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Bible Commentaries
Mark 12

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Verses 1-8


In this chapter the Lord shows all classes of Jews the condition they are in. All groups who wish to judge Him are themselves judged by Him.

The Unjust Vine-Growers

The Lord again uses the form of a parable to teach. It is part of the temple teaching with which He began in Mark 11:27. Through this parable He wants to teach the people what their spiritual state is, how they are spiritually. This parable is comprehended by His adversary, but not acknowledged (Mark 12:12).

In the parable He shows that God, from His side, has done everything to enable His people to give Him what belongs to Him. The vineyard represents Israel (Isaiah 5:1-Exodus :). In order to receive the full fruit of it, that is, the joy for His heart, He had made all kinds of provisions. It is not only about obedience, but also about fellowship, a common joy (1 John 1:4).

He had separated them from the rest of the sinful people by giving them the law as a wall (Ephesians 2:14-Ezra :). He also made all suitable preparations for the full results of their labor. He dug a vat under the wine press in which we can see a picture of the temple as the place where they could come with their fruits. He protected them completely. Therefore He gave them a king who had a function as a watchtower. After all these preparations He left. During His absence they were responsible for the vineyard.

After all His preparatory work, God sent His slaves who pointed out to the people what God expected of them. Their service was aimed at ensuring that the people would respond to God’s expectations, that is, that His people would bring Him the fruit of the land. But when God reminded the people in its history of what was due to them, their evil state came to light. They did not want to serve God, and abused those who came to them in the Name of God, without giving them what they asked for in the Name of God.

In His great grace God did not send His judgment on the people because they had abused His slave, but He sent a new messenger. But the people mistreated him even more severely. The evil state of their hearts manifested itself even more clearly. They not only mistreated the slave, but also treated him shamefully. If a man does not repent, he will sin more and more. His sinful deeds become more and more evil as he resists the gospel.

And yet God sent not His judgment, but yet another slave. He was even killed by them. Yet God continued in His grace to send His slaves, some of whom they mistreated and some of whom they killed. The condition of their evil hearts has become perfectly clear.

Though the incorrigible state of their evil hearts has become clear, God wants to take one last test. For that final trial, He sends none other than His Son. He is the only, the unique, and the beloved Son. He says that they will spare Him. Sending His Son is not an act against His better judgment. As the eternal God, He knew what they would do to His Son, just as He knew of the slaves He sent. We see here, however, that God expects a response that responds to His manifestation of grace. Therefore, His expectation is perfectly justified. If they will do to His Son what they did to the slaves, no improvement is to be expected. Then He will have to break with these people. His Son will be the last great Witness to His expectations.

What was not expected happens anyway with wicked deliberation. When the Son comes, they will recognize in Him the Heir. Instead of showing respect for Him, they discuss that by killing Him, they themselves will become owners of the inheritance. Now their deepest depravity comes to light. It is man’s selfishness that rejects God in His rights to take possession of everything that belongs to Him.

When the Son comes, they take Him, kill Him, and cast Him out. What a terrible act! It is remarkable that it first says that they kill Him and then throw Him out. In the other Gospels it says the other way around. In this Gospel, where He takes the humble place of Servant, His service is so despised that the leaders of the people see His corpse, as it were, as manure thrown into the field, as it once did with the corpse of Jezebel (2 Kings 9:37). He is treated like a Jezebel!

He is murdered and except for a few faithful, the people no longer look to Him. It is too horrible for words. Contempt for a dead person is the worst contempt a Jew can show. As far as the responsibility of the people is concerned, a decent burial is out of the question. Thus, the Son of Man is considered nothing.

This is what man comes to in his hardening in the face of all God’s proofs of grace. With this it has been proved that everything that God has given to man for good, culminating in His own Son, has been depraved and rejected by man. Nothing good can be expected of him anymore. Any hope of restoration is over.

Verses 9-12

This Came About From the LORD

The Lord asks what they think the owner of the vineyard will do. He Himself gives the answer. In it He says that God will come and destroy the vine-growers. That will happen through the Romans who will destroy Jerusalem and the temple in the year 70. Then He will give the vineyard to others - and thus no longer rent it out (Mark 12:1). He has done this through the formation of the church.

Those “others” are also, in a direct sense, those who are the remnant, those of the people who do give God the joy He seeks. What God did not find among the leaders and the masses, He Himself will work in a remnant, believers to whom James and Peter write their letters. Also in the mass of Christianity there is a remnant that gives God the fruit He seeks, because Christianity as a whole does not give it to Him either.

The Lord completes His teaching, which He has given through the parable, by quoting a Scripture which they know well, but have never read well. The quotation is pronounced by the remnant. It is the confession of their rejection of the Lord Jesus. This true meaning is unknown to these depraved, hardened people.

He, the Son, is the stone rejected by them, the builders, who are the religious leaders. The Lord here passes from the picture of the vineyard to the picture of a building (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9). He is a stone despised by the builders, but He has become a chief corner stone, the stone on which the whole building rests. He became that in the resurrection.

The church is the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15) and the church rests on Him (Matthew 16:18). Through the church God is brought the joy He seeks. Peter writes to the remnant about the house as a priestly home where spiritual sacrifices are made to God (1 Peter 2:5). The whole new creation also rests upon Him, just as He carries the old through the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).

Only the Lord, Yahweh, could bring about this change from rejected stone to an indispensable, chosen corner stone. What is rejected by men is chosen by God. This is marvelous in the eyes of all who believe in Him. Faith marvels at everything He does. It is cause for glorifying Him. They see His greatness in everything He does. He is the Servant Who created everything. To see this is a great wonder.

The words of the Lord touch the consciences of the religious leaders. They have well understood that He means them by the parable. Instead of repenting, they rebel. They want to seize Him, but don’t persevere because they’re afraid of the crowd. That’s their side. God’s side is that it’s not the time for that yet.

Verses 13-17

Question About a Poll-Tax to Caesar

It is becoming more and more serious for the Pharisees to eliminate the Lord. In order to find a reason to do so, they associate themselves even with the Herodians they otherwise hated. They find each other in their hatred of Christ. Together they ask a question about paying taxes, but from a totally different background. The Pharisees resist the emperor’s yoke because it stands in the way of the fulfilment of God’s promises, while they are blind to the fact that their own sins stand in the way of this fulfilment. The Herodians, on the other hand, cooperate with the occupiers because of the benefits it brings.

How foolish it is to try to trap Him Who is the truth on a statement. It shows the utter blindness to Who Christ is and the proud pride of man. The result is that they themselves are eliminated. We also see this in the following sections, where other groups of people come to Him with the plan to judge Him. The result is that they themselves are judged.

They start to flatter the Lord. What they say of Him is true, but their intentions behind it are false. The fact that He “defer to no one” means that He does nothing for the appreciation of people. Now they have a question to which they would like an answer from Him. They mean this question as a trick question. In their opinion, He can only give two answers: yes or no. In both cases they have caught Him.

If He will say that they have to pay, the Pharisees will discredit Him among the people. After all, He cannot be the Messiah, for He surrenders Israel to the rulers just like that. If He will say that they must not pay, the Herodians can denounce Him to the rulers as a troublemaker resisting the authority of Caesar. They forget, however, that they are opposed to the wisdom of God, and do not even remotely think that they themselves will be put in the light.

The Lord first reveals their hypocrisy, which He knows, by asking why they are asking Him. Then He responds to their question. To do so, He commands them first to bring Him a denarius, so that He may see it, and let them watch. By the way, this is a proof of the Lord’s poverty. He does not take a denarius out of His own pocket. Apparently the purse carried by Judas is empty.

They bring Him a denarius. The denarius was a means of payment among the people. By using it, they proved they had long since accepted domination. He shows them the denarius and shows them the likeness and the inscription. Then He asks who it is about on this piece of money. There is only one answer they can give, the correct answer: the likeness of Caesar and his inscription are on this coin. If they had their hearts in the right place, they would have been ashamed of the fact that the money in circulation in their country is Roman money. He makes them feel that their own guilt and sin have brought them under the authority of Rome and kept them so far.

They fall into the pit they dug for the Other. His answer is to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. They do neither. They’re not honest subjects to Caesar and even less loyal to God. If they were to follow the Lord’s counsel, they would acknowledge that they are subject to Caesar through their own fault, because of their own sins, and are therefore obliged to pay him taxes. They would also realize that God never ceases to be God and that they are therefore obliged to give Him what is due to Him.

For us, giving to God what is due to Him means giving ourselves to God (Romans 12:1), because there is also a likeness and inscription on us that is God’s likeness and inscription. The Lord Jesus has a right on us. The believers are a letter of Christ, read by all people (2 Corinthians 3:2). This is the positive teaching of the temple. It is about giving the sacrifice of ourselves to God.

As far as the enemies are concerned, it is also about facing Him Who is God, but not knowing Him. Because they do not know the Lord Jesus, they do not know God and because they do not honor Him, they do not give God what is due to Him (John 5:23). Their only reaction is that they are amazed at Him. They are perplexed and remain silent.

Verses 18-27

Question About the Resurrection

Satan has more arrows on his bow. The Pharisees may have been defeated, but there is another group of opponents who willingly allow themselves to be used in an attempt to capture the Lord in His words. The Sadducees form a liberal group. They say there is no resurrection because, in their opinion, it has never been proven and cannot be proved. Their reasoning is that what you cannot reason with your mind and what cannot be scientifically verified is not true.

In this group we see that all the apparent strength of unbelief consists in raising difficulties, in suggesting imaginary cases that are not at all relevant. Such people reason from people’s things to God’s things and then cannot but come to foolishness and error.

They take as a starting point for their sedition a prescription of Moses that is included in the law. That seems a good basis for discussion, but they forget that they are dealing with the Lawmaker Himself. The example they set for Him is plausible at first, it is something that is possible in practice. It can happen that someone’s brother dies without leaving a child and that his wife is left alone. Now that man had seven brothers, the Sadducees say. That, too, could be possible.

On the basis of the so-called duty of a husband’s brother, the first brother had to marry her to conceive offspring for his deceased brother. Moses included this in the law (Deuteronomy 25:5). It even existed before the law existed (Genesis 38:8) and so it goes in this story. The first brother marries her, but he too does not conceive offspring and dies. The second brother marries her, and dies leaving behind no children. All the brothers finally had her as a wife, but died without any offspring. The story of the Sadducees ends with the woman dying.

This foolish example was quoted by them in order to be able to ask the Lord the nonsensical question which one’s wife she will be in the resurrection. With this they want to ridicule the resurrection. As if the problem would not have arisen if she had married two brothers, they want to push the example so far in their audacity that He will have no answer at all.

The Lord does not go into the example at all, but tells them plainly that they are mistaken. He also tells them the cause of their error, which is that they do not understand the Scriptures and do not understand the power of God. In spite of all their presumption to be wise, educated, scientifically-minded people, they demonstrate their ignorance of the Scriptures. Those who do not know the Scriptures always err and have no idea what the power of God is capable of.

The Lord tells them what it is like in the resurrection. The answer is that the wife in the resurrection will be nobody’s, for there is no such thing as a continuation or resumption of earthly ties in the resurrection. In the resurrection the believers are no longer made of dust, but heavenly, like the angels, and have a purely spiritual existence. Angels have no gender, for that is part of a physical, earthly existence. Angels are therefore not increasing in number. The characteristics of angels apply to the spiritual family relationships in heaven. There is perfectly divine love, not limited to a single person, but to all the children of God.

In addition, if they read properly, they would know from the book of Exodus that the dead are raised. The Lord quotes from the books of Moses because these books are the most important among this liberal, rational party. God is the God of each of the patriarchs personally: He is “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” That is why His Name stands before each of them individually. He has promised the land to them personally, not only to their descendants. They will have to rise to possess the land promised to them personally. It is impossible that the promise He has made to them will not be fulfilled by Him.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have long since died when God says this to Moses. Yet God does not say: ‘I was the God of ...’, but: ‘I am the God of ...’. At the time of Moses they were not dead to Him, but alive, for God is not connected with the dead, but with the living. He is the God of the living. The Lord underlines once again how greatly they are mistaken.

Verses 28-34

The Great Commandment

The scribe who now speaks has a good judgment of the Lord Jesus. He has stood and listened. He also acknowledges that the Lord has answered well. It seems that he is honest and should not be counted among the hypocrites. He comes with a question answered by the Lord. The Lord judges that the man speaks wisely and tells him that he is not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34).

The Lord does not answer by simply quoting the first commandment of the Ten Commandments. He interprets “foremost” as the highest, the most important commandment. That is why He answers with the confession He Himself wrote down in Deuteronomy 6 (Deuteronomy 6:4-:). Yahweh, the LORD, the God of the covenant, is a one and only LORD. He is “our” God, He is the common God of His people. He is the triune God and at the same time perfectly “one”, He knows no different faces or appearances. He is perfectly consistent in all His actions. He is absolutely sovereign and cannot be compared to anyone.

The God Who is so perfectly “one” and excludes every other object, is entitled to the unlimited love and undivided dedication of His people, and of every human being. That is the first commandment. With this the Lord indicates what it is to give God what is due to Him (Mark 12:17) and that is to give ourselves completely to Him and serve Him with all that we are and have (Romans 12:1). Man is obligated to serve God
1. with all his heart, that is the inner being,
2. with all his soul, that’s with all his feelings,
3. with all his mind, that is with all his deliberations and
4. with all his strength, that’s with all his physical powers.
Whoever does so will keep all ten commandments.

The second commandment is about love for one’s neighbor. Here it does not say “with all your heart” etcetera but “as yourself”. The two commandments form one whole. Therefore the Lord does not say: “There are no commandments other greater than these”, but: “There is no other commandment greater than these”. It is impossible to love God and hate your neighbor, and it is equally impossible to love your brother without loving God (1 John 4:20). If the love of God characterizes our lives, it cannot but be that God’s love is in us.

According to the law this is impossible. Israel has failed in this and anyone who tries to do so by keeping the law fails just as much. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Therefore grace goes far beyond the law. Grace leads to total self-denial. The grace of God that makes a Christian conform to the revelation of God in Christ leads a person to even lay down his life for his brother (1 John 3:16).

This teaching of love is also part of the Lord’s temple teaching. It shows that the house of God is a house of love where we love God and each other.

This answer of the Lord is also acknowledged by the scribe as good, without any false assumption or expression of resentment. He agrees with what He has said. This is the beginning of the way to God. The scribe acknowledges in his conscience that loving God and one’s neighbor is much more than everything so much emphasized and valued by the Jews: external forms and ceremonies of the law.

The reaction of the Lord shows that the scribe acknowledges what is in the law, but not what is in Christ. That is why he is close to the kingdom, but still stands completely outside it, for only grace brings one into it.

With this the disputes have come to an end. Truth has triumphed in all respects, and man has been judged by truth and silenced in all respects.

Verses 35-37

Question About the Son of David

Now the Lord has a question. This question is an answer, for “Jesus answered”. It seems that He is answering an unspoken question that lives in those who surround Him. We do not know what the question is, but the question concerns the mystery of His Person. The answer to that question is the answer to many questions people may have about Him. The Lord’s question is not based on things of daily life, such as paying taxes (Mark 12:13-Esther :) or on the improbabilities for reason (Mark 12:18-Daniel :) or shrewd reasoning about conflicting obligations (Mark 12:28-Nahum :), but directly on the Scriptures. His question focuses on the mystery of His Person, the only connection between man and God.

The Lord begins His question with a quotation from the scribes who say that the Christ is a Son of David. They rightly say so. That He is. But He is more. This is apparent from what He says next, when He quotes what David said in Psalm 110 (Psalms 110:1). He says that David spoke in the Holy Spirit. So this was something that David could not have thought of himself, because it is about the position of Christ in heaven. That position will be given to Christ by the Lord, Yahweh, because His people reject Him.

This is a great difficulty for the scribes. They believe in a Messiah on earth. But a Messiah in heaven? They never thought of that. Only the faithful remnant of Israel knows Him that way. They know the Scriptures and the power of God and they believe in the resurrection. This is the answer to the question about the resurrection.

The connection between the fact that the Lord is both the Lord and the Son of David is that He is both God and Man. Moreover, He has been exalted by God to that place at God’s right hand (Acts 2:34-Zephaniah :). This is contained in the quote from Psalm 110 (Psalms 110:1). His question means that they must acknowledge that Israel has rejected his Messiah and that God, when He has been rejected, places Him at His right hand in heaven. This is also the key to understanding the present position of Israel and leaves room for the calling of the church. In short, it is about the acts of God with His Son after His rejection.

Verses 38-40

Beware of the Scribes

The Lord continues to reveal the wickedness of the religious leaders and takes the place of Judge. These wicked people have the say in the temple. They are proud and arrogant. Not only is their doctrine completely flawed, but there is much that is morally low and bad in their actions. They love the honor of men, especially in religious terms. Walking in long robes is expressing themselves, so that they stand out among the people. They love the greetings in the market places, because they express what they are looking for: that special and above all open recognition.

To take the chief seats in the synagogue means that they claim honor from a social point of view (James 2:2-Leviticus :). Taking the places of honor at banquets shows that they are full of their own importance. And that is not all. They take advantage of people’s worries to bring them under their influence. This goes hand in hand with great religious display, for they offer long prayers for appearance’s sake.

Thus many religious leaders behave in what today boasts of being the temple, the dwelling place of God, that is the whole of Christianity. These are the elements of the great Babylon that enslaves its followers or subjects to profit from it, monetarily and spiritually. The judgment of such people will be heavier than any other.

Mark does not give that detailed description of the depravity of these leaders and then pass judgment on it as Matthew does in Matthew 23. Here the Lord warns as Prophet. Here the Lord as Prophet shows the true character of the piety of the scribes and warns His disciples against them.

The Lord has just brought them all into the light as they had come to catch Him on a word. They have not repented through their defeat, but will direct all their hatred toward the disciples as well. The disciples should not be blinded by the beautiful appearance of the haters of the Lord. Even less should they become jealous to get the honor of people that way.

Verses 41-44

The Sacrifice of the Widow

After His walk through the temple (Mark 11:27), the Lord now sits down to show us to whom His sympathy goes. He observes “how,” that is in what way and from what motive, people put money into the treasury. He knows exactly how much we give and why we give just that amount and why no more or no less. He also observes how we make our goods and bodies available to Him. He sits as a Judge, without, however, exercising that power. That is yet to come. He also sits as a Teacher for His disciples to show them what He sees, so that they learn to observe as He observes.

The widow forms a huge contrast with the company He has just spoken about. She is a beautiful picture of the faithful remnant who entrusts itself entirely to Him. This is still connected with the old system that also makes a great impression on the disciples, because she gives her contribution to it, but her heart is with God. The Lord also wants to know from us what is in our hearts for the house of God. He wants to know if His house - that is us as believers (Hebrews 3:6) - is worth everything to us.

If she hadn’t put the two small copper coins in the treasury, it would have gone unnoticed. Her contribution was far too small for that. For those who had to count the amount, those little coins might have been difficult to count, but it is noticed and appreciated and noted by God. Now we know it too, because God wants us to see what it means to trust Him and to give what is in accordance with His thoughts.

She could have thrown in only one of the two small copper coins. That would have been a disproportionate amount of money for her as well. Where does the law dictate to give fifty percent? No, she gives hundred percent for a temple that will be destroyed within a few years. Maybe her small copper coins were even used to pay Judas for his betrayal. But she gave the money to God and that’s all that matters.

Giving is about the motive, not what people do with that gift. The Lord knows how to separate the intent of the sincere soul from the system that surrounds it. Mary also gave everything. One gave everything for the house of God, the other gave everything for Him. It’s both appreciated by Him. They gave as He gave Who also gave everything He had.

The Lord wants to teach His disciples about this and calls them to Himself. He openly expresses His appreciation for the woman. He also openly expresses His appreciation to all those who have put something into the treasury. Whatever the others have put into the treasury, He calls a gesture, they all have “put in out of their surplus” into the treasury. The amount they have put into it does not matter to Him. According to His judgment, what the woman has put in is worth more than what all have put in together.

In the face of the appearance of piety of the scribes, He makes clear what in the eyes of God really gives value to the sacrifices that are brought to the temple. The scribes received appreciation from the people because they were looking for it. This poor widow received appreciation from the Lord, even though she did not count on it at all.

He, God, does not look at the sum of the contribution, but at what we have left for ourselves. In the case of the widow, that is nothing! Those who gave of their surplus kept most of it for themselves. The much we have left for ourselves proves how little we give.

The Lord appreciates giving in the widow’s way, because it is not only the expression of giving abundantly, but also of complete trust in God.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Mark 12". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/mark-12.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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