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The Fourfold Gospel

12:1  And he began to speak unto them in parables1. A man2 planted a vineyard3, and set a hedge about it4, and digged a pit for the winepress5, and built a tower6, and let it out to husbandmen7, and went into another country8.

    IN REPLY TO THE QUESTIONS AS TO HIS AUTHORITY, JESUS GIVES THE THIRD GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (In the Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, A.D. 30.) C. PARABLE OF THE WICKED HUSBANDMEN. Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19

  1. And he began to speak unto them in parables. To the people, not the rulers.

  2. A man. This party represents God.

  3. Planted a vineyard. This represents the Hebrew nationality.

  4. And set a hedge about it. Some think the hedge refers to the manner in which Palestine was protected by sea and desert and mountain, but the hedge and the winepress and the tower are mere parabolic drapery, for every man who planted a vineyard did all three.

  5. And digged a pit for the winepress. The winepress consisted of two tub-shaped cavities dug in the rock at different levels, the upper being connected with the lower by an orifice cut through from its bottom. Grapes were placed in the upper cavity, or trough, and were trodden by foot. The juice thus squeezed from them ran through the orifice to the trough below, from which it was taken and stored in leather bottles until it fermented and formed wine.

  6. And built a tower. A place where watchmen could be stationed to protect the vineyard from thieves as the grapes ripened for the vintage.

  7. And let it out to husbandmen. The ruler are here represented; and the rental was, as usual, a part of the ruins.

  8. And went into another country. Jesus frequently refers to this withdrawal of the visible presence of God from the world, always bringing out the point that the withdrawal tests faithfulness. God had come down upon Mt. Sinai, given the law and established the Hebrew nation, after which he had withdrawn. That had indeed been a long time ago; and for four hundred years before the appearance of John the Baptist, God had not even sent a messenger to demand fruit.

12:2  And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant1, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruits of the vineyard2.

  1. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant. That is, the prophets.

  2. That he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruits of the vineyard. See Luke 3:8. He expected the children of Israel to bring forth joy, love, peace, and all the other goodly fruit of a godly life. And he looked to those in authority to bring forth such results, and the prophets were sent to the rulers to encourage them to do this.

12:3  And they took him, and beat him, and sent him away empty1.

    Mark 12:3-5

  1. And they took him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. For the treatment of the prophets, see such passages as 1 Kings 18:13; 1 Kings 22:24-27 2 Kings 6:31; 2 Chronicles 24:19-22; 2 Chronicles 36:15,16. For a summary of the treatment of the prophets or messengers of God, see Hebrews 11:35-38.

12:6  He had yet one, a beloved son: he sent him last unto them1, saying, They will reverence my son2.

  1. He had yet one, a beloved son: he sent him last unto them. The lord of the vineyard was thoroughly perplexed. The conduct of his husbandmen was outrageous. He had no better servants to send them unless his only son should take upon him the form of a servant and visit them (Philippians 2:5-8).

  2. Saying, They will reverence my son. Being tender and forgiving, and unwilling to resort to extreme measures, the lord of the vineyard resolved to thus send his son, feeling sure that the son would represent the person, authority, and rights of the father so much better than any other messenger (Hebrews 1:1-5; Hebrews 2:1-3), that it would be well-nigh impossible for the husbandmen to fail of reverence toward him. In striking contrast, however, with this expectation of the Father, the rulers, or husbandmen, had just now harshly demanded of the Son that he tell by what authority he did anything in the vineyard (Mark 11:28).

12:7  But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come1, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours2.

  1. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come,
  2. let us kill him. In thus bringing the story down to the immediate present, and stating a counsel which his enemies had just spoken privately in each other's ears (Mark 11:18), Jesus must have startled them greatly. He showed them, too, that those things which made them deem it necessary to kill him were the very things which proved his heirship.

  3. And the inheritance shall be ours. They regarded the Jewish nation as their property, and they were plotting to kill Jesus that they might withhold it from him (John 11:47-50; John 12:19). That men might hope by such high-handed lawlessness to obtain a title to a vineyard seems incredible to us who have always been familiar with the even-balanced justice of constitutional government; but in the East the looseness of governments, the selfish apathy and lack of public spirit among the people, and the corrupt bribe-receiving habits of the judges makes our Lord's picture even to this day, though rather exceptional, still true to life. At this point Jesus turns from history to prophecy.

12:8  And they took him, and killed him, and cast him forth out of the vineyard1.

  1. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him forth out of the vineyard. After two intervening days the Jews would fulfill this detail by thrusting Jesus outside the walls of Jerusalem and crucifying him there.

12:10  Have ye not read even this scripture: The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner1;

    Mark 12:10,11

  1. The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner. The quotation is from Psalms 118:22,23, which is here by Jesus applied as a prophecy to the Pharisees, who, in their treatment of him, were like unskilled builders who reject the very corner-stone of the building which they seek to erect. The Pharisees were eager enough in their desire to set up a Messianic kingdom, but were so blindly foolish that they did not see that this kingdom could not be set up unless it rested upon Christ Jesus, its corner-stone. They blundered in constructing their theory of the coming kingdom, and could find no room for one such as Jesus in it.

12:12  And they sought to lay hold on him; and they feared the multitude1; for they perceived that he spake the parable against them: and they left him, and went away2.

  1. And they sought to lay hold on him; and they feared the multitude;
  2. for they perceived that he spake the parable against them. Despite the warning which Jesus gave them that they were killing the Son and would reap the consequences, and despite the fact that he showed that the Psalm which the people had used so recently with regard to him foretold a great rejection which would prove to be a mistake, see Mark 11:9 and see Mark 12:10, yet the rulers persisted in their evil intention to take his life, and were only restrained by fear of the people, many of whom were Galileans, men of rugged courage, ready to draw swords on Jesus' behalf.

  3. And they left him, and went away. Since they could neither arrest not answer him, they withdrew as a committee, but returned again in the person of their spies.

12:13  And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees1 and of the Herodians2, that they might catch him in talk3.

    JEWISH RULERS SEEK TO ENSNARE JESUS. (Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, A.D. 30.) A. PHARISEES AND HERODIANS ASK ABOUT TRIBUTE. Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26

  1. They send unto him certain of the Pharisees. See Matthew 3:7.

  2. And of the Herodians. Having no ancient statement giving us the tenets or principles of the Herodians, we are left to judge them solely by their name, which shows that they were partisans of Herod Antipas. Whether they were out-and-out supporters of the Roman government, or whether they clung to Herod as one whose intervening sovereignty saved them from the worse fate of being directly under a Roman procurator (as Judea and Samaria then were) would not, as some suppose, affect their views as to the payment of tribute. If they accepted Herod merely for policy's sake, policy would compel them to favor the tribute, for Antipas, being appointed by Rome, would have to favor the tribute, and could count none as his adherents who opposed it.

  3. That they might catch him in talk. Perceiving that Jesus, when on his guard, was too wise for them, the Pharisees thought it best to speak their cunning through the mouths of their young disciples, whose youth and apparent desire to know the truth would, according to their calculation, take Jesus off his guard.

112:14  And when they were come, they say unto him, Teacher, we know that thou art true, and carest not for any one; for thou regardest not the person of men, but of a truth teachest the way of God: Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not2?

  1. Teacher, we know that thou art true, and carest not for any one; for thou regardest not the person of men, but of a truth teachest the way of God. The meaning of their preface is this: "We see that neither fear nor respect for the Pharisees or the rulers prevents you from speaking the plain, disagreeable truth; and we are persuaded that your courage and love of truth will lead you to speak the same way in political matters, and that you will not be deterred therefrom by any fear or reverence for Caesar". Fearless loyalty to truth is indeed one of the noblest attributes of man. But instead of honoring this most admirable quality in Jesus, these hardened reprobates were endeavoring to employ it as an instrument for his destruction.

  2. Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? The Jews were required to pay annually a large sum of money to the Roman government as an acknowledgment of their subjection. About twenty years before this, Judas of Galilee had stirred up the people to resist this tribute, and the mass of the Jews was bitterly opposed to it. To decide in favor of this tribute was therefore to alienate the affection and confidence of the throng in the temple who stood listening to him--an end most desirable to the Pharisees. If, on the other hand, Jesus said that the tribute should not be paid, the Herodians were present to hear it, and would be witnesses sanctioned by Herod, and therefore such as Pilate would be compelled to respect. What but divine wisdom could escape from so cunningly devised a dilemma.

12:15  Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why make ye trial of me1? bring me a denarius, that I may see it2.

  1. But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why make ye trial of me? Thus, before answering, Jesus exposes the meanness and hypocrisy in their question, thereby emphasizing the important fact that he did not dodge, but answered it.

  2. Bring me a denarius, that I may see it. Religious dues and tributes had been paid in shekels or old Jewish coin, but the tribute to Rome was paid in Roman coin of which the denarius was a sample.

12:16  And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's.

  1. Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him,
  2. Caesar's. The little silver coin had the head of the emperor stamped upon it, and the superscription TICAESARDIVIAVGFAVGVSTVS, which stands for the Latin words "Tiberias Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus", that is, "Tiberius Caesar, the August Son of the Divine Augustus".

12:17  And Jesus said unto them, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's1. And they marvelled greatly at him2.

  1. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. Each nation uses its own coin. Had the Jews not been under Roman sovereignty, they would not have been using Roman money; but the coin which they brought to Jesus bore witness against them that the Roman sovereignty was established in their land, and that tribute to it was therefore justly due; for whoso uses Caesar's coin must pay Caesar's tribute. This part of the answer satisfied the Herodians; and the last part "and to God", etc., satisfied the people, for it asserted, in a manner which carried conviction with it, that the payment of enforced tribute was not inconsistent with maintaining complete allegiance of God. God was no longer, as of old, the civil ruler of his people, and hence the payment of tribute to a temporal sovereign is in no sense incompatible with his service, but is enjoined as a Christian duty (Romans 13:1,7).

  2. And they marvelled greatly at him. They were amazed to find how far his wisdom transcended that of the teachers in whom they had such supreme confidence.

12:18  And there come unto him Sadducees1, who say that there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,

    JEWISH RULERS SEEK TO ENSNARE JESUS. (Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, A.D. 30.) B. SADDUCEES ASK ABOUT THE RESURRECTION. Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-39

  1. Sadducees. See Matthew 3:7. We may regard their attitude toward Christ as expressed by their leader Caiaphas. See John 11:49.

112:19  Teacher, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave a wife behind him, and leave no child, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.

  1. If a man's brother die, and leave a wife behind him, and leave no child, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. See Deuteronomy 25:5,6. The object of this law was to preserve families. But the custom was older than the law (Genesis 38:6-11).

12:23  In the resurrection whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.

  1. In the resurrection whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. This was evidently a favorite Sadducean argument against the resurrection. On the assumption that the marital state is continued after the resurrection, it makes the doctrine of a resurrection appear ridiculous, because, seemingly, it involves difficulties which even brothers could hardly settle amicably, and which even God would have in a sense to settle arbitrarily.

12:24  Jesus said unto them, Is it not for this cause that ye err, that ye know not the scriptures, nor the power of God1?

  1. Is it not for this cause that ye err, that ye know not the scriptures, nor the power of God? On the relevancy of these statements see Mark 12:26.

12:25  For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as angels in heaven1.

  1. For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as angels in heaven. This favorite argument of the Sadducees could not be successfully answered by the Pharisees because they could not refute the assumption that marriage is continued in the future world. But Jesus does refute it on his own authority.

12:26  But as touching the dead, that they are raised1; have ye not read in the book of Moses2, in [the place concerning] the Bush, how God spake unto him, saying, I [am] the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob3?

  1. But as touching the dead, that they are raised. The disbelief of the Sadducees manifested itself in a triple form, for they denied the resurrection and the existence of angels and spirits (Acts 23:8), but the basal principle of their infidelity was the denial of spirits. It was, as it were, the tree trunk from which their other errors sprang as branches. If there were such things as spirits, it was not worth while to deny that there was an order of them known as angels. If man had a spirit which could survive his body, it was reasonable to believe that God, having so fashioned him that a body is essential to his activity and happiness, would in some manner restore a body to him. Jesus therefore does not pursue the argument until he has "proved a resurrection"; but rests when he has proved that man has a spirit.

  2. Have ye not read in the book of Moses. See Exodus 3:6. Jesus proves that man has a spirit by a reference from the Pentateuch, that part of Scripture which the Sadducees accepted as derived from God through Moses.

  3. I [am] the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? The reference shows that God was spoken of and spoke of himself as the God of those who were, humanly speaking, long since dead. But the Sadducees held that a dead man had ceased to exist, that he had vanished to nothingness. According to their view, therefore, God had styled himself the God of nothing, which is absurd.

12:27  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living1: ye do greatly err2.

  1. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The Sadducees could not thus have erred had they known or understood the significance of this Scripture, and they could not have doubted the resurrection had they known the absolute power with which God deals with material such as that of which the body is formed.

  2. Ye do greatly err. See Mark 12:24.

12:28  And one of the scribes came1, and heard them questioning together, and knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, What commandment is the first of all2?

    JEWISH RULERS SEEK TO ENSNARE JESUS. (Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, A.D. 30.) C. A LAWYER ASKS ABOUT THE GREAT COMMANDMENT. Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 20:40

  1. One of the scribes came. He was evidently deputed by those who counseled to ask this question.

  2. What commandment is the first of all? According to the statement of Jewish writers, there had been an old and interminable dispute among the rabbis as to which was the greatest commandment. Some held that it was the law which commanded sacrifices Numbers 28:3; others, that which commanded the wearing of phylacteries, Numbers 15:38,39; Deuteronomy 22:12; others contended for those about purification, Leviticus 10:10, etc.; others, for those about the great feasts, Exodus 12:15-18, etc. But as they reckoned the commandments of Moses as numbering over six hundred, there was plenty of room for argument. On this memorable day the answers of Jesus had hitherto been of such a nature as to put his questioners to silence. Therefore, in asking this question, they hoped to get an answer about which they could at least find room to wrangle, and thus discredit the wisdom of Jesus.

12:29  Jesus answered, The first is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one1:

    Mark 12:29,30

  1. The first is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one, etc. See Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This command is first because it is the foundation of the entire law of God. It is greatest (Matthew 22:38) because, in a sense, it includes all the other laws. Polytheism, atheism, idolatry, and all sins against God are forbidden by it. All sins against man are likewise, in a sense, prohibited by it; for sin against man is sin against God's image, and against the objects of God's love. Those who truly love God cannot consistently sin against man (1 John 4:20).

12:30  and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strengt1h.

  1. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strengt. See Deuteronomy 6:5. The curious may make metaphysical distinctions in the analysis of this required fourfold love, but the sum of it is that we are to love God with our whole being.

12:31  The second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself1. There is none other commandment greater than these2.

  1. The second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. See whom we truly love. Where we love, we desire to bless. But sin always carries with it a willingness to injure or to curse.

  2. There is none other commandment greater than these. The generic nature of the law of love is also noted by Paul (Romans 13:8-10); but love without law is not sufficient. Love begets a desire to bless, but the law guides to the accomplishment of that desire. Perfect righteousness is the result of wisdom as well as affection. Love without law is power without direction, and law without love is machinery without a motor (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

12:32  And the scribe said unto him, Of a truth, Teacher, thou hast well said that he is one; and there is none other but he1:

    Mark 12:32,33

  1. Of a truth, Teacher, thou hast well said that he is one; and there is none other but he, etc. Here, as in the preceding subdivision (Luke 20:39), the answer of Jesus was so clearly right that it enforced admiration.

12:34  And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God1. And no man after that durst ask him any question2.

  1. Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. Prejudice is the great obstacle to entering the kingdom. In proportion as we overcome it, we draw near to God.

  2. And no man after that durst ask him any question. They found it expedient to keep silence when their questions only exposed their own shallowness, and made more conspicuous the supreme wisdom of Jesus.

12:35  And Jesus answered and said, as he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that the Christ is the son of David1?

    JEWISH RULERS SEEK TO ENSNARE JESUS. (Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, A.D. 30.) D. JESUS' QUESTION WHICH NONE COULD ANSWER. Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44

  1. How say the scribes that the Christ is the Son of David? The Pharisees had questioned him seeking to expose his lack of wisdom, but the question of Jesus was devoid of retaliation. It was asked to teach a most important lesson. See Matthew 22:42.

12:36  David himself said in the Holy Spirit, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet2.

  1. For David himself said in the Holy Spirit. The context here shows that the rabbis of that day accepted this Psalm as written by David and as Messianic in meaning. Since then the Jews have denied that the Psalm is Messianic, and that it was written by David, some saying that Abraham, and others that Hezekiah, wrote it.

  2. The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet. The quotation is from Psalms 110:1. This Psalm speaks of the Messiah as the Lord of David, and other Scriptures call him David's son. So also the Scriptures describe Christ as conquering yet suffering, as divine yet human, as dying yet living, as judged yet judging, etc. The Jewish rulers seem able to grasp only one side of the character of Christ as revealed either in his life or in the Scriptures, and hence they stumbled.

12:37  David himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he his son? And the common people heard him gladly1.

  1. And the common people heard him gladly. By all their questioning, the Jews had not been able to weaken public confidence in Christ.

12:38  And in his teaching he said, Beware of the scribes1, who desire to walk in long robes2, and [to have] salutations in the marketplaces3,

    JESUS' LAST DISCOURSE. DENUNCIATION OF SCRIBES AND PHARISEES. (In the court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, A.D. 30.) Matthew 23:1-39; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:45-47

  1. Beware of the scribes. See Matthew 23:2.

  2. Who desire to walk in long robes. This clothing was a professional dress, as marked as that worn by priests and kings. It showed that its wearer was professionally religious.

  3. And [to have] salutations in the marketplaces. See Luke 11:43.

12:39  and chief seats in the synagogues1, and chief places at feasts2:

  1. And chief seats in the synagogues. See Luke 11:43.

  2. And chief places at feasts. See Luke 14:7.

12:40  they that devour widows' houses1, and for a pretence make long prayers2; these shall receive greater condemnation3.

  1. They that devour widows' houses. It is doubtful in what way the Pharisees devoured widows' houses, or property. Godet suggests that they extorted presents under pretense of interceding for them in their prayers, and Lightfoot thinks that they got the goods of widows "by subtle attractives", and by the management of their estates as judges, and as men acquainted with the law and therefore fit to administer estates. As to the particular blackness of the crime of robbing widows, see Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 27:19.

  2. And for a pretence make long prayers. According to the later rabbinical teaching it is urged that a rabbi should pray one hour, and that he should meditate for an hour before and an hour after prayer. On days when they carried out this rule and the other rule which required three seasons of prayer a day, they would spend nine hours in prayer. But this was no doubt one of the cases where they said and did not. (Matthew 23:3).

  3. These shall receive greater condemnation. For thus making their religion a cloak for their vices they would be more severely punished.

12:41  And he sat down over against the treasury1, and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury2: and many that were rich cast in much.

    OBSERVING THE OFFERINGS AND WIDOW'S MITES. (In the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, A.D. 30.) Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4

  1. And he sat down over against the treasury. It is said that in the court of the women there were cloisters or porticoes, and under the shelter of these were placed thirteen chests with trumpet-shaped mouths into which offerings might be dropped. The money cast in was for the benefit of the Temple. An inscription on each chest showed to which one of the thirteen special items of cost or expenditure the contents would be devoted; as, for the purchase of wood, or gold, or frankincense, etc.

  2. And beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury. We should remember this calm inspection of our Lord when we are about to make an offering to his work. He is by no means indifferent as to our actions.

12:42  And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing1.

  1. And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. The "lepton" or mite was worth one-fifth of a cent. It was a Greek coin, and the "kodrantes" or farthing was a Roman coin. It is suggested that she might have retained one of the coins, since she had two.

12:43  And he called unto him his disciples1, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury2:

  1. And he called unto him his disciples. He had found an object lesson which he wished them to see.

  2. This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury. We are disposed to measure the value of actions quantitatively rather than qualitatively. Moreover, we are better judges of actions than of motives, and can see the outward conduct much clearer than the inward character. God, therefore, in his word, constantly teaches us that he looks rather upon the inward than the outward.

12:44  for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, [even] all her living1.

  1. But she of her want did cast in all that she had, [even] all her living. In this case, the value of the woman's gift was measured, not by quantity, but its quality: in quantity it was two mites; in quality it was the gift of all she had. From considering the corrupt character of the Pharisees, Jesus must have turned with pleasure to look upon the beautiful heart of this devout widow.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Mark 12". "The Fourfold Gospel". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/tfg/view.cgi?book=mr&chapter=012>. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.