Study Notes

Mark 12:1-34


Last week in chapter 11, we saw that the chief priests, scribes, and elders confronted Jesus about His authority to do the things He had been doing. He skillfully answered their question with a question, and now continues speaking to them with the parable in the first section of chapter 12.

12:1-9 Parable Of The Vineyard

Jesus tells the chief priests, the scribes, and elders this parable of the vineyard. What does it mean? In order to understand it, we must first identify the characters. They are: a vineyard, a man, vinegrowers, slaves, and a son.

The Vineyard

What is the vineyard? In Isaiah 5 we read,

Isa. 5:1-7 Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. And He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected {it} to produce {good} grapes, but it produced {only} worthless ones. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected {it} to produce {good} grapes did it produce worthless ones? So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. And I will lay it waste; It will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it." For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.

The vineyard is the house of Israel.

The Man

The man who planted the vineyard was the Lord.

The Vinegrowers

In verse 12, of Mark 5, Mark tells us that the Jewish leaders themselves are the vinegrowers (v.12) God had put those leaders in charge of Israel to represent Him, to cultivate the Jews to bear good fruit, to maintain the vineyard in His physical absence.

The Slaves

Then we see slaves - slaves sent by the man to the vineyard, regarding the vineyard. They are killed and beaten. These are the prophets - who were sent by God to the leaders of Israel to say, "Hey guys, God says He hasn't seen any fruit from this investment!"

But instead of saying, "You're right... we'll make sure that God sees fruit in Israel,"... Isaiah was sawn in half lengthwise with a wooden saw, Jeremiah was stoned, and Amos was murdered with a club. Steven, talking to the high priest and the council in Acts chapter 7, said,

Acts 7:52 "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become;

Jesus, pronouncing woes upon the scribes and Pharisees, said,

Matt. 23:29-36 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had been {living} in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in {shedding} the blood of the prophets.' Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up then the measure {of the guilt} of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall {the guilt of} all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.

It was the Jewish leadership who was almost always responsible for the murder of God's prophets.

The Son

The son in the parable was the Son of God, Jesus Christ. They took Him, killed Him, and threw Him out of vineyard - out of Israel. Today, if you ask a Jew about Jesus Christ, they will tell you that He is no part of Israel. He was an illegitimate son, a heretic, a false prophet, according to the Jews. Not only did they kill Him, but they threw Him out of the vineyard.

What will the owner do to those men? He will destroy those vinegrowers, yet give the vineyard to others. Sure enough, they were destroyed in 70AD. The vineyard lay desolate, but not ultimately forsaken. In 1948, the vineyard was given to others... and God is still waiting to see the fruit.

12:10-12 The Chief Cornerstone

Jesus finishes His parable to the Jewish leadership by quoting Psalm 118, which was part of the contention that we read about in the triumphal entry last week in chapter 11.

Ps. 118:22-23 The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. This is the LORD'S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.

This was also quoted in Acts 4 by Peter to the Jewish leaders.


In Isaiah the Lord said,

Isa. 28:16 ..."Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, s costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes {in Him} will not be disturbed.

Peter also quoted this scripture combined with Psalm 118 in his first epistle:

1Pet. 2:6-8 For {this} is contained in Scripture: BEHOLD I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER {stone} , AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER {stone,} " and, A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this {doom} they were also appointed.

What do all these references to the chief cornerstone mean?

There is a Jewish legend surrounding the construction of Solomon's temple. We know from 1Kings 6 that...

1Kgs. 6:7 ...the house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built. the stones were quarryed and shaped away from the sight of the temple.

The legend among the Jews is that when the builders were ready for the chief cornerstone; they sent a message down to the quarry: "Where is the chief cornerstone?". They were told, "You must have it there; we sent it to you months ago." But after looking all over, they still couldn't find it.

Then an old workman said, "Wait a minute... I remember now. Awhile back, there was a stone different from all the rest and we thought there was no place for it. So we rolled it to the edge of the cliff and tumbled it down into the valley of Gehenna."

The Valley of Gehenna was the place where babies were sacrificed in the days of Ahaz, a place of weeping and sorrow. By the New Testament days, it became Jerusalem's cesspool, a place where trash and sewage were continually burned. Because of its history and appearance, Gehenna became the name of Hell, the place of eternal sorrow and burning.

So, the builders went down to the Valley of Gehenna and there they found the stone. They hoisted it to the top of the cliff, then back to the platform and put it into place. Of course, it fit perfectly. The stone the builders rejected had become the chief cornerstone.

So Jesus is saying, "I am the Chief Cornerstone. I'm being rejected by you, and I'm going to hell for you."

12:13-17 Taxes To Caesar

The Pharisees and the Herodians had gotten together back in chapter 3. Remember that the Herodians were Jews that welcomed and supported the Roman occupation of the Jews' land. But the Pharisees hated the Roman occupation. The Herodians ruled over the people politically, the Pharisees were ruling over the people religiously. Although the two groups were diametrically opposed to each other. But together they found a common enemy in Jesus Christ - the one who was becoming the ruler of the people divinely.

Together, they came up with a plan. "Let's put Him in the middle - whichever He answers, He'll be rejected by the Jews as a Roman lover, or jailed by the Romans as a tax evader." It is interesting in light of the church today that Jesus never preached that we should disobey the authority of government or civil law. Romans 13 is very specific on the subject

Rom. 13:1-2 Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

I have found that the only biblical justifiable civil disobedience is when the government of the land is forcing you to personally sin, as when Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refused to bow down before the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar.

So what was Jesus' ultimate answer? "Give the money to Caesar, because it's made in his image. Give yourself to God, because you're made in His image."

12:18-27 The Sadducees

The Sadducees didn't believe in anything spiritual. Luke tells us in the book of Acts that...

Acts 23:8 ...the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit...

They were the liberal group of the day, choosing to interpret the Scriptures through a filter of unbelief in the supernatural.

Marriage In The Resurrection

Now the Sadducees decided to "show" Jesus that the notion of life after death was stupid by coming up with a situation which was obviously outlandish and ridiculous. They base their presumption on the law given in Deuteronomy 25...

Deut. 25:5-6 "When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be {married} outside {the family} to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And it shall be that the first-born whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out from Israel.

God had made this provision to ensure that even if a man died prematurely, he would still have legal offspring to continue the family name and keep the family property.

The Sadducees carried this to an extreme, saying that this happened seven times consecutively, each without offspring. They ask (with tongue in cheek),

Mark 12:23 "In the resurrection, when they rise again, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife."

This reminds me of when people say things like, "If God can do anything, then can He make a rock so big that He can't lift it?" Like a light bulb is supposed to turn on in my head and I suddenly realize, "You're right! My belief in God is all a lie!" Like they're going to somehow cause me to question my faith. You can play all the word games you want, but you're not going to destroy my faith. Paul told us,

1Cor. 2:4-5 And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

My faith isn't based on persuasive words of man's wisdom. It is on the reality and the power of God Himself.

Jesus gives them an answer to their question, but not without first focusing in on their mistakenness.

The Scriptures And The Power Of God

He tells them,

Mark 12:24 Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures, or the power of God?

There are mistaken religious people all over the world whose problem is exactly this: a lack of understanding of the Scriptures, and a lack of understanding of the power of God.

When you don't understand the Scriptures, you'll buy any false teaching that sounds good.

When you don't understand the power of God, then you limit Him to not being able to do anything that you don't understand. How typical of the church today... the Protestant church is divided between two extremes: one side doesn't understand the power of God, the other side doesn't understand the Word of God.

The Answer

Only after rebuking them for these things does He offer the simple, scriptural answer to their question. The Scriptures didn't say, "I WAS the God of Abraham" or "I'm the God Abraham worshiped before He died." He is STILL the God of Abraham - there is life after death, plain and simple.

As for who she would be married to, the church is going to be the bride of Christ... we aren't going to be married to anyone besides Jesus.

Look at how Jesus answers and take it to heart - all doctrinal, spiritual, religious questions are answered with the Scriptures. Not with philosophy, not with conjecture, not with guessing, not with quoting other authors. He quotes the Bible. Psalm 119 declares,

Ps. 119:98-100 Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, For Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Thy precepts.

If you want to have incredible wisdom, insight, and understanding - answer with the Scriptures.

12:28-34 One Lord

Jesus responds to a scribes' question about the greatest commandment. He quotes Deuteronomy 6...

Deut. 6:4-5 "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Many people have had difficulty understanding how Christians believe that God is Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, when this clearly says, "The Lord is one."

The statement is much clearer in its original Hebrew. This verse reads, "Sh'ma Yisro-ayl! Yahweh Elohim, Yahweh echod!" "Yahweh" is the proper name of God. "Elohim" means "God," as in:

Gen. 1:1 In the beginning (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.

But the singular word for "god" in Hebrew is "El." If there were two gods being referred to, the word would be "Ella." Three or more would be the word "Elohim." So how can something be three or more, yet be only one? Only in God does the math work out. Only in God can Jesus be both God and with God. The Bible is clear: one God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The Greatest Commandment

Jesus sums up the two greatest commandments: Love God, love your neighbor. The Ten Commandments and all the Law of God can be placed into these two categories.

Intelligently Answering

The Scribe answers Jesus intelligently. What was intelligent about answer? He quoted Scripture correctly. Jesus tells him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Anyone who truly and intelligently relies on the Scripture will come to know God eventually.

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