Chapter 38

Setting traps for Jesus
Mark 12:1-27 (ESV)


1 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 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; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous 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. 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, 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 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 marvelled at him. 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 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.”


Mark 12:1-12
A story which really stings

Avoiding forthright speech which could accelerate the religious leaders’ attempts to kill Him, Jesus now speaks in parables. Meaning God the Father, He talks about a vineyard owner leasing his vineyard to tenants. The rent is proportional to the grapes harvested. The tenants, recognised by the Jewish leaders as themselves, won’t pay their rent. The vineyard owner successively sends three servants, and then many others, to ask the tenants to pay their rent. Similarly, God sent His prophets to disobedient Israel to demand they abandon their rebellion and submit to God. As this parable shows, God’s messengers were ignored, rejected, beaten, or even killed. Finally, in the parable, the owner sends his beloved son. Showing no respect for him, they kill him, reasoning that because he is dead no one will inherit the owner’s vineyard. Jesus says the owner will come to destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.

Jesus is clearly predicting that the Jews will kill Him, God’s eternal Son. He has come to die on the cross to save us. But God the Father’s judgement will crush those guilty rebels who reject Christ. The parable also foresees blessing coming to others because of the Jews’ rejection of Jesus—surely referring to Gentiles’ coming to know Christ as Saviour and Lord.[1] Jesus then quotes from Psalm 118, referring to Him as the rejected stone that becomes the cornerstone of the building.[2] The religious leaders passionately want Jesus arrested but are scared of the people. They will seize Him later.

Dodging taxes?

The Herodians again combine with their sworn enemies, the Pharisees, in a cynical attempt to trap Jesus. If He can be made to speak against their Roman rulers, perhaps the Romans will arrest and kill Him for treason. They ask whether they, an occupied country, should pay Caesar taxes. Jesus asks whose features figure on the coins. They reply Caesar’s. Christ’s logical reply leaves them speechless: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. That says all they need to know—and nothing that traps Him! What wisdom!

Mark 12:18-27
One wife for seven brothers!

Another Jewish religious group now seeks to discredit Jesus. The Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, believe in neither the resurrection nor the miraculous. Hypothetically, they mention a woman who marries seven brothers in turn, after each previous brother dies. They ask whose wife she will be after she dies. Jesus shows their two-fold error, that they are ignorant both of God’s power and of His Scriptures.

First, the Scriptures reveal marriage doesn’t exist in Heaven. Sex is a God-given gift exclusively for marriage on earth, but no sexual distinction or activity occurs in Heaven. Heaven is perfect without it, in Christ’s glorious presence.

Second, God says, I am[3] the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—not I was their God. Although physically dead, they are clearly alive spiritually through the resurrection. God is the God of the living! The person who trusts Christ now immediately receives eternal life, a different spiritual life which is everlasting in length. Christians will enjoy it forever in God’s new heaven and earth in perfect resurrection bodies that God will give to each Christian![4]



[1]   .  Romans 11:1-27, especially verses 17-27.
[2]   .  Psalm 118:22-24.
[3]   .   My emphasis.
[4]   .  1 Corinthians 15:42-57, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.


Questions on Chapter 38
Mark 12:1-27 Setting traps for Jesus.

A. How does the parable about the vineyard mirror the religious leaders’ opposition to Jesus?   Mark 12:1-8 Mark 10:32-34   Matthew 23:28-32   Mark 15:15-25

B. Consider the question in verses 13 and 14 put to trick Jesus. Why does his answer amaze them?   Mark 12:13-14   Mark 12:15-17   Romans 13: 1, 6-7

C. What important truth do the Sadducees attack? What are their two big errors? To prove the resurrection how does Jesus blend Bible and logic?  Mark 12:18-23    Mark 12:24    Mark 12:25-27   Romans 8:34    2 Timothy 2:15    2 Timothy 3:16

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