Farmers who murdered their boss’s son
- 12:1 Jesus started teaching the people by using stories known as parables. “A man planted a vineyard, then he put a fence around. He dug a hole and put in a winepress. He built a lookout tower, too. After he had done all that, he rented the vineyard to sharecroppers and then went on a trip.
- 12:2 When it came time to harvest the grapes, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop.
- 12:3 But the sharecroppers didn’t share. They beat the servant and chased him off without giving him anything.
- 12:4 So the owner of the vineyard sent another servant. But the sharecroppers hit him in the head and abused him in humiliating ways.
- 12:5 Once again the owner sent a servant. Sharecroppers killed that one. They either beat or killed other servants the owner sent, as well.
- 12:6 The vineyard owner had only one person left to send: a son he loved very much. He sent that son in one last effort. He said to himself, ‘Surely they’ll show some respect to my son.”
- 12:7 But the sharecroppers, talking among themselves, said, ‘This guy is going to inherit the vineyard. Let’s kill him. Then there’s no one left to inherit it. We’ll get to keep it.’
- 12:8 They grabbed him, killed him, and dragged his body off the property.
- 12:9 What do you think the vineyard owner will do about that? I’ll tell you. He’ll come charging onto that vineyard. He’ll kill the sharecroppers. And he’ll rent the vineyard to other farmers.
- 12:10 Haven’t you read this in the Scripture?
The stone that the builders said wasn’t good enough to use
has now become the most important stone of all: the cornerstone.
The Lord is the architect,
and what he has produced is a beautiful sight to see.”1
- 12:12 Jewish leaders wanted to arrest Jesus on the spot because they were sure the parable was about them. But they were afraid of what the crowd would do to them. So they walked away.
Trick question about taxes
- 12:13 Jewish leaders convinced some Pharisees and Herodians2 to try tricking Jesus into saying something that would get him in trouble.
- 12:14 They walked over to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we know that you tell it like it is—fair and balanced and true. You say what God wants you to say. So tell us this, is it legal to pay taxes to Caesar? Yes or no.”
- 12:15 Jesus knew what these hypocrites were up to. He said, “Oh come on now, why are you trying to trap me with a question like this? Bring me a coin.3 Let me take a look at it.”
- 12:16 So they brought one. And he said, “Whose picture is engraved on this?” They said, “Caesar.”
- 12:17 Jesus said, “Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Give God what belongs to God.” That answer left the Jewish leaders amazed.
Trick question about marriage in heaven
- 12:18 Some Sadducees came over to talk with Jesus. They represented a Jewish group that says there’s no such thing as resurrection and life after death. They asked Jesus a question about that.
- 12:19 “Teacher, Moses wrote that if a married man dies without leaving his wife any children, the dead man’s brother is supposed to marry the widow, give her children, and raise the kids as his brother’s.
- 12:20 There were seven brothers in a family. The first one got married, but he died without giving his wife any children.
- 12:21 The second brother married her, but he died without giving her any children. The same thing happened with the third brother.
- 12:22 Not one of the seven brothers produced a child for this woman. Eventually, she died, too.
- 12:23 In the life to come after the resurrection, to which one of these seven men will the woman be married? Here, she had been married to all seven.”
- 12:24 Jesus said, “You’re wrong. And isn’t that because you don’t know the Bible and you don’t have a clue about how powerful God is?
- 12:25 People who rise from the dead don’t get married. In that way, they’re like the angels.
- 12:26 Now about resurrection itself, haven’t you read the story of the burning bush4 in the book Moses wrote? When God spoke to Moses, he said, ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’?
- 12:27 He’s not the God of the dead.5 He’s the God of the living. You are so incredibly wrong.”
God’s most important rule
- 12:28 One of the experts in Jewish law, known as scribes, overheard this conversation. He was so impressed with how Jesus answered the question that he asked Jesus a question of his own. “Out of all the commandments in our Jewish law, which one is most important?”
- 12:29 Jesus said, “The most important law is this one:
‘Listen to me. Every one of you in Israel.
The Lord our God is the one and only God.
You’ve got to love the Lord your God
with all the heart you’ve got in you,
all the spirit in your soul,
all your strength, and all your mind.’6
- 12:31 The second most important law is this:
‘You have to love your neighbor7
every bit as much as you love yourself.’8
There are no laws more important than these two.”
- 12:32 The Jewish legal expert said, “Teacher, that was an excellent answer. What you said was absolutely the truth: He is the one and only; there’s no one else.
- 12:33 And you’re right that we’re supposed to love him with all of our heart, with all the intelligence we’ve got inside our head, and with all the strength we have inside of us. And we’re supposed to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. Doing this is far more important than any animal sacrifice we could offer.”
- 12:34 Jesus could see that the man responded well, so he told him, “You are very close to the Kingdom of God.” After that conversation, no one else dared to test him with a trick question.
Messiah must be related to David? Really?
- 12:35 When Jesus resumed teaching in the Temple, he asked, “Why do the scribes, experts in the Jewish law, say that the Messiah is going to be a descendant of David?
- 12:36 David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said,
‘The LORD God told the lord king,9
Sit here at my right side
While I turn your enemies
Into a footstool so you can kick back and relax.'10
- 12:37 David himself actually calls this Messiah ‘lord.’ So how could the Messiah be his son if the Messiah is his master?” The crowd loved what they were hearing from Jesus.
Watch out for strutting scholars
- 12:38 As Jesus continued teaching he said, “Watch out for those religion scholars called scribes. They like to parade around in their formal robes. They love it when people greet them respectfully out in public.
- 12:39 And they sure do like those reserved seats in the front of the synagogues, and the best seats around a banquet table.
- 12:40 Yet these are the same people who figure out ways to confiscate the property of widows, cheating them out of their homes. Then they have the nerve to go out in public and pray long prayers. When it comes time to punish these folks, they’ll get something extra.”
A widow gives her two cents
- 12:41 Jesus sat down in the Temple courtyard, near the Temple treasury. He started to watch the people as they came along and dropped their money into the donation box. There were a lot of rich people who put in a lot of money.
- 12:42 Then along came a widow who dropped in two coins, the smallest coins in circulation.11
- 12:43 Jesus called the disciples over and said, “I’m telling you the truth, gentlemen, this poor widow has poured more into that offering than all the others put together.
- 12:44 Those rich folks pulled from their discretionary income. But this woman who has nothing but a basket full of neediness and two cents to her name has given all the money she has.”
Jesus is referring to Psalm 118:22.
Herodians were members of a Jewish political party focused on restoring the family dynasty of King Herod the Great. Most Jews however were interested in restoring the family dynasty of King David, and putting one of his descendants on the throne of an independent Jewish nation. By the time Jesus started his ministry, Romans had been occupying and controlling the Jewish homeland for approaching a century. Neither the kingdom of Herod or David was ever restored. The Jews did not regain their homeland and declare their independence until 1948. For most of the past 2,000 years, Muslim Arabs controlled the land.
The coin Jesus asked for was a denarius. That’s a day’s wage for a common worker.
God didn’t say “I was the God of Abraham.” That’s past tense. God phrased himself in the present tense, which works nicely with his name: “I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
Some rabbis taught that only fellow Jews were the neighbors God had in mind. That law in Leviticus 19:18 seems to support that because in context the verse is talking about the Jewish people. But Leviticus 19:34 adds non-Jews to the category of neighbor. Still, it was hard for many Jews to embrace the Roman occupiers as neighbors. One of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls from Roman times urges Jews to “love the sons of light…and hate all the sons of darkness.” Many Jews linked Romans with the “sons of darkness.”
More literally, “the Lord said to my lord.”
She donated two copper coins: lepton (individually) lepta (when there’s more than one).
In the tale of farmers who murdered their boss’s son (12:1-12), identify the characters you think Jesus might be portraying. Who is the owner of the vineyard? Who are the sharecroppers? The servants sent as messengers? The son?
Jesus seems to compare himself to a stone rejected by the builders, yet later chosen as “the cornerstone” (12:10; Luke 20:17). Who do you think he’s talking about when he says the builders rejected him? And in what way did he or will he become the most important stone in the building?
What do you think it says about Jesus when the top religion leaders desperately wanted to arrest him but they didn’t because they “were afraid of what the crowd would do to them” (12:12)? This is the home turf for the religion leaders, the courtyard of the only Jewish Temple in the world. But they don’t seem to have the home-court advantage. It seems to belong to Jesus.
Jews who asked Jesus the trick question about taxes (12:13) thought he could answer it only one of two ways. (1) Tell the Jews to pay their taxes, supporting Rome. (2) Tell the Jews they didn’t need to use their money to fund a godless empire. How do you think Jesus could have gotten in trouble with either one of those answers?
Jesus said, “People who rise from the dead don’t get married. In that way, they’re like the angels” (12:25). How do you think most folks would feel about that?
Jesus argues that Moses at least hinted at the resurrection when he said the LORD is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (12:26). Not that he “was” the God of these men. Respectfully, do you think Jesus might have stretched the grammar a little too much?
What point do you think Jesus was trying to make by suggesting the Messiah does not need to be the son of David (12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44)?
When Jesus saw a poor widow giving her last two coins into the Temple offering, he told his disciples, “This woman who has nothing but a basket full of neediness and two cents to her name has given all the money she has” (12:44; Luke 21:4). Why do you think the woman did something like that?
LIFE APPLICATION. People who are not affiliated with any religion often argue that churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship should have to pay taxes like all other institutions that are not publicly owned by city, state, or federal government. Should religion organizations give to Caesar their fair share rather than ask everyone else to pitch in and pay the extra required to run the government?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus criticizes the religion scholars of his day for loving to dress up in their religious clothes, getting greeted politely in public, getting reserved seats at synagogues, and praying long prayers out in public (12:38-40; Luke 20:45-47). If Jesus gave warnings about religion leaders today, what do you think he would say? And for heaven’s sake, don’t mention anyone’s name unless folks have already read about it in the news.
LIFE APPLICATION. Some Jews apparently taught that when God told us we should love our neighbor the way we love ourselves that God was talking about fellow Jews. (See the footnote 12:31.) Are we like that? Are we more likely to help someone within our inner circle of friends and family than we are to help a stranger who crosses our path who is in desperate need?
LIFE APPLICATION. When Jesus commended the widow for donating to the Temple “all the money she has” (12:44; Luke 21:4), do you think he was encouraging people to give everything they have to the worship center? If not, what message do you think he was trying to convey?