Mark 12: The Greatest Commandment

What do you think Jesus’ story about the sharecroppers reveals about God’s heart?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Mark 12:1–9 Jesus used this illustration as he spoke to the people: “A landowner planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress, and built a watchtower. He left the vineyard under the care of sharecroppers and went to another country. At harvest season, he sent a servant to collect his share from the vineyard, but the sharecroppers grabbed and beat him, sending him away with nothing. So the landowner sent another servant. They threw stones at him, wounding him in the head, and ran him off with their insults. When yet another servant was sent, they killed him. And so it was with all who were sent. Some were beaten. Others were killed, until the only one left to send was the landowner’s only son. Finally, he sent him, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ When the sharecroppers saw him coming, they said to themselves, ‘He is the heir. If we kill him, we can have his inheritance.’ So they grabbed him, dragged him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What do you think the landowner will do to those sharecroppers? He will destroy those men and find others who will give him his share of the harvest.”
King James
Mark 12:1–9 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. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. 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. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

Is Jesus’ story about the sharecroppers fiction or nonfiction? Why? What was the main point of the story?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Mark 12:1–9 Jesus used this illustration as he spoke to the people: “A landowner planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress, and built a watchtower. He left the vineyard under the care of sharecroppers and went to another country. At harvest season, he sent a servant to collect his share from the vineyard, but the sharecroppers grabbed and beat him, sending him away with nothing. So the landowner sent another servant. They threw stones at him, wounding him in the head, and ran him off with their insults. When yet another servant was sent, they killed him. And so it was with all who were sent. Some were beaten. Others were killed, until the only one left to send was the landowner’s only son. Finally, he sent him, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ When the sharecroppers saw him coming, they said to themselves, ‘He is the heir. If we kill him, we can have his inheritance.’ So they grabbed him, dragged him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What do you think the landowner will do to those sharecroppers? He will destroy those men and find others who will give him his share of the harvest.”
King James
Mark 12:1–9 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. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. 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. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

What does the rejected stone mentioned in Psalms have to do with the sharecroppers story?

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Mark 12:10–11 “Haven’t you read the scripture? The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. God has done this, and it is a wonderful sight to behold.
King James
Mark 12:10–11 And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

Why did the Jewish leaders want to arrest Jesus? Why did the attitude of the people matter?

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Mark 12:12 The Jewish leaders realized that he was talking about them. They wanted to arrest him but went their way because they feared the people.
King James
Mark 12:12 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.

Why did Jewish leaders think they could trap Jesus by asking him about taxation?

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Mark 12:13–17 Jewish leaders sent Pharisees and people loyal to Herod to trap Jesus into saying something that could be used against him. “Teacher, we know you are sincere and completely honest. You teach the truth about God’s ways without concern for what people think. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar? Should we pay or not?”
Jesus recognized their scheming. “Why are you testing me? Show me a coin used to pay the tax so I can look at it.”
They handed him a Roman coin.
“Whose image and inscription is this?”
“Caesar’s,” they said.
“Then pay to Caesar what belongs to him, and give God all that is God’s.”
They were amazed at his answer.
King James
Mark 12:13–17 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. 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? 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. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. 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.

Why did the Sadducees present to Jesus such an unrealistic scenario? What kind of answer did they expect?

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Mark 12:18–23 Some Sadducees, who believed there was no resurrection, came to question Jesus. Teacher, Moses said, If a brother dies with no children, the widow must not marry someone outside the family. The surviving brother should marry her and have children for him. Once, there were seven brothers, and the oldest brother married and died without children. After marrying the widow, the second brother had no children when he died, and the third brother did the same. This continued until the barren wife had married all seven brothers. Finally, the woman died, still childless. On the day when the dead rise to life, whose wife will this woman be? All seven were married to her.”
King James
Mark 12:18–23 Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, 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. Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.

What was wrong with what the Sadducees were sure had to be true? What impact do you think Jesus’ answer had?

Author’s Thoughts
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Mark 12:24–27 “Your logic is wrong,” Jesus said, “because you do not know the scriptures, and you do not understand how God works. In the resurrection, people will not marry, but will be like the angels of Heaven. Now, on the issue of rising from the dead, haven’t you read in the book of Moses where God speaks from the burning bush, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is a God of the living, not of the dead. You have made a serious error in judgment.”
King James
Mark 12:24–27 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? 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. 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? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

How did the nature of Jesus’ previous answers affect one teacher of the Law, prompting him to ask about the most important commandment?

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Mark 12:28 After hearing Jesus reason with the others and seeing how well he answered them, one of the teachers of the Law said, “What is the most important of all commandments?”
King James
Mark 12:28 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?

Why is loving our neighbor as important as loving God? Who qualifies as a “neighbor”?

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Mark 12:29–31 Jesus said, “The most important is, Listen, Israel, and never forget. The Lord our God is the one and only true God. You must love God with your whole heart, with all your being and all your strength. This is the most important commandment. But the second commandment is equally important. Love your neighbor as yourself. Of all the commandments, none are greater than these.”
King James
Mark 12:29–31 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 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.

If the Jews believed in justice, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, how well do you think the teacher of the Law agreed with showing people love and mercy?

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Mark 12:32–34 “Teacher, you are right in saying there is only one God and no other. To love him with our whole heart, with all our being and all our strength, and to love others as much as ourselves is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had spoken with such insight, he said, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
After that, no one dared ask him any questions.
King James
Mark 12:32–34 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: 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. 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.

Why did teachers of the Law say the Messiah would be a descendant of David? What was Jesus’ purpose in asking a question that the people couldn’t answer?

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Mark 12:35–37 While teaching in the Temple, Jesus said, “How can the teachers of the Law say the Messiah is the son of David? David himself said, God said unto my Lord, ‘Sit here at my right hand until I have put all your enemies beneath your feet.’ If David called him Lord, how can he be his son?”
This kind of questioning greatly pleased the crowd.
King James
Mark 12:35–37 And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David? 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. David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.

Why were the people pleased with Jesus’ questioning?

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Mark 12:37 “If David called him Lord, how can he be his son?”
This kind of questioning greatly pleased the crowd.
King James
Mark 12:37 David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.

Why did Jesus warn people about the pretentious dress and behavior of religious people? Was he talking about some of them or all of them? Why?

Author’s Thoughts
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Mark 12:38–40 While teaching, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the Law who wear luxurious robes and love to be recognized in the marketplace. At feasts and in the synagogues, they love the seats of honor. Because they take advantage of widows while making long prayers to appear righteous, they will be punished most severely.”
King James
Mark 12:38–40 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, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.

How could the widow’s giving be more than what the rich gave?

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Mark 12:41–44 Sitting across from the offering box, Jesus watched people giving their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. A poor widow put in two copper coins that were worth next to nothing.
Jesus called his disciples and said, “The truth is, this poor widow has given more than all those rich people together. The rich gave a portion of their abundance that they will never miss, but she has given all she had to live on.”
King James
Mark 12:41–44 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. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 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: 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.

Why did the widow give all that she had? How did Jesus know the extent of her sacrifice?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Mark 12:44 “The rich gave a portion of their abundance that they will never miss, but she has given all she had to live on.”
King James
Mark 12:44 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.