The Passion of Christ – Part Four – Mark 12:1-44

 

Thus far in our section on The Passion of Christ we have seen Jesus’ passion flows from the love of God (Mark 9), Jesus’ passion for evangelism (Mark 10), and Jesus’ passion for building faith. Now that Jesus has come to Jerusalem (Mark 11:1,11,,15,27) His mission involves answering His opposition. He is not just picking a fight. He is answering His opposition so that unsaved people in earshot of His answers can hear and be saved. He also wants to give His opponents opportunity to repent. In Mark 12 we see Jesus’ passion for answering opposition. 

 

We Are Called to Have an Answer

 

As Christians we are ambassadors or representatives of God in this world (2 Corinthians 5:20). As God’s representatives we are to grow in our faith, our understanding of God and His truth so that we will be able to share who God is and His truth with those around us (Colossians 2:6-7). We are instructed in His word to walk in wisdom toward the unsaved speaking to them graciously and with conversation that is seasoned with the salt of the gospel. This is not something we necessarily go to school for. There are those who are called to seminary or Biblical schooling. But all believers are called to grow in their faith and be ready with an answer. This is something God does in us as we prayerfully depend on Him to work in and through us.

 

Paul gives us an example of how opportunities arise to share our faith and how we are to live toward unbelievers when he is inspired to write:

 

  • Colossians 4:2-6 – “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

Through prayer God opens doors of opportunity to minister to people (2 Corinthians 12:2; Ephesians 6:18-20; Philippians 1:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; Revelation 3:7-8). Through prayer God by the Holy Spirit will give us an answer and show us how and what to speak to inquiring people (Mt 10:19-20, 26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5).  (We are called to even contend earnestly for God’s truth - Jude 3).

We are called to follow in the steps of Jesus who had a passion to answer people, even if it is uncomfortable or painful. The apostle Peter was inspired to describe this calling in the following way:

 

  • 1 Peter 2:21; 3:15-18 – “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: . . . But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, . . . ” 

We are called to follow in the steps of Jesus. Jesus had a passion to answer His inquirers. We should be ready in the Spirit and in the name of Jesus to give an answer to those God brings our way.

Jesus’ Passion to Answer Repeated Rejecters

 

Mark 12:1-12 – “Then He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.2 “Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers.3 “And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.4 “Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated.5 “And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some.6 “Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’7 “But those vinedressers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’8 “So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard.9 “Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.10 “Have you not even read this Scripture:  ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. 11 This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?” 12 And they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away.”

Just as the cursing of the fig-less fig tree illustrates the fruitless condition of Israel and the need for fruitfulness in the life of disciples, so too in this parable of the wicked vinedressers shows that the “landowner” (God) sends out his “servants” (Old Testament prophets) into the “vineyard” (Israel), which he has built up to harvest fruit (Mark 12:2; Matthew 21:34). The “vinedressers” are a reference to Israel whom God has “leased” His vineyard to (Mark 12:1; Matthew 21:33). The “far country” alludes to heaven (Mark 12:1). Israel here is seen to have repeatedly rejected God’s messengers and ultimately rejected Messiah Jesus (Mark 12:2, 3, 4, 5, 6; Matthew 21:32, 38-40, 42-44). The fruit here is simple receptivity of the gospel and repentance (Mark 12:2; Matthew 21:32; 3:8).

The crux of the matter here in this parable is that people often bite the hand of the One who is trying to feed them. The landowner (God) has a right to the fruit (spiritual fruitfulness) of His vineyard, yet the “vinedressers” (Israel) not only refused to produce and give the landowner fruit, but killed his son (Jesus). The parable of Jesus speaks of the countless prophets and other people whom God sent to minister to the people. But one by one they were all repeatedly rejected until finally the “landowner” (God the Father) sent His own Son (Jesus) and He they killed (Mark 12:8; Matthew 21:33-39). Jesus tells the parable and asks the chief priests what they think the landowner will do to the vinedressers (Mark 12:9; Matthew 21:40). The chief priests say, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably” (Matthew 21:41). Then Jesus gives them the punch line by telling them the kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to another nation that will bear fruit where they failed and refused to do so (Mark 12:9; Matthew 21:43). What does this all mean?

“Have you not even read this Scripture . . . ?” or do you merely rely on tradition?

Jesus challenges the chief priests and religious leaders by saying, “Have you not even read this Scripture . . . ?” (21:42a). Here Jesus points out the glaring root of the problem of the religious leaders of His day. They repeatedly rejected God’s truth and His attempts through the prophets to communicate that truth. Why and for what reason did the religious leaders repeatedly reject God’’ truth and messengers? The religious leaders, (as we saw in our earlier study of Mark 7) depended on manmade traditions to the detriment of their knowledge of Scripture. For them manmade tradition took priority over Biblical truth and God’s messengers of truth. Whenever that is the case, you set yourself up to miss out on the not only the truth of God, but the crux of His plan.  

A Review of the Weakness of Human Tradition

Building a belief system on manmade tradition is building on sand rather than the firm foundation of the rock of Jesus and His word. Jesus often questioned the ignorance of the Scriptures that characterized the religious leaders (Matthew 12:3; 19:4; 22:29; John 20:9; Acts 13:27).  Remember what Jesus said in His conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount? He said:

  • Matthew 7:24-27 - “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”  [1]

Hindsight is 20/20 and we know the “fall” Israel sustained by rejecting her Messiah. But had Israel been led by her leaders to know and rely upon the word of God, history might have been very different.

Traditions are fine, AS LONG AS THEY DO NOT CONTRADICT SCRIPTURE. And that was the major flaw of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Earlier in the gospel of Mark Jesus points this out by saying:

  • Mark 7:8 – ““For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”  [2]

Later in the New Testament Paul warned against being sidetracked and cheated of God’s best by human tradition and philosophy saying:

  • Colossians 2:8-10 – “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  [3]

If you rely on human tradition or philosophy you will be cheated of and miss out on God’s best for you. Why is that? Because human tradition is powerless.

The powerlessness of human tradition

In his first epistle, the apostle Peter (who some say is the first pope based upon tradition) goes so far as to refer to human tradition as resulting in “aimless conduct” when he is inspired to write:

  • 1 Peter 1:17-19 – “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  [4]

The word “aimless” here is translated from the Greek term MATAIAS (Strong’s #3152)

meaning, “vain, devoid of force, truth, success, and result; useless, of no purpose” [5] It isn’t

so much that tradition itself is bad, tradition can be helpful if it complies and submits to

the authority of Scripture. But what Peter says is that the when believers lived according

to human traditions before they were saved, their conduct was still  “aimless.”  The point

here is that when these people relied on and were guided by human tradition, it led to

aimless conduct. Tradition is powerless to transform lives. In and of itself tradition

lacks the power to change lives because it is NOT inspired by God. Tradition is a

human commentary on God’s word. There is a big difference between God’s undiluted

Holy and pure word over against the words of flawed human beings. 

 

The apostle Paul confirms this truth when he is inspired to write further in his letter to the

Colossians:

 

  • Colossians 2:20-23 – “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” [6]

These inspired words of  Paul tell us clearly that human imposed traditions only deal with surface slush spiritually. If you want to get to the heart of our spiritual growth, you have to go to God’s word.

The Power of God is in His Word

 

The power of God is in His word, not human comments on His word. In Hebrews, (as

we mentioned earlier in our reference to the process of becoming fruitful) it states:

 

  • Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  [7]

It is God’s word that cuts to the heart of the problem. Like a scalpel in the hand of a

master surgeon, the Holy Spirit takes God’s word and operates on the one who seeks

spiritual surgery and health.

 

Read what Jeremiah in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament said about the

power and effectiveness of God’s word:

 

  • Jeremiah 23:29 - “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”  [8]
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”  [9]

If we are to experience the powerful life changing effect of God in our lives, we have to

go directly to the instrument of that power, His word. Things would have been much

different in Israel had her leadership been students of God’s word and open to its truths

rather than caught up in the web of  human traditions. Traditions can be a source of

history and comment on God’s word, but they can never be the primary and

foundational source of belief. If we rely on human tradition to the neglect of God’s

word, we will likely miss God’s best for us as well as our purpose in His plan.

 

The Stone the builders rejected on “the day the LORD has made”

Jesus continues by quoting scripture saying, “‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.” (Mark 12:10; Matthew 21:42b). Jesus again turns to the Scriptures to make His case. He quotes from the Psalms where it states:

  • Psalm 118:22-23 – “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.23 This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.”  [10]

The history behind this verse is that when the Temple was initially under construction the massive stones were quarried far away from the building plot and then transported to the Temple Mount. The massive stones measuring 40 feet wide and 20 feet high were then fit together piece by piece. So close and tight and perfect was the fit of the stones that not even a razor blade could be wedged in between them.  Tradition states that in the beginning of the Temple building project a stone was brought that just didn’t seem to fit. This stone was cast aside into the Kidron Valley and forgotten about. But when the foundation was drawing to completion they found that they were one stone short. You guessed it, the stone that had been initially rejected turned out to be the cornerstone, the stone that holds all the others in place. In the same way these chief priest, religious Pharisees and religious people were rejecting Jesus, but he would turn out to be the most important piece! (21:42-44).

In Psalm 118 it goes on to refer to a particular “day” saying:

  • Psalm 118:24-25 – “This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.25 Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.”  [11]

Psalm 118 is a Messianic Psalm, which refers to the “day the LORD has made” at which time the Messiah will come. That “day the LORD has made,” was the day Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem! The sad part is that those who should have been ready and waiting for the Messiah did not see the day and actually rejected Jesus, the Messiah.

“This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’”

By quoting Psalm 118:22-23 Jesus emphasizes that what is happening should be viewed in terms of, “This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’ (Mark 12:11; Matthew 21:42). The chief priests and religious leaders could reject Jesus as Messiah, but in so doing, they were in reality rejecting God who had orchestrated His coming. If only they had been in God’s word, they would have been able to see His work and proclaim, “it is marvelous in our eyes.”

How tragic it is when people are spiritual dull and self-serving to the point where they miss out on God’s call and plan for their lives. In the Gospel of Matthew as Jesus makes His final foray into Jerusalem He cries out remorsefully expressing this sad state of affairs saying:

  • Matthew 23:37-39 - “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!38 “See! Your house is left to you desolate;39 “for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”  [12]

These people were missing out on so much because they were stiff-necked and hardened in heart to the ways of the LORD. They hadn’t learned enough from the captivity of their ancestors (2 Chronicles 36:14-23). And because they refused to be open to the LORD, they would again miss out on His plan. This is what Jesus goes on to say.

When we come to the book of Acts the first martyr Stephen echoes the sad state of the people when he says with some of his final words:

  • Acts 7:51-53 - “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.52 “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,53 “who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”  [13]

Stephen gets right to the heart of the problem when he says; “you always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51). When they rejected Jesus they were blaspheming the Holy Spirit, the one unforgivable sin (Mark 3:22-30; Matthew 12:31-32).

Truth Suppressors

When we consider Jesus’ passion to answer people, and in particular those who repeatedly reject God’s truth, we need to keep in mind that these repeated rejecters are not genuine seekers of truth. There are those who because they still have questions and take the issue of truth seriously, hold off on making a decision for Jesus and the truth of God. To these God has promised to reveal Himself when they seek for Him with all their heart (Proverbs 8:17; Jeremiah 29:11-14). But there are others who willfully and rebelliously turn away from God’s truth. These are the people who willfully reject clear truth so as not  to feel the conviction of God on their sinful lifestyles and behaviors.

Those who willfully reject God’s revealed truth are referred to in Scripture as truth suppressors. We see this in the first chapter of Romans where he is inspired to write of God’s wrathful and right judgment on suppressors of His revealed truth. Paul is inspired to write:

  • Romans 1:18-32 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.[14]

These verses tell us that there are people who willfully turn away from God rejecting His truth and revelation and not only that, but who encourage others to follow them in their rebellious rejection of God (Romans 1:32). This is exactly what we see in our world today when people adopt a sinful lifestyle and rather than heed or obey God’s truth that pronounces it as sinful they deny God’s truth, suppress it and work with all their might to get society and the world to accept their sinful lifestyles as legitimate, even though God denounces it as sin.

There is a point of no return, a point where those who willfully reject and suppress God’s truth where they are unable to repent and believe (John 12:39). We are to treat and minister to everyone, (no matter how zealous they are in their opposition to God) as though there was still hope that they would repent and believe. That is the aim and objective of our answering people like Jesus did.  Our faithful trust and responsibility is to be ready to answer the lost with the truth of God (1 Peter 3:15). God’s responsibility is to sort through those who are and are not beyond redemption.

Ground to Powder

In a recent sports article Curtis Martin, a star running back for the New York Jets football team made an interesting comment when he said:

            “I have a saying that the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.” [15]

Those are astute words from that running back (a disciple of Jesus Christ). Didn’t you ever wonder why, (with all the scriptures at their disposal), why didn’t the chief priests, Pharisees, scribes and religious people of Jesus day recognize Jesus as Messiah? You see, it wasn’t so much a problem of recognition as it was a problem of rebellion. Those who should have recognized Jesus as the foretold and prophetically promised Messiah did not receive Him because the way Jesus came did not fit into their plans. The religious leaders had a preconceived notion of how Messiah should come, (i.e. to serve their purposes of liberating them from the Roman oppressors and reestablishing their nation Israel). When God didn’t meet their expectations and plans, they rebelled and chose to take control themselves. The bottom line was that the religious leaders of Jesus day who should have stepped aside like John the Baptist (John 3:30), were unwilling to do so because they were comfortable with their positions of influence and authority over God’s people. Jesus had an answer for these willful repeated rejecters of God’s truth, Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.” (Mark 12:9). In Matthew’s account Jesus’ words are a little more graphic and to the point as He is recorded to have said:

  • Matthew 21:44 - “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” [16]

Jesus has an answer for everyone, even those who willfully and repeatedly reject God’s truth.

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus warned against repeatedly rejecting the truth of God and he was always prepared to give an answer from the Scriptures. We ought to always be open to the Spirit’s application of the Scriptures to our lives and make it our ambition to be schooled in the Scriptures by the Spirit of God (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Jesus’ Passion to Answer Politicians

Mark 12:13-17 – “Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words.14 When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 “Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.”16 So they brought it. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”17 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at Him.” [17]

The Herodians were a Jewish political party that supported the dynasty of Herod and the rule of the Romans. They are mentioned only three ties in scripture (Matthew 22:16; Mark 3:6; 12:13). They were morally and religiously lax. Because of this the Pharisees hated detested them. But despite their differences they united in the common effort to try and trip up their common foe Jesus.

Whose image and inscription is this?”

Interestingly, it appears Jesus did not even have money of His own and had to ask a bystander to give Him a coin to point out the characteristics of it (Mark 12:15; Matthew 22:19). Then He asks, “Whose image and inscription is this?” (Mark 12:16; Matthew 22:20). His opponents rightly answered that it was “Caesar’s” image that was on the coin (Mark 12:16; Matthew 22:21a). Then Jesus gives His answer, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17; Matthew 22:21). The point He makes here should not be missed. In effect Jesus is saying, if Caesar’s image is on the coin, pay taxes because the money belongs to him; and because you are created IN GOD’S IMAGE (Genesis 1:26), you belong to Him and therefore should give yourself to God. Jesus used their plot and turned it right around on them. They knew they were deficient in their walk with God (e.g. Mark 7:1-15; Matthew 15:1-9). Jesus pointed out their deficiency in no uncertain terms and that is why they walked away, they had been publicly shamed.

Rendering Unto Caesar

The Christian flower of Jesus is often confused as to their relationship to governing authorities. Just how do we render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s?  This of course, refers to the believer’s relationship to government. In the epistle to the Romans the apostle Paul is inspired to explain the disciple’s responsibility to the government they live in. He is inspired to write:

  • Romans 13:1-7 – “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”  [18]

These verses tell us that governments are “appointed by God” and therefore receive their authority from God. Because of this “every soul” should subject themselves to the governing authorities in their locality or country. Governments are put in place to keep the peace. The only time a disciple has grounds to resist the governing authority is in the case where the governing authority contradicts and opposes the Higher Authority of God. In such cases the disciple must prayerfully pursue the direction of God in the Spirit. But other than that the Christian should aim at being a model citizen fitting in and supporting justice and truth in the government God has ordained them to live in.

Rendering unto God

When we continue in the second part of Romans 13 we see what it is that we render unto God. In the second portion of this chapter Paul is inspired to write:

  • Romans 13:8-14 – “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”  [19]

These verses show us that what we need to render unto God is “love” to those around us because love fulfills God’s Law. Secondly, we need to render unto God a persevering constancy in our everyday walk, a walk that puts on the Lord Jesus Christ and makes no provision for the lusts of the flesh.

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus instructed us to be good citizens on earth and be devoted to God. We should seek to serve the Lord by being good citizens on earth.

Jesus’ Passion to Answer Liberal Religionists

Mark 12:18-27 – “Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying:19 “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.20 “Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring.21 “And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise.22 “So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also.23 “Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.”24 Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?25 “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.26 “But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?27 “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.” [20]

The Sadducees were the religiously liberal rationalists of Jesus’ day. They did not believe in miracles or in the resurrection. They thought they were superior to Jesus in intellect and so came to Him with what they perceived in their weak minds, was a flaw in Jesus’ teaching. Their unworthiness was rooted in their ignorance and disregard for God’s word.

Ignorance of God’s word leads to spiritual powerlessness

Jesus said to the Sadducees, “You are therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Mark 12:24; Matthew 22:29). Notice, they were mistaken, (they did not know the truth) because they did not know God’s word. Secondly, because they did not know God’s word, they did not know the “power of God” either. God’s word is powerful (Hebrews 4:12). The word translated “power” here is derived from the Greek term DUNAMIS (Strong’s #1411) and refers to, “strength; power; ability; might; and virtue.” This is the same term used by Jesus when He instructs the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit:

 

  • Acts 1:8 - “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  [21]

God’s word contains His truth and the directions to receive His power to live by and minister in. God’s power and His word are inextricably intertwined. Without God’s word, you aren’t going to be dressed right for His wedding.

Jesus straightens out the Sadducees false concept of the afterlife by explaining that there is no marriage in heaven. Perhaps these Sadducees were thinking like modern day Mormons who teach that marriage is eternal and provides the means by which deified Mormons can populate their own worlds in the afterlife. If that was the case, they are sadly mistaken because Jesus clearly states here that there is no marriage in heaven (22:30).

That the dead are resurrected to afterlife is pointed out by Jesus who refers to the patriarchs and that, “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” (Mark 12:27; Matthew 22:32). At the time that the scripture quoted by Jesus (“I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ – Mark 12:26; Matthew 22:32a) was received (Jesus quotes from Exodus 3:6), Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead for more than 430 years (Exodus 12:40), yet God still refers to Himself as the “God of . . .” these deceased patriarchs. This is the point Jesus makes, that if there was no resurrection as the Sadducees claimed, then why would God claim to be the “God of the living” 430 years after the patriarchs were dead? Jesus demonstrated from the Scriptures that the Sadducees’ doctrine was false and failed to take into account the truth of the Scriptures. The crowds were blown away at how easily Jesus thwarted the liberals attempt to entangle Him (Matthew 22:33).

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus believed in the authority of the Scriptures and gave a Scriptural answer to those who did not believe God’s word or were too liberal to pay any attention to it. We should give scripture based answers to liberal people too.

Jesus’ Passion to Answer Religious Legalists

Mark 12:28-34 – “Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.31 “And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.33 “And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him.” [22]

Next “one of the scribes” or lawyers comes to Jesus. The rabbis taught that there were some 613 commandments of the law (248 laws that were positive exhortations in nature and 365 negative prohibitions).[23] They came to believe that it was impossible to keep all of these laws. The inevitable conclusion of those who would seek God on the basis of keeping law is that you cannot keep the law. This leads to rationalization of ones breaking the law and that is what happened amongst the “scribes,” those skilled and devoted to the law. They taught that since no one could keep all of the law that a person needed to focus on the more important laws. You could slide a bit on the lesser laws, but had to keep religiously the greater laws. They taught therefore, that there are degrees of sin. This is what is taught in Roman Catholicism when reference is made to mortal and venial sins. This lawyer wanted to know what Jesus believed to be the greatest commandment.

Jesus answers the lawyer by pointing Him to the Shema (Mark 12:29-30; Matthew 22:37-38; Deuteronomy 6:4-5). The Shema is precious to the Jews. It is the Shema that is written and kept in the Mezuzah on the doorposts of Jewish homes. Orthodox Jews often wear phylacteries on their foreheads or forearms with the Shema written inside them. The message of the Shema is, your love for God must be supreme above everything else. Jesus then points to the second greatest commandment stating that one had to love their neighbor as they loved themselves (Mark 12:31; Matthew 22:39). There are a few things to make note of in these verses.

You don’t have to learn to love yourself

Notice, Jesus says nothing about learning to love yourself first in order to be able to love your neighbor. Jesus simply assumes that people already love themselves, (no reference to self-love was needed here). The Bible tells us that we don’t hate ourselves but we all love ourselves:

  • Ephesians 5:29 – “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”  [24]

You see, “For no one ever hated his own flesh.” No one ever hated their own flesh, or hated himself or herself.  Now you might be saying, “I hate myself; I’m too fat; I’m not smart enough; I don’t make enough money . . .” But don’t you see the truth here that the reason you are so dissatisfied with your self is because you love your self so much you feel you should have better? The ultimate and most thoroughly selfish act is suicide. Suicide is self-destruction based on a love for self that is so obsessive that you seek to destroy yourself because you don’t have what YOU want. No, people don’t have to learn how to love themselves, they already do.

Loving God

These words of Jesus in response to the legalists are so full and rich that we need pay closer, much closer attention. Look at them again:

·         Mark 12:29-31 – “Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  [25]

What we learn can be and should be life changing when we look deeply and prayerfully into these words of Jesus. You could spend a lifetime learning and getting edifying truth from these words. Here are a few morsels from that loaf.

First, Jesus directed the legalists to know God. Jesus responded to the legalists by reciting the Shema, a portion of scripture that every Jew memorizes but many do not fully understand. In Deuteronomy 6:4 when it states the LORD is one!”, the word “one” is expressed with one of tow particular Hebrew terms and the choice of terms is critical to fully understanding the nature of God and who He is. The Hebrew word for “one” used here is EKHAWD (Strong’s #259) which is a term used to expressed compound unity. EKHAWD is the Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:24 where it states, “the two shall become one flesh.”  The other option of a Hebrwe term to be used here to express “one” is YACHIYD (Strong’s #3173) which refers to an absolute solitary “one, only, one and only one; solitary one.” YACHIYD is the word used in Genesis 22:2 when the Lord refers to Isaac as Abraham’s “one and only son.”  (See also Proverbs4:3; Zech 12:10.) What is the significance of this? Since Yachiyd is not used in the Shema but Ekhawd is, it is evidence that the nature of God is a compound unity, Triune, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Why is this important? God’s nature is such that a loving relationship between the Persons of the Godhead exists. The Father loves the Son (John 3:16, 35; 5-20), the Son loves the Father (John 14:31) and the Holy Spirit is the Agent of such love (Romans 5:5).

 

Second, Jesus directed the legalists to love. Jesus directed the legalists to love because that is what is sorely lacking in the legalistic person. Legalism is cold, hard attempt at adherence to the  Laws of God. Legalism forgets the grace and love of God and superficially and mechanically tries to adhere to a set of rules. Because no one can keep the law in their own strength, this leads to hypocrisy, or trying to cover up what you really are by presenting yourself as something you are not.

Adherence to the law cannot be kept in one’s own strength but God has made a way to fulfill the Law. The apostle Paul was inspired to write these words:

·         Romans 13:10 – “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [26]

Love is the distinctive difference between those who are legalists and those who are actually saved and have experienced Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We will talk more about obtaining such love later.

Third, Jesus directed legalists to love God. Love is an action, it is a decision made in the heart. The word “love” here is translated from the Greek term AGAPAO (Strong’s #25) which means “to love,  show love, take pleasure in.” Jesus said the object of your loving affection is to be God first and foremost. Jesus said a person’s love  for God should be so great that their love for anyone or anything else would be like hate in comparison (Luke 14:25-35). What is the nature of such love for God? What is it like to love God in this way?

Fourth, to love God means to give Him all your heart; He is the master passion of your heart . Jesus said to love God with “all your heart.” Your heart (Strong’s #3650) is your inner self, the center of your being, the substance and place of your being. Your heart is where you make decisions and commitments. Your heart is where you decide what is important and what you are to live for. To love God the way these verses that Jesus quoted instructs us to means God is the most important Person in your heart and  life; He is your top priority; your central focus; your reason for living and being; the One you are willing to sacrifice anything and everything for; the One who you devote the best and greatest part of your and interest; and the One who you invest the best and greatest portion of your resources in. Now ask yourself, is this true of me? Is God the most important Person in my life? Does my schedule and calendar indicate He is my top priority? Is he the central focus of my life based on how I live my life? Do my thoughts and actions indicate God is my reason for living and being? Am I willing and do I give up all else for Him and His purposes? Do I devote the best part and the greatest part of my time and energy to God? Is He my master passion? Or is my master passion my home, my job, my education, my family, me? These are tough and convicting questions, but they need to be answered if we are to experience all that God has for us. And we will never fully enjoy and experience the blessing of all other things before we have them in the right priority, behind God on the list. Bring God first into all things and you will experience the fullness of God’s blessings in all the things He blesses you with (2 Corinthians 5; Philippians 3).

Fifth, to love God means to love Him eternally with all our soul.  Your soul is the eternal portion of your being (Strong’s #5590). To love God with all your soul means to love Him eternally, to love Him with eternity in mind and heart. This emphasizes the importance of our love relationship with God. You may love a house or car, or even another person, but no object or person outside of God is worthy of eternal love (Matthew 6:33-34)

Sixth, to love God means to give Him with all your mind; He is the Lord and Guide, Ruler of your thoughts and intents. Your “mind” (Strong’s #1271)  is the place of your thinking and logical reasoning, it is the place where you learn and know things. . God needs to be invited into your thoughts and thinking. When a person is saved they begin the process of being transformed by the renewing of their mind (Romans 12:1-2), Jesus must be allowed to take every thought captive and clean them up and make our thoughts right and holy (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Seventh, to love God means to give Him all your strength. “Strength” (Strong’s #1249) here is your “ability, capability, power, strength.” We need to use every resource physical, intellectual and spiritual in loving devotion to God. Everything we’ve got in this life is to be spent in light of how it effects our love for God (Philippians 2-3).

Eight, to love God is to obey Him. While not specifically mentioned here, Jesus defined love in terms of obedience when He said:

·         John 14:21 – “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.[27]

Now if you just brush aside these words of Jesus and do nothing about them, you cannot say you love Him. If you truly love Him, you will obey His word. How does this pan out practically in life?

Love God by loving your neighbor

The phrase that Jesus uses to relate these two great commandments is very important. Jesus says, “And the second is like it” (Mark 12:31a; Matthew 22:39). The word “like” here is translated from the Greek term HOMOIOS (Strong’s number 3664) meaning, “like, resembling, such as, the same as.” [28] Don’t miss the point Jesus is making here. It’s as though Jesus were saying that this second commandment is inextricably linked to the first commandment.  In other words to a great extent, you love God by loving your neighbor. And indeed we see Jesus making this point in the Gospel of Matthew when He states the criteria used to separate the sheep from the goats at His 2nd Coming is loving acts done or not done to those around us:

  • Matthew 25:40,45 -  “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ . . . . 45 “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’”  [29]

In the first epistle of John the apostle known as “the apostle of love,” is inspired to show this link as well when he writes:

  • 1 John 3:16-19 – “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.”  [30]
  • 1 John 4:7-8,20 – “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. . . . 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”  [31]

In light of this, there are no greater commandments than to love God and your neighbor (Mark 12:31b; Matthew 22:40). But what is such love like and how can we love with that love?

What is God’s love like?

The love that the Bible speaks of is not a mushy sentimental kind of love, (though God’s love is affectionate). No, it is a love that is active, faithful, and persevering. The apostle Paul described it like this:

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a – “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never fails.”  [32]

We see that kind of love in Jesus. Indeed you could replace the word “love” with the name of “Jesus” and it would ring true. But could we substitute our name in the place of the word “love” and have the paragraph ring as true? Ah, that is the issue; how can we love like Jesus loves?

How can we love?

The only way a person can love the way God requires they love, is to have God give us His love. That love of God is given only to the ones who have turned from their sins to receive forgiveness from God through faith along in Christ alone and who have been filled with the Spirit of God, regenerated. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit fills the believer with love at conversion:

  • Romans 5:5 – “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  [33]

You will never love fully or completely the way God desires a person to love, until you accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit at your regeneration or spiritual rebirth. To love like God wants us to love; you must receive that love from Him by faith. This is what the apostle John teaches when he is inspired to write:

  • 1 John 4:7-10 – “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  [34]

Love, “is of God,” love is, “not that we loved God.” When we look at the two commandments Jesus pointed two as being the greatest we see that they are very literally the crux of the Bible. When you take the vertical love due to God and cross it with the horizontal love due our neighbor, you get a cross, the cross of Jesus. If we are going to love, we need to turn to Jesus.

Why should we love?

You might be thinking, “Why do we have to love? Isn’t going to church good enough? I serve here and there, why do I have to love the people I’m around?” Well, besides the fact that, as we’ve shown, we love God by loving others, there is also the issue of appreciation. We love God because He first loved us. Our love is an offering of thanks and appreciation to God for first loving us. When we were unlovable, God loved us and so we now love Him and  give ourselves to be conduits of His love to others. Read what the Bible says in this regard:

  • Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  [35]
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – “ For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”  [36]
  • 1 John 4:19 – “We love Him because He first loved us.”  [37]

When Paul notes the fruit of the Spirit he uses the singular form of the word “fruit” stating:

  • Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit [singular form of term “fruit”] of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  [38]

This love the Spirit produces in us is evidence that we have been born again and truly belong to God. As the apostle John writes:

  • 1 John 4:8 – “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  [39]

Love is the greatest because love is from God and shows we have His Spirit within us.

We do not love to be saved

We need to caution here that the way to salvation is not love. Love is not a way to work out way into the good graces of God or to attain salvation. If we put attempts to love before faith in Jesus, it is a dead work; but if we put faith in Jesus before love, it becomes a fruitful good work. Salvation is by grace, not any work that we do (Ephesians 2:1-9). But once saved, God has a plan for us to love those around us via good works (Ephesians 2:10). If we put love before faith, it becomes a work and no one can be saved by his or her own works.

You can’t be saved by keeping laws

Jesus is not teaching that salvation is based on the works of keeping these two laws; He is simply stating what the two most important Laws in God’s word are. Besides that, can anyone be so self-righteous and proud to think that they have or can love God enough to make them righteous before Him? Can anyone truly and honestly think that they have loved God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind and with all their strength? Can anyone think they have loved their neighbor as themselves? Can anyone think they have loved perfectly? The answer to all these questions is a resounding “No!” These two most important commandments cited by Jesus are the ones all humanity falls the furthest from fulfilling. These two commandments are the ones that most condemn the self-righteous sinner.

The only way to come to know the love of God and to be able to love with His love is to first admit we fall far short of His perfect love and are guilty of not loving like we should. We must repent or turn from our sinful lack of love and ask God to forgive us based on Jesus’ work on  the cross on our behalf. The wages of our sin, our lack of love, is death, eternal death (Romans 6:23). But Jesus has shown His love and acted on it supremely on the cross (Romans 5:8). We need to seek forgiveness based on His loving cross-work. When we come in faith to receive forgiveness for our sin, God will forgive us based on His only Son’s loving work and He will then give us new life in the Spirit (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17). When the Spirit comes to indwell us, He brings the love of God into our hearts and with His help we can begin to love as the Lord loved (Romans 5:5; 8:9-11, 26; 1 Corinthians 3:16).

The Bible teaches that it is impossible to be saved from one’s sins by keeping laws. The following verses confirm this by stating:

  • Galatians 2:16 - “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”  [40]
  • Galatians 3:10-13 – “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),”  [41]
  • James 2:10 – “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”  [42]

The Law is like a chain that stretches from heaven to earth. Those who seek heaven on the basis of keeping the law are suspended on the end of such a chain. If a person breaks one law, it is like breaking one link in that chain and they plummet to the depths of eternity and darkness. The futility and impossibility of keeping the Law of God perfectly without offense drives us to the cross of Christ who died for us to pay our penalty for sin so that on the basis of His work we could justly be forgiven by God when we trust in Jesus and His complete work on the cross (Galatians 3:24; 2:16).

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus taught the greatest commandments were to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves. While we can’t love our way into being saved and can’t be saved on our own good works, we can be saved through faith in Jesus and the indwelling Spirit will enable us to love like Jesus loved.

Jesus’ Passion to Answer Pretenders

Mark 12:35-44 – “Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?36 “For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’37 “Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?” And the common people heard Him gladly. 38 Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces,39 “the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts,40 “who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” 41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;44 “for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”  [43]

Jesus doesn’t leave the lawyer hanging on the law; he goes on to ask a question of His own. Jesus asks a question about the identity of “the Christ,” or Messiah (Mark 12:35: Matthew 22:41).  “Whose Son is He?” Jesus asks in Matthew’s account (Matthew 22:42). The Pharisees respond with a pat answer that Messiah is, “The Son of David” (Matthew 22:42). This was an accepted Messianic title used by those of Jesus’ day, but it is clear they few knew the significance of such a title. Jesus seeks to bring them into touch with the deeper meaning of this word.

Notice too, that Jesus refers to David’s writings as having been written, “by the Holy Spirit” a clear evidence that Jesus believed in the inspiration of the Bible (Mark 12:36; see 2 Timothy 3:15-17). Jesus over and over again uses the word of God authoritatively to answer people and we should do the same.

“The LORD said to my Lord”

Jesus then goes on to quote from Psalm 110. Jesus repeatedly goes to the word of God to make His case to His opposition. You might wonder, “What’s the meaning of the way David said, “The Lord said to my Lord””?  Here is where it is important to have an understanding of the culture of Jesus’ day. For a father to refer to his son as, “Lord,” would never happen. For a father to refer to his son as “Lord,” meant that his son was greater than him and was culturally repugnant and unacceptable. This was especially true in the patriarchal system of the day. Therefore, Jesus points this out and asks why did David refer to his successor in this way. It was because David, in the Spirit, was referring to One greater than himself, Messiah, Jesus!

David, in the Spirit, is sharing a spiritual scene that has been revealed to him. We see David tell us that he heard “the LORD” (i.e. the Father) say to “my Lord” (i.e. Jesus), “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” (Mark 12:36; Matthew 22:44). The point here is that David in his messianic psalm was not referring to Messiah as simply a human successor to an earthly throne, but to One who was greater than any human king. That Person we know from Scripture is the KING OF KINGS AND THE LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:16). Jesus is pointing out that the One David referred to here as Messiah, was not merely his human son, but the Son of God. You can’t keep the Law in your own strength, but God has made a way to be righteous through His Son. The reason for this is that Messiah “Lord” is given equal authority with the ‘LORD” when the verse says, “Sit at My right hand.”

Beware Pretenders Be Poor in spirit

Jesus goes on to warn the “common people” about the religious pretenders who love looking good and being treated good but who fleece the flock of God and prey on the poor and vulnerable (Mark 12:38-40). He draws a contrast between these religious pretenders and a poor widow. The rich pretenders gave a small proportion of their wealth and made a big deal about it though it really cost them very little. The poor widow on the other hand put in about a fraction of a penny, but it was all she had. She gave in a way that required her to have faith in and trust the Lord. The religious pretenders gave a much larger amount, but it required no faith or trust in God. Jesus’ answer to the pretenders exposed their hypocrisy.

Oftentimes Christians will ask, “Am I supposed to tithe?” or give 10% of my income. Then they ask, “Should I give ten percent before or after taxes are taken out?” We should give ten percent to the Lord (Matthew 23:23). But more importantly, we should give in a way that is from the heart and in faith. We should give enough to require we trust the Lord.

You see, this widow referred to by Jesus was poor materially, but rich spiritually. And that state of spiritual wealth was referred to by Jesus as “poor in spirit.”  Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said:

  • Matthew 5:3 - Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

To be "poor in spirit” is to be humble, seeking the Lord in faith. Jesus said the person who is humble or poor in spirit has the “kingdom of heaven.” How is that true? It is true because the humble person is depending on Jesus as their Lord and King to reign in every area of their lives including their finances. That is the answer to the pretenders Jesus was giving.

MARK THAT ACTION:  Jesus told us to beware those who pretend to be something they are not. We should be humble and poor in spirit and give in ways that require we trust the Lord Jesus.

An Answer for Affluence Seekers

 

There is much to be learned from the example of the poor spirited widow who gave from her heart to God. It is very easy in our modern society of affluence to be carried away by the love of money or by running after money. It is very easy in our affluent world to be compromised by currency.

 

The Bible tells us that the accounts given in scripture were given by God in part to help us avoid the same pitfalls and sins of our predecessors (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6). There is an Old Testament example that gives an answer to those who make affluence their driving life ambition. The Bible gives a serious warning against running after riches. It is a big mistake to make life decisions based on the seeming benefits of getting financial or material gain. Lot of the Old Testament is proof of this truth.

 

In Genesis it states of Lot:

 

·         Genesis 13:10; 14:20 - “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere . . . . And he [Abram] gave him a tithe of all.”

 

In Genesis 13 we are told that Abraham, (the uncle of Lot) and Lot came to a point where because of the growth of their flocks they had to part ways. These two verses above point out the contrast in  decision making between Lot who lusted after wealth and Abraham who was a man of faith in God (Romans 4).

Lot based his decision and life direction on the wealth he saw before him. This decision proved to be the first in a series of decisions that led Lot into deeper and deeper sin. The Bible tells us that Lot saw (Genesis 13:10), he chose for himself (Genesis 13:11), he then dwelt in and pitched his tent near Sodom (Genesis 13:12-13). Later we are told that Lot actually dwelt in Sodom, an exceedingly wicked place of sin (Genesis 13:13:14:12). Because of his disregard for the sinfulness around him he was caught up in a war and taken captive only to be rescued by Abraham (Genesis 14:11-16). Even after this dangerous encounter with sin, Lot persisted in his preoccupation with wealth to the extent that we are later told that he became a prominent leader in the sinful city of Sodom (Genesis 19:1 – To “sit in the gate” refers to the place where city leaders gathered to rule and therefore Lot was one of these leaders). When the sinful city of Sodom was to be judged by God Lot escaped with his family by the skin of his teeth. The account shows us that his own children did not take him seriously or respect him and his wife was turned to a pillar of salt due to her persistent lust for the things of Sodom (Genesis 19). After his escape the Bible tells us that Lot got drunk and was involved in an incestuous relationship with his daughters resulting in their pregnancy (Genesis 19:30-38). This is an ugly story that started with a man who was led by an insatiable lust for things and wealth.

 

Abraham on the other hand acted in faith and based his life decisions for the most part on his relationship with God (Genesis 14:17-24). He certainly was not perfect and did lapse into sin on occasion (Genesis 16). But for the most part Abraham was a man of faith who followed the Lord first trusting Him to provide for him wherever He guided him (Genesis 15;17; Romans 4). Abraham knew all that he had was from the Lord and so when he experienced victory in his life he did no forget God but gave Him a tithe of all his income (Genesis 14:20). Now notice here is the act of tithing (“tithe” means tenth or 10%) before the Law was given therefore those who refrain form giving a tenth of their income to God because they see it as an imposition of the Law are shown to be mistaken. Jesus encouraged tithing (Matthew 23:23).

 

Lust for luxury and profit drew Lot into ever-increasing compromises with sin. Lot followed his greedy cravings and forgot that blessings are from the LORD and should be received as gifts. Eventually Lot became accepted and prominent in a city known for sin.  Abram demonstrated his faith by his giving and trusting in God to provide. We can guard against being compromised by currency if we remember that:

 

1.)                Running after riches makes a person forget God  – Deuteronomy 8:13-14; 1 John 2:15-17.

2.)                Running after riches hinders our spiritual growth and journey to heaven – Matthew 19:23; Mark 4:19; 2 Timothy 2:4

3.)                Running after riches and temptation go hand in hand – 1 Timothy 6:9

4.)                Relying on riches leads to ultimate disappointment – Matthew 6:19; Mark 10:17-27; James 5:3

5.)                Realize everything is from God – Deuteronomy 8:18; 1 Chronicles 29:12; Ecclesiastes 5:19; Hosea 2:8; James 1:17.

6.)                Realize what we have belongs to God and that we are merely stewards entrusted with a responsibility – Genesis 14:20-24; Psalm 50:10-12; Malachi 3:7-12; Luke 16:1-17; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Revelation 3:17-18.

7.)                Rely on God to provide for your needs; Where God guides, God provides – Psalm 34:10; 37:25; 84:11; 105:40-41; 145:16; Matthew 6:19-34; Philippians 4:10-19

 

Running after affluence and wealth is not the answer to life’s security problems, faith in God is. The widow who gave her all is the perfect example of the right attitude to have. She gave all she had to the Lord. The main point to grasp here is not merely that she gave everything she had, but that her total giving was evidence that she viewed all she had as from God and that she trusted God to provide for her even when she was down to nothing. Her giving was an act of faith.

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus spoke highly of the widow who gave in faith. We ought to give in faith to the Lord. When we trust God with our finances, our faith will grow as God guides and provides for us.

 

Conclusion

In his book Answers For Today and his message entitled, the More Sure Word [44]Pastor Chuck Smith points out that  in 2 Peter 1:19 Peter refers to the “more sure word of prophecy.” He says, “For over thousand yeas, holy, godly men wrote down the inspirations that God sent their hearts, telling of One whom God would send to be the Savior of the World. They listed His birthplace, the circumstances of His birth, and the events of His life. They even predicted how He would suffer and the way He would die. Finally, they wrote of His resurrection.”

 

Chuck Smith goes on to write:

 

“Examining the records of these holy men of God, we find over 300 stipulations concerning the Messiah and what He would accomplish in His birth, death and resurrection . . . . The LAW OF COMPOUND PROBABILITIES allows us to accurately calculate the chance of any prophesied event taking place. Each stipulation added to the prediction lessens the chance of the event’s occurrence, because the possibility of several details coinciding is more remote than the possibility of one event alone. When 300 details are considered, the chance factor becomes astronomical . . . .”

 

He continues:

 

“For instance, Micah 5:2 said Christ would be born in the city of Bethlehem. The chance of a person being born in Bethlehem is easy to determine by taking the average population of Bethlehem since the time of the prophecy about 725 B.C. – it turns out to be about 7,000 – and comparing it with the average population of the earth – about 700 million. Divide the second by the first, and you find there is one chance in 100,000 of being born in Bethlehem.”

 

Pastor Chuck Smith then lists just eight of the many prophecies regarding Jesus:

 

            Malachi 3:1 – forerunner who would prepare the way for Him.

            Zechariah 9:9 – Triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

            Zechariah 11:12 – Betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.

            Zechariah 11:13 – 30 pieces of silver would be used for a potter’s field.

            Isaiah 53:7 – Although innocent, Messiah would not defend Himself.

            Psalm 22 – States both hands and feet would be pierced.

            John 19:36 – Not a bone of His will be broken.

            Psalm 16:10; 49:15; Isaiah 25:8 – He will be raised from the dead.

 

Pastor Smith then goes on to explain:

 

“Multiplying these chance factors according to the Law of Compound Probability, we establish how many men we would have to look at before we found one who met all eight stipulations. The number of men would be 10 to the twenty-eighth power, or 10, followed by 28 zeroes.” (And those are conservative estimates!)

If you had that many silver dollars, you could cover the entire state of Texas with a layer of silver dollars two feet thick – and Texas is a big state! If you marked one of these silver dollars and let someone roam through them blindfolded, his chance of coming up with that marked silver dollar would be the same as the chance of one person just happening to fulfill the eight requirements laid out in the prophecies we looked at. But there were over 300 stipulations contained in the prophecies! . . . .”

 

Assuming the chance factors for another eight prophecies would be fairly equal to the factors of the prophecies we examined, there would be one in 10 to the 45th power, or 10 followed by 45 zeroes. This number is so vast that if you had this many silver dollars, you could make a ball of silver dollars with a diameter, which would be 30 times the distance from the earth to the sun. Can you imagine marking one of these silver dollars and letting some fellow dive into the pile blindfolded? Can you imagine him grabbing the dollar you marked, just by chance? . . . .”

 

“Increase the number to 48 requirements. Now the chance factor increases to one in 10 followed by 157 zeroes, a number so huge our minds can’t really conceive it. There’s no way to make a ball this size of silver dollars. Even if there wer3e enough silver dollars to make it, the universes is just too small. Let’s compare the number to one of the smallest things we know – an electron. If two and a half quintillion electrons were placed single file, the line of them would only be an inch long. That would be 2.5 x 10 to the 15th power. To count these electrons would take one person 19 million years of counting day and night at the rate of 250 per minute. Imagine how many electrons there are in a one-inch cube – three times two and a half quintillion. To count that many would take 57 million years!”

 

“10 to the 157th power electrons make a solid ball the estimated size of the universe, which has a radius of approximately six billion light years. In fact, if you could go into mass production and somehow start manufacturing these galls at the rate of about 500 per minute, you could go on making them for the six billion years it is estimated [by secular scientists] that this universe has been in existence and you could do that [100 trillion times over.] Now if you marked just one of the electrons you had used to make the balls and asked someone to find it, the chance that it would be found by random selection is the same chance that Jesus had of fulfilling 48 of the requirements set forth in prophecy just by accident. And Christ fulfilled over three hundred!”

 

Jesus not only has a passion to answer people, He is the answer, He is the way the truth the life (John 14:6).

 

 

 



[1][1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15] Steve Serby, Great Expectations – Jets believe they will beat Raiders, roar into playoffs, New York Post, Friday, 1/4/2002. p. 92

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1930. p. 177.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25] The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[26] The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[27] The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[28]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44] Chuck Smith, Answers For Today (The Word For Today: Costa Mesa, CA, 1993) pages 178-181.