A ReMARKable Life Series

·        The gospel of Mark is a short, action-packed book that focuses on how Jesus Christ is the Messiah for every man, woman, and child. Christ – fully man, fully God. But Jesus wasn't the rescuer God's people had imagined, and many didn't recognize Jesus as their answer to prayer. We, too, can miss out on what God wants for us if we're only looking for answers that fit our expectations. Join us for this series as we explore Jesus' heart for people and we can change the world by serving one person at a time and helping them connect with God.

10.  Walking Away From Jesus (Mark 11:27-12:44)

·        The Jewish authorities question then reject Jesus, whereupon Jesus teaches about the rejection of God’s messengers, taxes, the resurrection, the greatest commandment, the Lordship of the Messiah, and the Godly attitude in giving. 

Sermon Preparation Guide

·        Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?

·        Jesus is not answerable to man for His authority as God. (Mark 11:27-33)

·        God was rejected by Israel in many ways for centuries, and rejected His Son, Jesus the Messiah. (Mark 12:1-12)

·        Jesus is indeed the Messiah, Lord of all. (Mark 12:17, 26 & 27, 36 & 36)

·        Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?

·        Where does Jesus' authority come from and why is that important? 

·        Does God give sufficient opportunity for people to come to know Him?

·        What are the implications for life and living that Jesus is Lord of all?     

Talk it Over Discussion Guide

·        Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?

·       Why did the religious authorities question Jesus' authority?  

·       Why did Jesus not respond directly to the question concerning His authority?  How did He respond indirectly?

·       Describe how Jesus responded to those who opposed Him?  What were His methods and what was He trying to communicate to them?

·       What was Jesus' message in particular to the religious authorities in His parable of the tenants (Mark 12:1-11)?

·       What did Jesus teach about obligations to civil government?

·       Is there life after death?

·       What is the relationship between the most important commandment and the second most important commandment?  How are t hey connected?

·       What was it about the behaviors of the teachers of the Law that Jesus found wanting in them?

·       What is t he lesson Jesus taught from the widow's offering of the two small coins? 

·        Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?

·       Do people today question Jesus' authority?  How so?  Do you question Jesus' authority?

·       What does it mean for your life that Jesus is God Himself and therefore has authority over everything?

·       What does it mean to reject Jesus?  What is the outcome for those that would reject Jesus?

·       Why is it OK to pay taxes to the secular government? 

·       Do you believe in life after death?  Why?

·       What does loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength mean for you?  How do you do that?

·       What does loving your neighbor as yourself mean to you?  How do you do that?

·       What should your attitude be in giving to God from your resources?

Sermon Teaching Notes  (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)

·        Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?

            Jesus has entered Jerusalem and left (Mark 11:11), cleansed the Temple the next day, and the third day (Mark 11:20) taught His disciples about faith and prayer along the way.  Upon coming again into the city, the religious authorities, furious at His actions in cleansing the Temple, were planning His death (Mark 11:18).  Now in the Temple area again, where all these scenes in Mark take place, Jesus is about to be confronted by the religious authorities who, in turn, will walk away from Him.

            The first encounter is with a group of the authorities from the Sanhedrin (the Jewish high court), described as chief priests, scribes and elders (Mark 11:27).  They came up to Jesus and “got in His face” so to speak.  Their question was essentially, “Who gave you the right to do what you’re doing (meaning cleanse the Temple)?”  (Mark 11:28)  Clearly they took Jesus’ actions as a direct affront to their authority and power.  It seems by their question that they sought to trap Him in an answer that would turn the multitudes against Him and thereby allow them to arrest Him.  One suspects they thought they “had him dead to rights.”  But Jesus, as He often did, responded with a question of His own which, He said, if they could answer He would then answer their question. (Mark 11:29)  So He asked them whether the ministry and work of John the Baptist was from heaven or from men (Mark 11:30).  Jesus’ question placed these authorities on the horns of a dilemma: if they answered “from heaven” (meaning from God), they would acknowledge the source of John’s ministry, which pointed to Jesus, as being from God and therefore that Jesus cleansed the Temple as an act of God.  They were not prepared to answer thus as they did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah.  But if they answered “from men” they would be denying the reality that John was a prophet of God and considered by the people to be such.  Either answer would expose their hypocrisy, and consequently they refused to answer, pleading “ignorance.” (Mark 11:31 & 32).  Jesus therefore did not answer their question, though by His own question He had already implied the answer, namely that He was the Messiah and therefore was Lord of the Temple. (Mark 11:33)

            While he did not answer their question, Jesus nevertheless spoke to them (and to the crowd who presumably were listening in) in a parable which He used to point out their rejection of God, and now His Messiah.  The parable is of an absentee landowner who used hired tenants to tend his vineyards.  The tenants were to pay the owner from the production of the land.  When the owner sent his servants to collect, the tenants beat them up, and even killed some of them.  No produce was sent back to the owner, no matter how many servants he sent (Mark 12:5).  Finally, the owner sent his son to collect, but the tenants killed him as well, perhaps thinking that the owner was dead and by killing the son, they would be in line to obtain the property (Mark 12:7 & 8).  But the owner was not dead, and because of what the tenants had done, the owner would come himself, destroy the tenants and give the land to others (Mark 12:9).  The religious authorities understood that the parable was aimed directly at them (Mark 12:12).  Its meaning was that the owner was God, the land/vineyard was Israel, the tenants were them (meaning the religious authorities), the servants were God’s prophets, and the son was the Messiah (Jesus).  As they were absorbing the point of the parable, namely that Israel had rejected God over and over and now was rejecting God again by rejecting His Messiah, Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22 & 23 to them as referring to God (the stone) being rejected, and the Messiah (the chief cornerstone) arising out of that rejection by the marvelous act of God Himself.  The authorities were only all the more set on seizing Jesus, but would not do so because of their fear of the multitudes (Mark 12:12), so they walked away, undoubtedly stewing in their own juices.

           But the authorities weren’t done, and they sent the Pharisees and the Herodians to challenge Jesus yet again. (Mark 12:13)  Interestingly, the Pharisees and Herodians basically despised each other because the Pharisees saw themselves as the keepers of the traditions and the purity of the Law, and they hated the Roman rule over Israel, while the Herodians were collaborators with Herod, the vassal of the Roman government, as they felt such a relationship was to their advantage in bringing a return to Herodian rather than Roman rule.  Yet despite their differences, these two groups were united in their hatred of Jesus as He posed a direct threat to their power and influence.  Together, again they sought to trap Jesus and bring Him into disrepute with the multitudes so that He could be arrested.  Their question, asked with false and even obnoxious flattery, sought to get Jesus to take a position on paying or not paying the poll-tax to Caesar (Mark 12:14 & 15a).  Whichever way Jesus answered would offend one or another constituency, as some refused to pay the tax, others paid it but opposed it, and yet others had no objection to the tax.  But Jesus was tuned in to their hypocrisy (Mark 12:15b). Taking a Roman coin, He answered them by saying one should pay to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. (Mark 12:16 & 17)  In short, Jesus said that both Caesar and God have rightful claims, and so long as God’s claims are kept, it was fine to respond to the claims of Caesar as an appropriate response for the benefits afforded by the Roman government.  The Pharisees and Herodians were totally disarmed and amazed at Jesus’ answer (Mark 12:17).  It was another failure by the authorities to catch Jesus in a trap.

            The opposition continued as next some Sadducees came to test Jesus.  The Sadducees were a small sect that wielded great influence in Jerusalem as they were generally wealthy, well-connected, and prominent in society.  Theologically, they took the position that there was no resurrection or life after death (Mark 12:18) as in their view such was not taught explicitly in the Scriptures.  In this position, they were at absolute odds with the Pharisees (cf. Acts 23:6-8); and yet we see again that differences between groups are swept aside in their uniting in opposition to Jesus.  The Sadducees pose a ridiculous hypothetical to Jesus (Mark 12:19-23) based on the notion of levirate marriage (cf. Deuteronomy 25:5-6) whereby a brother was to marry a deceased brother's wife to maintain the family.  The hypothetical was ridiculous because the situation stated in the hypothetical itself was intended by its absurdity to show that the view of the Sadducees about the resurrection (that there is none) is the only correct view (this is an example of “reduction ad absurdum” argumentation).  Jesus’ reply is that they are ignorant of God’s power and of the Scriptures (Mark 12:24), for in heaven there is no marrying, and God is the God of the living.  To underscore His point, Jesus quotes Exodus 3:6 where God, speaking to Moses while Moses was living, refers to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who were long since dead but for whom He is the “I am.”  In effect, then, God refers to living individuals, implying that the three deceased patriarchs had been resurrected.  God is powerful, His heaven is a different place than earth in that there is eternal life and thus no need for marriage and procreation.  Moreover, He is able to raise people from the dead and reign faithfully as the eternally living God of all. (Mark 12:26 & 27)  Altogether, the Sadducees are disarmed and they, too, turn away, not concerned about their own relationship with Jesus but only with the fact that they were unsuccessful in tripping up Jesus with their question.

            The final questioner, an individual scribe (Mark 12:28), seems not to be so much in opposition to Jesus as intrigued by Jesus' cogent and disarming answers.  Is this scribe a seeker of the truth rather than one who only seeks to show up Jesus?  We don't k now, but in any case, he poses the question of what is the most important commandment.  Apparently, the rabbis of that day would often discuss which commandments were more important and which were less important.    Hence, the scribe's question was not atypical.  Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 as the greatest commandment, and then links it with a second commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), to say that together they effectively form a single commandment, one with two sides (Mark 12:29-31).  The scribe acknowledged the answer as a good one and then commented that holding to these two commandments was more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices that could be offered (Mark 12:33).  In short, he recognized that internal heart attitude trumps external forms.  Based on that comment, Jesus, in turn, tells the scribe that he is “not far from the kingdom of God.”  Did this scribe believe in Jesus?  Again, we do not know, yet we would hope he responded in faith.

            Those opposing Him have now left, and Jesus proceeds to speak to the crowd as well as to any of the opposition who stayed in earshot.  He speaks about the Messiah, who was seen by the teachers of the Law as being a descendant of King David.  In the typical teaching fashion of the rabbis of His day, Jesus poses an apparent contradiction in the Scripture: quoting Psalm 110:1, Jesus asks how the Messiah can be the son of David when David himself calls the Messiah Lord? (Mark 12:35-37)  As we have seen in prior texts, the thinking of the day concerning the Messiah was that the Messiah was a king and would rule; thus the image of the Messiah was a political one.  In posing His question, Jesus was indicating that the Messiah is beyond political; rather, the Messiah, though a descendant of David, is Lord of all, including of David.  As He was teaching, Jesus told the crowd to be wary of the teachers of the Law who out of pride elevated their personal position above devotion to God: they longed to be looked up to in public places and given honor; they exhibited false piety, using lengthy public prayers for show; and they took advantage of powerless widows for extravagant support (these teachers could not accept wages, so they depended on the gifts of patrons for their support). (Mark 12:38-40)  Such as these were not to be exalted but instead, subject to punishment for their hypocrisy and religious insensitivities.

            Finally, Jesus spends some time simply watching people as they come to make their offerings at the Temple treasury which was in the Court of Women (accessible to both Jewish women and men).  There was much wealth in and around the Temple, and the Temple officials were apparently not shy about spending.  As the receptacles for the giving to the treasury were in the open, there were many who made a show of their giving, especially rich people (Mark 12:41), as if to say, “Look at me and how spiritual I am!”  One poor widow came as Jesus watched, and put in two small copper coins. (Mark 12:42)  These would have been the smallest, least valuable coin of the day; it would be like some loose change coins of our day and age (a few pennies, or a few nickels).  In comparison to the large offerings of the rich donors, the widow's gift amounted to essentially nothing.  Jesus called His disciples to Him to join in what He was observing and to give them an object lesson on giving, namely that it is not the amount that matters but the attitude of one's heart that is key.  This widow, Jesus said, gave “out of her poverty” whereas the others gave “out of their abundance.”  The widow honored God with her giving; the wealthy dishonored God.  God was pleased with the widow, but not with the wealthy.  And the implication is that God would provide for the widow who basically proved her faith and trust in God through her giving.

            Things are coming to a head for Jesus in Jerusalem.  He is in this city intentionally, sat the epicenter of Judaism, having come as the Messiah to bring salvation, and having come to earth to offer His life as the Passover Lamb for the sins of the world.  He has been asking people all along, “Who do you say that I am?”   He has not allowed the answer to that, namely that He is the Messiah, to be broadcast by the 12, as He has sought to avoid the political impact of that answer.  He did not come to earth to be the political Messiah to Israel.  But now in Jerusalem, He is spending each day in and around the Temple, and the opposition of the religious authorities has coalesced and hardened – they want Him dead!  But they do not act as they are afraid of the crowds who like Jesus and would not tolerate His being arrested much less put to death (Mark 11:18; 12:12, 37).  The religious authorities have confronted Jesus with trick questions, and He has responded in words and questions that amaze them, so much so that after awhile, no one dared ask Him any more questions (Mark 12:34b).  In His replies, He has revealed in an oblique way that He is the Messiah, and has also chastised them for their hardness of heart and rejection of Him as Messiah (Mark 12:14).  Every day, every hour, every moment, Jesus comes closer to the cross; everything is in motion … we know because we know the entire story.  The 12 didn't know what was going to happen, although Jesus had told them several times of the impending events; they didn't, or couldn't, believe Him.  But in the proper time (cf. Galatians 4:4), Jesus' offering of Himself would come, for it was God the Father's will that Jesus give His life (cf. John 3:16 & 17; Hebrews 10:5-10) to accomplish salvation.  Thank God that Jesus was obedient; He never hesitated, but revealed Himself as Messiah and now was voluntarily proceeding to the cross.