For the full text of Mark 12, click here.
The conversation with the chief priests and scribes of the temple in chapter eleven continue here. They have asked whose authority Jesus has to drive out the money-changers and call them a den of robbers. He answers with a question that traps them and then follows it up with the parable in this chapter.
He tells a parable where a someone who owns a vineyard rents it out and sends people back to get some of the harvest. Each one is killed or beaten until he sends his son, who is also killed. Jesus asks what the retribution should be. The best thing about this moment is that He basically tells them that He knows what they want to do to Him and that God will reverse it, and waits for what they do with that information. And they know! This parable isn’t lost on them, but what can they do?
They still know that they need to get the people on their side and don’t seem to know how to do it. All they could do was slink away and hope for a better opportunity. Afterward, they send the Pharisees to try to trip Him up and Jesus not only sees through it but always has a counter. This is the one about taxes and rendering unto Caesar. God and Jesus are much more concerned with non-tangible things than money. It’s not about the money or the power and they just keep missing the point. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, give to God what is God’s. Money to Caesar, soul to God.
Next it’s the Sadducees turn to try to trip up Jesus with a question about who will be married to who when everyone raises from the dead again “in the resurrection”. That part is a little confusing for me because I think of resurrection and I think of people coming back from the dead. The study section sounds like this means in Heaven and I don’t know what to take from this. All I know is that the intention of the response is that the Sadducees are getting caught up in details that have more to do with this world than what will come next. The bit about the God of the living while citing people who were dead was confusing.
It’s followed up by a scribe appearing and asking about the greatest commandment, which is also one of my favorites. It’s oversimplified in the US tradition, the exact response is:
“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:29-31
One pertains to God, the other to people. I get why there are two here. Still, loving your neighbor is more complicated than those simple words and the full explanation is not often elaborated because it comes from way back in the Old Testament.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
9“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.
13“You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.
15“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the lifea of your neighbor: I am the LORD.
17“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.Leviticus 19:9-18
I appreciate that at least this scribe seems to have heard Jesus and take in the point that was made. Moreover, Jesus acknowledged his understanding.
Jesus then asks about the idea that David was the Son of God. He doesn’t specifically say that it’s Him, but just casts doubt on the Son of God being David. He gives them some things to think about with it.
He throws some shade at the scribes in the next paragraph, talking about all the benefits they get for being scribes and the long prayers they do just for attention.
The last thing in the chapter is a teaching about a widow who contributes to the offering. I actually love this story but it’s one that is so hard to live into. Everyone else gives “from their abundance” which is usually what people do, even I do it more often than anything else, but this widow contributes “from her poverty” instead. It reminds me of An Unquenchable Thirst and the quote she keeps from Mother Teresa. Give until it hurts.