Chapter 12

Jesus tells the parable of the tennants and talks about the "greatest commandment." As we sit near the treasury in the temple, Jesus comments on the offering a poor widow gives.

When Jesus addressed the religious authorities he always spoke in parables. This time he said, “Once there was a man who planted a vineyard. He fenced it in, dug a trough to catch the wine, and built a look-out tower. After leasing it out to some tenant farmers, he left on a long journey. When harvest season came, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the produce. But the tenants grabbed his servant, beat him severely and sent him back empty-handed. So the owner sent a second servant to collect his share. This one was treated disgracefully, beaten over the head. The next servant to go was killed by the tenants. Others were treated the same way, they were thrashed, sometimes so severely they died. Finally there was only one person left to be sent, the man’s own dear son. ‘Certainly they will respect my son,’ he thought. So, with reluctance, he sent his own son. When the tenant farmers saw this one approaching they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to the estate. Come on, let’s kill him! Then everything will be ours.’ So they grabbed him and murdered him; then they threw his body out of the vineyard.

“Now what do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do about that?” asked Jesus. “No question but that he’ll come and kill that bunch. Then he’ll lease out the vineyard to some other farmer. You’ve read the scripture, haven‘t you, that says, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the very cornerstone! We are amazed to see what God has done.’”

The religious authorities would liked to have arrested Jesus, but they were afraid of the crowd so they turned away and left. They were fully aware that the story Jesus told was directed at them. (1-12)

Some Pharisees along with some cronies of Herod were sent to trap Jesus into saying something for which they could arrest him. They said, “Teacher, we know that you’re a man of integrity. You’re not swayed by the opinion of others nor do you show partiality. You truly teach the way of God. So tell us, ‘Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar, or is it not? Should we pay them or shouldn’t we?’”

Jesus could see through their hypocrisy, so he asked, “Why are you trying to trip me up? Give me a Roman coin so I can examine it.” They handed him a denarius and he asked, “Whose image and name are stamped on this coin?

“Caesar’s” they answered.

“Well then,” said Jesus, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” The answer left them speechless. (13-17)

Some Sadducees (a religious group that claimed no one could rise from the dead) came to Jesus with this question. “Teacher, Moses wrote that if a man dies leaving his wife childless, his brother should marry the widow and have children for his deceased brother. Now suppose there was a family of seven brothers. The oldest took a wife and died without children. So the second brother married the widow and he also died leaving no children. The same thing with the third brother. In fact all seven brothers married and died without children. Finally, the woman herself died. Now the question is, ‘Whose wife will she be when all seven brothers come back to life? All seven had married her.’”

Jesus replied, “You are mistaken about life after death because you don’t understand the teaching of scripture nor have you experienced the power of God. When men and women rise from the dead there is no reason for them to marry; in that way they are like the angels in heaven. Now concerning the dead being raised, have you not read in the writings of Moses how God spoke to Moses at the burning bush and said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is the God of the living, not the dead. You are badly mistaken on the question of life after death.” (18-27)

Among those listening to the discussion was a teacher of religious law. He was impressed by how well Jesus had answered the Sadducees, so he stepped forward and asked, “Which of the commandments is the most important?”

Jesus answered, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only God, and you are to love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ A second important commandment is this, ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment more important than these.”

“That’s right, Teacher!” exclaimed the expert in religious law. “You have spoken the truth. He is the one God, there is no other. To love him with all your heart, understanding, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more important than to fulfill all the ceremonies of religion.”

When Jesus saw how thoughtfully the man had responded, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one had the nerve to question Jesus. (28-34)

Jesus remained in the temple, teaching. He asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law hold that the Messiah will be a descendant of King David? It was David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who said, ‘The Lord said to my lord, ‘Take a seat at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’ Since David himself calls the Messiah, ‘my Lord,’ how could the Messiah be his descendant?” The crowd was delighted when they heard all that Jesus taught. (35-37)

Jesus also said, “Watch out for those teachers of religious law who enjoy being seen in long flowing robes and greeted with respect in the marketplace. They love being seated in the seats of honor in the synagogues and at the head table at every banquet. Yet they are the ones who cheat widows out of all they have and like to make long prayers in public. These men will be punished more severely.

Jesus sat down near the Temple treasury and watched as people dropped coins into the collection box. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two little copper coins, worth less than a penny. Jesus called this to our attention saying, “I assure you that this poor widow has put more into the collection box than all the others. That’s because they gave only a small part of their wealth, but she gave everything she had, all she had to live on.” (38-44)