Today: [Mark 12] The Foreknowledge of Jesus: In Mark 12, Jesus delivers a parable to the scribes and elders predicting His own death, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the coming of the church age in just a few short sentences. For us it is an example of how no matter how clueless the disciples remained about what was about to happen in terms of Jesus’ death, Jesus Himself more than once fully informed them as He does us of what is about to transpire in the days ahead.
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[Mar 12:1-27 KJV] 1 And he began to speak unto them by parables. A [certain] man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about [it], and digged [a place for] the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. 2 And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they caught [him], and beat him, and sent [him] away empty. 4 And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded [him] in the head, and sent [him] away shamefully handled. 5 And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. 6 Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. 7 But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. 8 And they took him, and killed [him], and cast [him] out of the vineyard. 9 What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. 10 And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: 11 This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 12 And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way. 13 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in [his] words. 14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see [it]. 16 And they brought [it]. And he saith unto them, Whose [is] this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him. 18 Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, 19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave [his] wife [behind him], and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 20 Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. 21 And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. 22 And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. 23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. 24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? 25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. 26 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? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.
In chapter 12 Jesus begins a series of parables with the story of a man leaving a vineyard in the care of unworthy vinedressers. For Jesus’ hearers, it would have been unambiguous to them that He was referencing Isa. 5:1-7 where the prophet clearly declares the nation of Israel and the descendants of Jacob to be the vineyard of God. In the parable, servants are sent by the Master to gather fruit from the vineyard and are rebuffed and treated harshly to the point of even killing some of them. These are the prophets sent in earlier times from God to the kings and priests in Jerusalem who almost without exception were rejected and abused by those who disdained their message. Jesus’ listeners would have clearly understood this, and would have excluded themselves from this narrative with the contention that yes, this is what their fathers did before the captivity, but they are different! Now Jesus makes the connection they have missed: He declares that the Master has now sent unto them His only son and in the parable the unworthy vinedressers take the son and kill Him, prompting the destruction of these evil men. In these last few lines, Jesus has predicted His own death and the destruction of Jerusalem and the leveling of the temple in 70 AD. He then goes one step further, and foreshadows the church age beyond in saying that after the Stone is rejected by the builders, it will yet become the Head of the Corner, the Chief Cornerstone of the purposes of God expressed in the Church after the fall of Jerusalem. The elders and scribes immediately moved to take hold of Jesus, but they feared the people and went their way. There was no discussion, no pause to indicate that for one moment they considered whether or not they should repent of their actions or their attitude toward this young miracle worker. His miracles didn’t move them, His loving demeanor was unpersuasive, they were entrenched in their own sense of self-referral and therefore doomed.
After leaving Jesus, they sent other challengers to catch Him in His words. They ask a question about whether the paying of taxes is a just and legitimate imposition upon the people of God. Jesus simply dismisses them with an examination of a coin presented, whereupon He says “render to Caesar, that which was Caesar’s and unto God that which was God’s. This is still a question being asked today. Many question whether it is godly to pay taxes to a government whose policies are so deeply secular, and unabiding and disrespectful of the Christian faith. Let us remember that Jesus not for one moment ever advocated such civil disobedience, in fact He was known to pay His own taxes. What does this tell us? Remember that the regime over which Jerusalem was ruled was the most cruel, corrupt and ungodly empire that we could imagine. The Nazi regime of the 1940’s would blush at the extremes to which Rome went every day to savage those under the jackboot of Nero. Yet Jesus never called for an activist church nor an insurgent church, but simply declared that His kingdom was not of this world, therefore His servants would not fight against such things with natural means. This is counter to the foregone conclusions we make about our rights and privileges in a society held in stewardship by a representative government. We must then balance our democratic sentiments with kingdom values.
Then the hypocrites challenge Jesus with a parable of their own (seeing they could not effectively challenge Jesus’ own parables). They tell Jesus’ the theoretical account of seven brothers who marry the same widow, each leaving no children after their own deaths. The question is, whom will claim the woman as their wife in the resurrection?
Jesus simply dismisses the question because the people asking are known not to believe in the resurrection in the first place, and that in heaven there is no marrying or giving in marriage, because those in heaven will be more like the angels. Does that mean there will be no gender in heaven? Not necessarily, but rather that there will not be a need for the estate of marriage as we know it.
[Mark 12: 28-44 KJV]
- And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments [is], Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this [is] the first commandment. 31 And the second [is] like, [namely] this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: 33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love [his] neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him [any question]. 35 And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David? 36 For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. 37 David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he [then] his son? And the common people heard him gladly. 38 And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and [love] salutations in the marketplaces, 39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: 40 Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation. 41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called [unto him] his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44 For all [they] did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, [even] all her living.
In verse 28 we see a lone instance of one of the scribes setting aside his prejudices toward Jesus and asking a sincere question: which is the first commandment of all? The first commandment is to love God with all your being and secondly to love your neighbor as one’s self. The scribe readily agrees to this, remarking that to love God is absolutely the first priority, and that loving one’s neighbor is more important than all the religious protocols imposed upon the people by the illegitimate authorities of the day. In v. 34 Jesus sees the thoughtfulness of the man’s answer and declares that He is not far from the kingdom. Upon seeing how persuasive Jesus is, that one of their own is nigh converted, the scribes, Pharisees, elders and Herodians feared, and did not dare ask Him anymore questions.
In reflecting on this conversation between Jesus and the scribe we might ask ourselves the same questions. Is it really so absolutely inviolate that we must adhere to the protocols and regimens of religious expectation imposed upon us by Christian culture and leadership? Behold now the yoke easy and the burden light – loving God and loving one’s neighbor in spirit and in truth is more important than all the whole of Christian tradition, expectation and demand that others might make in their self-presumed authority to dictate to you what constitutes a Christian life well lived.
Having interacted at length with these self-appointed authorities, Jesus turns to His disciples and warns them not to follow in their example, as those who love the outward show of piety but inwardly are so full of greed and avarice that they devoured widow’s houses all while trembling with false piety and loud and long prayers with hands raised toward God with one eye open watching to make sure others see just how godly they are.
Finally, Jesus being in the temple stands to watch the people giving of their livelihoods to the maintenance of the program of God. There are many today who insist that God is not at all interested in such things. They say that money and finances are a mundane thing that is of no spiritual interest, but what an amazing thing that Jesus would be so inappropriately inquisitive as to actually make note not only of who but how much each person was giving. Can you imagine your pastor coming along with the ushers, examine and counting each gift, noting the amount written on each check as it was deposited in the offering receptacle? How many of us would be saying to ourselves this was our last Sunday, yet Jesus Himself is doing this VERY THING?
As Jesus is standing by, He notes a woman, greatly impoverished casting in of all her living. What a scandal! What if a poor old widow on a fixed income co-signed her subsistence check and put it in the offering basket in your church this Sunday? What if your pastor upon learning of it, failed to return it to the dear old spinster? Would it not be a scandal, but this is exactly what Jesus does. What can we learn from this? The disparity between our personal mores and ethics in such matters and the obvious attitude of Jesus is an indicator of how deeply money has become a false god in our lives whether we realize it or not. We clothe ourselves with mock pity and religious indignation when in fact something much less flattering is driving our imagined offense at the handling of such things. As for the woman, Jesus honors and praises her heart of worship and sacrificial love as an example for all of us to follow and not rather to see her as an object of pity.
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