Studying Mark's Gospel: The Son of Man Tested

Lesson Seventeen: The Son of Man Tested (Mark 12)

 

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW

 

We have entered Jerusalem with Jesus, seeing His joyful, exultant reception, and now we’ll be following Him through the rest of this final week of His earthly life. Last week we saw the Son of Man presented as He first entered Jerusalem and the temple complex late on Sunday. Then (presumably on Monday) He fearlessly purified the temple, driving out those who were keeping men shut off from access to God rather than drawing men to Him. There was the strange incident with the fig tree which was symbolic of the things to come in Israel. Jesus took time to use this incident as a lesson in faith for His men as well as an instruction in the importance of prayer. Lastly, the religious leaders questioned Jesus’ authority to do these things but were unable to do anything, humbled by His amazing answer. This week we’ll see the opposition try to move against Jesus from different angles, and even some strange bedfellows joining together for one purpose: Getting rid of Him! There is much we can learn from Jesus’ teachings and reactions to those testing Him, and we can gain an insight into the events coming in Mark 13. Remember the outline we are following in these last studies in Mark’s Gospel:

 

Mark 11: The Son of Man Presented

Mark 12: The Son of Man Tested

Mark 13: The Son of Man Returning

Mark 14: The Son of Man Arrested

Mark 15: The Son of Man Crucified

Mark 16: The Son of Man Resurrected

 

DAY ONE: Parable of the Vineyard

Please carefully read Mark 12:1-12 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  How did Jesus set the scene of this parable, and how did the tenants treat the representatives that the owner sent? (vv. 1–5)


2.  Mark used many unique expressions in his record of this story. He used a word for winepress that is used nowhere else in the New Testament, although it was common in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and in the Greek language;[i] wounded him in the head actually means to bring under heads or to summarize, then to hit on the head, and also is used only here in the New Testament. The following passages were no doubt very well understood by those who questioned Jesus in Mark 11. How do the passages clarify who and what the parable referred to?

 

Psalms 80:8-16; Isaiah 5:1-7
Jeremiah 25:4-7; Matthew 23:34-38

 

3.  What did the owner then decide to do, and what was the result? (vv. 6–8)


SIDELIGHT: Leviticus 19

According to Leviticus 19:23-25, a farmer couldn’t use the fruit from a vineyard or farm until the fifth year. We don’t know if the Jews still followed this guideline at that time. To retain his legal rights to the property, the owner had to receive produce from the tenants, even if it was only some of the vegetables growing between the rows of trees or vines. This is most likely why the tenants refused to give him anything: they wanted to claim the vineyard for themselves. It also explains why the owner continued to send agents to them; it was a question of authority and ownership. If Mark 12:2-5 covers the years when the fruit wasn’t used, then it was in the fourth year that the beloved son was sent, the year the fruit was devoted to the Lord (Leviticus 19:24). It also makes sending the son more meaningful. If the tenants could kill the heir, they would have a clear claim to the property, so they cast him out (see Hebrews 13:12-13) and killed him. The son’s arrival possibly led to the tenants assuming the owner had died and this son was his only heir. In Palestine at the time, a piece of land could be possessed lawfully by whoever claimed it first if it was ownerless property, unclaimed by an heir within a certain time frame. They were willing to kill to accomplish their purpose of getting it for themselves.[ii] 


4.  In what dramatic way did Jesus wrap up this parable in verses 9–11, and what prevented the religious leaders from doing anything in retaliation for this? (v. 12)

 

5.  What are a few other details that Matthew 21:40-46 records for us, and what is the obvious application for all of us in view of it?

 

Scripture Memory:  This week we will be memorizing Mark 12:29-31, a bit long but very important!  Review the passage several times throughout the day each day this week, and by the end of the week, you should have it memorized completely.
 

Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' (Mark 12:29–31a nkjv)

 

DAY TWO: Questioned by the Herodians

 

Please carefully read Mark 12:13-17 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  What was the next attempt to trip up Jesus in the view of all the people, and how do they try to set Jesus up for their trap? (vv. 13, 14)

NOTES: Their hope was to catch Him in His words (literally by means of a word, an unguarded statement they could use against Him). The Greek word for catch, also found only here in the New Testament, described catching wild animals with a trap, in a snare or hooking a fish. The very use of the word implies deceit and treachery on their part. The Herodians were a group of people though not necessarily a party. Because they occupied an influential position, they were called on to help trap Jesus. They could not have been merely formal officials or part of the household of Herod Antipas, for the Pharisees would not have collaborated with such. Unlike the Sadducees who were found only in Jerusalem, the Herodians were spread over the whole country. They were a secular group among the people, loyal to the dynasty of Herod without claiming party status. For the Pharisees to team up with these people, who had long before sided with the Romans against the very things they believed, shows their desperation.[iii]   

2.  How did Jesus respond to this? (vv. 15, 16)


3.  Some Bible teachers feel that this incident shows what type of poverty Jesus lived in that He didn’t even have a coin, but the real reason was more likely that He like most righteous Jews refused to carry Roman coinage. They linked it to the government, and saw the image on the coin as an idol as it portrayed Caesar as the high priest of the imperial cult.[iv]  A common threat (Jesus) forced these two enemies, the Pharisees and the Herodians, to unite. Their alliance was a subtle trap, for no matter how Jesus replied to their question, He was in trouble with either Rome or Herod! But how did Jesus move the discussion from taxes to God, catching these hypocrites in their own trap? (v. 17)


4.  These men went away from this failed attempt marveling at Jesus; actually marveled in Greek means they wondered beyond measure and kept doing so, not being able to get over it![v] The question about the Christian’s responsibility to and role in accepting the government over us has been controversial at times. What do Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Timothy 2:1-3 tell us about our submission to the government over us? What would be the exception to this? (Acts 5:27-32)

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

Jesus answered him, "The _________________ of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall __________________ the Lord your God with all your _____________________, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.  And the _____________________, like it, is this: 'You shall love your _____________________ as yourself.'” (Mark 12:29–31a nkjv)

 

DAY THREE: Questioned by the Sadducees

 

Please carefully read Mark 12:18-27 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  The Sadducees now took their turn to try to trap Jesus. How did they take God’s command in Deuteronomy 25 and base an elaborate story on it, trying to mock the idea of resurrection from the dead? (vv. 18–23)


NOTES: This is the only place in Mark’s Gospel where the Sadducees are mentioned. This group accepted only the Law of Moses, but none of the other Old Testament books, so if a doctrine couldn’t be defended from the first five books of the Old Testament, they wouldn’t accept it. They rejected concepts such as the existence of the soul, life after death, resurrection, final judgment, angels, or demons. Most of the Sadducees were priests, but not all, and were wealthy. They considered themselves the religious aristocrats of Judaism and tended to look down on everybody else! They controlled the Sanhedrin and the Temple, as we saw last week, and maintained close contact with the Roman authorities. They were like First Century deists in many ways.[vi]


2.  What was Jesus’ response to this story, and how did He point out their true problem, the same problem every skeptic and atheist has? (vv. 24, 25)

 

NOTE: Now don’t read verse 25 and conclude like many erroneous depictions of heaven that we become angels when we die, or have to earn our wings, as we’ve seen in Christmas movies and the like! Jesus didn’t say we would become angels or be like the angels in everything, for God’s children are higher than the angels (John 17:22-24; 1 John 3:1-2).[vii] He implied we will not have the same human needs at that time.

 

3.  How does Jesus, using a Scripture passage that they accepted, defend the concept of both the resurrection and eternal life? (vv. 26, 27)


4.  At the time that God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, Jacob was dead for 200 years, Isaac 225, and Abraham 330 years, but in reality they weren’t dead at all![viii] Eternity is real, and will be for each person either unending bliss or unending torment. We must not be skeptical and think that eternity is just a concept the writers of the Bible made up; it is real, and eternal life for the believer begins the moment of our salvation. What do the following passages tell us about eternal life and how far God has gone to allow us to spend it with Him?


John 3:14-17; John 17:2-3

Romans 5:19-21; Romans 6:23

Titus 3:3-7

1 John 1:1-3; 1 John 2:25; 1 John 5:11-20

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

Jesus answered him, "The _________________ of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the ________________ our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall __________________ the Lord your God with all your _____________________, with all your _____________________, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.  And the _____________________, like it, is this: 'You shall _______________ your _____________________ as yourself.' (Mark 12:29–31a nkjv)

 

DAY FOUR:  Questioned by the Pharisees

 

Please carefully read Mark 12:28-34 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  Seeing that the Sadducees and the Herodians failed to trip Jesus up, a scribe (a cohort of the Pharisees) approached Jesus. He may have been trying to trap Jesus in vital matters according to the Law, for if He failed here they could completely discredit Him. What did the scribe ask, and how did Jesus reply? (vv. 28–30)


2.  Loving God with one’s whole being is the first and foremost (Greek: chief, principle, first, greatest) commandment, but what did Jesus say was also vital in God’s sight? (v. 31) Also, read Leviticus 19:15-18and record what it taught about this.


3.  Jesus’ quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5 sums up the first tablet of the 10 commandments in our relationship with God, and the second sums up the second tablet regarding our relationships with other people.[ix] What does Matthew 22:37-40 add to this all?

 

4.  There was something about this scribe that was different from the others questioning Jesus that day. He actually didn’t seem to have a hostile hidden motive about Jesus answering a much-debated subject in scribal circles. The scribes spoke of 613 individual commandments of the Mosaic Law—365 negative and 248 positive. While they believed all were binding, they thought there was a distinction between weightier and lighter statutes and often attempted to sum up the whole Law in a one unifying command.[x] How did he react to Jesus’ answer, and how did Jesus’ reply and impact all of His interrogators? (vv. 32–34)

 

NOTE: Here we find something else unique to Mark’s Gospel. Verse 32 is the only place in the Gospels where a scribe is described as favorably disposed toward Jesus, and verse 34 is the only place where Jesus commended a scribe. We must remember that not all scribes and Pharisees were bad. As James Brooks reminds us, “Indeed, at their best they represented the finest element in Judaism.”[xi]

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

Jesus answered him, "The _________________ of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the ________________ our God, the Lord is _________________.  And you shall __________________ the ___________________ your God with all your _____________________, with all your _____________________, with all your ______________, and with all your _________________________.' This is the first commandment.  And the _____________________, like it, is this: 'You shall _______________ your _____________________ as yourself.' (Mark 12:29-31a nkjv)

 

DAY FIVE:  Jesus Questions and Observes

 

Please carefully read Mark 12:35-44 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  Now it was Jesus’ turn to do some questioning and observation. What interesting thing did Jesus ask the religious leaders regarding their views of the Messiah? (vv. 35–38)

 

SIDELIGHT: The Son of David

What Jesus did here was not to deny He was the Son of David prophesied, but to challenge their thinking about what the Messiah would do when He came.[xii] That the Messiah would be the Son of David was a standard Jewish belief firmly based on Old Testament Scriptures (2 Samuel 7:8-16; Psalms 89:3-4; Isaiah 9:2-7; Isaiah 11:1-9; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 30:9; Jeremiah 33:15-22; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11). Jesus pointed out that it is equally true that the Messiah is David’s Lord. The religious leaders’ view was correct but incomplete, because the common Jewish view was that the Messiah was to be a warrior-king like David. They had limited the Scriptures by narrow nationalistic hopes. The One who would reign in God’s kingdom was David’s “Lord,” not just his descendant, so He would be greater than David. Mark might have intended for us to connect this verse with verse 29. Jewish interpreters often linked verses with a key word; here it was that there was only one Lord: God. If so, Mark was making a claim for Jesus’ deity. Jesus wasn’t denying He was David’s descendant or the Messiah. This strongly implies that the Messiah is both Son of God (David’s Lord) and Son of Man (David’s Son). He will restore the future Davidic kingdom on earth.

 

2.  It is interesting that Mark records that the common people heard Him gladly. As John Phillips well said, “they were doubtless glad to have the religious leaders put in their place!”[xiii] What strong words did Jesus have to say about the corrupt among the religious leaders? (vv. 38–40)


3.  Jesus decided to go over to the treasury and observe those putting in their contributions. What was Jesus really looking for in their giving, and what did He discover? (v. 41, 42) What did He say in praise of this? (vv. 43, 44)


4.  Warren Wiersbe helps us understand the scene Jesus was observing:

There were thirteen trumpet-shaped chests around the walls of the court of the women, and here the people dropped in their offerings. The rich made a big production out of their giving (see Matthew 6:1-4), but Jesus rejected them and their gifts. It is not the portion but the proportion that is important: the rich gave out of their abundance, but the poor widow gave all that she had. For the rich, their gifts were a small contribution, but for the widow, her gift was true consecration of her whole life.[xiv]

The widow’s mite has become a common saying. The mite (of which Mark is of little help to modern day readers by saying two of these make a quadrans) comes from the Greek word leptos, meaning peeled, husked, thin or fine. It is used here of a very small, thin coin. Two lepta were worth 1/64 of a Roman denarius, a laborer’s day’s wage. Mark stated their value in terms of Roman coinage for his Roman readers. The word mite is a contraction of minute, from the Latin minutum, the translation of lepton, the very smallest copper coin.[xv] Jesus looked at how these gave—not how much, but rather at their heart attitude. What did Paul later say about giving of our finances that reinforces this? (2 Corinthians 9:6-9)


Scripture Memory:  Can you write out this week’s passage by memory here below? Give it a try, and keep reviewing the passage several times throughout the day.

 

Mark 12:29–31a:

 

 

DAY SIX: Following Christ

 

1.  While these religious leaders thought they were testing Jesus, actually they were the ones tested, and all but one (the scribe) failed miserably. They were the wicked tenants Jesus condemned in His parable of the vineyard; they were the ones who in their hypocrisy Jesus warned about: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they love to parade in flowing robes and to have everyone bow to them as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. But they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property, and then, to cover up the kind of people they really are, they make long prayers in public. Because of this, their punishment will be the greater” (v. 38–40, nlt, emphasis mine). Rather than pointing at these guys and thinking too highly of yourself, ask whether you at times find hypocritical attitudes or actions in yourself. How can you better handle the following dangerous attitudes?

 

Seeking to be noticed and lifted up by others around you:


Taking advantage of others to try to get ahead or look good:

 

Trying to cover up your own failures by acting like you are more important or spiritual:


2.  It has been said that the two certainties of life are death and taxes. Jean Baptiste Colbert well said, “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.”[xvi] How appropriate when our own tax day is right around the corner! What did the Lord speak to you about as you read Jesus’ statement to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Mark 12:17, nkjv)? We should handle our taxes in a way that glorifies God, just as our giving should be with the right heart attitude and sacrificially, like the widow Jesus observed. How are these things going to impact the way you take care of the finances God has given to you? Please share your thoughts with your group so it will encourage others.


3.  The heart of all of that we looked at this week was summed up in verse 30: “’And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment”(nkjv). As we do so, we will have His ability to love our neighbors as ourselves and to live in a way that pleases Him. Think about this passage and record some ways that you will seek to better to love and seek after God:

 

With all your heart (the center of your being and your emotions):

 

With all your soul (your own distinct abilities and nature):

 

With all your mind (your thoughts, understanding, and choices you make):

 

With all your strength (your maximum ability stretched out in seeking to please Him):

There is no subject more intimately interesting to modern people than man’s relationship to man; but men get impatient when they are told that the first requirement is that they should love God first and foremost.... In every crisis in our lives, is God first in our love? In every perplexity of conflicting duties, is He first in our leading?... Remember the standard,“ as I have loved you.” I wonder where the best of us are according to that standard? How many of us have turned away over and over again in disgust at men, and when we get alone with the Lord Jesus He speaks no word, but the memory of Him is quite sufficient to bring the rebuke—“as I have loved you.” It takes severe training to think habitually along the lines Jesus Christ has laid down, although we act on them impulsively at times.—Oswald Chambers[xvii]

Scripture Memory:  Hopefully you now can write out this week’s passage completely by memory.  Do so now, and keep on reviewing it so you will be ready to share it with others in your group time.
 

Mark 12:29–31a:

 



[i]Unless elsewhere noted, all Greek word/phrase translations are based on the following:  A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  In Oak Harbor:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1932, 1933, 1997);  James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible:  Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order, Electronic Edition (Ontario:  Woodside Bible Fellowship; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996); M.R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002); Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Studies in the New Testament:  For the English Reader (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1984, 1997); and Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary:  New Testament, Electronic Edition (Chattanooga, TN:  AMG Publishers, in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1992, 1993, 2000).

 

[ii] This information is based on James A. Brooks, Mark.  In David S. Dockery ed., The New American Commentary, Vol. 23 (Nashville:  Broadman Press, 1991), p.190; John D. Grassmick, Mark.  In John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament (Wheaton:  Victor Books/SP Publications, 1983), p. 160; and Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1 (Wheaton:  Victor Books/SP Publications Inc., 1989), p. 152.

 

[iii] A.  du Troit, The New Testament Milieu (Orion:  Half House; in Logos Research Systems Inc., Bellingham 1998); Richard L. Niswonger, New Testament History (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing Co., 1988), p. 163, 164.

[iv] James A. Brooks, Mark.  In David S. Dockery ed., The New American Commentary, Vol. 23, p. 193; John D. Grassmick, Mark.  In John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 162.

 

[v] John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publications, 2004), p. 255.

[vi] Richard L. Niswonger, New Testament History, p. 63, 64; Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, p. 153.

[vii] Warren W. Wiersbe, p. 153.

[viii] John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Mark, p. 259.

[ix] Homer A. Kent, Jr. The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Winona Lakes:  BMH Books, 2005), p. 181.

 

[x] John D. Grassmick, Mark.  In John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 163. 

 

[xi] James A. Brooks, Mark, p. 198.

 

[xii] This information is based on James A. Brooks, p. 201; John D. Grassmick, p. 164, 165; and Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, New Testament (Downer’s Grove:  InterVarsity Press, 1983, 1989), p. 169.

 

[xiii] John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Mark, p. 264.

[xiv] Wiersbe, p. 154.

[xv] J.M. Freeman and H.J. Chadwick, The New Manners and Customs of the Bible, Electronic Edition (in Bellingham, WA:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1998); Grassmick, p. 166; M.R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002). 

[xvi] From R. Daniel Watkins, An Encyclopedia of Compelling Quotations (Peabody:  Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2001), p. 697.

[xvii] Oswald Chambers, Biblical Ethics (Hants, UK:  Marshall, Morgan & Scott; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1947, 1996). 

 

© 2006 by Harvest Christian Fellowship. All rights reserved. Written by Thomas Klock for Men’s Bible Fellowship, 2005-2006.

 

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