Mark 12

Jesus tells the Parable of the Vineyard Owner and Wicked Tenants. He brilliantly replies to a challenge about paying taxes to Caesar. He answers the Sadducees’ question about the resurrection. He tells a teacher of the law what the Greatest Commandment is. He clarifies who the Son of David is. He says to beware of the teachers of the law who devour widows’ houses yet say long prayers. He observes a poor widow giving all she had.

As I write in the introduction to every chapter:

This translation and commentary is offered for free, gratis, across the worldwide web to Christians in oppressive (persecuting) or developing countries, who cannot afford printed commentaries or Study Bibles, though everyone can use the commentary and entire website, of course.

The translation is mine. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If readers don’t read Greek, they can ignore the left side of the tables. I include the language to check my work and for Greek readers, who can also check my translation.

Readers can go to and use the interlinear link to look up every Greek word, and then the links go to every occurrence of the word. They can also visit for many translations.

The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section, for discipleship.

Links are provided for further study.

Let’s begin.

Parable of the Vineyard and Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12)

1 Καὶ ἤρξατο αὐτοῖς ἐν παραβολαῖς λαλεῖν· ἀμπελῶνα ἄνθρωπος ἐφύτευσεν καὶ περιέθηκεν φραγμὸν καὶ ὤρυξεν ὑπολήνιον καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν πύργον καὶ ἐξέδετο αὐτὸν γεωργοῖς καὶ ἀπεδήμησεν. 2 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς τοὺς γεωργοὺς τῷ καιρῷ δοῦλον ἵνα παρὰ τῶν γεωργῶν λάβῃ ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος· 3 καὶ λαβόντες αὐτὸν ἔδειραν καὶ ἀπέστειλαν κενόν. 4 καὶ πάλιν ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἄλλον δοῦλον· κἀκεῖνον ἐκεφαλίωσαν καὶ ἠτίμασαν. 5 καὶ ἄλλον ἀπέστειλεν· κἀκεῖνον ἀπέκτειναν, καὶ πολλοὺς ἄλλους, οὓς μὲν δέροντες, οὓς δὲ ἀποκτέννοντες. 6 ἔτι ἕνα εἶχεν υἱὸν ἀγαπητόν· ἀπέστειλεν αὐτὸν ἔσχατον πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων ὅτι ἐντραπήσονται τὸν υἱόν μου. 7 ἐκεῖνοι δὲ οἱ γεωργοὶ πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς εἶπαν ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρονόμος· δεῦτε ἀποκτείνωμεν αὐτόν, καὶ ἡμῶν ἔσται ἡ κληρονομία. 8 καὶ λαβόντες ἀπέκτειναν αὐτὸν καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος. 9 τί [οὖν] ποιήσει ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος; ἐλεύσεται καὶ ἀπολέσει τοὺς γεωργοὺς καὶ δώσει τὸν ἀμπελῶνα ἄλλοις. 10 Οὐδὲ τὴν γραφὴν ταύτην ἀνέγνωτε·

λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες,
οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας·
11 παρὰ κυρίου ἐγένετο αὕτη
καὶ ἔστιν θαυμαστὴ ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν;

12 Καὶ ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν κρατῆσαι, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν τὸν ὄχλον, ἔγνωσαν γὰρ ὅτι πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὴν παραβολὴν εἶπεν. καὶ ἀφέντες αὐτὸν ἀπῆλθον.

1 He began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and placed a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress, built a tower, leased it to tenants, and left on a journey. 2 At the right time, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that he could receive from the tenants the vineyard’s produce. 3 But they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they knocked him about the head and humiliated him. 5 He sent yet another servant; they killed that one. And he sent many others, and some they beat and others they killed. 6 He still had one son, his beloved. He sent him to them last, saying ‘They’ll respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to themselves, ‘This is the heir! Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’ 8 Seizing him, they killed and threw him outside of the vineyard. 9 What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you never read this Scripture?”

A stone which the builders rejected-
it has become the cornerstone.
11 This is from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes.” [Ps. 118:22-23]

12 Then they sought to arrest him—but were afraid of the crowd—for they understood that he spoke the parable against them. Leaving him, they departed.


This is the second of six open conflicts with the Jerusalem establishment. Scholars call them “controversy stories,” which take place in the temple during Jesus’s last days in Jerusalem (11:27-12:44).

Landowner = God

Vineyard = Israel or more specifically, Jerusalem and temple

Tenant farmers = Leaders in the temple and Jerusalem

The situation is found in various documents of large, absentee landowners who lease their land to struggling tenant farmer in Israel and surrounding nations.

Servants (or slaves) = prophets and other messengers throughout Israel’s history

Son = Son of God or Jesus

Rejected stone = head of the corner = Jesus the Messiah

Others = converted Jews and converted Gentiles

The irony is that the religious leaders who recognized themselves in the parable will fulfill it by putting him to death.

Those who reject the Son will be placed under judgment.

Now let’s dig more deeply into the details.


“parables”: literally, the word parable (parabolē in Greek) combines para– (pronounced pah-rah and means “alongside”) and bolē (pronounced boh-lay and means “put” or even “throw”). Therefore, a parable puts two or more images or ideas alongside each other to produce a clear truth. It is a story or narrative or short comparison that reveals the kingdom of God and the right way to live in it and the Father’s ways of dealing with humanity and his divine plan expressed in his kingdom and life generally. The Shorter Lexicon says that the Greek word parabolē can sometimes be translated as “symbol,” “type,” “figure,” and “illustration,” the latter term being virtually synonymous with parable. Here you must see yourself in the parable.

What Is a Parable?

Jesus continues his dominance of the chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders, and anyone else like them on the scene. Before, he didn’t submit to their investigation of his authority. That’s like a three-year-old asking a grandfather where he got his authority. Maybe the grandfather would also laugh it off. Now, however, Jesus takes off his gloves and “goes to town” or becomes aggressive with these leaders who claimed Moses as their authority. But he was speaking to the people within earshot of his teaching. A vineyard sometimes refers to Israel in the Old Testament (Ps. 80:8-13; Is. 5:1-2; 27:2-3; Jer. 2:21; Hos. 10:1).

Here’s a sample passage with the same phrases and words appearing in this parable and these verses in Isaiah:

I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones
and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only bad fruit. […]

The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
is the nation of Israel (Is. 5:1-2, 7, NIV)

“left on a journey”: The owner (God) going away for a long time means that after the revelation on Mt. Sinai, where God appeared and spoke to Moses face to face throughout their sojourn across the desert, God did not give such clear and authoritative revelations—Moses was unique. Rather, he sent prophet after prophet to the people of Israel; the prophets were covenant law enforcement. Those are the series of servants in the parable.

“tenants”: this is the standard word for this occupation, but in context it could be translated more narrowly as “vine-growers.” Or “tenant farmers.” I translated it as “tenants.” They represent the religious leaders.

In this first verse, we have a series of verbs, which are very clear sequentially. This is Mark’s writing at his best.

The tower is probably a watchtower, so that servants could oversee the vineyard. The tenant farmers could have appointed their servants to stand guard. Whatever the case, it takes money to build the tower. Call it a luxury.

“right time”: it could be translated as “harvest,” but it takes a while for grapes to grow from a newly planted vineyard. In any case, the noun here is kairos (pronounced kye-ross and is used 85 times), which speaks more of a quality time than quantity. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. (a) Generally a welcome time or difficult timefruitful times; (b) a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time … at the right time; (2) a defined period for an event, definite, fixed time (e.g. period of fasting or mourning in accord with the changes in season), in due time (Gal. 6:9); (3) a period characterized by some aspect of special crisis, time; (a) generally the present time (Rom. 13:11; 12:11); (b) One of the chief terms relating to the end time … the time of crisis, the last times.

All of this stand in a mild contrast—not a sharp contrast—from chronos. Greek has another word for time: chronos (pronounced khro-noss), which measures one day, one week or one month after another. In v. 9, Luke uses chronos plus the modifier “long.” This speaks of delay in the Lord’s return. Matt. 24:43-25:30, Jesus, using different parables, elaborates on the Son of Man’s long delay.


And here comes the first servant. The word servant here is doulos (pronounced doo-loss) and could be translated as slave, but I chose servant because in Jewish culture a Hebrew man who sold himself into servitude to his fellow Jew was like an indentured servant whose term of service had a limit; he was freed in the seventh year. But then the indentured servant could stay with his family, if he liked his owner (Exod. 21:2-6; Lev. 25:38-46; Deut. 15:12-18). So there was a lot of liberty even in servitude, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

Slavery and Freedom in the Bible

It is a sure thing, however, that Mark’s Greek-speaking audience, knowledgeable about Greek culture, would have heard “slave” in the word doulos. So if you wish to interpret it like that, then that’s your decision. But culturally at that time slavery had nothing to do with colonial or modern slavery.

The owner reasonably requested a share in the crop of the vineyard. It is not likely that he asked for a pile of grapes, but their fair-market value in coins, particularly when he was gone. But the farmers beat him and sent him away. Criminal behavior, but the owner (God) is willing to be merciful to them, hoping they would repent.

Then God sent many servant-prophets, but the tenant farmers did awful things to them.

Then God in his mercy sent more servant-prophets to collect what rightly belonged to him. Israel belonged to God, and the farmers or tenants who got the lease had no right—legal or moral—to mistreat his lawfully commissioned servants. For centuries God sent prophets to Israel, and they were largely ignored and scorned and sometimes killed.

This passage from Jeremiah explains:

25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors. (Jer. 7:25-27, NIV)

Why so many in Mark’s version (Matthew says the owner sent three servants)? It shows how absurd the temple authorities and other leaders had been over the centuries. The purpose in mentioning the many servants is to pile up the crime the leaders committed.

Then God sent another servant-prophet, but they also beat and shamed him. “Humiliated” or “shamed” in Greek is literally “dishonored.” They were part of an honor-and shame society. If one man wins honor, another man walks away in shame or dishonor. In this case the farmers got the better of the owner’s (God’s) servant.


Then the owner was so merciful that he sent the most authoritative man in his household—his Son.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Heb. 1:1-2, NIV)

Son, but not just a son, but the Son whom the owner loved. It is the adjective agapētos (pronounced ah-gah-pay-toss), and it is related to the common noun in the Christian community, even today: agapē (pronounced ah-gah-ay).

For more discussion on this adjective and related noun and verb, see v. 30, below.

The landowner sent his precious son, even though the other servants were mistreated or killed.

David Garland offers this insight:

The allegory [of the detailed parable] reveals God’s continuous pursuit of humans, no matter how often the overtures meet with rejection. The landlord’s optimism in sending his son represents God’s endless hopefulness and constant effort to bring sinful people to their senses. God fully expects the people to produce fruit and exercises forbearance when they renege on their obligations (Rom. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9), and what seems to utter foolishness in sending prophet after prophet and finally a beloved Son to a pack of murderers. What may look like foolishness to worldly wisdom, however (1 Cor. 1:18-25; 3:18-20), reflects the wisdom and love of God (p. 455).

I add: God was doing this right before Jerusalem’s eyes, and now our eyes. He loves us so much that he sent his Son, even though he knew (in advance) that he would be unjustly killed.


Then the tenant farmers conspired and hatched a plan. If they kill the lead figure, then they will be able to ignore God and take the vineyard for themselves. The inheritance will be theirs, by default. And that is what they did. Of course their wickedness clouded their minds and made them stupid. The inheritance did not come to them. Just the opposite.


This verse speak of God’s judgment on the Jerusalem religious establishment. How did God exact judgment on them? Recall that Jesus already had predicted Jerusalem’s destruction (Matt. 24:2). In addition, Luke 21:5-9 and 20-24 say that armies will surround Jerusalem and destroy it. And sure enough Roman armies began their sack of the city in A.D. 66 and finally conquered it in A.D. 70. Judaism as it was then practiced was over, finished. No more animal sacrifices in the temple, to cite only one example. The Jerusalem establishment was also done away with.

Who are the “others” to whom the vineyard owner would give the vineyard? These are the converted Gentiles and converted Jews. The gospel was about to go to them, and the vineyard would expand around the world (Luke 24:47). Judaism, expressed in the temple worship, sits under judgment (Matt. 21:33-45; Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31, though numerous individual priests (Acts 6:7) and thousands of Jews of Jerusalem and Judea converted (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 21:20). God loves people, but he is not enamored with systems.

Mark 13:5-31 Predicts Destruction of Jerusalem and Temple

Mark 13:32-37 Teaches Second Coming

Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 and 17 in Parallel Columns Are Finally Clear

This verse in Ephesians explains: “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace” (Eph. 2:15, NIV)


“have you never read”: = “you may have read it but have not understood it” (Strauss).

He quotes from Ps. 118:22-23. Jesus was rejected by the builders (the temple establishment), but it became the cornerstone. What humankind rejects, God accepts. When people throw something away, God picks it up and turns it into the necessary item. This is redemption.

What Is Redemption in the Bible?

No, Jesus himself did not need redemption, but he was vindicated. It’s a lesson for us who are the ones who need redemption. He can vindicate us, too, when we follow his ways. (He can even redeem us when we do not, after we repent.)

But this cornerstone is active. It not only can trip people and break them into pieces, but it can fall on them and crush them (Matt. 21:44). This is serious business.

R.. T. France writes of the quotation:

The second verse of the quotation might serve as a motto for the whole of Mark’s gospel. It is the gospel of paradox, of human amazement at the unexpected work of God. The kingdom of God has been shown especially in chapter 10 to demand the reversal of human values and expectations. In it the first are last and the last first, the rejected stone becomes the most important of all, and ‘we’ are left gazing in wonder at the inscrutable ways of God as they are being revealed not only in the teaching but also in the experience of his Messiah.


The same chief priests and the elders and teachers of the law (sometimes translated as “scribe”) were there, who had challenged him, knew exactly what he meant. The tenant farmers, who had custody of the vineyard (Israel), acted unjustly and criminally against the servant-prophets. After judging the Jerusalem establishment, God was about to expand the vineyard so far outwardly that it would go around the globe, and the Gentiles would take custody of it.

But expanding the vineyard is not really the main point. Rather, the main point is that the leaders would be replaced with “others” and the church will become the new temple (1 Cor. 3:17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Pet. 2:5). Peter got the vision that Gentile would be and could be saved, and Cornelius and his household were the first Gentile converts to the new Jesus Movement (Acts 10). They and millions like them are the “others.”

So some could interpret the “vineyard” as the kingdom manifested at first in Israel and later in the entire church.

Here are some of my posts about the kingdom of God:

1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)

Bible Basics about the Kingdom of God

Questions and Answers about Kingdom of God

Basic Definition of Kingdom of God

See v. 34 for a brief definition of the kingdom of God.

GrowApp for Mark 12:1-12

A.. Jesus was rejected by the leaders, but God vindicated him. When you converted to Christ, did anyone reject you, but God’s love vindicated you?

Paying Taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17)

13 Καὶ ἀποστέλλουσιν πρὸς αὐτόν τινας τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ τῶν Ἡρῳδιανῶν ἵνα αὐτὸν ἀγρεύσωσιν λόγῳ. 14 καὶ ἐλθόντες λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· διδάσκαλε, οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἀληθὴς εἶ καὶ οὐ μέλει σοι περὶ οὐδενός· οὐ γὰρ βλέπεις εἰς πρόσωπον ἀνθρώπων, ἀλλ’ ἐπ’ ἀληθείας τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ θεοῦ διδάσκεις· ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ; δῶμεν ἢ μὴ δῶμεν; 15 Ὁ δὲ εἰδὼς αὐτῶν τὴν ὑπόκρισιν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τί με πειράζετε; φέρετέ μοι δηνάριον ἵνα ἴδω. 16 οἱ δὲ ἤνεγκαν. καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· τίνος ἡ εἰκὼν αὕτη καὶ ἡ ἐπιγραφή; οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· Καίσαρος. 17 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τὰ Καίσαρος ἀπόδοτε Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τῷ θεῷ. καὶ ἐξεθαύμαζον ἐπ’ αὐτῷ. 13 Then they sent to him some of the Pharisees and Herodians so that they may trap him by a statement. 14 When they came up to him, they said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and are not swayed by anyone, for you are not intimated by people, but you teach God’s path of truth. Is it right to pay a tax to Caesar or not? Should we give or not give?” 15 But seeing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius so I can look at it.” 16 They brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.


This is the third of six “controversy stories” between Jesus and the Jerusalem establishment (11:27-12:44). They saw him as a threat.


In this confrontation, the temple and Jerusalem establishment strike back. The chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders send Pharisees and Herodians, with the intention of trapping him into making a statement about taxes. They wanted him to say, “I’m a political revolutionary! I denounce Caesar and his tax requirement! I signal my followers! Now! Let’s all revolt!” They wanted to intimidate Jesus, so they could win the cultural battle of shame and honor. They would get the honor in public with other experts standing around, while Jesus would slink away. But Jesus was not flustered or startled. He held his peace.

“trap”: the verb appears only here, and it can mean to trap someone like an animal trap, or it can mean to hunt someone. Clearly the Pharisees and Herodians were commissioned to trap Jesus.

For many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here is about to reply to the test and pass it. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them.

Further, during his ministry, he did not cower or surrender. He fought back. His growing movement and lives were at stake. If he let his opponents get away with their criticism, his silence could have been misinterpreted as weakness, so he would not have been worthy to be followed. The listeners would have gone home, and rightly. “He’s not sure of his own message? He lets the religious leaders walk all over him? He’s not the Messiah!” Often silence can be misinterpreted as agreement. And if the sparring match is over eternal truths (as distinct from nonessential issues), don’t give in to your erroneous and broken opponents.

No, don’t be rude or contemptuous or defiant or stubborn, especially when you don’t know very much of Scripture or basic doctrine or particularly to your pastor who has a good heart and knows the Word. But if the Scripture is really, really clear, be firm and resolute about your interpretation of such issues as healing is for today or Christ is the Lord, or sin should not be accepted in the church, despite the culture’s pressure to compromise (e.g. about same-sex marriages).


See this article about them and the Herodians:

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts

The Pharisees, among others, were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (David E. Garland, Luke: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Zondervan, 2011], p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Overdoing righteousness, believe it or not, can damage one’s relationship with God and others.

“statement”: it is the Greek noun logos, and its definition is huge, but I like “statement” because it is as if the Pharisees and Herodians are the religious police. But if you want to translated it as “words,” you may certainly do so.


“you are not swayed by anyone”: literally the Greek says, “It is no concern of yours about anyone.” I just couldn’t go literal this time. In sum, the flattering Pharisees and Herodians tell him that he doesn’t care what people say. He’s not easily swayed by shifting opinions. They were literally correct, but the motives were wrong. The church also needs to be careful about following the trends in society.

“for you are not intimidated by people”: literally it says, “You do not look towards face of people’s.” I just could not go literal here, either. Preachers often look at the faces of people and get intimidated. Don’t.

Yes, Jesus was a man of truth or integrity, so that much was literally true, but the Pharisees and Herodians did not really believe this. They were not being truthful and integrous themselves.

“right”: it could be expansively translated as “right before God” (Strauss) or in my opinion “lawful according to the righteous demands of the Torah.”


“hypocrisy”: Hypocrites were originally Greek play actors on the stage. They wore masks and played roles. There were stock characters, such as the buffoon, the bombastic soldier, or the old miser. The Septuagint (pronounced sep-too-ah-gent and abbreviated LXX for the “seventy” scholars who worked on it) is a third to first century translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. It uses the term hypocrite to mean the godless. However, in the Synoptic Gospels, it is more nuanced. Hypocrites appeared one way, but in reality they were different. They appeared outwardly religious, but inwardly they were full of dead men’s bones (Matt. 23:27). They wore religious masks. They actually did many things that the law required, but they failed to understand God’s view of righteousness. They were more self-deceived than deceivers, though in Matt. 23, Jesus denounced the Pharisees and experts in the law for teaching one thing but living another. They are religious show-offs who act out their righteousness to impress others but are out of touch with God’s mercy and love. Eccl. 7:16 says not to be overly righteous, but that is what they were and displayed it publicly. Their flattery made them hypocrites because they did not really believe their words.

They pose their question. To be honest, it was an effective strategy of entrapment. However, we are about to watch the literal genius and literal anointing of Jesus on full display. It is stunning (to me at least) that he could come up with such a piercing and clarifying and rich answer immediately after this challenge. At the end of the discussion the Pharisees and Herodians will be hushed, and Jesus will emerge victorious in public.

Jesus used his discernment to perceive or recognize their wickedness or evil. He knew that they were testing him.

A denarius was the standard daily wage for a laborer (Matt. 20:1-16).


“image and inscription”: The Caesar, a generic name for the emperor, was Tiberius (ruled AD 14-37). It may have read as follows:


Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of divine Augustus, Augustus

(Strauss’ comment on vv. 16-17; Lane in his comment on v. 16, and I follow his translation). Lane also notes that the reverse said: “Pontifex Maximus” (literally “Great Bridge-Builder,” but it means “High Priest”).

How would he reply? A revolt? Then his enemies would have reported this defiant reply to the governor, who would have come out and arrested him at the wrong time, before the connection to Passover. He was going to be the Passover lamb who would die for the sins of the whole world (1 Cor. 5:6; John 1:29). The flow of events would have been out of line. He had a higher and different mission, from God.

If he had said to pay taxes to Rome, then his accusers could claim he sympathized with the hated Romans. If he said not to pay taxes to Rome, then they could call hi, a rebel and report him instantly.

Instead, his answer is going to be brilliant and revealing. Even his opponents were amazed.

Caesar’s image and inscription are on the coin, which, representing the entire worldly economy, belongs to him or his administration as represented by him. Jesus’s kingdom does not belong to or is tied down by this kingdom. His kingdom rises above it. However, let’s not overlook the truth that ultimately all kingdoms are overseen by God. In his sovereignty, he is the Lord of the world, not Caesar, though all government officials nowadays may believe that they are.

Key online and TV Bible teachers have said that the unstated implication is the humans have God image embedded in them (Gen. 1:26-27). People have the image of God restored to them by entering the kingdom of God and following him. They find their true identity in him, not in seeking their own way and their own image. It is best to let God make his image in them.

One prominent NT scholar said on youtube that this passage does not separate off Caesar’s kingdom from God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom overarches and influences Caesar’s kingdom. That’s partly true, for God’s kingdom should influence kingdoms of the world. However, God’s kingdom is eternal, while the earth-bound kingdoms are all doomed to pass away. So this passage does separate off God’s kingdom from Caesar’s. But see my comments just above, for a slightly contrary view. God in his sovereignty does rule over everything.

Jesus’s answer was brilliant. This was a word of wisdom, delivered by the Spirit of God (see 1 Cor. 12:10). Some say all of Jesus’s miracles and wisdom were brought out by the Spirit; others say most or all were done by his divine nature, which he took with him when he left heaven. The dominant picture of Jesus is that he worked by the Spirit; the Spirit worked through him by the Father’s will. However, if his divine nature shone out, as at the Mt. of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13), then who am I to argue? It is great that he answered by the Spirit and divine nature.

1. Gifts of Spirit: Word of Wisdom

The general outlook of the NT is that he answered by the Spirit (Acts 10:38).

In this post I cover Phil. 2:6-8 and the attributes he took with him when he “emptied himself”:

4. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Took the Form of a Servant

Recall that Jesus lived in an honor-and-shame society. When someone wins, the other guy loses or is shamed. As noted, people wrongly believe that Jesus was meek and mild out in public, as if he would just stand there and say nothing, but let his opponents steamroll right over him, as he sneaked off in defeat. These interpreters must be getting their bad ideas from a misreading of his trial, which is about to happen. Even in that case he replied. In his public ministry, he also answered back their questions and devious strategies. He shamed them in public. No, don’t do this to shy people who mean you no harm, but stand up to the bullies. There is nothing wrong if you win the debate, and they slink away and not bother you again.

In any case, Jesus brilliantly separated off the Roman empire from the kingdom of God.

However, his accusers at his trial or arraignment before Pilate accuse him of these crimes: 1 “Then the whole group of them got up and led him to Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man to be misleading our nation and forbidding them from giving tribute to Caesar and saying of himself that Christ is king.’” (Luke 23:1-2)

So the accusations were false.

I like Garland here, which I use as a summary to this pericope:

Caesar’s coin belongs to him. Since they have no qualms about doing business with Caesar’s money, they had better pay Caesar’s taxes. And since they are able to produce the coin, Jesus also exposes that they have no qualms about brining an image of Caesar and an emblem of his worldly power and his pretension to deity into God’s temple. He makes them look foolish and impious. They already pay a kind of tribute to Caesar by possessing his coin. Therefore, they owe Caesar the tribute he demands from taxes. In effect, Jesus says, “Let Caesar have his idols!” (p. 463)

GrowApp for Mark 12:13-17

A.. Read Gen. 1:26-27. You have God’s image in you. With this image, how do you belong to God, like a coin with Caesar’s image and inscription belongs to Caesar?

For more ideas, please see my post:

What Is the Image of God?

Sadducees Question Jesus about the Resurrection (Mark 12:18-27)

18 Καὶ ἔρχονται Σαδδουκαῖοι πρὸς αὐτόν, οἵτινες λέγουσιν ἀνάστασιν μὴ εἶναι, καὶ ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν λέγοντες· 19 διδάσκαλε, Μωϋσῆς ἔγραψεν ἡμῖν ὅτι ἐάν τινος ἀδελφὸς ἀποθάνῃ καὶ καταλίπῃ γυναῖκα καὶ μὴ ἀφῇ τέκνον, ἵνα λάβῃ ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ ἐξαναστήσῃ σπέρμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ. 20 ἑπτὰ ἀδελφοὶ ἦσαν· καὶ ὁ πρῶτος ἔλαβεν γυναῖκα καὶ ἀποθνῄσκων οὐκ ἀφῆκεν σπέρμα· 21 καὶ ὁ δεύτερος ἔλαβεν αὐτὴν καὶ ἀπέθανεν μὴ καταλιπὼν σπέρμα· καὶ ὁ τρίτος ὡσαύτως· 22 καὶ οἱ ἑπτὰ οὐκ ἀφῆκαν σπέρμα. ἔσχατον πάντων καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἀπέθανεν. 23 ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει [ὅταν ἀναστῶσιν] τίνος αὐτῶν ἔσται γυνή; οἱ γὰρ ἑπτὰ ἔσχον αὐτὴν γυναῖκα.

24 Ἔφη αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· οὐ διὰ τοῦτο πλανᾶσθε μὴ εἰδότες τὰς γραφὰς μηδὲ τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ θεοῦ; 25 ὅταν γὰρ ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστῶσιν οὔτε γαμοῦσιν οὔτε γαμίζονται, ἀλλ’ εἰσὶν ὡς ἄγγελοι ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. 26 περὶ δὲ τῶν νεκρῶν ὅτι ἐγείρονται οὐκ ἀνέγνωτε ἐν τῇ βίβλῳ Μωϋσέως ἐπὶ τοῦ βάτου πῶς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ θεὸς λέγων· ἐγὼ ὁ θεὸς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ [ὁ] θεὸς Ἰσαὰκ καὶ [ὁ] θεὸς Ἰακώβ; 27 οὐκ ἔστιν θεὸς νεκρῶν ἀλλὰ ζώντων· πολὺ πλανᾶσθε.

18 The Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came up to him and inquired of him, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that ‘if a brother died and left a wife and left no child, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.’ [Deut. 25:5] 20 There were seven brothers. The first took a wife and died and left no offspring. 21 The second one took her and died and left no offspring. And the third one—likewise. 22 The seven left no offspring, and last of all, the wife died. 23 At the resurrection, when they are raised, whose wife shall she be? For seven of them had her as wife.

24 Jesus said to them, “Isn’t it for this reason that you are deceived: not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they will neither marry or be given in marriage, but they shall be like the angels in heaven. 26 But concerning the dead and that they are raised: Haven’t you read in the book of Moses at the burning bush how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? [Exod. 3:6, 15, 16] 27 God is not of the dead, but of the living. You are greatly deceived.”


This is the fourth of six “controversy stories” between Jesus and the Jerusalem establishment (11:27-12:44).

Some religions, like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, believe in reincarnation. However, this passage contradicts it. We, the redeemed, will be like angels.

See my post

Ten Big Differences between Christianity and Other Religions


Deut. 25:5-6 reads:

This requirement is known as the Levirate marriage (from the word “brother”). It was a legal provision for a brother to marry his brother’s wife, in order to keep his brother’s name alive. The problem is that this could incur heavy financial responsibility, so some brothers broke the family law (see Gen. 38:8-10).

The number seven speaks of completion, as if this was the ultimate unsolvable case. It was their attempt to show how ridiculous the idea of the resurrection was.

It is odd that these Sadducees speak of the resurrection when they don’t believe in it. But they were simply testing Jesus on his own grounds. Implied: “Since you believe in the resurrection of the dead (and we don’t), let’s assume for the sake of argument that such a thing does happen. People really are raised from the dead. Whose wife will the woman be when it happens? All seven took her as wife!” The clearest resurrection text is Dan. 12:2, but Jesus is about to teach it by using the Torah, which is their home turf.

The Greek verb here is lambanō, which basically means “to take.” This idea of taking survives in our old wedding vows: “Do you, John, take Sally to be your lawfully wedded wife?” “I, John, take thee Sally ….” “And I, Sally, do take thee John ….” I didn’t get the wording right, but you get the idea.

It may seem odd that these Sadducees speak of the resurrection when they don’t believe in it. But they were simply testing Jesus on his own grounds. Implied: “Since you believe in the resurrection of the dead (and we don’t), let’s assume for the sake of argument that such a thing does happen. People really are raised from the dead. Whose wife will the woman be when it happens? All seven took her as wife!” The clearest resurrection text is Dan. 12:2, but Jesus is about to teach it by using the Torah, which is their home turf.


“deceived”: it could be translated as “mistaken,” but I like deceived because it is stronger. Deception can run deep.

“power”: it is the noun dunamis (or dynamis) (pronounced doo-na-mees or dee-na-mis, but most teachers prefer the first one). It is often translated as “power,” but also “miracle” or “miraculous power.” It means power in action, not static, but kinetic. It moves. Yes, we get our word dynamite from it, but God is never out of control, like dynamite is. Its purpose is to usher in the kingdom of God and repair and restore broken humanity, both in body and soul. For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology, please click on:

What Are Signs and Wonders and Miracles?

God is powerful and able to make people alive after they die.

Then Jesus gives some very interesting revelations of what the afterlife is like.

We will be like the angels at the final resurrection. Heb. 2:7 says that God made humankind a little lower than angels or lower than angels for a little while (either translation works). So down here on earth, in our current earth suits, we are lower than angels. But in our deathless earth suits we will be unable to die, for mortality will be shucked off and God will put on us immortality. We will be like angels. It’s going to be amazing!

Why will we be unable to die and be like angels? Because we are the children of God and the children of the resurrection. This shows directly that our immortality depends on God’s transforming power and indirectly that those who are not children of God do not have immortality, which is conditioned on their being his children.

Ten Biblical Truths about Your New Body

In v. 25, we will not get married or be married off (given in marriage) because we won’t need to propagate the human species. We will have new resurrection bodies. But this does not mean that we won’t know our spouses and other family members. We will not be floating on clouds and playing harps. God will refurbish the heavens and the earth, and he is infinitely creative, so we will have lots to do. Our relationships in this life will be enhanced and better than we could ever dream of or experienced. They will be more intimate.

In v. 26, using the peri de (pronounced peh-ree deh) construction, which indicates a change in topics (“but concerning” or “now concerning”), Jesus shifts gears and addresses the Sadducean unbelief about the resurrection. He beautifully reads the text in Exod. 3. Both God and Moses said that the Lord is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (3:6, 15, 16). By itself, some could accuse this interpretation of overreading the passage. God was simply identifying who he was in relation to the Israelites. He was the God of their ancestors. However, Jesus reminds us that God is omniscient. Everyone is alive to God. So when Moses spoke those words, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive before God. And so is everyone else who walked the planet, whether in sheol or hades or paradise or some sort of holding tank before Jesus’s resurrection. This theology goes way beyond ancestry. All of these living humans, even after their death, leads to the further belief, not spoken of here but elsewhere (1 Cor. 15:35-58), that everyone will be reunited with their transformed bodies and undergo judgment to decide their ultimate fate, whether heaven or hell.

See my posts about heaven and hell:

Bible Basics about Heaven

Bible Basics about Hell

This pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or section ends suitably. What happened to the Sadducees? To judge from their silence, apparently the Sadducees were humiliated.

Jesus was in control. He “owned” every major religious-political sect or group and everyone else who opposed him. This is the power of the Spirit flowing through him and receiving wisdom from God.

It says we are like angels, not that we are angels. Don’t overinterpret the phrase. We will have a similar glory and immortality, but we will not be angels. We will be fully redeemed, and angels never experienced redemption (1 Peter 1:12).

There is no verb “am” in Greek, nor is there a verb in Exod. 3:15-16. So something deeper is working here. Lane is on target about this and writes:

The concept “God of the dead” implies a blatant contradiction, especially in the context of the Sadducean understanding of death as extinction, without the hope of the resurrection. If God had assumed the task of protecting the patriarchs from misfortune during the course of their life, but fails to deliver them from that supreme misfortune which marks the definitive and absolute check upon their hopes, his protection is of little value. But it is inconceivable that God provide for the patriarchs some partial tokens of deliverance and leave the final word to death, of which all the misfortunes and suffering of human existence are only a foretaste. If the death of the patriarchs is the last word of their history, there has been a breach of the promises of God guaranteed by covenant, and of which the formula “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob” is the symbol. It is in fidelity to his covenant that God will resurrect the dead. In citing Exod. 3:6, Jesus showed how resurrection faith is attached in a profound way to the central concept of the biblical revelation, the covenant, and how salvation promised by God to the patriarchs and their descendants in virtue of the covenant contains implicitly the assurance of the resurrection. It was a failure to appreciate the essential link between God’s covenant faithfulness and the resurrection which had led the Sadducees into their grievous error. (p. 430)

In other words, Jesus affirms the doctrine of the resurrection on the basis of God’s faithful covenant, which had sustained the patriarchs during their lives on earth and which will cause them to live with God beyond the grave. I add: We have a better covenant, and Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection too—or the resurrection of our bodies when the final trumpet sounds.

Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:


(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);

(b) Are created spirit beings;

(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);

(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).

(e) Have moral judgment;

(f) Have a certain measure of free will;

(g) Have high intelligence;

(h) Do not have physical bodies;

(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;

(j) They can show the emotion of joy.

Bible Basics about Angels

Angels: Questions and Answers

Angels: Their Duties and Missions

Angels: Their Names and Ranks and Heavenly Existence

Angels: Their Origins, Abilities, and Nature

As noted, we won’t become them, but we will be like them.

Now let’s explore the final resurrection, which Jesus believed in, and so did his Spirit-guided church.

“at the resurrection”: This does not refer to his personal resurrection, which will happen in a few days. His resurrection on the third day will lead the way for everyone’s resurrection on the last day. On the last day, which is ushered in by the Second Coming, our bodies will be transformed into new bodies, just like his.

Let’s see if we can spot a consistent teaching in Jesus’s words in the Gospels and how it coordinates passages in the Epistles–just a few out of many passages.

Jesus focused on one idea in John 6:39, 40, 44, 54. In those verses he said that on the last day he will raise up (from the dead) everyone who believes in him. Once again, this resurrection happens on the last day. Emphasis added (my translation):

39 This is the will of the one who sent me: That everyone whom he gives me I will not lose any of them, but I will raise them up on the last day. (39)

40 For this is the will of my Father: everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. … (40)

44 No one can come to me unless the one who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.  … (44)

54 The one eating my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (54)

Paul agrees with the idea of last day. In 1 Cor. 15:51-54 the Second Coming will happen at the resurrection of the dead at the last trumpet.

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality… (1 Cor. 15:51-54, ESV, emphasis added)

Those verses agree perfectly with Jesus’s teaching in John 6.

Further, in 1 Cor. 15:26 Paul said that the last enemy to be defeated will be death.

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26, ESV, emphasis added).

It’s hard to believe that death will still defeat people after an early rapture (before the Second Coming) and that God will need to “redefeat” death a “second first” time at his Second Coming! Too complicated! No, death will no longer defeat people only at the Second Coming.

Further, there is no intervening thousand-year age (a millennium), which appears only in a few verses in Rev. 20, the most symbolic book in the Bible. Even the numbers can definitely be symbolic, particularly when Peter writes, in the context of the Second Coming / day of the Lord (same thing) that a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day (2 Pet. 3:8; see Ps. 90:4). In biblical idiom, a thousand years symbolize a long time. If Peter sees it that way in a nonsymbolic section of his epistle, then I can surely interpret the number “thousand” in Rev. 20 symbolically.

Next, here is the clearest teaching in the NT about the rapture, which means, in Latin, “snatching up” or “catching up” (Latin: rapto, raptura). In Greek, the language of the NT, the verb harpazô (pronounced hahr-pah-zoh) means the exact same thing: “snatching up” or “catching up.” In the next passage, the dead in Christ will rise first (cf. John 6:39, 40, 44, 54), which is also a kind of rapture, and then the clause “we who are alive” (Paul and the Thessalonians and now us) is linked with the rapture.

15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming [parousia] of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep [died]. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up [harpazô = rapture] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:15-17, ESV emphasis added)

That above passage coordinates perfectly with 1 Cor. 15:25, 51-52 and John 39, 40, 44, 54. To interpret 1 Thess. 4:15-17, the trumpet and the raising (a kind of rapture) of the dead and the snatching up (rapture) of the living occur at the same time and are the same event. And therefore the Second Coming and the rapture occur at the same time. Then we will descend with him to go through judgement and then they will be with him on the reconstituted and renovated and renewed and transformed earth forever.

Why will we descend with him to final judgment and then afterwards a renovated and reconstituted new heaven and new earth and not shoot back up into heaven and disappear for three-and-a-half or seven years? The Parousia (see 1 Thess. 4:15) by definition typically means arrival or being there. In its historical context, a parousia happens when a Roman dignitary, like a senator or even the emperor, arrived (parousia) in a Roman colony, e.g. Corinth or back to Rome. At his arrival (parousia), the dignitaries of the city went out to meet him, and they escorted him back into their city. Then they had feasts and games to celebrate his arrival (parousia). The dignitaries in the colony did not board the senator’s or emperor’s ship and abscond away for three-and-a-half or seven years.

Please see this post here:

What Does ‘Parousia’ Mean?

So, to repeat, the rapture and the Second Coming are the same event and happen on the last day. See my post:

Rapture = Second Coming and Happens at Same Time, on Last Day

So what happens immediately after the Second Coming and the resurrection of the dead? Judgment of both the wicked and righteous, at the same time. Jesus says:

27 And he [the Father] has given him [the Son of Man] authority to pass judgment because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be amazed at this because the hour is coming when those in their tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out: those doing good things to the resurrection of life, but the ones practicing wickedness to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:27-29, my translation)

Matt. 13:39-43, 16:27, 19:28, and 25:31-46 also teach the judgment of the righteous and wicked at the same time.

What Will Heaven Be Like for You?

Bible Basics about Heaven

And so Jesus’s teaching is streamlined, consistent, and unconvoluted, without two “final” judgments or “several” first resurrections or a separate rapture and then the Second Coming. The Gospels and Epistles teach the same message and timeline of events.  Neither Jesus in the Gospels nor his apostolic community in the Epistles taught complicated end-time scenarios, as popular prophecy teachers do today.

GrowApp for Mark 12:18-27

A.. The Sadducees were defeated in debate. Have you every had your pet beliefs overturned? Example: at first you did not believe in God or your belief was shallow; now you believe deeply in him. Tell your story.

The Greatest Commandments (Mark 12:28-34)

28 Καὶ προσελθὼν εἷς τῶν γραμματέων ἀκούσας αὐτῶν συζητούντων, ἰδὼν ὅτι καλῶς ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτόν· ποία ἐστὶν ἐντολὴ πρώτη πάντων; 29 ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι πρώτη ἐστίν·

ἄκουε, Ἰσραήλ, κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν, 30 καὶ ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου.

31 δευτέρα αὕτη·

ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. μείζων τούτων ἄλλη ἐντολὴ οὐκ ἔστιν.

32 Καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ γραμματεύς· καλῶς, διδάσκαλε, ἐπ’ ἀληθείας εἶπες ὅτι εἷς ἐστιν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλος πλὴν αὐτοῦ·

33 καὶ τὸ ἀγαπᾶν αὐτὸν ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς συνέσεως καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος καὶ τὸ ἀγαπᾶν τὸν πλησίον ὡς ἑαυτὸν περισσότερόν ἐστιν πάντων τῶν ὁλοκαυτωμάτων καὶ θυσιῶν.

34 καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἰδὼν [αὐτὸν] ὅτι νουνεχῶς ἀπεκρίθη εἶπεν αὐτῷ· οὐ μακρὰν εἶ ἀπὸ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ. Καὶ οὐδεὶς οὐκέτι ἐτόλμα αὐτὸν ἐπερωτῆσαι.

28 Then one of the teachers of the law, approaching him, hearing them debating, and seeing how well he replied to them, inquired of him: “What is the most important commandment of them all?” 29 In reply, Jesus said, “The most important is:

‘Hear, Israel, the Lord our God is one.’ 30 And ‘You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind, and with all your strength.’ [Deut. 6:4-5]

31 The second most important is this one:

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ [Lev. 19:18] There is no other commandment greater than these.”

32 The teacher of the law said to him, “You have well said the truth that ‘he is one and there is no other besides him.’ [Deut. 4:35] 33 And to love him with your whole heart and with your understanding and with your whole strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus, seeing that he answered thoughtfully, said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” No one any longer dared to question him.


This is the fifth of six “controversy stories” between Jesus and the Jerusalem establishment (11:27-12:44).


“teacher of the law”: It is sometimes translated as “scribe.”

Please see this post and scroll down to find the term, in alphabetical order.

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts


Jesus quotes from the shema (“hear!”). It was an important confession for Judaism, even today.

How does “one” relate to the Triunity (Trinity)? Please see the post about the Triunity in the OT, but for now I can say that the fullest revelation is that, yes, God is one in essence and substance and being, but he is exists in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Trinity: What Are the Basics?

The Trinity: What Are Some Illustrations?

The Trinity: Why Would God Seem So Complicated?

The Trinity: What Does He Mean to Me?

However, systematic theology–though valuable and essential–is not the point of this wonderful verse. So let’s move on.


“you shall love”: in vv. 30 and 31, the future tense in these contexts is equivalent to a command: “Love!” It is difficult to sustain love if we define it as a gooey feeling, so it must go deeper.

This verse talks about our love for God. Let’s first discuss his love for us. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

So what is God’s love like for us? Let’s explore.

So what is God’s love? It has a wide range of meanings. Let’s explore them.

The standard Greek lexicon (BDAG) is not very helpful. It simply says of the noun, “the quality of warm regard for and interest in another, esteem, regard, love.” That does not go far enough.  It also says the noun is the agape-feast (not covered here), in which the first Christians shared a common meal together in connection with their gathering to worship, for the “purpose of fostering and expressing mutual affection and concern, fellowship meal, a love feast.”

The DNTT says that the LXX, (third-to-second century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible and pronounced sep-TOO-ah-gent, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”) translated the Greek verb agapaō in a variety of ways and can stand in even for eraō “strong desire.” Jonathan and David expressed friendship love that went deeper than a man’s love for a woman (2 Sam. 1:26; 18:1, 3, 20; 20:17).

The noun agapē is divine. It starts with God, flows from him, and is offered back to him with our lives. We cannot ginger it up with our own efforts.

The noun agapē is sacrificial. Out of his agapē, God sacrificed his Son for us, and now we sacrifice our lives to him.

It means a total commitment. God is totally committed to his church and to the salvation of humankind. Surprisingly, however, total commitment can be seen in an unusual verse. Men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), which just means they are totally committed to a dark path of life. Are we willing to be totally committed to God and to live in his light? Can we match an unbeliever’s commitment to bad things with our commitment to good things?

Agapē is demonstrative. It is not static or still. It moves and acts. We receive it, and then we show it with kind acts and good deeds. It is not an abstraction or a concept. It is real.

It is transferrable. God can pour and lavish it on us. And now we can transfer it to our fellow believers and people caught in the world.

God loves his Son and calls him beloved. God through Paul calls us beloved, too (Rom. 1:7).

Word Study on ‘Loves’

“mind”: The Septuagint does not have the word for “mind” in Deut. 6:5. Jesus inserted it, though the Hebrew word for “heart” can also be interpreted as “mind” or the seat of thinking.

It may be difficult for members of Renewal Christianity to receive, but we can love the Lord with our minds, and not just our hearts. I belong to the Renewal Movements, and I know this anti-intellectualism from observing things first hand. The mind and thinking are downplayed too often, and people go astray easily, as they take flights of fancy through their revelations and words from the Lord. Don’t neglect your love for God through your mind or thinking.

Word Study on Spirit, Soul, and Body

Yes, be sure your mind is renewed (Rom. 12:2), but live a balanced life, body (strength), soul / mind, and spirit.


In Luke’s version of the dialogue (10:25-37) the teacher of the law wanted to justify himself and asked who his neighbor was. That’s when Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The neighbor is the one in need. The surprise is that the one who answered to call to help the needy neighbor was the despised Samaritan, unexpected by the teacher of the law in the parable.

But caution! Luke’s version may be a different episode since it took place outside of Jerusalem; after all, it is reasonable to believe that teachers of the law, who obsessed over the Torah, would ask which commandment was the greatest or most important. In his comments on v. 28, Strauss highlights two rabbis who gave summations of the law. Hillel (40 BC to AD 10) said, “Do not do to your neighbor what is hateful to you; this is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary.” Akiba (c. AD 50-135) said: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself … This is the encompassing principle of the law.” And recall Jesus’s summation of the law: “Therefore, everything that you want people to do to you, in the same way you also do to them. For this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). Garland also notes a famous passage in the Mishnah: “The world rests on three things: the Torah, sacrificial worship, and expressions of love.” Here Jesus ignores the sacrificial system, and places love above it, both love for God and love for the neighbor as the essence of the Torah. We can be sure that the teacher of the law in Luke 10:25-37 was different from the teacher of the law in Mark, here. But it is interesting to note how Jesus quickly attached the Parable of the Good Samaritan to the quotation about loving one’s neighbor.

Paul writes: “for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8, ESV).

Jesus said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Self-love is natural and assumed. Jesus is telling us that we should learn to love our neighbors as we naturally love ourselves. Love does not necessarily mean we have affection for our neighbors. But we do kind things for them and treat them as if they are made in the image of God (and they are).

This verse comes to mind:

Therefore, everything that you want people to do to you, in the same way you also do to them. For this is the law and the prophets. (Matt. 7:12)

It is the Golden Rule. That verse explains how we love our neighbor as we love ourselves.


The teacher of the law is perceptive. He boiled things down to their essence, even mentioning animal sacrifices. They are not as important as the law of love, love for God and love for your fellow man or woman. We learn from the Epistle to the Hebrews that animal sacrifices are done away with. Jesus himself will replace the Sinai Covenant, ratified by blood, with the New Covenant, also ratified by his blood.

See my post:

One Decisive Difference Between Sinai Covenant and New Covenant

Mark’s readers would have understood this verse to mean the abolition of animal sacrifices (Wessel and Strauss).

What Does the New Covenant Retain from the Old?


Jesus observed or saw (either one is fine) that the teacher answered thoughtfully. The adverb is extremely rare in all of Greek literature, though it has its roots in the words about mind (see v. 30). Once again, people of God, think things through and reply mindfully, with your intellect. Recall, though, that the mind must be renewed (Rom. 12:2).

Jesus said: “Every teacher of the law who has become a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings forth from his storehouse new and old things” (Matt. 13:52). Who knows? Maybe this teacher of the law was converted to the resurrected Jesus and joined the large Messianic Jewish community of Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7; 21:20). If so, then he made a great teacher of things old (Old Testament) and new (New Covenant).

It is good that one individual teacher of the law had his break-out moment, but as a class, Jesus is about to denounce them (12:38-40), and he expands on his denunciation of them and the Pharisees in Matt. 23.

He is not far from the kingdom indicates that he is on a journey towards it. We are also on a journey towards the kingdom, and once we have entered it, we are still on a kingdom adventure, a journey within the kingdom, with Jesus as our leader-pioneer.

Let’s review the kingdom of God generally.

As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5). The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.

1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)

Bible Basics about the Kingdom of God

Questions and Answers about Kingdom of God

Basic Definition of Kingdom of God

GrowApp for Mark 12:28-34

A.. Jesus said we must love the Lord with our minds. Study Rom. 12:2, where Paul wrote that the mind must be renewed. How does one renew the mind and love God with it?

Jesus Clarifies Who David’s Son Is (Mark 12:35-37)

35 Καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἔλεγεν διδάσκων ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ· πῶς λέγουσιν οἱ γραμματεῖς ὅτι ὁ χριστὸς υἱὸς Δαυίδ ἐστιν; 36 αὐτὸς Δαυὶδ εἶπεν ἐν τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ·

εἶπεν κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου·
κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου,
ἕως ἂν θῶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου
ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν σου.

37 αὐτὸς Δαυὶδ λέγει αὐτὸν κύριον, καὶ πόθεν αὐτοῦ ἐστιν υἱός;

Καὶ [ὁ] πολὺς ὄχλος ἤκουεν αὐτοῦ ἡδέως.

35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “In what sense do the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the Son of David?” 36 David himself said by the Holy Spirit,

‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit on my right, until I place your enemies under your feet.’ [Ps. 110:1]

37 David himself called him Lord, so how then is he his son?”

The populace listened to him gladly.


This is the fifth controversy story out of six.


Jesus’s main point is clear: He is above David, the exemplar king. Jesus is the Lord.

Now let’s explore his Lordship and Kingship more thoroughly.

The right hand or side indicates power. The Greek could be translated as “on my right” (without “hand”). His enemies are placed under his feet indicates that God will vindicate the king by subjugating his Son’s enemies (Strauss, p. 551).

Jesus had a high view of Scripture, because he says David was inspired by the Spirit. We should hold to this belief, too.

During Jesus ministry and long before, the people believed that the Messiah was also called the Son of David.

Here are some data points which I note in the post about God’s covenant with David:

God’s Covenant with David

Ps. 89:20-37 says in the context of God’s love and commitment to David that he has anointed him with sacred oil (v. 20); his hand and arm will sustain him (v. 21); the enemy will not get the better of him and not get victory over him (vv. 22-23); God’s love will go so deeply that that God’s love and commitment will sustain him forever (vv. 25-28). God will establish his lineage forever, and his throne will endure as long as the heavens endure (vv. 28-29). This commitment and love for his specially chosen will last forever, even if his sons and descendants should forsake God’s law and violate his decrees, so God would have to punish their sin with flogging and the rod (vv. 30-33). Still, even in those cases, God will not take his love for him and not violate his covenant with his anointed one. His line will continue forever (vv. 34-37).

So God promised to establish and maintain the Davidic dynasty on the throne of Israel and provide her with a godly king like David and through his descendants bring her to rest in the promised land.

It is mentioned to Solomon (1 Kings 2:2-4) and celebrated by him (1 Kings 8:22-26); it is mentioned to King Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:34-36) and reaffirmed during his reign (2 Kings 8:19); it was celebrated by the psalmists (Ps. 89:3; 132:1-12); it was reaffirmed by Isaiah (Is. 9:6-7) and by Ezekiel (Ezek. 37:24-25).

Jesus fulfilled and is fulfilling and always shall fulfill the Davidic covenant, for he is the righteous ruler for whom Israel had been looking or should have been looking.

Luke 1:32 says that Gabriel himself announced that the Lord God will give the Messiah Jesus the throne of David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; “his kingdom will never end.”

Matt. 1:1 and Rom. 1:3 says that Jesus was the Son of David.

John 18:33-37 says that in a dialogue with Pilate Jesus affirmed that his kingdom is not of this world, so his fulfillment of David’s covenant would take place in heaven—for now.

In Acts 13:22-23, 34 Paul preached that Jesus fulfilled the Davidic covenant.

Paul also says that Jesus will hand over his kingdom to his Father when he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power (1 Cor. 15:24-25).

Jesus is called THE KING OF KINGS (Rev. 19:16).

Jesus sits on the throne of David now and will remain there forever, whatever happens to the sun and earth. David will never co-rule on this throne, as if David and Jesus would sit side by side. In heaven David will announce that the KING OF KINGS is the best and most qualified king to sit there, infinitely better than he is.

Before the end, however, Jesus sits on the throne of David in heaven and is watching out for Israel.

The priesthood is said to endure forever, and it does through the great high priest, Jesus. The kingship of David is said to endure forever, and it does through the eternal reign of King Jesus.

Personally, I believe David will kneel before his descendant and Lord and say, “Thank you for fulfilling the covenant God made to me. I was a sinner, but you are the true King and Lord. You sit on the throne by yourself! I submit to you. Thank you, Jesus!”

GrowApp for Mark 12:35-37

A.. David called Jesus his Lord. How did Jesus become your Lord? What does his Lordship mean to you today?

Jesus Denounces the Teachers of the Law (Mark 12:38-40)

38 Καὶ ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ ἔλεγεν· βλέπετε ἀπὸ τῶν γραμματέων τῶν θελόντων ἐν στολαῖς περιπατεῖν καὶ ἀσπασμοὺς ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς 39 καὶ πρωτοκαθεδρίας ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ πρωτοκλισίας ἐν τοῖς δείπνοις, 40 οἱ κατεσθίοντες τὰς οἰκίας τῶν χηρῶν καὶ προφάσει μακρὰ προσευχόμενοι· οὗτοι λήμψονται περισσότερον κρίμα. 38 In the course of his teaching, he said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law who desire to walk around in long robes and desire greetings in the marketplaces 39 and the preeminent seats in the synagogues and first seats at dinners. 40 They devour widows’ houses and pretentiously pray a long time. They shall receive a severer punishment.”


Many commentators attach this pericope with the previous one, so this is still the fifth controversy story out of six. Or some scholars say this one is the sixth and final controversy story.

Let’s take these three verses as a whole.

See this link for more about the teachers of the law, who are also called “scribes” in some translations:

Brief Overview of Divorce and Remarriage in New Testament

Matt. 23:1-36 expands on this denunciation, including the Pharisees. Jesus was also in Jerusalem.

He just praised one teacher of the law, but now he assesses them as a class. Widows were considered vulnerable in Israelite society: Exod. 22:22; Deut. 10:18; 24:17; 27:19; Ps. 68:5; Is. 1:23; 10:2; Jer. 22:3; Ezek. 22:7; Zech. 7:10; Mal. 3:5. How did these scribes take advantage of the widows? In their comments on v. 40, Wessel and Strauss say: (1) Since the Mishnah (collection of oral traditions finally written down in A.D. 200) forbids teachers from payment for teaching the law, they must have sponged off hospitality of people. Some of the teachers were poor; (2) the teachers of the law were using their legal knowledge to cheat widows out of their houses; (3) they took money from widows (and others) to pray long intercessory prayers.

“teaching”: here it is the more formal didachē (pronounced dee-dah-khay or dih-dah-khay), so Jesus spent some time teaching formally in the temple. It makes me wonder whether the church in the U.S. and the world get adequate teaching. In America many of the TV guys do a lot of yelling and shouting and displays of personality and shrieking and freaking and dancing and prancing. I wonder whether Jesus did any of that. I don’t think so. Yet he amazed the people with his teaching.

Let’s explore this Greek noun more thoroughly.

It is, as noted, the word didachē. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) “The activity of teaching, teaching, instruction”; (2) “the content of teaching, teaching.” Yes, the word is also used of Jesus’s teaching: Matt. 7:28; 22:33; Mark 1:22, 27; 4:2; 11:18; 12:38; Luke 4:32; John 7:16, 17; 18:19. And it is used of the apostolic teaching: Acts 2:42; 5:28; 13:12; 17:19; Rom. 6:17; 16:17; 1 Cor. 14:6, 26; 2 Tim. 4:2; Ti. 1:9; Heb. 6:2; 2 John 9 (twice), 10; Rev. 2:14, 15, 24.

Renewalists need much more instruction and doctrine than they are getting. Inspirational preaching about God fulfilling their hopes and dreams is insufficient. We need to discern the signs of the times or seasons (Matt. 16:3). We live in the time or season of the worldwide web. The people are getting bombarded with strange doctrines, on youtube (and other such platforms). These youtube “teachers” know how to edit things and put in clever colors and special effects, but they have not been appointed by God. They do not know how to do even basic research. They run roughshod over basic hermeneutical (interpretational) principles. These “teachers” do not seem to realize that they will be judged more severely (Jas. 3:1) and will have to render an account of their (self-appointed) “leadership” (Heb. 13:17). If they destroy God’s temple, God will (eventually) destroy them (1 Cor. 3:17).

Further, my impression is that the main platform speakers on TV whose budgets are big enough to put them on TV every day don’t even know the basics about doctrine.  They are too busy being corporate managers and even Chief Executive Officers over large churches. They are not turning over the practical side of church leadership to their elders and deacons. They do not spend hours a day—all day, every day—studying nothing but Scriptures, with good ol’ commentaries. (Maybe this one can help.) They do not spend hours a day reading up on theology and doctrine. (Maybe my website can help, a little.)

An alternative and probably better translation of Eph. 4:11 reads: “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors” or “pastoral teachers,” not “pastors and teachers,” as if they are two different categories. Do we have teaching pastors or management or corporate pastors who specialize in organizational leadership? Or do we have psychology pastors? These areas should be turned over to a team. The teaching pastors should do nothing but study Scripture and should have the bulk of the teaching time on Sunday morning and in other services.

We need to change our ways and follow Scripture, or else much of the church will spiritually diminish and be swept away by strange teachings. Yes, good ol’ fashioned theology and even a little apologetics about difficult passages is what the global Church needs. They need the basics—even on Sunday morning, delivered by teaching pastors, not corporate, inspirational pastors.

“long robes”: “In the NT the term is used of angel garments (Mark 16:5), the father’s robe as patriarch in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:22), and robes of glorified saints in heaven (6:11; 7:9, 13-14; 22:14). In the LXX [Septuagint] it is commonly used of royal robes (Gen. 41:42; 49:11; 2 Chr. 15:27; 18:9) and especially priestly garments (Exod. 28:3, 4; 29:29)” (Strauss).

“first seats” and first place”: this is an honor-and-shame society, and the teachers of the law insisted on the highest seats of honors both in the synagogues and the banquets. So many translations have “seats of honor” at synagogues and “places of honor” at banquets.

But then thud! They fall flat on their faces, when God is finished with them. They devour widows’ houses and pray long prayers. They are awful.

To apply this hypocrisy to the church world today, the hyper-prosperity teachers ruin it for everyone else. I believe in prosperity in the sense that families need an income to run the household business. Yes, households are like small businesses. They take money to operate. To get this money, a parent or parents need good jobs, to pay the bills and give some to the kingdom of God. However, the hyper-prosperity preachers take things way out of balance. It is always disheartening when I hear about preachers of the gospel who live in gigantic houses and brag about their jets. They take money from Joe Factoryworker and Jane Shopkeeper, who never live in gigantic houses or fly around in private jets. “But they will still be blessed if they give to my ministry!” God loves generosity whether they give to the hyper-prosperity ministry or not. If there was a necessary connection between giving to the hyper-prosperity ministry and accumulating wealth, then it seems that Joe Factoryworker and Jane Shopkeeper would soon be hundred-millionaires.

These out-of-balance preachers are receiving their reward down here on earth and will get very little, if any, in the eternal kingdom.

Matt. 6:19-24 connects light and darkness in the soul with accumulating and loving money.

19 Don’t store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust disfigure and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust disfigure and where thieves don’t break through nor steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be.

22 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, if your eye is sound, your whole body shall be light. 23 If your eye is bad, your whole body is darkness. If therefore “the light” in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 No one is able to serve two masters, for either he shall hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You are unable to serve God and Mammon. (Matt. 6:19-24)

The teachers of the law had lost their way about religious duties and taking money from widows. They could do this by interpreting laws favorably for them.

One last comment in this pericope: the teachers of the law who sin publicly and socially, all the way to devouring widows’ houses, shall receive a severer judgment. Their judgment or condemnation or punishment shall be stronger or harsher than those who do not commit such sins. This indicates that there will be degrees of judgment and punishment on people who commit more egregious sins than someone who does not. Not all sins are equal on a social or horizontal level. Sins that harm people are worse than sins that do not harm anyone else.

Does this mean that private sin is not sin? Of course not! Any sin will keep everyone out of heaven. But down here on earth, sins having repercussions in society are worse than sins that do not. Isaiah was a holy man, but when he saw the Lord high and lifted up, he concluded that he was ruined (Is. 6:1-6). That’s the heavenly realm. Now let’s come back down to earth.

Hitler’s crimes were infinitely worse than a German grandmother who lived at that time and did something wrong but it was petty and private, like cussing and muttering bad things under her breath. Degrees of sin and punishment exist in biblical theology.

Are All Sins Equal?

I like what Lane writes in his comment on v. 40: “The stern denunciation of scribal practices concludes the Marcan account of Jesus’ public ministry. The incident which follows, like the Olivet discourse, centers in teaching directed to the disciples. By terminating the public ministry with this account the evangelist [Mark] points to the sharp opposition between Jesus and the Jewish authorities which led inevitably to events recalled in the passion narrative.”

GrowApp for Mark 12:38-40

A.. Have you ever been a hypocrite? How did God set you free from this sin?

B.. Or if you were a victim of a hypocrite, how has God led you to forgive and move on?

Jesus Praises a Widow’s Offering (Mark 12:41-44)

41 Καὶ καθίσας κατέναντι τοῦ γαζοφυλακίου ἐθεώρει πῶς ὁ ὄχλος βάλλει χαλκὸν εἰς τὸ γαζοφυλάκιον. καὶ πολλοὶ πλούσιοι ἔβαλλον πολλά· 42 καὶ ἐλθοῦσα μία χήρα πτωχὴ ἔβαλεν λεπτὰ δύο, ὅ ἐστιν κοδράντης. 43 καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἡ χήρα αὕτη ἡ πτωχὴ πλεῖον πάντων ἔβαλεν τῶν βαλλόντων εἰς τὸ γαζοφυλάκιον· 44 πάντες γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ περισσεύοντος αὐτοῖς ἔβαλον, αὕτη δὲ ἐκ τῆς ὑστερήσεως αὐτῆς πάντα ὅσα εἶχεν ἔβαλεν ὅλον τὸν βίον αὐτῆς. 41 While he was sitting opposite of an offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money into the offering box. Many wealthy people were tossing in a lot. 42 Then one poor widow, approaching, tossed in two copper coins, worth less than a penny. 43 Calling his disciples, he said to them, “I tell you the truth: this poor widow tossed in more than everyone else who tossed in money into the offering box. 44 For they were tossing in out of their abundance, but out of her poverty she tossed in everything she had—her entire livelihood!”


This is the sixth and final “controversy story” between Jesus and the Jerusalem establishment (11:27-12:44). Or some scholars say the rebuke of the teachers of the law was the sixth controversy story, so the six stories end at 12:39.


Yes, Mark really does use the word “toss” that many times.

Jesus was watching those who put in money, inspecting them. He was deliberate; the observation was not by chance.

“offering box”: Commentator Decker points out that there were thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles in the temple forecourt by the Court of Women. Or the contribution receptacle may instead refer to the room by the Court of Women, which served a variety of purposes. However, the fact that they tossed in their money indicates that the receptacles are intended. These gifts were freewill offerings used for temple worship.


“two copper coins”: (lepton in Greek, in the singular) it was a designation for a Jewish coin, the smallest denomination, worth only 1/128 of a denarius, the smallest currency possible (Decker). A denarius was the standard pay for a farm laborer. So she gave one one-hundredth of a day laborer’s wage. This was really small! Decker refers to another commentator who says the amount was worth a handful of flour.

“a penny” in Greek it is kordantēs (pronounced kor-dahn-tayss), which is a quadrans, a Latin loanword, worth two lepta or 1/64 of a denarius, the smallest Roman coin at the time. It was not in circulation in the Greek East, but only in the Latin West. This indicates that Mark was writing in Rome, so he gave the Roman listeners a sense of how small the amount was (Lane, p. 443, n. 85, HT: Decker).

In contrast, many rich people tossed in a lot of money. This will provide the contrast between them and her.


“disciples”: Who are disciples generally speaking? The noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG says of the noun that it means (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”

Word Study on Disciple

“I tell you the truth:” “Truth” comes from the word amēn (pronounced ah-main and comes into English as amen). Used thirteen times in Mark, it expresses the authority of the one who utters it. The Hebrew root ’mn means faithfulness, reliability and certainty. It could be translated as “truly I tell you” or I tell you with certainty.” Jesus’s faith in his own words is remarkable and points to his unique calling. In the OT and later Jewish writings is indicates a solemn pronouncement. It means we must pay attention to it, for it is authoritative. He is about to declare an important and solemn message or statement. The clause appears only on the lips of Jesus. That is, in Paul’s epistles, for example, he never says, “I truly say to you.” That phrasing had too much authority, which only Jesus had. The clause only appears on the lips of Jesus in the NT. The word appears in a Jewish culture and means “let it be so.” So Jesus speaks it out with special, divine emphasis. “Let this happen!” “Let what I’m about to say happen!” We better take it seriously and not just walk by it or read over it with a casual air.

This phrase, used in conjunction with Jesus summoning his disciples, means that his statement about the widow was extremely important.

Word Study: Truth

She gave out of her “poverty or great “need” or “deficiency” (all possible translations), so she gave sacrificially. I have a post on why tithing ten percent off of gross pay is not for New Covenant believers, but the NT authors do require generosity. And the widow went well beyond this requirement.

Why Tithing Does Not Apply to New Covenant Believers

Scroll down to point no. 21 for an interpretation of many NT passages on giving. Once again, generosity is the key.

Now let’s apply this pericope to the church today.

I can imagine the carnal, hyper-prosperity teachers demanding that widows give everything they have so that the preachers can live in gigantic houses and fly around in private jets. I heard one of them yell at the top of his voice, “Money, come forth!” (This may refer to Jesus calling Lazarus to come forth.) Recall that Jesus was tempted by the devil to have all the kingdoms of the world (Luke 4:5-8). Who says that God is the one who gave this hyper-prosperity teacher all his money, possibly over one billion dollars over his entire life?

Carnal, hyper-prosperity preachers ruin it for everyone else. How?

I believe in prosperity in this sense: it takes money to run a household, and to get money, a parent or parents need jobs. They need to succeed at those jobs. Their businesses need to grow and maintain a profit. Then they can pay the bills and have money left over to give into the kingdom. They can raise kids to be the next godly and redeemed generation. They can be generous with the kingdom with their money and their productive children.

Of course the tithe teachers—who are not necessarily carnal, hyper-prosperity teachers, but are wrong in other ways—use the first-fruits idea to insist that people give ten percent off gross pay. However, these teachers do not take into account that part of the tithe was used to sustain a small welfare state, which today our taxes pay for. Therefore, giving ten percent off gross pay is a serious misinterpretation of the OT. They also don’t interpret the NT properly, after the cross and Pentecost, when the Christian communities were forming. These misinterpretations may be accidental or sloppy study, or they may see what is right, but they cave in to fear, motivated out of a need to meet huge budgets. Whatever the case, they are wrong.

Bottom line: We need more balance in our giving. Generosity is the key. Also, mega-church pastors and parachurch CEO’s need to voluntarily live more modestly and prudently.

GrowApp for Mark 12:41-44

A.. The poor widow gave her all. How have you been generous with your time and / or money at church?

Summary and Conclusion

In the big picture in Mark’s narrative, Jesus entered Jerusalem in 11:11 and 15. He had predicted his death in 8:31; 9:30-32; 10:32-34; 10:45. It took courage to go into the city, where he knew he was about to be mistreated and executed by a gruesome method. He did that for us, out of his love and the Father’s love. The Son would not be deterred by fear of the face of the Jerusalem and temple establishment.

Now he has to challenge them. He did not do this out of a distorted glee. “Oh goody! I’m a nonconformist, so I have to stand outside the establishment and knock and mock them, as a proto-hippy!” No, his calling was rooted in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament). He spoke like any number of prophets who denounced the unjust leaders of their day—from Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah to Jeremiah.

Continuing on with the controversy in 11:27-33, he starts off with a monologue in 12:1-12. He tells the parable of the wicked tenants. The tenants mistreated and killed the messengers of the distant landowner. Out of his love, the landowner sends his Son, risking it all. Of course the tenants killed him, thinking they could not take over the vineyard without the landowner. Did they believe that the owner was dead or irrelevant? The chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders (11:27) knew he was talking about them. They muttered under their breath to find ways to destroy him.

I like what R. T. France noted: the verses from Ps. 118:22-23 are the theme of Mark’s gospel. Jesus was rejected, but he became the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it was marvelous in our eyes.

Next, the chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders sent the Pharisees and Herodians—normally not allies, but in this case they were. Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not? He asked them to produce a coin, which had the image of Caesar on it. They were not allowed to bring an image into the temple, but they dug out the coin from their moneybags quickly enough, in the temple precinct! Then he said simply that what belongs to Caesar should go to him—render to God what goes to him—our lives and total commitment.

Here come the Sadducees. This was the first time that they appear in Mark’s Gospel. What about the resurrection, Jesus? A woman took seven brothers as her husband, after each one died. In the day of the resurrection, in the New Age, whose wife will she be? This question had been a mocking way to jab at their opponents, the Pharisees; now they apply it to Jesus. It was a reductio ad absurdum—reducing a problem to its absurdity. Apparently the Pharisees were unable to answer it. Jesus authoritatively said there are no marriages in the Messianic Age. The redeemed people would be like angels. And as for the possibility of the resurrection, God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He would sustain them at their deaths, out of his covenant faithfulness. They would not be obliterated, as the Sadducees believed. They were shortsighted and deceived.

In a question that was frequently asked in Judaism at the time, about the greatest commandment a teacher of the law asked him about it. He had been impressed with Jesus’s answer to the Sadducees. This scribe or teacher of the law added to Jesus’s words and said that the all the burnt offerings and other sacrifices were not worth much, contrasted with love. True. Jesus said he was not far from the kingdom of God. He was on a journey, and he was close to the goal. Let’s learn from his life.

Jesus then corrects a popular notion circulating around Judaism. The title Son of David meant the Messiah, but Jesus lifted their sights. David called him Lord, so how can Jesus be his mere son? Jesus did not deny the popular title, and in fact Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies proclaim that Jesus was in the flow of sacred history, from Abraham (even Adam) to David, down to him. But he wanted the people to know that he was the Messiah, who was above David. This shows, once again, a high Christology.

He denounces the teachers of the law as a class, though he singled out one who was not far from the kingdom of God. But the teachers of the law—along with the others in Jerusalem and the temple complex, were declining and would soon disappear with its destruction in A.D. 70, by the Romans.

Finally, all of us are to pay attention to the actions of the widow. She dropped in two tiny, almost worthless coins, equivalent to a handful of flour. She gave all she had. In contrast, many rich stopped by the trumpet horn or the mouth of the contribution receptacle and tossed in a fair amount, but it was not all they had. It was not sacrificial. We are called to give our entire lives for the kingdom. He is supposed to be the Lord of our finances. He may call you to give all you have. I recommend, however, that you don’t give to ministries where the leader becomes wealthy from the donations given by Joe Factoryworker or Jane Shopkeeper. Give instead to Bible translators, for example, or to missionaries, who have sacrificed everything to minister to people.

Now let’s move on to a discourse on the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, and then to the Second Coming.


Decker, Rodney J. Mark 9-16: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor UP, 2014).

France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Eerdmans, 2002).

Garland, David E. Mark: The NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 1996).

Lane, William L. Mark: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Eerdmans, 1974).

Strauss, Mark L. Mark: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2014).

The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 1993). The Greek text in the tables comes from the Nestle-Aland 28th ed, available here:

Wessel, Walter W. and Mark L. Strauss. Mark: The Bible’s Expositor’s Commentary, Vol. 9, Rev. ed. (Zondervan 2010).

Works Cited

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