Read: Mark 11:27-12:44
- The Troublemaker (Mark 11:27-12:27)
- Priests and TeachersAs Jesus moves ever closer to the cross, he seems more and more willing to openly challenge the Jewish authorities. He returns to the temple, the scene of his recent “cleansing”/furniture rearrangement. Naturally, the priests and teachers ask him who gave him the authority to act as he has. Jesus responds with his own question, which leaves them speechless and humiliated. Jesus then tells a parable which also seems designed to stoke the fires of controversy (see 12:12).According to Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” How would we classify Jesus’ responses in this situation? Are there times when we should stir up wrath, as Jesus seems intent on doing? Should Christians ever attempt to “debate” and score points against opponents? If so, when? Which is the greater need: gentle answers or pointed rebukes?
- PhariseesThe religious leaders keep coming back for more humiliation. Now, the Pharisees seek to place Jesus into a situation where he will either offend the crowds (who did not like to pay taxes to Rome) and the Romans themselves (who liked to collect taxes). Once again, Jesus cleverly avoids their trap. Do his words in 12:17 compel all Christians to pay whatever taxes are required by the government? If our tax dollars are being used for what we feel are immoral purposes, should we pay anyway?
- SadduceesFinally, the Sadducees pose a question about marriage at the resurrection. Jesus’ response drips with sarcasm. To appreciate it, we must realize that the Sadducees did not believe in angels or in the resurrection! (Read 12:25 with this in mind.) Was Jesus ever purposefully funny? Marriage and procreation were a part of God’s original plan for humans (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:20-24). Why, then, does Jesus say, “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven”? What about the angels? Are they autonomous and asexual? Might they have friendships, much like humans do?
- The Greatest Commandment (Mark 12:28-35) After a series of rather questions and answers, we come to a point of agreement. Jesus and one of the teacher of the law both affirm the centrality of the two-fold command to love God and to love others. According to Jesus, “There is not commandment greater than these.” If this is the most important command, how do you measure up? What should be the identifying mark of God’s true church? There are various aspects of Mother Teresa’s theology which we may not agree with. However, based on Jesus’ words, could we call her a commandment keeper? Which is easier–to obey the ten commandments or to love?
- Sacrifice (Mark 12:41-44) Chapter 12 concludes with Jesus drawing a contrast between large temple offerings, given by the wealthy, and a tiny yet sacrificial offering given by a poor widow. The widow, Jesus said, contributed more than all the others, for she “put in everything–all she had to live on” (12:44). Does Jesus really want us to donate everything we have to live on? Based on heaven’s accounting standards, how much have you contributed lately? Have you ever made a substantial contribution?Research indicates that in the United States, those making less than $15,000 per year give approximately 10% of their income to charity. Those making between $100,000 and $200,000 per year donate less than 3% to charity (Bingham, Carr, and Hart, “CWD on the US Market”). How can we explain this? Are rich people simply less loving than poor people? What are some ways to avoid the trap of getting more and giving less?