For an introduction to this series, click here.
Jan. 30, 2007
Remember that this entire chapter takes place in Jerusalem, either the afternoon of the day of Jesus' Triumphal Entry or the morning after. So this happened the week that Jesus was crucified.
This chapter starts with the parable of the tenants. The tenants are supposed to be harvesting crops for the owner, but instead they are keeping everything for themselves. When the owner sends messengers asking for payment, the tenants beat them and send them away empty. Finally the owner sends his son. But instead of respecting the son, they kill him, thinking that they will stand to own the land if the son is dead. In Mark's version of the parable, the religious leaders (remember that this passage is in the middle of a series of questions they asked Jesus) do not respond verbally, but Mark does tell us that they know that He was telling the parable about them, and they planned to arrest Him.
The next question is from the Herodians, who supported the reign of Herod. These would have been probably the most worldly members of Jewish society. Their question: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?" (12:14) They knew that most of the people in the audience hated the Romans and would not be thrilled to hear that they needed to pay taxes. They also knew that if He told people not to pay their taxes, then He could be turned over to the Romans as a troublemaker. Instead of choosing either option, Jesus makes one of the first and most powerful statements concerning the separation of church and state: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (12:17)
Next came the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection. They basically denied everything supernatural, including angels. They only recognized Moses' writings as legitimate. They asked a hypothetical question about a woman who had seven husbands who all died. "In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife." (12:23) Jesus responds by saying that people are not married in the resurrection, which may have seemed like a cop-out. But then Jesus attacks their theology head-on: "Have you not read in the book of Moses (the part of the Bible they followed) in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong." (12:26-27)
A scribe then asked "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Of course you know the answer: the most important is to love God, and the second, which Jesus was not asked about, is to love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus then had a question for His audience: "How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.' David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?" Jesus was proving to His hearers that He was God, but by this point, most of the people were unwilling to listen.
This chapter ends with the widow's offering. In the ESV her offering is described as "two small copper coins, which make a penny." The marginal note says that a penny would have been 1/64 of a denarius. If we go by the standard that a denarius is $50, this would make her offering about 79 cents. This was all she had, and Jesus makes a note of it. We are not called to give great things to the Lord, we are called to give our all, whatever that may be.