The parable of the vineyard let out to wicked husbandmen, Mark 12:1-12. The Pharisees and Herodians question him about paying tribute to Caesar, Mark 12:13-17. The Sadducees question him about the resurrection, Mark 12:18-27. A scribe questions him concerning the chief commandment of the law, Mark 12:28-34. Christ asks the scribes why the Messiah is called David's son, Mark 12:35-37. He warns his disciples against the scribes, Mark 12:38-40. Of the widow that cast two mites into the treasury, Mark 12:41-44.
And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.A certain man planted a vineyard - See this parable explained, Matthew 21:33-41 (note).
And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.
And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.
And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.At him they cast stones and wounded him in the head - Or rather, as most learned men agree, they made short work of it, εκεφαλαιωσαν. We have followed the Vulgate, illum in capite vulneraverunt, in translating the original, wounded him in the head, in which signification, I believe, the word is found in no Greek writer. Ανακεφαλαιοομαι signifies to sum up, to comprise, and is used in this sense by St. Paul, Romans 13:9. From the parable we learn that these people were determined to hear no reason, to do no justice, and to keep the possession and the produce by violence; therefore they fulfilled their purpose in the fullest and speediest manner, which seems to be what the evangelist intended to express by the word in question. Mr. Wakefield translates, They speedily sent him away; others think the meaning is, They shaved their heads and made them look ridiculously; this is much to the same purpose, but I prefer, They made short work of it. Dr. Lightfoot, De Dieu, and others, agree in the sense given above; and this will appear the more probable, if the word λιθοβολησαντες, they cast stones, be omitted, as it is by BDL, the Coptic, Vulgate, and all the Itala.
And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.
Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.
But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.This is the heir - So they appear to have acknowledged in their consciences that this was the Messiah, the heir of all things.
The inheritance shall be ours - By slaying him we shall maintain our authority, and keep possession of our revenues.
And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.
What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.And will give the vineyard unto others - The vineyard must not perish with the husbandmen; it is still capable of producing much fruit, if it be properly cultivated. I will give it into the care of new vine-dressers, the evangelists and apostles. - And under their ministry, multitudes were brought to God before the destruction of Jerusalem.
And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:
This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.
And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.And they send unto him - See this, and to Mark 12:17, largely explained on Matthew 22:15-22 (note).
And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?
Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.Shall we give, or shall we not give? - This is wanting in the Codex Bezae, and in several versions.
And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.
Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,See this question, concerning the resurrection, explained in detail on Matthew 22:23-32 (note).
Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.
And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.
And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.
In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.When they shall rise - This clause is wanting in BCDL, four others, Syriac, later Arabic, later Persic, Coptic, Saxon, and two of the Itala. Griesbach leaves it doubtful.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?
For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.
And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.But the God of the living - Θεος, God, is left out by ABCDKL, and in more than forty others, Syriac, one Arabic, one Persic, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, Saxon, Vulgate, Itala, and Origen. Griesbach has omitted it.
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.Thou shalt love the Lord - On the nature and properties of the love of God and man, and the way in which this commandment is fulfilled, see the notes on Matthew 22:37, etc.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:And the scribe said - The answer of the scribe, contained in Mark 12:32-34, is not found either in Matthew or Luke. This is another proof against Mark's supposed abridgment.
And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.Thou art not far from the kingdom of God - This scribe appears to have been a prudent, sensible, and pious man; almost a Christian - so near the kingdom of God that he might have easily stepped in. It is very probable that he did at last believe in and confess Jesus.
And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David?How say the scribes - See Matthew 22:41, etc.
For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.
David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.The common people heard him gladly - And were doubtless many of them brought to believe and receive the truth. By the comparatively poor the Gospel is still best received.
And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,Beware of the scribes - See on Matthew 23:1 (note), etc.
And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:
Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.Cast money into the treasury - It is worthy of observation, that the money put into the treasury, even by the rich, is termed by the evangelist χαλκον, brass money, probably that species of small brass coin which was called פרוטה prutah among the Jews, two of which make a farthing, and twenty-four an Italian assarius, which assarius is the twenty-fourth part of a silver penny. We call this, mite, from the French, miete, which signifies a crumb, or very small morsel. The prutah was the smallest coin in use among the Jews: and there is a canon among the rabbins that no person shall put less than two prutahs into the treasury. This poor widow would not give less, and her poverty prevented her from giving more. And whereas it is said that many rich persons cast in Much, πολλα, (many), this may only refer to the number of the prutahs which they threw in, and not to the value. What opinion should we form of a rich man, who, in a collection for a public charity, only threw in a handful of halfpence? See Luke 21:1, and see the note on Matthew 5:26. The whole of this account is lacking in Matthew. Another proof that Mark did not abridge him.
Let us examine this subject a little more closely: Jesus prefers the widow's two mites to all the offerings made by the rich.
In the preceding account, Mark 12:41, it is said Jesus beheld how the people cast money into the treasury. To make this relation the more profitable, let us consider Christ the observer and judge of human actions.
I. Christ the observer.
1. Christ observes all men and all things: all our actions are before his eyes, what we do in public and what we do in private are equally known unto him.
2. He observes the state and situation we are in: his eye was upon the abundance of the rich who had given much; and he was well acquainted with the poverty and desolate state of the widow who had given her all, though that was but little in itself. What an awful thought for the rich!
"God sees every penny I possess, and constantly observes how I lay it out." What a comfortable thought for the poor and desolate! The eye of the most merciful and bountiful Jesus continually beholds my poverty and distress, and will cause them to work for my good.
3. Christ sees all the motives which lead men to perform their respective actions; and the different motives which lead them to perform the same action: he knows whether they act through vanity, self-love, interest, ambition, hypocrisy, or whether through love, charity, zeal for his glory, and a hearty desire to please him.
4. He observes the circumstances which accompany our actions; whether we act with care or negligence, with a ready mind or with reluctance.
5. He observes the judgment which we form of that which we do in his name; whether we esteem ourselves more on account of what we have done, speak of it to others, dwell on our labors, sufferings, expenses, success, etc., or whether we humble ourselves because we have done so little good, and even that little in so imperfect a way.
II. See the judgment Christ forms of our actions.
1. He appears surprised that so much piety should be found with so much poverty, in this poor widow.
2. He shows that works of charity, etc., should be estimated, not by their appearance, but by the spirit which produces them.
3. He shows by this that all men are properly in a state of equality; for though there is and ought to be a difference in outward things, yet God looks upon the heart, and the poorest person has it in his power to make his mite as acceptable to the Lord, by simplicity of intention, and purity of affection, as the millions given by the affluent. It is just in God to rate the value of an action by the spirit in which it is done.
4. He shows that men should judge impartially in cases of this kind, and not permit themselves to be carried away to decide for a person by the largeness of the gift on the one hand, or against him by the smallness of the bounty on the other. Of the poor widow it is said, She has cast in more than all the rich. Because: 1. She gave more; she gave her all, and they gave only a part. 2. She did this in a better spirit, having a simple desire to please God. Never did any king come near the liberality of this widow; she gave all that she had, ὁλον τον βιον αὑτης, her whole life, i.e. all that she had to provide for one day's sustenance, and could have no more till by her labor she had acquired it. What trust must there be in the Divine Providence to perform such an act as this!
Two important lessons may be learned from her conduct. 1. A lesson of humiliation to the rich, who, by reason of covetousness on the one hand, and luxury on the other, give but little to God and the poor. A lesson of reproof to the poor, who, through distrust of God's providence, give nothing at all. Our possessions can only be sanctified by giving a portion to God. There will be infallibly a blessing in the remainder, when a part has been given to God and the poor. If the rich and the poor reflect seriously on this, the one will learn pity, the other liberality, and both be blessed in their deed. He must be a poor man indeed who cannot find one poorer than himself.
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.