Gospel of Mark: Chapter 12

Gospel of Mark:

Commentary on Chapter 12.

  • v. 1 – See the similar story in Isaiah 5:1-7.
  • v. 2 – After four years a new vineyard would produce a harvest. The owner was entitled to a portion of the harvest his tenants secured.
  • vv. 3-5 – In the Old Testament prophets are frequently referred to as servants.[1] While honored by later generations, they were oftentimes rejected and sometimes killed for their message by their contemporaries.[2]
  • vv. 6-7 – Jesus is the son in this parable. He is the promised Messiah and yet the people do not accept him as their rightful king and leader but instead reject and kill him (as will be seen shortly).
    • It seems that Jesus is perhaps especially describing the religious leaders who he is indirectly suggesting are seeking to kill the Messiah in order to retain power in their own hands.
  • v. 9 – In Isaiah 5:4 and 7 the vineyard is the people of Israel (the Jews). It is likely the same here.
    • Some believe this means that the Jewish leadership would be removed and replaced by others.
    • Some believe that this means that the Jews would be cast out of the physical land and others take their place.
    • Some believe that this means that the Jews were disinherited and the Church took its place.[3]
  • vv. 10-11 – See Psalm 118:22-23.
    • A cornerstone is the most important stone in a building. It is that upon which all the rest of the building depends for stability.
  • v. 13 – The Pharisees are representatives of the Jewish religious establishment while the Herodians are representatives of the local government, which in turn represents Rome.
  • v. 14 – Most Jews were resistant to paying taxes to the Roman Empire. If Jesus said that they should pay taxes he would displease the people. On the other hand, the Herodians were representatives of Rome and if Jesus suggested the people not pay taxes the Herodians could arrest Jesus for inciting rebellion.
  • v. 17 – Note that in a similar way to the refusal of the tenants to give what was owed, so the Jews were refusing to give to Caesar what was his.
  • v. 18 – The Sadducees were a religious sect of the Jews who held only to the Pentateuch as Scripture (that is the first five books of the Old Testament). As these included no obvious references to human immortality, they believed that there was no afterlife.[4]
  • v. 19 – See Deuteronomy 25:5-6.
    •  Without a concept of the afterlife supreme importance is placed upon achieving immortality through one’s offspring. To be left without an heir was the ultimate dishonor.
  • v. 24 – Jesus in referring to the Scriptures may be speaking of the entire Old Testament, as opposed to only the Pentateuch.
  • v. 25 – This passage is difficult because of Genesis 6 in which we find the “sons of God” (oftentimes associated with angels) going into human women and procreating. Either Genesis 6 is not referring to angels or angels do have the ability to procreate but do not utilize the ability.
    • In either case the emphasis is on the discontinuity between this life and the next and the power of God to bring about a beautiful and perfect future life that does not in all ways resemble this earthly life.
  • vv. 26-27 – Jesus also counters their argument against an afterlife from the Scriptures they did accept – specifically quoting Exodus 3:6, 15-16.
  • v. 28 – Interestingly, while the last few interactions between Jesus and the religious leaders have been hostile, this scribe upsets the narrative thread, providing a positive interaction.
    • This question – what is the most important commandment – was a common question for discussion at this time.
  • vv. 29-31 – Jesus replied by combining two commandments – the first from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and the latter from Leviticus 19:18. The first aligns with the subject of the first five of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-11, towards God), the second with the latter five commandments (Exodus 20:12-17, towards others).
  • v. 33 – See Hosea 6:6.
  • v. 35 – The Christ is considered the Son of David based on OT passages such as Isaiah 9:2-7; 11:1-5; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-16; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-28.
  • v. 36 – This is a quotation from Psalm 110:1.
    • This is the most quoted Old Testament verse in the entire New Testament.
  • v. 37 – Jesus is not denying the Christ’s descent from David, but indicating that the Christ is greater even than David.
  • v. 38 – The robes were distinctly worn by the religious leaders as a way of attracting attention and honor to themselves.
    • The response from the people was to honor these individuals with special greetings.
  • v. 39 – The best seats would be those toward the front of the synagogue.
    • The closer one sat to the host, the more honored one was. The first position of honor was at the right hand of the host, then at his left, then the next down at his right, then at his left, and so on down the table.
  • v. 40 – The religious leaders were unethically taking advantage of widows – someone whom God had set out as being of special concern to him.[5]
  • v. 41 – There were thirteen of these boxes in the temple which were used to collect gifts.
  • v. 42 – Mark here uses a Roman term (quadrans) for the coin, likely indicating that his original audience was Roman rather than Jewish.
  • vv. 43-44 – God’s economy is different from our economy. He sees whether we depend upon Him, acknowledging Him as the source of all that we have, and also the sacrifices we make on His behalf – acknowledging His worthiness to be served.

Author: David Mackey

Revision: 1.0 5/14/13


[1] See Jeremiah 7:25-26; Amos 3:7; Zechariah 1:6.

[2] See 1 Kings 18:13; 19:10, 14; 2 Chronicles 24:20-27; 36:15-16; Jeremiah 26:20-23; Nehemiah 9:26.

[3] If this last is the case, see Romans 9-11 in which Paul explains why the Jews have been “rejected” for a time – it is so God can demonstrate His mercy on all (Jew and Gentile). Thus even in God’s rejection for a time, He has redemptive purposes. Further, it is not that the Gentile is superior to the Jew – no, in God’s sight all are equal. Anti-semitism have no just root in Christianity or the Scriptures.

[4] In some of the later Scriptures there is reference to an afterlife, e.g. Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Job 19:26; Psalm 16:9-11; 49:15; 73:23-26; Daniel 12:2. But these were not accepted by the Sadducees.

[5] See Deuteronomy 14:29; Psalm 68:5; 146:9; Isaiah 1:17, 23;  Ezekiel 22:7; Jeremiah 7:6; 49:11; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5.