated characteristics, he should flee from the sin as he would from a contagious disease.
Of the scribes -- Doctors of the Law--in our own times, Doctors of Divinity.
The more one knows, the more of a scribe he is, the greater will be his condemnation if the characteristics here set forth by our Lord are his.
In long clothing -- Long robes of profession. If one finds himself greatly influenced by the opinion of others respecting his clothing, let him beware.
Love salutations -- If one finds in himself a self-seeking, a selfish disposition to grasp the best for himself on all occasions, and loves public praise and recognition, titles, etc., let him beware.
Benson: Beware of the scribes — See that ye do not imitate their hypocrisy, or imbibe their principles, and be on your guard against their insidious counsels and designs. There was an absolute necessity for these repeated cautions of our Lord. For, considering the inveterate prejudices of these scribes against him and his doctrine, it could never be supposed that the common people would receive the gospel till these incorrigible blasphemers of it were brought to just disgrace. Yet he delayed speaking in this manner till a little before his passion, as knowing what effect it would quickly produce.
Which love to go in long clothing, &c. — Here our Lord assigns the reason why he bid his disciples beware of imitating them. They were excessively proud and arrogant, as was plain from their affected gravity of dress, from the anxiety which they discovered to get the principal seats at feasts, and all public meetings, as things belonging to them, on account of their superior worth, and from their courting to be saluted in the streets with particular marks of respect, and to be addressed with the sounding titles of rabbi, father, and master; thinking such public acknowledgments of their merits due from all who met them. To this their excessive pride the Jewish teachers added an unbounded covetousness and sensuality, which did not suffer the substance even of widows to escape them. For the evangelist informs us, that they devoured widows’ houses, possessing themselves of their property by various acts of deception, and lived luxuriously thereon.
And for a pretence -- To cover their crying immoralities; made long prayers — With a great show of piety, hoping thereby to engage the esteem and confidence of others, that they might have the greater opportunity to injure and defraud them.
These shall receive the greater damnation — Their complicated wickedness, particularly making their pretended piety a cloak to their covetousness and luxury, shall cost them dear; and they shall be more dreadfully punished than if they had never prayed at all, nor made any pretences to religion. See notes on Mat_23:1-14.
Mark 12:41 TPT Then he sat down near the offering box, watching all the people dropping in their coins. Many of the rich would put in very large sums,
Guzik: Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury: The sight of this poor widow must have been a welcome sight to a weary Jesus, after enduring a storm of questions from His enemies.
- The line at the offering box, and the pride shown by the rich men in their giving shows us that it isn’t necessarily more spiritual to just have an offering box instead of passing offering bags. It isn’t a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of which is an easier way for people to give in a way that doesn’t call attention to their gift.
b. Saw how the people put money into the treasury: Jesus looks at us when we give and He notices how much we give. As Jesus looks, He is more interested in how we give than in how much we give.
i. In seeing how the people gave, Jesus wasn’t studying technique. He was looking at motive and heart.
Barnes: Sat over against - Opposite to, in full sight of.
The treasury - This was in the court of the women. In that court there were fixed a number of places or coffers, made with a large open mouth in the shape of a trumpet, for the purpose of receiving the offerings of the people; and the money thus contributed was devoted to the service of the temple - to incense, sacrifices, etc.
Clarke: Cast money into the treasury - It is worthy of observation, that the money put into the treasury, even by the rich, is termed by the evangelist χαλκον, brass money, probably that species of small brass coin which was called פרוטה prutah among the Jews, two of which make a farthing…. We call this, mite, from the French, miete, which signifies a crumb, or very small morsel. The prutah was the smallest coin in use among the Jews: and there is a canon among the rabbins that no person shall put less than two prutahs into the treasury. This poor widow would not give less, and her poverty prevented her from giving more. And whereas it is said that many rich persons cast in Much, πολλα, (many), this may only refer to the number of the prutahs which they threw in, and not to the value. What opinion should we form of a rich man, who, in a collection for a public charity, only threw in a handful of halfpence?
Let us examine this subject a little more closely: Jesus prefers the widow’s two mites to all the offerings made by the rich.
To make this relation the more profitable, let us consider Christ the observer and judge of human actions.
- Christ observes all men and all things: all our actions are before his eyes, what we do in public and what we do in private are equally known unto him.
- Christ sees all the motives which lead men to perform their respective actions; and the different motives which lead them to perform the same action: he knows whether they act through vanity, self-love, interest, ambition, hypocrisy, or whether through love, charity, zeal for his glory, and a hearty desire to please him.
- He observes the circumstances which accompany our actions; whether we act with care or negligence, with a ready mind or with reluctance.
- He observes the judgment which we form of that which we do in his name; whether we esteem ourselves more on account of what we have done, speak of it to others, dwell on our labors, sufferings, expenses, success, etc., or whether we humble ourselves because we have done so little good, and even that little in so imperfect a way.
II. See the judgment Christ forms of our actions.
- He shows that works of charity, etc., should be estimated, not by their appearance, but by the spirit which produces them.
- He shows by this that all men are properly in a state of equality; for though there is and ought to be a difference in outward things, yet God looks upon the heart, and the poorest person has it in his power to make his mite as acceptable to the Lord, by simplicity of intention, and purity of affection, as the millions given by the affluent. It is just in God to rate the value of an action by the spirit in which it is done.
Mark 12:42 TPT but a destitute widow walked up and dropped in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny.
Guzik: Many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came in and threw in two mites: Jesus noticed a long line of rich people who put in a lot of money, perhaps making some kind of display to call attention to their gift. The one poor widow was different, and offered two mites.
- How much was two mites? Mark tells us that two mites make one quadrans. Matthew Poole says that we can calculate the value of a mite based on the value of a denarius, which was the going rate of one day’s labor for a working man. According to Poole’s calculations, a denarius equals six meahs; one meah equals two pondions; one pondion equals two issarines; one issarine equals eight mites. When you figure it all out, two mites are 1% of a denarius. A mite was pretty small - perhaps our equivalent of putting $1 in the collection plate.
- A quadrans was a Roman coin. Mark is helping his Roman readers to understand how much a mite was worth. It wasn’t worth much.
- The ancient Greek word lepton literally means “a tiny thing,” and so in the Old English was translated mite, which comes from the word for a “crumb” or “very small morsel.”
Two mites: The wonderful thing about this widow’s giving is that she had two mites and gave them both. She might have kept one coin for herself, and who would blame her if she did? Instead, she gave with staggering generosity.
Russell: She threw in -- Not in an ostentatious manner for the coins were too small to boast about.
Two mites -- The smallest copper coins in circulation--each worth about one-eighth of a cent. However small our talents, however few or limited our opportunities of service, our offerings are not despised, but are credited proportionately to the real spirit of sacrifice prompting them.
The Lord in making his estimate will take knowledge of the spirit which actuated us, rather than of the results secured by our efforts; so that of some small talent it may be said, as it was said of the poor widow who casts in the two mites into the treasury--that the smaller gift was more appreciated by the Lord than some of the larger ones. The very small affairs of our lives, the very small sacrifices, the very small self-denials, will be great in the Master's sight if they denote, love, devotion and self-sacrifice.
Mark 12:43 TPT Jesus called his disciples to gather around and then said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given a larger offering than any of the wealthy.
Guzik: This poor widow has put in more than all those who have given: Jesus did not say that she put in more than any one of them; He said that she put in more than all of them - all of them put together!
i. This poor widow: In the ancient Greek, the idea is “emphatic - the poverty-stricken; manifest from her dress and wasted look.” (Robertson)
Russell: Cast more in -- Her gift was greater in God's sight because she had given that which would cause self-denial. If our gifts to his service be actually small, they are accepted in proportion to what we have, in proportion to what the gifts cost us in the way of self-denials.
Mark 12:44 TPT For the rich only gave out of their surplus, but she sacrificed out of her poverty and gave to God all that she had to live on, which was everything she had.”
Guzik: They all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had: This explains how Jesus could say that the widow put in more than all. It was because all the others gave out of their abundance but she gave sacrificially.
- Jesus’ principle here shows us that a gift’s value is determined by the spirit in which it is given; God doesn’t want grudgingly given money, or guilt money. God loves the cheerful giver.
- The widow’s gift and Jesus’ comment on it also shows us that the value of a gift is determined by what it cost the giver; this is what made the widow’s gift so valuable. David refused to give God that which cost me nothing (2Sa_24:24).
- Jesus’ principle here shows us that God does not need our money. If God needed our money, then how much we give would be more important than our heart in giving. Instead, it is our privilege to give to Him, and we need to give because it is good for us, not because it is good for God.
c. Out of her poverty: Why was the woman poor? Because she was a widow and had no husband to help support her. It also may be significant that Jesus just criticized the scribes as those who devour widow’s houses. Now a lone widow makes a spectacular contribution - had her house been devoured by a scribe?
- The widow challenges the mindset that says, “I’ll give when I have more.” The widow had virtually nothing, yet was a giver. This means that we can all please God with our giving just as much as the richest man can please God with his giving. Whatever we give sacrificially to God, He sees it and is pleased.
iii. There is a sense in which may have looked at the widow and saw Himself. He would soon offering everything He had in humble sacrifice on the cross. Jesus didn’t hold back His “two mites.”
Benson: For all they did cast in of their abundance — Their offerings, though great in respect of hers, bore but a small proportion to their estates. But she of her want did cast in all that she had — Her offering was the whole of her income for that day, or, perhaps, the whole of the money in her possession at that time. Here then we see what judgment is passed on the most specious outward actions by the Judge of all! And how acceptable to him is the smallest, which springs from self- denying love! Both the poor and the rich may learn an important lesson from this passage of the gospel. The poor, who seem to have the means of doing charitable offices denied them in a great measure, are encouraged by it to do what they can; because, although it may be little, God, who looks into the heart, values it not according to what it is in itself, but according to the disposition with which it is given. On the other hand, it shows the rich, that it is not enough that they exceed the poor in the quantity of their charity. A little given where a little is left behind, often appears in the eye of God a much nobler offering, and discovers a far greater strength of good dispositions, than sums vastly larger bestowed out of a plentiful abundance. See Macknight.
Russell: Of their abundance -- The loss of which they perhaps would not seriously feel.
Cast in -- Whoever loves another will seek to serve him and be willing to render service at an expense that would be proportionate to his love.
All that she had -- Let us see to it, not only that we do with our might what our hands find to do, but also that our every sacrifice and gift to the Lord and his cause is so full of love and devotion that the Lord will surely approve it; as done from love for him and his, and not from vain glory.
Similarly, a poor brother donated $2, saying it was the result of his walking instead of riding to daily work, and other small extras he had willingly denied himself to be able to share in the spread of the truth.
Even all her living -- Practically all that she had. The Lord did not caution her.