I remember the first time I had a run in with the Authorities.
I was three or four, and my mom had just told me NO. I was old enough to understand then that NO meant business, but I really wanted to do what I wanted to do. In my three year old self, I did some risk-analysis…
Was it worth it to disobey my mom?
I certainly thought so, and I did it. My mom was prepared for this because she snatched me up and popped me on the behind lightning fast.
Boy did I commence to wailing. I wasn’t wailing because it hurt, I was angry because I wasn’t getting my way. So I cried and cried. To get you in the mood, here is a clip from Supper Nanny (remember that show?) with a kid throwing a similar temper tantrum to mine:
I sat down and pounded the floor with my little fists, and screamed bloody murder. I soon began rolling on the floor, taking great gasps of air in between hysterical sobs.
My mom looks at me during this fit and says very clearly,
Shelby, straighten up right now, or I’ll spank you again.
This only motivated me to carry on even louder. I’m rolling, kicking, screaming, shouting, wailing, hollering..
All because I didn’t get my way.
The end of that story was my mom eventually sat on top of me until I calmed down and quit screaming. (Now she didn’t really sit on me for all you overly concerned parents, but she put me in a position where I couldn’t throw a temper tantrum, and she forced me to stay there until I shut my mouth like she had initially asked.)
This was my first run in with Authority,
but truthfully I’ve been throwing temper tantrums ever since. I learned in childhood that defiance meant a spanking, or a time out, or a discipline that I was not going to love. Even into adulthood, I’ve learned there are consequences for disobeying authority. As we grow older though, we learn that not all authority should be trusted.
Americans are very skeptical of people in positions of authority. Some of our most respected leaders have said things like:
We learn early that we do not have authority within ourselves. First the authority in our lives is often our parents, then teachers, then coaches, then managers, and the list goes on and on. We never seem to grow out of having someone in authority over us.
We also inherently question all types of authority. This isn’t necessarily bad; but often, it is. What it all really comes down to in each of our lives is this:
Does anyone have authority over my life? If not, am I the ultimate authority in my life?
Who calls the shots?
If someone does have authority over me, just who exactly would that person be?
And how can I know that they are deserving of my obedience and trust?
These are the questions that Mark 12 wrestles with. Remember that this is the last week of Jesus life. So far, he has stopped all sacrifices and market activity that was happening in the temple. The scribes and teachers of the law are outraged by this, and they are looking for a way to destroy him. His methods are not popular among the leaders of the day, so their strategy is to trap Jesus in his words.
They straight up ask him,
It’s important to note that the chief priests, elders, and scribes were the authority in the temple during that day. They were in charge. But then Jesus rides in on a donkey with the crowds cheering and he marches right into the temple and orders all of their religious activity to be stopped. And everyone obeyed. Uh-Oh. Maybe they weren’t in charge after all. At least that’s what Jesus is implying.
The leaders hammer Jesus with questions, and Jesus answers the questions by using his teaching method called parables. In a brilliant sequence of conversations, we see Jesus taking full ownership of these questions just like he always had. The chief priests, elders, and scribes all clearly choose to reject Jesus authority, but I want you to seriously consider.
Does Jesus have authority over their lives? Is he powerful enough to call the shots? What gives him the right to change up their religious events?
Naturally the next question,
Knowing what you know about who Jesus is, does he have the right to be the ultimate authority in your life? Is he deserving of the authority that he claims?
As you read Mark Chapter 12,
Look through the window
Jesus speaks in parables in this chapter. Remember that parables are like the frame of a window; we are meant to see through the frame and out to the view outside. Why does Jesus choose to use parables instead of outright telling the leaders what he thought? Why parables for this tense situation? What is he trying to show them? What is he showing us? What’s the view he’s painting for us?
The Scriptures & The Power of God
When Jesus is approached about the age old question of what happens to you when you die, Jesus responds to his accusers with one important question. “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” This is a key question we must ask ourselves. Do we know what God says about himself? Have we taken the time to explore the answers given in his word? Have we ever witnessed his power?
Jesus was talking to people who had witnessed his three year ministry of bringing back to life from the dead, miraculous healings, and even huge miracles over the forces of nature. Had they seen all of this and still not recognized his power as God’s power?
The Widow’s Coins
The last story in the chapter is a very Markan story. As you know by now, Mark’s habit is to string along some seemingly disconnected stories to make you think. The last story in this chapter seems out of place. It details when Jesus witnessed a widowed woman bringing an offering to the temple. In light of all the pomp and show that comes with positions of power, Mark brings our attention to this helpless, pitiful, and destitute widow. She gave everything she had to live on for the sake of the temple, not just a large portion of her income. She gave up everything, even what she needed for her basic needs. Jesus commends her for this, and it begs the question. If Jesus is worthy of our obedience, then what does he require from us?
And with that, press on to the Good Stuff:
The Parable of the Tenants
12 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country.2 When the season came, he sent a servant[a] to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully.5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;[b]
11 this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
Paying Taxes to Caesar
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances,[c] but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius[d] and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man[e] must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
The Great Commandment
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 And 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.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Whose Son Is the Christ?
35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.”’
37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.
Beware of the Scribes
38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
The Widow’s Offering
41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.[f] 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”