About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

Home Page

This Section - Chapter 12

Previous Section - Chapter 11

Next Section - Chapter 13

ch. 12:1-12  ch. 12:13-17  ch. 12:18-27

ch. 12:28-34  ch. 12:35-40  ch. 12:41-44


The Parable Of The Tenants (ch. 12:1-12)


The Jewish leaders didn’t respond to Jesus’ question in the last chapter and appeared to just want to walk away but it looks like Jesus was able to keep their attention to hear this parable. 


The parable is about a vineyard.  It is very interesting to read this parable and then read Isaiah chapter 5.  In this chapter you’ll see that God relates Israel to a vineyard that He has built, very similar to the one Jesus describes here.  The problem came when the vineyard produced very bad fruit, even though the best vines were planted.  In Isaiah God removes the walls of the vineyard so it is trampled down and destroyed, exactly what happened to Israel in 70 AD.


So the parable goes like this.  A rich man built a vineyard.  He planted good vines.  He built a watch tower and he dug a mote around it for protection.  Then after everything had been built and planted, he left the vineyard in the hands of others who he thought were capable of looking after it properly. 


In verse 3 the owner who did not live that close to the vineyard sent a servant to collect some of the harvest, but the ones who had been appointed to look after the vineyard beat the servant and sent him back empty handed.


In verses 4 and 5 we see the owner of the vineyard sent many servants over a period of time to collect some of the harvest.  On every occasion the servant that was sent was either beaten or even killed. 


In verse 6 the owner sent his son who he loved so greatly, thinking that they’d surely respect his son.   Now to Christians, the parable is quite clear, and to the Jewish leaders it was becoming progressively clear as well.


In verse 8 the men in charge of the vineyard thought that if they killed the owners son, then they’d get the inheritance and the vineyard would legally become theirs. 


Verse 9 sounds very much like the last part of Isa. 5.  Jesus asks, “what then will the owner of  the vineyard do”?  You might wonder what the Jewish leaders thought the answer to Jesus’ question was.  Whatever they thought, they had little time to respond because Jesus told them what the owner would do.  He’d come to the vineyard himself, kill those he put in charge and  put others in charge of the vineyard.  


Then Jesus quotes from Psa. 118:23.   He quotes, “the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone (cornerstone).  The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes”. 


The cornerstone is an obvious reference to Jesus.  The cornerstone that God provided the Jews in Jesus was rejected by them. Yet this was a marvelous thing.  The Son of the Living God came to earth as a cornerstone to a new building to be built and the builders rejected it.


What Jesus is saying here is that God in the Old Testament gave His vineyard to the Jews.  They failed to manage it right and so the vineyard was taken away and given to others, meaning to Gentiles.


By quoting this Psalm Jesus is saying that He is the cornerstone to a new building that is being built.  The old building was demolished, just as the vineyard was.  A new building was in the process of being built.  This new building is made up of people who give their lives to the cornerstone and are joined and built on Him.  This building is the church, the New Testament people of God. 


The question I wonder about is how this building is being maintained by those God has put in charge. I wonder if New Testament leaders are doing a better job than their Old Testament counterparts. It’s just a thought that should be given consideration.


This section ends by the Jewish leadership knowing that Jesus was using this parable to speak against them in front of the crowd.  This made them more angry than ever, and they went away, plotting how they’d kill Jesus, just as Jesus inferred in His parable.  I wonder if any of the Jewish leaders considered that they were in fact fulfilling the parable that Jesus just spoke against them.


Paying Taxes To Caesar (ch. 12:13-17)


In verse 13 we see that some Pharisees and some Herodians came to Jesus to trick Him.  Herodians were Jews who favoured King Herod, but not necessarily the Roman domination they were under.  They were thus much more Roman leaning than the Pharisees who hated the Romans and wanted nothing to do with them.  The Herodians felt paying taxes to Rome was beneficial to the Jews.  These two groups had very little in common and they didn’t really like each other, but to help trap Jesus, the Pharisees joined up with the Herodians to trap Jesus with another question.


They came to Jesus and flattered Him by telling Him that He is a man of integrity, and is not swayed by the whims of man, but teach the ways of God.  I’m sure Jesus saw through this flattery. 


In verse 14 they ask, “is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not”? 


Every individual had to pay a tax to Rome.  The Pharisees believed by paying this tax they were giving allegiance to Rome and serving them, something they should not do.  They were to serve God and God alone. Thus they were opposed to paying taxes and they felt that God was opposed to them paying this tax as well.


They were hoping, and even expecting Jesus to agree with them on this point and that is why they had the Herdoians with them.  Once the Herodians heard Jesus say that it was not lawful to pay the tax to Rome, then the Herodians could report this to Rome and have Jesus arrested, and they’d be witnesses to the crime. 


Mark tells us in verse 15 that Jesus “knew their hypocrisy”.  The Pharisees were well versed in the art of hypocrisy.  This was the way they lived.  Jesus even asks them why they were trying to trap Him. It wasn’t that He couldn’t see through their tricks. 


Jesus asks them to give Him a denarius.  A denarius is a small Roman coin, worth about the average of one days work for a Roman soldier.  The tax the Pharisees were referring to was called a poll tax and it was paid with this denarius.  Thus Jesus uses the very coin that would be used to pay the tax as part of His answer to the Pharisees.  On this coin there would have been the name and head of the emperor.


Once receiving the coin Jesus asks the Pharisees whose portrait and inscription was on the coin.  They answer by saying Caesar’s face and name was on the coin. 


Jesus answers their question in verse 17.  He says, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”.   A lot could be said about Jesus’ words here, and a lot of books have been written on the subject of the church and the state. 


The coin belonged to Rome . The Jews were Roman subjects, in part because of God’s judgment on them.  Because God had placed this judgment on the Jews, they had to pay the tax Rome demanded.  Thus in the eyes of Jesus the payment of this tax  was lawful.


But Jesus’ answer included more than the paying of taxes to Rome.  He told the Pharisees to give to God that which belonged to Him, which in fact they weren’t really doing.


What they needed to give to God was their whole lives.  Giving to Rome was only part of that whole.  They could not trick Jesus by majoring on a minor point here. Paying of taxes was only one part of their duty to Rome.  Jesus was looking at the larger picture.  What belongs to Caesar, give to him.  At the same time make sure you give what belongs to God.


Mark tells us that the Pharisees “marveled” at Jesus’ response.  They just could not trap Jesus.  


It is important to note that the Roman Empire was a dictatorship, nothing like our western democracies.  Even in this situation Jesus was telling these people to submit to Rome, even though Rome “lorded it over them” as He addressed  earlier.


Built into our democratic system is the place for discussion and debate to bring change to the existing way things are run.  They did not have this luxury in the Roman Empire .  Therefore, in my thinking, if Jesus were here today on earth and presented with the same or similar question, he’d still say, “pay the tax”.  Yet at the same time He might well encourage us to participate in the affairs of government to help bring change.  There would be nothing wrong with this because our system allows for it.  The next step in this thinking then is the separation of church and state and understanding what that means.  This is a topic for a later time.


Marriage At The Resurrection (12:18-27)


The Pharisees had just tried to trap Jesus and failed, so now the Sadducees try to do the same.  Like the Pharisees they ask a question concerning the Law.  You’d think Jesus would be getting tired by now addressing all these questions of the Law.  It seems this is all the Jewish leadership wanted to talk about. 


This time the Sadducees ask Jesus a question about marriage after the resurrection of the dead, something they didn’t even believe in.  Of course the question was meant to trick Jesus and possibly even corner Him ad make Him admit that there was no resurrection of the dead.


The Sadducees refer to the Law of Moses (Deut. 25:5) where Moses wrote that if a man dies and has no children, the man’s brother should marry the dead man’s wife in order to have a son.  If the brother and the dead man’s wife do produce a son, the son would be considered the son of the dead man.  The important thing here was to carry on the family line of the dead man.


So the Sadducees come up with a ridiculous scenario. They say a man dies with no children. The dead man’s brother marries the dead man’s wife.  He dies without children as well, so another brother marries the woman.  In actuality seven brothers end up marrying this woman and none have children.  In the resurrection of the dead, who is the real husband to this lady, they ask?


This kind of question is often asked to Christians.  It’s a type of question that does not make a lot of sense and is only asked to trick the person.  There are more appropriate questions that could have been asked on this subject but they didn’t ask. 


In verse 24 Jesus accuses the Sadducees of “being in error and not knowing the power of God”.  These men simply don’t understand the Scriptures, and they don’t understand that God has the power to raise men and women into a new existence in the next life.


In verse 25 Jesus says, “when the dead rise”.  He is confirming for these men that the dead will rise.  There is no doubt about that.  Yet when they do rise “they will neither marry or be given in marriage.  This means, “men will not marry”, and “women will not be given away in marriage”.  There will not be a husband and wife relationship in the next life.


Jesus says that “they will be like the angels”.  Jesus does not say that men and women will be angels in the next life, but only like them in the respect that they won’t be married.  Scripture is pretty clear that an angel is a spirit.  Angels often appeared to people and people saw them as if they were men.  Most scholars believe that the angel spirits only took on that form so people could see them.


We will be different from angels in the next life because we will have specific glorified bodies.  We will not be spirits.


Jesus continues His defense by referring to Ex. 3:6 and Dan. 12:2 when God speaks to Moses in the bush and says that He’s the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac.  Jesus then says that God is not only the God of the living, but of the dead.  What did Jesus mean by this?   When God spoke to Moses concerning these men, He spoke about men who were once alive but were now dead, but He spoke as if they were alive.  And alive they were.  They were alive in a different way after they died.  Thus these three men are still in existence, and therefore there is life after death.


This section ends with Jesus telling the Sadducees that they “are badly mistaken”.  They just aren’t mistaken, but badly mistaken.  They are way off base.  They’re not even close to the truth.  At least the Pharisees are a little closer to the truth since they do believe in life after death. 


The Greatest Commandment (ch. 12:28-35)


In verse 28 we notice that another teacher of the Law saw Jesus “debating” with the Sadducees.  It is interesting to note that Jesus is not afraid of a good debate.  Yet as you study these debates Jesus doesn’t let the debate continue to go in circles.  Yes, He does debate, but He presents His facts, allows for some discussion, but doesn’t get bogged down in the debate. At times He abruptly ends the discussion, while most of the time He simply wins with a few words.


This man seemed impressed with Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees, and being a good Jew, his thoughts were towards the Law as were the thoughts of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  He asks Jesus what the most important commandment was.


Jesus answers the question by quoting Duet. 6:4 - 5.  The quote begins, “O Israel”.   This is the appeal to Israel to listen closely. “The Lord our God, the Lord is one”.  Lord is Yahweh.  God is Elohim.


Yahweh is the personal name of God.  This is the name that He told Israel to call Him.  Eloheme denotes God as all powerful, that is, God is the supreme power of the universe.  There is no one more powerful than Him. 


Notice that Moses doesn’t say “the Lord our God is one“.  He says “that  Lord our God, the Lord is one”.  By saying “the Lord our God”, Moses is saying that the personal covenant making Yahweh in whom He has personalized Himself to Israel by allowing them to call Him by His personal name, He is in fact Lord of all there is and He is also their Lord.   The supreme power of the universe has given Himself to Israel.  This is the most fundamental point to both the faith of Israel and the faith of Christians.


“The Lord is one” tells us that there is only one God and the oneness of God is fundamental to who He is.  There were many so-called pagan gods, but none of these gods were supreme.  None had personalized themselves in any way. 


Jesus continues with this quote by saying that Israel was to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.  This means that Israel was to love their God with every fiber of their being.  All of who they were was to love their God.  And it is important to state that Yahweh was “their God”.


The man asks Jesus what the most important command was.  Jesus just said what the number one commandment is, but He didn’t stop there.  He also gave the second most important command which was “to love your neighbour as yourself”.  Now it is important to understand that Jesus isn’t saying that we are to love ourselves.  This command doesn’t tell us to first love ourselves so we are able to love others, as the common thinking of the world is. Inherent in the command is the understanding that humans tends to love themselves by nature. We don’t have to learn that.  We love ourselves instinctively.  So in the same way we love ourselves we are to love others in that same way.  If you love yourself, you put yourself first.  So the second command tells us to put others first.


It is interesting to note that Jesus does not stop with the first great command to love God.  He joins another command to it.  Thus, in my thinking, Jesus is saying that the way to love others properly is to first love God.  Or another way to say it is, your love for God should be seen in the way you love others.     


In verses 32 and 33 the man tells Jesus what He said was “well said”.  He agreed totally with Jesus.  I can’t say for sure if this man was out to trick Jesus or if he was seriously wondering what Jesus would say.  We do know that Jesus’ answer satisfied this man, and he had to agree with it.


In verse 34 Jesus comments on this man’s answer.  He noted that the man answered “wisely”, and that he was not far from the Kingdom of God”.  So at least at this moment Jesus understood this man to be on the right track, which he could have been all along.


This section ends with Mark saying that from this point on, no one asked Jesus any more questions.  It was as if the time of questions were over.  God in His divine time table had a set time for everything in Jesus’ life and the time for all the trick questions had just come to an end. 



Whose Son Is The Christ (ch.12:35-40)


Jesus is still in the temple in verse 35 and instead of anyone asking Him a question, He decides to ask His own question.  He asks, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David”?


The Pharisees taught rightly that the Messiah would come from the lineage of David.  Matthew points out Jesus lineage back to David through Joseph, while Luke points out the same but goes back through Mary.  Through both Mary and Joseph, Jesus was a son of David, at least qualifying Him to be the Messiah on the one count.


In verse 36 Jesus says that David himself spoke by the Holy Spirit.  He then quotes from David.  One thing to note here is that Jesus says that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write these words.  We can at least say that Jesus viewed these words as inspired or God breathed.   We thus should be able to assume that the rest of what David wrote was also so inspired. 


The quote that Jesus makes comes form Psa. 110:1. It says, “the Lord said to my Lord; sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet”.  First of all we need to understand that the Jews always felt this verse was in reference to the Messiah.  Jesus wasn’t eluding to anything new on that point.


“The Lord said to my Lord”, in Hebrew is “Yahweh said to Adonia”.  Yahweh being the personal name of God that God told Israel to call Him by says something to Adonia”. The question is, “who is Adonai”?  Adonai is another name used for Lord in the Old Testament. 


So Yahweh is saying something to Adonai.  Who Adonia is can be seen in what Yahweh is saying.  Yahweh tells Adonai to sit at His right hand until He makes all His enemies His footstool   It is clear that Adonai is not Yahweh. Adonai is the Messiah, and all Jews and Christians agree on this point. 


You might also say these words this way.  “God says to Messiah”.  The Messiah is Adonai and the Messiah will sit at God’s right hand until God makes all His enemies His footstool.  Paul, in 1 Cor. 15 speaks of this and says the last enemy is death. 


In verse 37 Jesus says, “David himself calls Him (Adonai) Lord. How then can He (Adonai) be his son”?  This may be hard to get your head around but it’s somewhat simple.  Everyone believed that the Messiah was a son of David, but how could David call a son of his Lord, or Adonai when Adonai was a name for God?  How could one of David’s offspring be God?   This could only be if one of David’s offspring was God in a human body.  


We’re not sure if Jesus explained this in any detail.  We have no recollection that He did.  He is simply making the point that He is the Messiah.


In verses 38 and following Jesus warns the crowd of the teachers of the Law.  They walk around in the market places in flowing clothes, and always get the important seat wherever they are.  And for show they make lengthy prayers, and devour widow’s homes.  All of these things are done to be seen.  This is just the opposite to what Jesus has been saying about leaders all along.  He says that leaders are to serve, but the teachers of the Law want to be served.   So Jesus warns the crowd about them and their mentality. 


Jesus closes this section by saying that “these men will be punished severely”.  We see here that Jesus believes in punishment.  We also see the hypocrisy and abuse of authority by leadership is punishable very severely.  Jesus held these leaders accountable and hold leaders accountable today as well.


The Widow’s Offering (ch.12:41-44)


After addressing the people in the temple court with such a great theological truth Jesus sits down somewhere, probably on one of the temple steps   He just sits and watches people put money into one of thirteen trumpet shaped metal containers.  The money collected was used  to maintain the temple and was part of a temple tax. 


Many things must have been going through Jesus’ mind at this point.  He’s watching people give their offerings and within a few short days He Himself would be the offering that would end all these offerings. 


Verse 41 tells us that Jesus saw many rich people come and put in lots of money. I guess He knew they were rich because they had the money to give.


In verse 42 He sees a poor widow put in two copper coins, worth only a “fraction of a penny”.  


In verse 43 Jesus calls the disciples to Himself and tells them that she has given more than any of the rich people. In real terms she really didn’t give more, but in relation to that which she had, she gave more.  And Jesus makes this point clear when He says that the others gave out of their wealth, but she gave out of her poverty.


This is the interesting point here.  Jesus praised this lady for giving out of her poverty.  He didn’t go over and tell her that she didn’t have to give.   He didn’t suggest that she didn’t have to give the next time she visited the temple.   This tells us a little about how Jesus views giving.  Simply put, there is no excuse not to give.  Not even poverty is an excuse not to give.


Next Section - Chapter 13

Previous Section - Chapter 11

Home Page