Mark Lesson 8: Jesus vs. Jewish Leaders

Mark 11:1-11 Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Jesus sent two disciples into Jerusalem to bring Him a colt. As he rode it into the city, thousands of people lined the route, spreading their clothes and leafy branches in His path to honor Him. While the enthusiastic crowd cheered, Jesus remained calm. Why had He chosen to enter the capital on a donkey, not on a great white steed (see Zechariah 9:9-10)? His life reflected one of His favorite sermons:  greatness in the kingdom comes to the one who humbles himself.

Mark 11:12-26 Jesus Curses Fig Tree, Expels Commerce from the Temple

Jesus was hungry and saw a fig tree in leaf. As He approached, He observed that it had no fruit. He cursed it and by the next day, it was withered up. Jesus’ action taught the amazed disciples some lessons. First, people who bear no fruit will be cursed by God. This principle applied to the Jewish nation as a whole, because it was bearing no fruit for the Lord. Second, Jesus noted that God has the power to wither fig trees and move mountains; in short, to respond to prayer.  What we must do is to trust Him and turn to Him with our needs.

When Jesus entered the temple, he saw a stockyard and money-changers’ booths. Some people were selling the special coin used to pay the temple tax, while others sold animals for sacrifices. Jesus began to cast out these merchants, overturning the money-changers’ tables and the vendors’ chairs. He said that the temple was supposed to be a place of prayer but had been turned into a robbers’ den.

Would Jesus cleanse the temple again?  Why did Jesus vehemently oppose these activities?  It was not because He was against selling animals or changing money; rather, He opposed the perversion of the temple’s function. God had given the temple for spiritual purposes, and it was wrong to make it a bazaar. We must never use what God has given us for purposes He has not authorized. God gave us a pattern for the local church. its function is to worship, teach the gospel and help needy Christians. But many churches have begun to do other things; they sponsor recreation, entertainment, secular education, etc. If Jesus returned, would He not come to churches and begin to cast out all of the unauthorized practices that have crept into them?

Mark 11:27-33 Question About Jesus’ Authority

Jesus’ bold actions in the temple stirred opposition  The Jewish leaders thought that the temple belonged to them, so they questioned Jesus’ right to come into it and make such drastic revisions. Jesus replied to their challenge with a question. He asked whether John’s baptism came from God or men.  They consulted among themselves and decided that it would be politically unwise to answer.  Their refusal demonstrated that they were not sincerely seeking truth. Therefore, Jesus refused to answer their question.

Jesus’ question is a model. Jesus asked the Jewish leaders an outstanding question:  Did John’s baptism come from God or man? This is the question that we should ask about every religious practice. Anything that originates in man should be rejected; all that God commands should be carefully observed.  There is an easy way for us to determine whether a given teaching or activity comes from God or man. Everything that comes from God is in the Bible. If a particular doctrine or practice is not in the Bible, it is not from God. we should verify everything we do by this simple test. Does it come from God or from man?

Mark 12:1-12 Parable of the Vineyard

Jesus told about a man who planted a vineyard, equipped it with first-class installations and then rented it out. His rent was to be a share of the crop. When the harvest time arrived, he sent servants to collect, the the renters beat, mistreated and even killed them. Finally, the owner of the vineyard sent his son to demand payment, but they killed him, too. How outrageous! The owner would undoubtedly destroy his tenants and rent the vineyard out to others. The story meant this:  God was the owner of the vineyard; the Jews were the renters. God blessed the Jews greatly and expected them to bear the fruit of righteousness, truth, mercy, etc. He sent prophets to collect this “fruit,” but they were mistreated and killed. Finally, He sent His Son, Jesus, whom they murdered.  God would certainly destroy the Jewish nation and give His blessings to others. The religious leaders understood that Jesus had spoken this story against them (Mark 12:12).

Jesus spoke of the stone the builders rejected which God used as His chief cornerstone (Mark 12:10-11).  He was speaking of Himself, rejected by the Jewish leaders, but selected by God as the foundation of His great building.  These words were being fulfilled as Christ spoke. The Jewish authorities, intent on building their own religion, decided Jesus was unsatisfactory – He was not suitable for their building. God often reverses human values, however. That which men rejected, God chose and exalted above all (see Philippians 2:5-11).

Mark 12:13-17 Question About Taxes

The Jews were desperately seeking to discredit Jesus. To do so, various groups began to ask Him questions designed to trap Him. They asked about paying taxes. At this time, the Jews were ruled by the Romans, who were the ones receiving the tax money. The people hated the Roman government and thought it was contrary to the will of God. So, Jesus was trapped. If He said not to pay taxes, He would be guilty of treason and liable to prosecution. If He told them to pay, patriots would view Him as a traitor and even disloyal to God.  Jesus did not answer the question at first. Instead, He requested a coin. He asked whose name and picture were on it. They replied, “Caesar’s.” Since you put your name and picture on something you own, Caesar’s markings on the coin showed that it belonged to him. The Jews had no right to withhold Caesar’s property from him when he requested it. So, Jesus said simply, “Give back to Caesar what belongs to him; and give to God what belongs to Him.” His answer could not be challenged. It still provides the basis for our relationship to government. We should pay our taxes and serve the Lord.

Mark 12:18-27 Question About the Resurrection

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. They asked a question designed to show that the doctrine of the resurrection was absurd. It involved the invented case of a woman who was married to seven brothers in succession. They asked Jesus to tell them whose wife she would be in the resurrection, since all of them had been married to her. Jesus’ reply revealed the ignorance of the Sadducees. There is no marriage in heaven. Furthermore, Jesus showed how even the Old Testament proved the resurrection. He cited the text where God appeared to Moses in the  burning bush and described Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, even though they had been dead for hundreds of years. If death was the end of existence (as the Sadduceees believed) then God would have been calling Himself the God of that which does not exist. For God to call Himself their God, in some sense Abraham, Isaac and Jacob must still have been “alive” and, thus, the Sadducees’ view of death was wrong.

Mark 12:28-34 Question About the Greatest Commandment

A scribe tried his hand at stumping Jesus. He asked Him to name the greatest commandment in the law. Jesus easily replied that it was to love God. He added that the second was to love others. This response demonstrated remarkable insight. Instead of choosing a specific command, Jesus cited the principles that form the foundation for all of God’s laws. Even the scribe had to admit that Jesus’ answer was right.

Mark 12:35-40 Jesus Condemns the Scribes

After weathering their barrage of questions, Jesus asked His opponents a question:  How could the Christ be both David’s son and David’s Lord? This question was crucial, because the scribes’ objection to Jesus was that He (a mere man, they thought) claimed divine authority. Jesus showed by His question that the Old Testament had predicted that the Messiah would be both David’s son (human) and David’s Lord (divine).

Mark 12:41-44 Observations on a Collection

Jesus sat and observed people contribute into the temple treasury. He saw many rich people deposit large offerings. He also saw an impoverished widow give two small coins which were nearly worthless. The Lord explained that the widow contributed more than the rich–she put in everything she had, while they had simply given their surplus.

Jesus contradicts modern views of giving. Many modern churches seem to regard large donations more highly than small ones. Some honor wealthy donors in special ways and allow them more influence in church policy; occasionally they even ridicule small contributions as unworthy of the Lord. It is clear that the Lord Himself viewed giving in a very different way. He was unimpressed by the absolute size of the offering, whether large or small, but was very concerned with the attitude of the giver. To Jesus, the gift of the widow, while having almost no monetary value, was worth much more than the large and impressive donations of the rich. We need to think of riches like Jesus did.

Quick Review Questions

Use these questions if you want a quick review. You’ll have the option to check your answers at the end. If you prefer a more thoughtful style of question, try the ‘open-ended questions’.

On what animal did Jesus enter Jerusalem?

As Jesus entered Jerusalem what did the crowd NOT do?

What was on the fig tree that Jesus saw?

Who did Jesus expel from the temple?

What was the main problem with the money changing and animal sales?

When they questioned Jesus as to the source of His authority, He asked them about?

What did the renters NOT do to the ones sent to collect the fruit?

What was the stone the builders rejected?

What answer did Jesus' enemies give to His question about David's son being David's Lord?

Which contribution most impressed Jesus?

Since they didn't answer Jesus' question, He refused to answer theirs

Jesus said not to pay taxes.

There is no marriage in heaven

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still alive in some sense after their death

The greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself

Open-Ended Questions

Use these questions if you want a deeper, more thought-provoking experience. You can answer them in your own journal or here online. You’ll have the option to send in your answers for discussion with a real person, if you wish.

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