Setting

Jesus was stirring up much attention from the rulers. One after another, every faction that opposed Jesus came to attack Him with difficult questions. In response, Jesus amazed them all with His wise answers.

Key Verse

(12:10-11)

Did You Know...?

1. Elders (11:27): Non-clergy members of the Sanhedrin (Jewish high court). [ref]

2. Vineyard (12:1): A vineyard’s preparation was the most costly and troublesome of all the agricultural operations in Palestine. [ref]

3. Wine vat/winepress (12:1): The Greek word refers to a winepress’s receiving vat, which was used to hold the rapidly fermenting juice. After about a week, the wine was transferred to wineskins for storage (cf. Lesson 5, Did You Know 4). [ref]

4. Tower (12:1): Used for shelter, storage, and security. [ref]

5. Wealthy landowners leased their large estates to vinedressers (tenant farmers). The tenants were allowed to cultivate the land and to care for the vineyards. In return, at harvest time, they paid a portion of the crop as rent. [ref]

6. According to Jewish law, a piece of property unclaimed by an heir was declared ownerless and could be claimed by anyone. [ref]

7. Chief cornerstone/capstone (12:10): The most important stone of a building. [ref] It held together the corner of two adjoining walls, which might otherwise fall apart. [ref]

8. Herodians (12:13): See Lesson 5, Did You Know 8 and Lesson 10, Did You Know 8-10 for a description of the Herodians and the behaviors they condoned.

9. Caesar (12:14): A title of Roman emperors, analogous to Pharaoh in Egypt. [ref]

10. Taxes (12:14): Jews in Judea were required to pay tribute money to the emperor. The tax was highly unpopular; some refused to pay it. [ref] The Pharisees (cf. Lesson 4, Did You Know 5) privately objected to the tax for religious reasons, while the Herodians favored the tax for political reasons. [ref]

11. Denarius (12:15): A Roman silver coin worth a laborer’s daily wage. [ref] It was used for paying tax to Caesar. [ref] The coin probably had an image of Tiberius Caesar. Its inscription described the emperor as divine, which to the Jews was a repulsive claim. [ref] , [ref]

12. Sadducees (12:18): A Jewish political party composed of mostly priests and the upper class. Though smaller and less popular than the Pharisees, they occupied influential positions on the Sanhedrin and generally cooperated with the Roman authorities. Because they accepted the authority of only the five books of Moses, they rejected the Pharisees’ oral traditions (cf. Lesson 4, Did You Know 5) as well as the doctrines of the resurrection, future judgment, and angels and spirits. [ref]

Outline

  • The Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders
    (11:27-33)
  • Questioning Jesus’ authority
    (11:27-28)
  • Jesus asks about John’s baptism
    (11:29-30)
  • The rulers avoid answering Jesus’ question
    (11:31-33)
  • Parable of the Tenants
    (12:1-12)
  • The Pharisees and Herodians
    (12:13-17)
  • Questioning Jesus on paying taxes to Caesar
    (12:13-14)
  • “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”
    (12:15-17)
  • The Sadducees
    (12:18-27)
  • Questioning Jesus on resurrection
    (12:18-23)
  • Jesus points out the error in their question
    (12:24-27)

General Analysis

  • 1a.

    List the parties who came to question Jesus.

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    chief priests, scribes, elders (27), Pharisees, Herodians (13), Sadducees (18)

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  • 1b.

    Considering the conflicting beliefs among these parties, what does their alliance tell you about the enemies of the gospel?

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    The alliance was a marriage of convenience. They were united against Jesus in spite of their own quarrels (Pharisees vs. Sadducees [cf. Acts 23:6-8], scribes vs. Herodians [strict observance of the Mosaic law vs. condoning loose morals]). The conspiracy had started long before Jesus entered Jerusalem; the Pharisees had been planning with the Herodians to kill Jesus (cf. Mk 3:6). Jesus was their greatest threat, and, as the saying goes, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Instead of obeying God’s teachings, they would rather get rid of Jesus and fight to keep power for themselves.

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  • 1c.

    Contrast the alliance of the chief priests, scribes, etc. to the unity of the twelve disciples. What does this tell you about standing up for the gospel?

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    The chief priests, scribes, etc. temporarily set aside their differences to oppose the gospel. They were a powerful force because they controlled many classes and groups in society (conservative and liberal, rich and poor, Jewish patriots and Roman sympathizers, etc.) They were like the strong man Jesus spoke of (Mk 3:27). On the other hand, the twelve disciples were still fighting among themselves (Mk 9:34; 10:37). They seemed incapable of overcoming the opposition. However, “with God all things are possible” (Mk 10:27); after the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they were more than capable of standing up against persecution from the same people (Acts 4:8, 13, 18-20; 5:27-29).

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Segment Analysis

  • 11:27-33

    1.

    How was the question on Jesus’ authority a trap?

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    Before, the scribes openly accused Jesus of being demon-possessed (Mk 3:22). Now, because of Jesus’ popularity, they couched their accusation indirectly in the form of a question. The question was intended to force Jesus to incriminate Himself. If Jesus answered, “From heaven,” they would accuse Him of blasphemy (cf. Mk 2:7). If He answered, “From men,” they would accuse Him of insurrection against the Roman government,

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  • 2.

    Why did Jesus ask about John’s baptism? What does His response (11:33) tell you about His wisdom?

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    Jesus knew that the elders, scribes, etc. dared not say anything bad about John the Baptist (11:32). In response to their trap, He used John’s authority from heaven to catch them at their words. Asking about John’s baptism served two purposes. First, as the ensuing discussion shows (11:31-32), the answer to Jesus’ question is also the answer to their question. Second, John’s baptism (cf. Mk 1:4) was a reminder that they should repent.

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  • 3.

    What does the discussion among the chief priests, scribes, and elders (11:31-32) tell you about their values? What does their answer tell you about their wisdom, or lack thereof?

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    They were interested only in preserving their power. They refused to answer Jesus’ question because the truth would hurt their standing among the people. In the eyes of the world, their answer might seem wise (refusing to acknowledge Jesus’ question). However, while Jesus’ words had spiritual wisdom, their answer actually meant nothing.

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  • 4.

    Why did Jesus refuse to answer their question?

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    Jesus actually had already answered their question (cf. Question 2). They knew the answer, but refused to accept it. They were blinded by their own self-righteousness. They questioned Jesus not because they wanted to know the truth, but because they wanted an excuse to accuse Him. Jesus rebuked them for their hypocrisy in the parable of the tenants. They understood His meaning, but did not repent (cf. 12:12).

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  • 5.

    When someone questions the church’s authority and doctrines, how should you answer?

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    People might be offended by the doctrine of the one true church or claim that praying in tongues is not the work of the Holy Spirit. We must learn from Jesus, who did not directly confront His accusers, but referred to the word of God.

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  • 12:1-12

    6.

    List the landowner’s actions. What do they tell you about the vineyard’s importance?

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    planted a vineyard, put up a hedge/wall, dug a wine vat, built a tower, rented the vineyard, went away

    The landowner’s actions show how much he valued the vineyard (cf. Isa 5:1-2). The wall and watchtower protected his property. He would use the pit for the winepress to hold the fruit of the vineyard. He entrusted other farmers to work in his vineyard so that these tenant farmers could also reap the benefits of his riches. At the same time, he kept possession of the vineyard because he was the one who had put all that effort into it (cf. Did You Know 2).

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  • 7.

    List the tenants’ actions. What do they tell you about the tenants’ intentions?

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    Took/seized, beat, sent away, wounded in the head, threw stones, treated shamefully, killed

    The tenants never intended to pay. All along, they had wanted to take the vineyard for themselves. When the landowner continued to send his servants to collect, the tenants became increasingly vicious, to the point of murder.

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  • 8.

    Why did the tenants kill the son? (cf. Did You Know 6).

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    The tenants’ greed for the vineyard dictated their actions. At this point in the story, they had killed many servants (12:5). Perhaps they had grown so bold that killing a man meant nothing to them anymore. Perhaps they felt they had nothing to lose. To them, the landowner’s son was just another obstacle to be gotten rid of so they could gain the inheritance (12:7). They did not recognize that the landowner had the final say on who receives his vineyard.

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  • 9.

    What does each of the following represent? a. Vineyard (Isa 3:14; 27:2); b. Landowner (Mt 20:1; 25:14); c. Tenants (Mk 10:12); d. Servants sent to collect (Acts 7:51-52); e. Landowner’s son (Acts 7:52); f. Others who are given the vineyard (Acts 13:46; Rom 11:11)

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    a. Vineyard—Israel, God’s people, the church

    b. Landowner—God

    c. Tenants—unfaithful and treacherous workers; the chief priests, scribes, and elders;

    d. Servants sent to collect—prophets. Many workers bravely spoke for God, even though many before them had been killed doing the same. John the Baptist is an example (Mk 6:27).

    e. Landowner’s son—Jesus

    f. Others who are given the vineyard—the Gentiles; those who are faithful to God

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  • 10.

    Read 12:10-11. How is Jesus like the stone? How has the Lord done this? How is it marvelous in our eyes? (cf. Zech 10:4; Acts 4:11-12; 1Pet 2:4-8).

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    Jesus was rejected by the chief priest, etc. (the builders) as useless. Their unbelief would cause them to fall and be crushed (Lk 20:18). Jesus is the capstone of the church because salvation is found in no one else. The Lord promised salvation. At the appointed time, He came to earth to save us. The more we understand God’s plan, the more wonderful He is to us (Rom 11:33-36).

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  • 12:13-17

    11a.

    Why did the Pharisees and Herodians praise Jesus?

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    It was part of their hypocrisy, which Jesus saw through (12:15)

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  • 11b.

    What is the biblical attitude toward praises?

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    What is the most important is for us to praise God (Mt 5:16) and for God to praise us. We must not make the mistake of loving praise from men more than praise from God (Jn 12:43; 1Thess 2:6).

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  • 12.

    How was the question on paying taxes to Caesar a trap? (cf. Did You Know 9).

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    The question was designed to trap Jesus in a religious and political dilemma. If He answered, “Yes,” the Pharisees would claim that Jesus was a Roman collaborator and turn the people against Him. If He answered, “No,” the Herodians would use that as an excuse to ask the Romans to arrest Him.

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  • 13.

    What does Jesus’ reply (12:17) tell you about His wisdom?

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    Jesus transcended the issue of paying taxes. He teaches that we must fulfill both our earthly and spiritual responsibilities. It is not a matter of choosing one over the other. We must not use our religion as an excuse to avoid our responsibilities to society (cf. Mk 7:11-12). More importantly, we must honor God above all because He has given us everything. We must put our faith into practice, so that we can glorify God in a sinful world (Php 2:15).

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  • 14.

    What is the biblical teaching on paying taxes?

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    It is our duty to submit to our government “for the Lord’s sake” (1Pet 2:13-14). We must obey the laws of the country we live in, as long as we do not disobey God’s commandments. This includes paying taxes according to the law (Rom 13:5-7). More important, though, is our debt to God, and “the continuing debt to love one another” (Rom 13:8 NIV).

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  • 12:18-27

    15.

    How was the question on resurrection a trap?

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    The Sadducees asked about a very specific scenario. They wanted to limit the scope of the debate on their own terms. But Jesus would not play their game. Instead of addressing their question, Jesus revealed their error.

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  • 16.

    How were the Sadducees “greatly mistaken” (12:24, 27)?

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    Because their goal was to catch Jesus in His words, they lost sight of the big picture. Their scenario was so contrived and unrealistic that it was meaningless. Therefore, Jesus rebuked them for not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God (12:24). They had failed to understand from the Scriptures that there would indeed be a resurrection of the dead, and they had failed to trust that God had the power to establish a new order of existence in the resurrected life beyond what we can imagine with our limited understanding.

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  • 17.

    How is Exodus 3:6 (quoted in 12:26) a proof of resurrection?

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    God is “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God is also the God of the living. These two facts imply that although Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died, they will be raised to life in the future, and they were in fact alive in God’s eyes (cf. Lk 20:38).

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  • 18.

    What does Jesus’ reply (12:24) tell you about His wisdom?

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    Because the Sadducees gave Jesus a logical puzzle, Jesus gave them a logical response. Jesus reasoned from the Bible (which they claimed to believe) to disprove their conclusion. They could not deny that God Himself said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (12:26). They also could not deny that God is the God of the living. These two beliefs imply that there will be resurrection.

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  • 19.

    List examples of puzzles intended to disprove our faith. What is the biblical view to these?

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    “Can God create a rock so big that He can’t lift?” “Can God do evil?” “How can a person be resurrected if his body is cremated and the ashes are scattered?”

    These questions reveal the hearts of the people who ask them. Like the Sadducees, they want to discredit God with logical difficulties. This was the same reasoning of the people who mocked Jesus on the cross (cf. Mk 15:30-32). It made more sense to them for Jesus to come down from the cross. They did not understand that Jesus had to die on the cross to redeem the sins of mankind. When a person chooses to reject Jesus in spite of the overwhelming evidence of His divine authority, he or she is “greatly mistaken” (12:27).

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  • 20.

    When someone presents a puzzle to question your faith, how should you answer?

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    It is a losing battle trying to solve these puzzles. Jesus did not directly answer the Sadducees’ question. Instead, He used the Bible to reveal a fallacy in their reasoning. If a person only wants to cast doubts on your faith, you don’t have to spend too much time with a puzzle. If a person is earnestly seeking the truth, we can refer to biblical verses to show that God is beyond our understanding (Job 36:26; Rom 11:33). God would not be truly God if He can be completely figured out.

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