Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Twelve

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

Mark's twelfth chapter includes Jesus' teachings in the temple during his final days prior to his death and resurrection. It is a collection of parables and controversy stories that begin in the final verses of chapter eleven. This final cluster of teaching is similar to what we read back in chapters three and four. Here in chapter twelve, the Jewish leaders (chief priests, scribes, elders, Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees and lawyers) are trying to trap Jesus. On each occasion, Jesus teaches them with authority and the people respond with wonder as they "marveled at him (12:17)."

Each of these stories tells us more about Jesus and his own authority. They also give us further insight into the ways of God, and how God's Kingdom operates in the world. Jesus has come to both announce and activate the coming Kingdom. It is important that we listen to his intentional teaching, so that we can live well in light of what it meas to follow him.

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

There is no specific reference to Jesus praying in this chapter.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

In this chapter, Jesus references God's Word often - the most of any chapter we have read in Mark so far. It is not surprising that in a moment when Jewish leaders are attempting to trap Jesus, he responds by explaining how God's Word does not necessarily teach what they have been espousing. Jesus grounds his arguments in Scripture, and people are amazed at his teaching.

(12:10-11) Here Jesus cites Psalm 118:22-23. In this passage, Jesus is giving a warning to the Jewish leaders that their time is coming to an end. Like the corrupt tenants, they have not done well at leading God's people. And like the corrupt tenants, they will murder God's Son. They will reject the stone that is in fact the cornerstone. The Lord is doing something marvelous, and as God's Kingdom expands to include all nations in a more overt way, Jesus is the cornerstone that is activating this change.

(12:26) It is important to note that in this passage, Jesus is in conflict with the Sadducees. One of the reasons they have rejected the resurrection up to this point is because they do not see any reference to it in the first five books of the Old Testament (The Books of Moses). Jesus intentionally quotes a passage from Exodus, as a way of grounding the resurrection within the Books of Moses. Jesus quotes a passage in which God speaks of keeping a covenant with people who at that point had died in a physical sense. Why would God keep a covenant with people who were dead, unless they were in fact still alive in a resurrected sense. "He is not God of the dead, but of the living (12:27)."

(12:29-31) In this passage, Jesus is very orthodox in his quoting of the Shema, an important Jewish passage. He goes one step further though, and joins the first commandment with a second, to love your neighbor as yourself. In this way, Jesus brings into relationship loving God and loving others as inseparable (read more in 1 John 2:10 & 1 John 4:20). If we claim to love God, then we must also love our neighbor.

(12:36) In this passage, Jesus turns the tables on the Jewish leaders. He asks them a question in reference to one of the widely held Davidic psalms (Ps. 110). More on Jesus' argument below, but essentially Jesus is making the argument that his authority is greater than David's. And no other human would have greater authority than David at this time. Jesus argues for his own divinity here. It is also interesting to note that no other Old Testament passage is quoted more in the New Testament than Psalm 110 - this teaching of Jesus may be the foundation for its wide use in the NT.

(F) Relates to God the Father

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to God the Father in this chapter.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

Jesus' willingness to teach and engage is a sign of his love: All throughout this chapter, Jesus is answering questions, teaching and clarifying. While some of his responses may not have been a natural sign of his love for those whom he is in conflict with, ultimately Jesus is trying to correct false assumptions with his followers. Jesus wants people to understand who he is and what it means for the world. Jesus' first words recorded in Mark's gospel, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mk 1:15)." point to Jesus' desire to alert people to God's kingdom and their need to repent and believe in the gospel. It is an expression of Jesus' loving kindness to labor so much at bringing a correct understanding to what it means to follow him.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

Greater than David (Mk 12:35-37): Jesus turns the tables in this passage. Up to this point, he was mostly being questioned, but here he asks the question. In Psalm 110, David references two different "Lords." You can see this represented in English translations by the way that one is written in lower case (ie. Lord) and the other in all upper case (ie. LORD)." The first LORD is in reference to Yahweh (GOD). Jesus is asking, how can the second Lord be David's son (Son of David is a common title for Christ)? David is calling him Lord, a title of superiority. If the second Lord (Christ) is superior to David, then he cannot be David's son - the assumption is that David would be superior to his own son. At this time, no other human was regarded as superior to David. Therefore, David must be referencing someone greater than himself. The Christ (Jesus) is greater than David. Jesus here is appealing to his own divinity as Christ (the son of David).

Hopefully you were able to follow that line of reasoning - if not, then send me a message and we can talk about it more.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

To Announce and Activate the Kingdom of God: Jesus came to announce the kingdom of God. He also came to die on a cross, becoming the cornerstone whom the builders rejected. In this way, he is not only announcing the kingdom of God, he is also activating the kingdom of God. Its expansion is largely aided and influenced by Jesus' own death and resurrection. Jesus came in order to both announce and activate God's Kingdom.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

Render to Caesar (12:13-17): In this passage, Jesus is asked a question about whether they should pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus' response tells us many things. They wanted to trap Jesus into either telling them to pay the tax and be a traitor to the Jewish people. Or they wanted him to tell them not to pay the tax and be labeled a revolutionary and enemy of Rome. Jesus does neither. His answer is also not merely a dodge. Two major principles come. First, God is the primary ruler. Anything Caesar has comes through God granting it to him. We must first be accountable to God with our actions. Paying a tax to Caesar is not necessarily a violation of God's rule when we recognize that Caesar's authority remains secondary to God's authority. At the same time, they were using the coins with Caesar's inscription for other purposes (ie. to buy food, clothing, etc.). If they use his coins for other purposes, it is not wrong to then pay a tax - recognizing that it is all under God's authority anyway. Two different links that might be helpful to further understand the implications of this passage:

John Piper expositing the parallel passage in Matthew

Tim Challies writing about paying taxes

The Great Commandment (12:28-34): As followers of Jesus, we must recognize that this includes both loving God and loving others. Neither one can be removed from the equation. It can sometimes be tempting to want to emphasis one over the other, but we must always remember that they are both connected. We cannot claim to love God, but then not love our brothers. This would be like having a fire without smoke. If loving God is like the fire, and loving others is like the smoke, then it follows that loving others is a natural consequence of loving God. You cannot have one without the other, in the same way that you cannot have a fire without some sort of smoke being produced. Another analogy from Jesus - Good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit (Lk 6:43-45). You cannot have one without the other. Following Jesus means loving God and it also means loving others.

Give sacrificially (12:41-44): This passage is not complicated to understand. In fact, it is quite simple. That does not mean it is easy to follow. Jesus is telling us here that what matters more than the actual sum of our giving, is how sacrificial our giving is when we consider our station in life. We can not all give away millions of dollars, and that is okay. God is simply calling us to give sacrificially from the resources we do have. Following Jesus means being willing to give sacrificially.

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

This particular chapter lends itself to numerous practical applications. There is much to be learned about what it means to follow Jesus. Here are a couple suggestions:

(1) Ask yourself if your love for God is consistent with your love for others. Take an account this week of how these two things play out practically in your life. If they are not both present in real and practical ways, then ask yourself why? And how can you activate change in this area?

(2) Take an honest look at your finances this week. Do you give sacrificially? Or only from the comfort of your abundance? How can you be a more faithful steward of your resources?

(3) Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.