Then Jesus started telling them stories. "A man planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, erected a watchtower, turned it over to the farmhands, and went off on a trip.
At the time for harvest, he sent a servant back to the farmhands to collect his profits.
"They grabbed him, beat him up, and sent him off empty-handed.
So he sent another servant. That one they tarred and feathered.
He sent another and that one they killed. And on and on, many others. Some they beat up, some they killed.
"Finally there was only one left: a beloved son. In a last-ditch effort, he sent him, thinking, 'Surely they will respect my son.'
"But those farmhands saw their chance. They rubbed their hands together in greed and said, 'This is the heir! Let's kill him and have it all for ourselves.'
They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him over the fence.
"What do you think the owner of the vineyard will do? Right. He'll come and clean house. Then he'll assign the care of the vineyard to others.
Read it for yourselves in Scripture: That stone the masons threw out is now the cornerstone!
This is God's work; we rub our eyes - we can hardly believe it!"
They wanted to lynch him then and there but, intimidated by public opinion, held back. They knew the story was about them. They got away from there as fast as they could. Paying Taxes to Caesar
They sent some Pharisees and followers of Herod to bait him, hoping to catch him saying something incriminating.
They came up and said, "Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don't pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
He knew it was a trick question, and said, "Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it."
They handed him one. "This engraving - who does it look like? And whose name is on it?" "Caesar," they said.
Jesus said, "Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his." Their mouths hung open, speechless.
Some Sadducees, the party that denies any possibility of resurrection, came up and asked,
"Teacher, Moses wrote that if a man dies and leaves a wife but no child, his brother is obligated to marry the widow and have children.
Well, there once were seven brothers. The first took a wife. He died childless.
The second married her. He died, and still no child. The same with the third.
All seven took their turn, but no child. Finally the wife died.
When they are raised at the resurrection, whose wife is she? All seven were her husband."
Jesus said, "You're way off base, and here's why: One, you don't know your Bibles; two, you don't know how God works.
After the dead are raised up, we're past the marriage business. As it is with angels now, all our ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God.
And regarding the dead, whether or not they are raised, don't you ever read the Bible? How God at the bush said to Moses, 'I am - not was - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?
The living God is God of the living, not the dead. You're way, way off base."
One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: "Which is most important of all the commandments?"
Jesus said, "The first in importance is, 'Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one;
so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.'
And here is the second: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' There is no other commandment that ranks with these."
The religion scholar said, "A wonderful answer, Teacher! So lucid and accurate - that God is one and there is no other.
And loving him with all passion and intelligence and energy, and loving others as well as you love yourself. Why, that's better than all offerings and sacrifices put together!"
When Jesus realized how insightful he was, he said, "You're almost there, right on the border of God's kingdom." After that, no one else dared ask a question.
While he was teaching in the Temple, Jesus asked, "How is it that the religion scholars say that the Messiah is David's 'son,'
when we all know that David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said, God said to my Master, "Sit here at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."
"David here designates the Messiah 'my Master' - so how can the Messiah also be his 'son'?" The large crowd was delighted with what they heard.
He continued teaching. "Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery,
basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function.
And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they'll pay for it in the end."
Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions.
One poor widow came up and put in two small coins - a measly two cents.
Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together.
All the others gave what they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford - she gave her all."
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)