Setting

After Jesus had wisely defended Himself, He turned the offensive against His attackers. He used the word of God to reveal their hypocrisy.

Key Verse

(12:33)

Did You Know...?

1. Jewish rabbis had counted 613 individual statutes in the law and attempted to differentiate between “great” and “little” commands. [ref]

2. Burnt offerings (12:33): Performed by the priests for the atonement of sins (Lev 16:24). The procedure is described in Ex 29:1,15-18.

3. “Long robes” (12:38): The scribes wore long, white linen robes that were fringed and almost reached to the ground. [ref]

4. “Best seats” (12:39): Seats reserved for dignitaries, in front of the chest containing the sacred scrolls, facing the congregation in the synagogue. [ref]

5. The scribes asked for donations for their livelihood because they were not paid a regular salary. Such a system was open to abuses, of which widows were especially vulnerable. [ref]

6. Treasury (12:41): In the temple, there were 13 horn-shaped receptacles for receiving freewill offerings. [ref]

7. Widow (12:42): In biblical times, widows (along with orphans) were the most helpless members of society. Because they did not  have the means to sustain their lives, God commanded the people to take special care of them (cf. Ex 22:22-24; Deut 24:19-21; Acts 20:35).

8. Mites/copper coins (12:42): “Two lepta” in the original Greek. One lepton (singular), which was 1/128 of a denarius (cf. Lesson 19, Did You Know 10), was the smallest currency value. For his Roman readers, Mark stated the value in terms of Roman coinage (kodrantes/quadrans) [ref] , which has been translated into different English words (“farthing,” “cent,” “fraction of a penny,” etc).

Outline

  • A Wise Scribe
    (12:28-34)
  • A scribe asks Jesus about the most important commandment
    (12:28)
  • The two greatest commandments
    (12:29-31)
  • The scribe understands Jesus’ answer
    (12:29-31)
  • Jesus praises the scribe
    (12:29-31)
  • Jesus Rebukes the Scribes
    (12:35-40)
  • Jesus questions the scribes on the lordship of Christ
    (12:35-37)
  • The hypocrisy of the scribes
    (12:38-40)
  • Jesus rebukes the rich men
    (12:41-44)
  • Jesus watches the crowd at the temple treasury
    (12:41)
  • The poor widow offers more than all the others
    (12:42-44)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    Why was Jesus so harsh on the scribes, the elders, the chief priests, the Pharisees, etc.?

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    Judgment begins with the family of God (1Pet 4:17). The scribes, elders, chief priests, and Pharisees were respected leaders of God’s chosen people. Jesus rebuked them more harshly because they attacked the gospel so ferociously. “With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Mk 4:24). They were educated in God’s law and were proud of their righteousness (Mt 23:29-32). In reality, they practiced ritual cleanliness while rejecting love and spiritual purity (Mt 23:4, 23-28). Jesus had to denounce them in public. Otherwise, their false teachings would prevent others from entering the kingdom of God (Mt 23:13, 15).

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  • 2.

    When you hear or read a biblical teaching that seems harsh, how should you react?

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    We must listen, think it over, and let the word of God take root in our heart (Jas 1:18-21). If we insist on our own righteousness, we’d be easily offended, and Christ becomes our stumbling block (Rom 9:32-33).

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Segment Analysis

  • 12:28-34

    1.

    How was this scribe different from the others who challenged Jesus with questions?

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    Matthew tells us that this scribe also started out with the intention to test Jesus (Mt 23:35). But from his response as well as Jesus’ comment about him, we know that he actually listened to what Jesus had to say. He did not join with those who wanted to trap and destroy Jesus. He tested Jesus more on the basis of being very much impressed by Jesus’ answers (Mk 12:28; although this attitude was not completely right either). But over the course of Jesus’ response, this scribe opened up his heart and humbly acknowledged that Jesus was right. His words also show that he had been carefully reflecting on God’s commandments.

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  • 2.

    How does the fact that the Lord is one (29) relate to loving the Lord (30)?

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    There is only one God, so there is no need to share your love with any other. Deut 6:3-5 (which Jesus quoted) tells us that we are blessed if we listen and obey completely. Therefore, the church, the one body of Christ, must have the “same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (Php 2:2).

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  • 3.

    Give an example of loving the Lord … a. with all your heart; b. with all your understanding/mind; c. with all your soul; d. with all your strength

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    a. With all your heart—like the love between a husband and his wife (Song 6:2-3; Ps 84:2; Eph 5:24-25, 32); trust in the Lord (Prov 3:5); keep God’s commands (Prov 4:4); seek God (Jer 29:13); repent (Joel 2:12); be a faithful servant (Jer 3:15; Col 3:23)

    b. With all your understanding/mind increase our spiritual knowledge (1Cor 1:5; 2Cor 8:7; Php 1:9); wisdom refreshes our heart and soul to love God (Prov 2:10); spread the message of Jesus Christ (1Cor 2:14); teach the truth (2Tim 2:25); grow and be united in true knowledge (Eph 4:13); bear fruit according to our knowledge (Col 1:9-10)

    c. With all your soul—pour out our innermost thoughts to God (Ps 42:4; 1Sam 1:15); lift up our desires and praises to God (Ps 25:1); boast in the Lord and glorify Him (Ps 34:2-3; Lk 1:46-47); rejoice in the Lord and His salvation (Ps 35:9; 62:5); desire and thirst for God (Ps 42:1-2)

    d. With all your strength—give to the Lord everything within our means (like the widow [42-44]); ask for power from God to serve Him (1Pet 4:11); follow the examples of Jesus Christ, the prophets, and the apostles, who served until the last moment of their lives

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  • 4.

    Who is your neighbor? Give an example of loving your neighbor as yourself.

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    In Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan (Lk 10:29-37), He actually answers the question, “To whom am I a neighbor?” It is more important to examine yourself to see whom you can serve instead of trying to figure out if a person fits the criteria of being your neighbor.

    Jesus said, “…just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Lk 6:31). Some examples of loving your neighbor as yourself: show mercy like the good Samaritan; do not bear a grudge or take revenge (Lev 19:18); welcome strangers, including people new to the church (Lev 19:34); do not show favoritism (Jas 2:8-9)

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  • 5a.

    What was the purpose of burnt offerings and sacrifices? Today, how do we live out the spirit of burnt offerings?

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    In the Old Testament, the priests made burnt offerings and sacrifices for the atonement of sins (cf. Did You Know 2). In the New Testament, Jesus is the High Priest (Heb 4:14) who sacrificed Himself to atone for our sins. In response to His sacrifice, we must offer what we have to the Lord. The most important is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1). When we serve God, we must be prepared to be refined by the fire of trials (Heb 13:11-13; 1Pet 1:7). We must spread the fragrance of Christ (2Cor 2:15), an aroma pleasing to the Lord (Lev 1:9). Another offering is our financial support to the church, which is compared to a fragrant offering (Php 4:18).

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  • 5b.

    How are the commandments of loving God and your neighbor more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices?

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    God desires mercy, not sacrifice on the altar (Hos 6:6). We can offer a better sacrifice only if we love God and our neighbors. “Love will cover a multitude of sins” (1Pet 4:8). “He who loves God must love his brother also” (1Jn 4:21).

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  • 6.

    What does it mean to be “not far from the kingdom of God” (34)?

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    The wise scribe listened, understood, and believed the words of Christ. Thus, he was near the kingdom of God. However, he was not yet in the kingdom of God because this was only the beginning of his walk with Christ. He had to practice what he learned, to continue to follow Christ, and to work out his salvation with the help of the Holy Spirit (Php 2:12-13).

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  • 7.

    Jesus quoted two commandments from the Old Testament (Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18) as the most important. Give examples of other Old Testament teachings that are still applicable today.

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    The Ten Commandments (Ex 20:3-17); act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God (Mic 6:8); offer tithes (Mal 3:8, 10).

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  • 8.

    Why did no one dare to ask Jesus any more questions (34)?

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    The more they asked, the more Jesus appeared wise and authoritative. Even one of their own (a scribe) confessed that Jesus spoke the word of God. Because they could not defeat Jesus with questions, they plotted against Him in secret (Jn 11:53,57; Mk 14:1-2), to get Jesus through someone close to Him (Mk 14:10-11).

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  • 12:35-40

    9.

    Was Jesus disagreeing with the scribes’ teaching that the Christ was the Son of David? What was He trying to show?

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    In flesh, Jesus was the son of David. In spirit, He is the Son of God (Rom 1:3-4). The prophecy about Jesus’ authority and resurrection (Acts 2:31-35) shows that Jesus is greater than David. The scribes had a limited understanding of the Christ. They did not know that the Christ was the Son of God. So Jesus confounded them by pointing out that Christ was actually greater than David (spiritually) even though He was also David’s descendant (genealogically).

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  • 10a.

    How have the scribes disobeyed the most important commandments (cf. 12:29-31)?

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    They taught the letter of the law, while neglecting “the weightier matters of the law” (Mt 23:23). They honored the law more than they honored God. Therefore, they hardened their hearts against Jesus. Also, they emphasized physical observance of the law above helping the poor. They loved neither God nor men, only themselves.

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  • 10b.

    How do we avoid becoming like the scribes?

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  • 10c.

    In church, how should we associate with those who act like the scribes?

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    When we see those who do not practice what they preach, we should neither completely reject what they teach because of their bad behavior nor imitate everything they do just because they are well-versed in the Bible. We need to have a discerning heart. Our Lord Jesus teaches us that in such a situation, we should do what they teach if it is according to God’s word, but not do according to their works (Mt 23:3).

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  • 12:41-44

    11a.

    Why did Jesus watch the crowd putting money into the temple treasury?

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    Like when He examined the fig tree that was full of leaves, Jesus wanted to examine the people in the temple. As with the fig tree with nothing but leaves, He used a real-life observation to teach the disciples a lesson—this time on offering (43).

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  • 11b.

    Give an example of a real-life observation that taught you something about your faith

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  • 11c.

    Today, Jesus also watches everything we do. How does this knowledge affect your actions?

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  • 12.

    How did the widow obey the greatest commandments (cf. 12:29- 31)?

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    Unlike the rich men who gave out of their wealth (the leftovers), the widow gave all she had to live on. Even though she was entitled to charity (cf. Did You Know 7), she chose to give rather than to receive. She loved God with all her heart and all her strength. Like Mary, who anointed Jesus, “she has done what she could” (Mk 14:8). That was why Jesus considered her offering to be more than all the others.

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  • 13.

    What is the biblical attitude we should have toward the rich and the poor?

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    Do not show favoritism, neither to the rich (Jas 2:3-4) nor to the poor (Ex 23:3). We must treat each person fairly, because God judges each person fairly (Lev 19:15); He looks at the heart (1Sam 16:7).

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  • 14a.

    What is the smallest amount you’ve ever offered? The largest? How were those amounts appropriate to your situation?

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  • 14b.

    What does your offering say about your faith?

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  • 15.

    When you do not feel like praying or reading the Bible, how much effort do you put in to try? How does it compare to the widow’s offering?

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    When our faith is strong, it might be easy to pray for an hour or to read five chapters of the Bible everyday. It is not so easy when we are spiritually weak. When we do not feel like it, it is even more important to try (even forcing ourselves; stick to a schedule if you have to) to draw close to God. Jesus teaches us that offering pennies in poverty is more than offering a lot in wealth. Likewise, when we feel down and far from God, even a few minutes of prayer or Bible reading becomes more valuable.

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