Chapter 12 contains some of the most important verses in the Bible. Now that I have your attention let’s go through this chapter and point out those areas that you absolutely must know because they are pivotal verses in Scripture. Jesus begins with a fairly vanilla parable that has the purpose of speaking against the religious leaders as those who are the evil tenants who have been given responsibility over the vineyard, or the people of God. God has periodically sent prophets to warn them and instruct them but the religious leaders of the people have historically not paid attention to them. Worse yet, Jesus says, they have even abused them and some they have killed. But when the owner of the vineyard sends his Son, who would be Jesus, they scheme to kill him thinking that then they would be masters of their domain and be able to call the shots on how the religion of the day would be run. We read in vs.12 that the religious leaders of that day fully “realized that he had told this parable against them.”
We then have the uber famous verse where Jesus makes the statement “render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” His response, and I love this detail, was so insightful and so defused the situation that those who were sent to trap him “were utterly amazed at him.” He goes on. It is almost like there are a line of people taking their turns to take their shots at Jesus, and after each attempt more and more people gather to watch the spectacle. So after the parable and after the tax statement (keep in mind that this verse absolutely does have Jesus support the paying of taxes. Don’t let anyone tell you differently that Christians shouldn’t have to pay taxes. Believe it or not that is a pretty popular statement in some Christian circles. It shouldn’t be because it isn’t Scriptural), Jesus is asked about heaven and what is that going to be like. If there were a widow who went through 7 brothers whose wife would she be? Jesus’ response is also insightful here. He tells us that we will not be given in marriage in heaven, but rather that we will all be “like angels in heaven.”
Starting at vs. 28 we find what I think is the most important statement that Jesus makes in Scripture. To the question: “which is the most important commandment of all”, Jesus replies with two commandments. I know we already saw this in Matthew 22 but I want to repeat it. This answer that Jesus gives comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and the second one, love your neighbor, comes from Leviticus 19:8. We can never forget that the answers that Jesus gives more often than not are answers that are found in other places of Scripture. He could make up answers on his own and be original with them, but he chooses instead to use Scripture to give his answers.
Last, but not least, you find Jesus using a widow who gives two small coins and points her out for her faith. Notice that in this Scripture he does not compare her to the religious leader who is brushed with the stroke of a hypocrite. While he is not averse to doing that in Mark, he instead focuses on her as opposed to those others who were giving. He states: “she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” What do we really need to live on? What do we really feel like is necessary in order to survive. And how much are we willing to give in order to ensure that those who are not able to make it day by day have enough to survive on? When we contribute out of our poverty it is an act of faith. When we contribute out of our abundance we feel as if someone should be grateful, instead of us.
What a great image. I’ve always seen the widow as an elderly woman in the end of her life. But the painting below gives a different perspective. I had never thought of it this way, but why not. Widows are not by definition old, but rather normally they are extremely needy according to Scripture. What a wonderfully different perspective.