| Back to Home Page | Back to Book Index |


Mark Chapter Twelve


I. Content of the Chapter


The Wisdom of the Bondman the Savior

A.   He rebuked the Jewish leaders by the parable of the evil vinedressers (v.1-12);

B.   He wisely answered the interrogation of the Pharisees and the Herodians concerning pay tax (v.13-17);

C.   He disproved the idea of the Sadducees concerning resurrection (v.18-27);

D.   He answered the scribes about the question of the first commandment (v.28-34);

E.   He asked the people about Christ (v.35-37);

F.    He taught the people to beware of the scribes (v.38-40);

G.   He praised the devotion of the poor widow before the disciples (v.41-44).


II. Verse by Verse commentary


Mark. 12:1 Then He began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.

YLT: “And he began to speak to them in similes: `A man planted a vineyard, and put a hedge around, and digged an under-winevat, and built a tower, and gave it out to husbandmen, and went abroad;”

Literal Meaning: “set a hedge around it”, it was to protect the vineyard from the attacks of the wild beasts or robbers as well as the invasion of others (see Job. 1:10).

    “Dug a place for the wine vat”, it was to chisel a hard rock into a place to press and keep wine. “A wine vat” had two layers. The upper one was used to step and press grapes and there was a small hole in the upper layer so that the juice of grapes would be flown into the lower layer. 

  “Built a tower”, it referred to the watchtower built by wood. Such tower would be used in the time when grapes were mature.

Spiritual Meaning: “a man” refers to God; “vineyard” refers to the kingdom of Israel (Is. 5:7); “hedge” indicates that God protects Israel all the time; “winepress”, wine can refresh the heart of God (Song. 5:1), showing that God plants the people of Israel in order to satisfy Himself; “leased” unveils that the lordship of the vineyard still belongs to God; “vinedressers” refer to the chief priests and the Pharisees (see 11:27); “went into a far country”, it reveals the generosity of God ---- He gives men certain freedom to operate and manage His treasure.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The vineyard was “leased” to vinedressers and its lordship still belonged to the landowner. The Lord makes His church be governed by His servants, and the lordship of the church is still in the Lord’s hands.

2)    Service is our duty. However, we should not trespass the Lord’s lordship in service but obey the Lord’s guidance in everything.


Mark. 12:2 Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers.

YLT: “and he sent unto the husbandmen at the due time a servant, that from the husbandmen he may receive from the fruit of the vineyard,”

Spiritual Meaning: “he sent a servant”, “a servant” referred to the prophet in the times of the Old Testament.

    “Receive some of the fruit”, it shows that we should give account to God about our service. “When vintage-time drew near”, it shows that we should give account to God on time.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    God has entrusted (leased) His spiritual inheritance to us and asks us to bring forth fruit in season. And we should dedicate the fruit to God and not keep them for ourselves.

2)    What God hopes in us is that we can bear fruit ---- to manifest Christ by our life.


Mark. 12:3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.

YLT: “and they, having taken him, did severely beat, and did send him away empty.”


Mark. 12:4 Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated.

YLT: “`And again he sent unto them another servant, and at that one having cast stones, they wounded in the head, and sent away -- dishonoured.”


Mark. 12:5 And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some.

YLT: “`And again he sent another, and that one they killed; and many others, some beating, and some killing.”

Spiritual Meaning: God sent His prophets (servants) from ages and from generations to the people of Israel to speak for God and guide them to glorify God. However, they had been persecuted and killed. Servants that had been sent finally were the Lord’s twelve apostles and the seventy men who were sent by the Lord.


Mark. 12:6 Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying," They will respect my son.'

YLT: “`Having yet therefore one son -- his beloved -- he sent also him unto them last, saying -- They will reverence my son;”

Meaning of Words: “respect”: turn to, hear, honor;

Spiritual Meaning: it meant that God sent His only begotten son Jesus Christ to come to the Jews.


Mark. 12:7 But those vinedressers said among themselves, "This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.'

YLT: “and those husbandmen said among themselves -- This is the heir, come, we may kill him, and ours shall be the inheritance;”

The Background: “the inheritance will be ours”, according to the Jewish laws, if there was no heir to identify a certain land, the land would be claimed to be “a land without owners” and could be owned by anyone.

Spiritual Meaning: when these leaders of the Judaism (vinedressers) saw Jesus Christ, they sought to kill Him (see 11:18; Luke. 19:47).

Enlightenment in the Word: the deepest hidden purpose of the enemy’s persecutions to the servants sent by God (see v.2-6) was to destroy the beloved son of God and usurp His position that had inherited all.


Mark. 12:8 So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard.

YLT: “and having taken him, they did kill, and cast forth without the vineyard.”

Spiritual Meaning: “killed him and cast him out of the vineyard”, “out of the vineyard”, it typifies the outside of the city of Jerusalem. Jesus was crucified outside of the city of Jerusalem (see John. 19:17, Heb. 13:12).

   Enlightenment in the Word: the most important thing in the church is our attitude towards Christ ---- do we respect Him (v.6) or cast Him out and not seek Him?


Mark. 12:9 "Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.

YLT:`What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard to others.”

Spiritual Meaning: “He will come and destroy the vinedressers”, God punished the obstinate and disobedient Jewish leaders and people. It was partially fulfilled in A.D. 70, the Raman prince Titus led soldiers to ruin the city of Jerusalem. And it will be fulfilled in the Great Tribulation in future (Rev. 11:2).

  “And give the vineyard to others.” ---- These other vinedressers should not be another race but the new people of God ---- the Lord’s church.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Anyone who usurps God’s lordship and persecutes God’s servants and dishonors the Lord will be laid aside (“destroyed”) from the will of God and lose what God has entrusted (“lease” to other vinedressers).

2)    Now God has entrusted His spiritual inheritance to believers, and we should never recommit the same error: a) seize the fruit of service and usurp God’s lordship; b) persecute and kill God’s servants; c) dishonor God’s son.


Mark. 12:10 Have you not even read this Scripture: "The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.

YLT: “And this Writing did ye not read: A stone that the builders rejected, it did become the head of a corner:”

Spiritual Meaning: “builders” it referred to the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees and etc.; “the stone” referred to the Lord Jesus. The Lord was rejected by the leaders of Judaism and was crucified on the cross. But God made Him be raised and become “the head of the corner” (see Ps. 118:22, Acts. 4:11), which, in the building of the church (house), is the most fundamental and important cornerstone in whom all the building fitly framed together (Is. 28:16, Eph. 2:20-21, 1Pet. 2:4-7).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The building of the church must be on the basis of Christ (“the head of the corner”). All the buildings outside of Christ will finally be fallen into pieces.

2)    Any spiritual man or knowledge cannot replace Christ who is the center of the building of the church.


Mark. 12:11 This was the LORD's doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes'?"

YLT: “from the Lord was this, and it is wonderful in our eyes.'”


Mark. 12:12 And they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away.

YLT: “And they were seeking to lay hold on him, and they feared the multitude, for they knew that against them he spake the simile, and having left him, they went away;”

Enlightenment in the Word: though religionists were fully aware that the Lord’s words were specially said to them, they did not want to repent at all and contrarily they even sought to kill Him. Obviously, the knowledge of the Lord’s words in mind only is totally different from the true revelation of the Lord’s words in heart. Every time we read the Bible, we should read it with right attitude and then we can profit from the Lord’s words.


Mark. 12:13 Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words.

YLT: “and they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, that they may ensnare him in discourse,”

The Background: “the Pharisees” were Judaists who loved the traditions of their elders (see Acts. 15:1-2). With strong national consciousness, they were bound to be opposed the dominion of the Raman Empire. “The Herodians”, it was not a religious group, but a political party upholding the puppet government of the Roman Empire ---- the dominion of the house of Herod over the Jews, so they were deeply hated by the Pharisees.

Literal Meaning: “some of the Pharisees and the Herodians”, the Pharisees and the Herodians were as incompatible as fire and water, but now they were even associated with each other to catch Jesus in His words in order to set Him up.

  “To catch Him in His words”, the word “catch” in the original was used in hunting, meaning “setting a trap to entrap something”.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The Pharisees cannot catch the Lord Jesus in deeds, so then they tried to find fault in His words. Believers should beware of not only deeds and words as well (see Col. 4:5-6).

2)    Today, the devil uses many people to find faults in Christians, so we should learn to be aware of and be wise in words.


Mark. 12:14 When they had come, they said to Him, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?

YLT: “and they having come, say to him, `Teacher, we have known that thou art true, and thou art not caring for any one, for thou dost not look to the face of men, but in truth the way of God dost teach; is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? may we give, or may we not give?'”

Meaning of Words: “care about”: concern; “person”: face; “way”: journey, highway;

The Background: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” ---- “Tax” means “capitation” in the original and it was only applied in provinces which were directly administered by the Roman Empire. Every male above fourteen and every female above twelve must pay the capitation until they were sixty-five. Some of the Jews often opposed this kind of tax, thinking that paying such tax was confessing the domination of the Romans, and therefore, some of them just refused to pay the tax.

Literal Meaning: “teach the way of God” indicate to teach men to understand the will of God so as to walk on the way of God.

  “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” ---- It was a very treacherous question and also a trap of Satan. One might fall into the trap whether he answers yes or no. If the Lord said yes, the Pharisees would accuse before the Jews that He was unfaithful to the kingdom of the Jews, a slave of the foreign power and the betrayer of the Jews. If the Lord said no, the Herodians would accuse Him of rebelling before the Roman governor and He might be sentenced to death for this.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The flattering words of the Pharisees concerning the Lord Jesus indicated that the Lord’s testimony was so perfect that even the enemy could not but confess it. And it also showed that they knew the Lord in the moral aspect only and yet lacked spiritual insight. Such knowledge did not help them to receive the grace truly, so they came to tempt the Lord. We shall not ignore the external moral testimony, nor rather remain in moral views, but seek the spiritual knowledge further.

2)    In daily life, believers may be in a dilemma between things of God and things of men or between being of spiritual and of the world. We could learn the principle of dealing with such kind of problems from the reaction of the Lord Jesus.

3)    Believers should imitate the Lord’s example in behaviors and works. Believers should never make a trade of the word of God (2Cor. 2:17) and the word should not be “Yes and No” (2Cor. 1:18). At the same time, we should not make a difference among men (James. 2:4) or be puffed up one for another against another (1Cor. 4:6).

4)    Our enemies are not only from the outside of the church but also from the inside; they are not only from others, but also from our own.

5)    Those who want to set a trap for you may say sweat words to you. Even Satan could hide in the beautiful snake and transform itself into an angel of light (see 2Cor. 11:3, 14). Therefore we should not be deceived by men’s apparent sweat words.

6)    Believers should not be carless in contact with others. The Lord teaches us to beware of men and be wise as serpents (see Matt. 10:16-17).


Mark. 12:15 Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?" But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, "Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it."

YLT: “And he, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, `Why me do ye tempt? bring me a denary, that I may see;'”

The Background: “show Me the tax money”, there were three kinds of currency systems in the land of Palestine at that time. The first was the denarion molded in Rome ---- men had to use this kind of currency to “pay the tax” (see v.17). The second was the drachma molded according to the Greek standard ---- it was the currency of provinces molded in Antioch and Tyre. The third was the local currency of the Jews called shekel ---- it might be molded in Caesarea.

Literal Meaning: please note that there was not “the tax money” in the Lord Jesus. The Pharisees brought the money with them, but they were unwilling to pay the tax willingly and therefore the Lord Jesus called them “the hypocrites” (see Matt. 22:18), and that was why they were condemned.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    We should primarily have spiritual sight to see men’s hidden hearts and thoughts in the contact with others. This ability will be improved by the growth of spiritual life because the spiritual discerns all things (1Cor. 2:15).

2)    The one who has the “the tax money” should pay the tax (Rom. 13:7).


Mark. 12:16 So they brought it. And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's."

YLT: “and they brought, and he saith to them, `Whose this image, and the inscription?' and they said to him, `Caesar's;'”

The Background: the image of the Roman Emperor Caesar was carved on one side of the Roman coins which were in wide currency at that time. And on the other side, it was carved the inscription of Caesar in Latin.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    “The image and inscription”, it stood for the authority of men. The Lord also admitted that God had given men some authority (Rom. 13:1).

2)    Men’s authority given by God has its realm and boundary. Anyone who is under this realm and boundary should fear, honor and obey the authority (see Rom. 13:1-7).


Mark. 12:17 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they marveled at Him.

YLT: “and Jesus answering said to them, `Give back the things of Caesar to Caesar, and the things of God to God;' and they did wonder at him.”

Meaning of Words: “Caesar”: to slit, cut open along a line (today men call the operation of cutting the belly open for birth as Caesarian operation).

Literal Meaning: “render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”, “Caesar” was the title of the Roman Emperor and it represented the whole Roman regime. The Lord Jesus here used the word “render” as “pay”, which meant that paying the tax was not bribery but paying one’s debt ---- it was the duty of the people to pay the tax to the one who was in power. To God’s people who live in this world, paying tax to the government is not contrary to being a citizen of the kingdom of God.

    “To God the things that are God’s.” ---- It seems that all the possessions of believers are gained by their own abilities, physical power and time, but actually they are given by God (see 1Tim. 6:17) and therefore we should dedicate ourselves to God with gratitude (see Mal. 3:8-10).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Political and spiritual things should never be mentioned in the same breath. In political things, we should obey the authority (Rom. 13:1-7), and in spiritual things we should obey God and serve God wholeheartedly.

2)    On one hand, believers are under the direct authority of God, and on the other, believers are under the indirect authority of men. When men’s authority exceeds the realm and trespasses the authority of God, believers ought to “obey God rather than men” (see Acts. 5:29).

3)    We should learn to discern what is of God and what is of men, and spiritual things and worldly things. We should not garble them with each other.

4)    “To Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”, it shows that God will never accept anything that is not of Him. We should not use worldly things in spiritual things (such as using rock and other worldly ways to spread the glad tidings).

5)    “Caesar” means cutting. Satan wants to cut off all that is of God and God is willing to cut off all that is of Satan.

6)    “To God the things that are God’s”, it shows that God never allows anyone to trespass all that is of Him. Believers should be separated to God and not be gained by the king of this world.

7)    “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”, some of the obligations of the people to the nation do not overpass our responsibilities for God.

8)    In normal conditions, it is not contradictory of the obligations to both God and the nation. We have responsibility for both of them. In fact, it is possible to be a good citizen as well as a good Christian at the same time.

9)    Believers should not rely on themselves to deal with difficulties, but look up to the Holy Spirit to give us what we shall speak (see Matt. 10:19-20).

10) Once the Lord speaks, those who oppose shall shrink back from difficulties. Therefore when we face hecklings, the best way is to call upon the Lord because whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (see Rom. 10:13).


Mark. 12:18 Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying:

YLT: “And the Sadducees come unto him, who say there is not a rising again, and they questioned him, saying,”

The Background: “the Sadducees” was a Jewish party at that time, most of whose member were rich men in upper class. The name stemmed from the chief priest Zadok in the times of Solomon (see 1King 4:4). They opposed the Pharisees who focused on zeal only but ignored moral deeds, so they placed great emphasis on morality, thus inclining to another extreme, i.e. stressing on deeds only but ignoring faith. They did not believe resurrection, holding that men perished completely after death and therefore there were neither ghosts nor angels. They received the Pentateuch merely, but neither regarded the prophets as important, nor received the traditions of the elders. They had high places in politics ---- the chief priest Annas and Caiaphas and etc. were all the Sadducees.

Enlightenment in the Word: “the Sadducees” were “rationalists” in Judaism. They are likened to the “Modernism Liberalism” in Christianity, who stress on the actuality and disregard the future and have hope only in this life (see 1Cor. 15:19).


Mark. 12:19 "Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man's brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.

YLT:`Teacher, Moses wrote to us, that if any one's brother may die, and may leave a wife, and may leave no children, that his brother may take his wife, and raise up seed to his brother.”

Literal Meaning: this was a law in the Jewish social system in the Old Testament and it was the law concerning the statute that the younger brother raised up the offspring for his brother (Deut. 25:5-6). It was initially set up to protect widows and assure the continuation of the family pedigree ---- that was the well-known “Levirate Marriage”. The early ancestors of the Jews already had early established such custom (see Gen. 38:8).

Enlightenment in the Word: “raise up offspring for his brother”, the spiritual meaning is that we believers should provide life to brothers who lack life to enable them to grow and bear fruit.


Mark. 12:20 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring.

YLT:`There were then seven brothers, and the first took a wife, and dying, he left no seed;”

Literal Meaning: this is the fictitious narrative.


Mark. 12:21 And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise.

YLT: “and the second took her, and died, neither left he seed, and the third in like manner,”


Mark. 12:22 So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also.

YLT: “and the seven took her, and left no seed, last of all died also the woman;”


Mark. 12:23 Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife."

YLT: “in the rising again, then, whenever they may rise, of which of them shall she be wife -- for the seven had her as wife?'”

Literal Meaning: they made up this story in the aim of sneering at the resurrection by this problem. They did not believe the resurrection and held that the so-called resurrection said by others was only the resurrection of the body and man would continually have a family life like that in this age. If the resurrection is like this in deed, it may bring difficult problems to everyone. 

Enlightenment in the Word: just like the Sadducees imagined the state after resurrection in the view of this life, if we live in nature and walk by sight, not by faith (see 2Cor. 5:7), we can not comprehend the spiritual things and will have many queer opinions and problems.


Mark. 12:24 Jesus answered and said to them, "Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?

YLT: “And Jesus answering said to them, `Do ye not because of this go astray, not knowing the Writings, nor the power of God?”

Literal Meaning: the Lord Jesus pointed that the Sadducees were wrong, for they did not believe the fact of the resurrection and had wrong concepts of the resurrection. That was because they “did not know the Scriptures”, and therefore they misunderstood the words of the Scriptures. Moreover, it was also because they “did not know the power of God”, and therefore they thought that God could neither raise men from dead nor solve the problems in life such as the complicated family problems that they mentioned here.

  “The power of God” is clearly manifested in resurrection (see Rom. 1:4, Eph. 1:19-20).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The reason why the concepts of the unbelievers, those who live in nature and liberalists are wrong is nothing more than the two reasons as follows: firstly, they do not know the Scriptures, i.e. having no spiritual knowledge; secondly, they do not know the power of God, i.e. having no spiritual experience.

2)    We shall read the Scriptures diligently and experience the great power of the life of God so that we will make mistakes in spiritual things.

3)    If we Christians lack spiritual knowledge or experience, we may fall in mistake without realizing it.

4)    The Scriptures is able to make men wise unto salvation (2Tim. 3:15). If a man wants to know the Scriptures, he has to have the right intention and attitude. Otherwise, one may always learn and is never able to come to the knowledge of truth (see 2Tim. 3:7).

5)    What Paul the Apostle prayed and asked is to know more about the power of God and so that he may attain more unto the resurrection of dead (see Eph. 1:19, Pill. 3:10-11).


Mark. 12:25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

YLT: “for when they may rise out of the dead, they neither marry nor are they given in marriage, but are as messengers who are in the heavens.”

Literal Meaning: “are like angels of God in heaven”, it is mainly because angels do not have the body of flesh. Therefore there is no difference between male and female and surely they will have no problems of getting married to have heirs. The Lord mentioned the “angels of God in heaven” to rebut the wrong view of the Sadducees who did not believe there were angels of God.

  Our bodies are earthly, corruptible, dishonorable, and weak, of soul and of earth at present. However, the bodies after resurrection are heavenly, incorruptible, honorable, strong, of spirit and of heaven (see 1Cor. 15:35-50). The conditions of a man in this age and after death are totally different, so we should not infer the states in future according to the works and deeds in this body today.

Enlightenment in the Word: the life style after men’s resurrection will be greatly distinct from that in this age.


Mark. 12:26 But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?

YLT: “`And concerning the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the Book of Moses (at The Bush), how God spake to him, saying, I the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;”

Literal Meaning: when the Lord Jesus argued about the resurrection of dead with the Sadducees, He quoted the words in Pentateuch (see Exod. 3:6) for the Law of Moses was still in authority to the Sadducees who did not believe the resurrection. Jesus means that:

a) Since God calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and He Himself is not the God of the dead, though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were dead, God will raise them (see Matt. 8:11), otherwise He may be the God of the dead.

    b) Though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all dead, when God mentioned them before Moses, He still testified that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, unveiling that He kept close relationship with them. We could see that the death in the flesh did not end their life (see Luke 16:19-31; 23:43; Phil. 1:23). In other words, they will surely rise again and have the presence of God forever (see Matt. 8:11).

Enlightenment in the Word: from the words of the Lord we could know that being familiar with and knowing the Scriptures are the key to open the mysteries of the coming age.


Mark. 12:27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken."

YLT: “he is not the God of dead men, but a God of living men; ye then go greatly astray.'”

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    “He is not the God of the dead”, it shows that: a) all that makes men die and unable to touch life have nothing to do with God; b) If believers live in dead condition, we may bring disgrace to our God.

2)    “God is the God of living” shows that: a) He is the lord of life ---- he should not be held by death (Acts. 3:15); b) He is the source of “life” ---- we can live only by drawing near to Him and enjoying Him.

3)    Christ shall be magnified in believers’ bodies whether by life or by death (see Phil. 1:20). Thus though we have been dead in the flesh, our spirit will still live before God.


Mark. 12:28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"

YLT: “And one of the scribes having come near, having heard them disputing, knowing that he answered them well, questioned him, `Which is the first command of all?'”

The Background: there were six hundred and eleven commandments generally accepted by the scribes who intensively searched the law of the Old Testament. The number was equal to the number of the Hebrew numbers used in the Ten Commandments. Two hundred and forty-eight of them were positive laws and this number was equal to the total number of the structure of human body. Three hundred and sixty-five of them were negative ones, and it was equal to the total number of the days of a year. 

   Literal Meaning: “one of the scribes”, the “scribe” was the one who was very familiar with the law of the Moses. Most of them were of the Pharisees

“Which is the first commandment of all?” ---- The real meaning of this question asked by the scribe was not the greatest commandment among the six hundred and eleven commandments, but the principle of judging the greatness of commandments. On one hand, every commandment of the law is very important. Whoever offends in one point, he is guilty of all (James. 2:10, Matt. 5:19). On the other hand, if men can seize the essence of some commandments, they will also be able to grasp the whole commandments. Therefore there is a saying of the “first” commandment. From the following answer of the Lord, we can see that the Lord also agree with this way of division.

   Enlightenment in the Word: when we search the Bible, we should also seize the importance of the Bible so that we cannot go so far as to stress on the shadows (such as the meat, the drink, the Sabbath and etc) or external phenomenon (such as speaking dialects, healing the sick and etc) and even neglect spiritual body and reality (see Col. 2:16-17, 1Cor. 13:8).


Mark. 12:29 Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: "Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.

YLT: “and Jesus answered him -- `The first of all the commands, Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one;”

Literal Meaning: “O Israel”, the Lord Jesus quoted it from the Book of Deuteronomy (6:4-5) in the Scriptures, and it was generally called “the Shema scriptures”. The pious Jews read it every morning and evening, so it was regarded as the announcement of belief of the Jews.


Mark. 12:30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.

YLT: “and thou shalt love the Lord thy God out of all thy heart, and out of thy soul, and out of all thine understanding, and out of all thy strength -- this the first command;”

Meaning of Words: “all”: whole; “love”: divine love (agapao);

Literal Meaning: “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”, it is emphatic, indicating that one shall love God with the whole body and the whole life.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Even though one has kept all the commandments, it is still of no value before God, if it is not for the sake of “loving God”. Therefore, loving God is the first and the best of all the commandments.

2)    If any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha (1Cor. 16:22). We love because He has first loved us (1John. 4:19).

3)    What God demands us is to love Him with “all” that we have. How hard it is to us! For many times, a lot of men and things distract our heart from loving God, making us desire to love God and love the world secretly, and serve God and serve mammon in secret.

4)    “With all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength”, We have to admit that we cannot do it by ourselves, but God never demands us to do what we cannot do. With men it is impossible, but all things are possible with God (see 10:27).

5)    The difference between the Christianity and all the religions in the world is that our God has both requirements and provisions, but all the other religions have only requirements but no provisions. Since our God asks us to love Him with “all” that we have, He must enable us to love Him unto that degree.

6)    One can keep the commandments only by loving God, so one shall love God if he wants to keep the whole law. The principle of the life of Christians today is “to love God your God”.

7)    Only when we are filled up, immersed and compelled by God’s love (2Cor. 5:14) can we manifest His love naturally.


Mark. 12:31 And the second, like it, is this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

YLT: “and the second like , this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; -- greater than these there is no other command.'”

The Background: the Ten Commandments could be divided into two parts. One part is towards God and the other towards men (see Exod. 20:3-17). At that time, the Jews adopted the passage (v.37-39) in their prayers. The common Jews all knew that the great principle of the Old Testament was to love God and men.

   Literal Meaning: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ---- It was quoted from the Book of Leviticus (19:18).

    The word “these” included all the commandments ---- the former referred to the commandment towards God, and the latter referred to the one towards men.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Man has to love God first and can love others well afterwards and love his neighbor as himself.

2)    To love one’s neighbor as himself is not the substitute for faith, but the production of faith.

3)    We should do our duty both to God and men in our conversation. To God, the hinge must be love; to men, certainly love should be the key.

4)    “Love your neighbor as yourself” is to love unconditionally, i.e. the sacrifice love. Only those who live in the divine life are able to do this. He loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

5)    Men should love others just like how they love themselves and how self-centered they are (see Matt. 7:12). The principle of prayer is also the life (not in word only).


Mark. 12:32 So the scribe said to Him, "Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.

YLT: “And the scribe said to him, `Well, Teacher, in truth thou hast spoken that there is one God, and there is none other but He;”

Literal Meaning: the scribe was purposely finding faults to interrogate the Lord Jesus about the commandments so as to show that His knowledge of the scriptures was superficial, but now he had to praise His answer. 


Mark. 12:33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."

YLT: “and to love Him out of all the heart, and out of all the understanding, and out of all the soul, and out of all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as one's self, is more than all the whole burnt-offerings and the sacrifices.'”

Literal Meaning: all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices are the apparent actions. Loving God and loving men are the manifestation of inner heart, which are better than sacrifices (see 1Sam. 15:22; Ps. 51:16-17).

Enlightenment in the Word: to love God with all our heart is better than offering sacrifices to Him. God does not need us to do something to Him. What is most important is that God desires to gain our “heart”.


Mark. 12:34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." But after that no one dared question Him.

YLT: “And Jesus, having seen him that he answered with understanding, said to him, `Thou art not far from the reign of God;' and no one any more durst question him.”

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The Lord said that all those who knew to love God purely and earnestly ---- the inner spiritual reality was “more than” all the whole religious and stiff burnt offerings and sacrifices ---- the apparent works were “wise” and were not far from the kingdom of God. The true wisdom is to discern the spiritual reality through the visible condition. And the kingdom of God is in spirit, not in letter (see Rom. 2:29).

2)    We have many pretexts and arguments outside of Christ. If they are really brought before the Lord, all the pretexts and arguments will be unnecessary. No one or nothing can make an exception.

3)    All the problems in our life will vanish in Christ. He is the answer of all problems. He is the one “I AM THAT I AM” (John 8:58 “I AM”). Whatever we need, He is the provision of that.


Mark. 12:35 Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, "How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?

YLT: “And Jesus answering said, teaching in the temple, `How say the scribes that the Christ is son of David?”

Meaning of Words: “Christ”: the anointed one;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    People may generally notice various kinds of questions beyond Christ. However, the Lord is only concerned about our knowledge towards Him because it is the first question of all questions and the greatest matter of life.

2)    The reason why men doubt about many things is that they lack the knowledge of Christ.

3)    Men commonly pay attention to the problems of politics, religion and the letters of the law but neglect Christ. Politics, religion and the letters of the law without Christ are vanity of vanities.

4)    The most important problem of the world is the knowledge of Christ. Only Christ is the answer of all problems.

5)    The Apostle Paul had known the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, for whom he had suffered the loss of all things, and counted them dung (see Pill. 3:8) therefore he knew nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1Cor. 2:2).


Mark. 12:36 For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: "The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'

YLT: “for David himself said in the Holy Spirit, The Lord said to my lord, Sit thou on My right hand, till I place thine enemies -- thy footstool;”

Literal Meaning: the Pharisees could only know that the coming “Messiah” (the name of Christ in Hebrew and it means the anointed one) was the Son of David according to the literal prophecy of prophets. However, they neither knew nor sought the words written by David in the spirit (Ps. 110:1).

  “The LORD said to my Lord” The first “LORD” is Jehovah God and the second “Lord” is the Messiah. The key of this quotation is “my Lord”.

Spiritual Meaning: note that this verse typifies the state that the Lord sits by the right hand of the Father now.

Enlightenment in the Word: only when we are in the Spirit and by the revelation of God can we know Christ (see Eph. 3:5).


Mark. 12:37 Therefore David himself calls Him "Lord'; how is He then his Son?" And the common people heard Him gladly.

YLT: “therefore David himself saith of him Lord, and whence is he his son?' And the great multitude were hearing him gladly,”

Spiritual Meaning: according to the flesh, Christ is “the Son of David”; according to the Spirit of holiness, Christ is also “the Lord of David” (see Rom. 1:3-4).

    Christ is “the Son of David”, showing the aspect of the lowliness of His humanity. Christ is “the Lord of David”, showing the other aspect of the glory of His divinity.

  Enlightenment in the Word: today do we have complete knowledge of this glorious and all-sufficient Christ? May the Lord ask this question to each of us.


Mark. 12:38 Then He said to them in His teaching, "Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces,

YLT: “and he was saying to them in his teaching, `Beware of the scribes, who will in long robes to walk, and love salutations in the market-places,”

Literal Meaning: “who desire to go around in long robes”, “long robes”, they referred to the garments the scribes put on when they performed their ministry ---- they were usually white linen robes with the borders long unto the insteps of the feet. The Lord here rebuked them for putting of the garments for the purpose of showing off their status.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Those who works for the purpose of making others see it are the hypocrites, and they want to have glory of men deliberately (see Matt. 6:1-2, 5, 16).

2)    Religious believers like to show off themselves, denote money, bear witness, do service, preach and write books and many spiritual good works. Perhaps the motives of them are to seek vain glory (see Pill. 2:3).


Mark. 12:39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts,

YLT: “and first seats in the synagogues, and first couches in suppers,”

Literal Meaning: “the best seats in the synagogues”, ““the best seats” referred to the seats in the front of the synagogues, which were usually left for those who have the highest status.

Spiritual Meaning: “the best seats in the synagogues”, it symbolizes the spiritual status; “the best places at feasts”, it symbolizes the worldly status.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The greatest temptation of leaders in the church is from their inner hearts ---- they like to be held high by others to show their important statuses in the multitudes.

2)    Anyone who cares about titles and status in the church cannot service well.


Mark. 12:40 who devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation."

YLT: “who are devouring the widows' houses, and for a pretense are making long prayers; these shall receive more abundant judgment.'”

Meaning of Words: “condemnation”: judgment, conviction;

Literal Meaning: who devour widows' houses”, they extorted money from the helpless ones and swindled them out of money by making use of the widows who were easily swindled.

  “For a pretense make long prayers”, they maintained the form of piety to conceal their sins of avarice.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    “Widows” here referred to the believers who were helpless and easily bullied and oppressed (see 1Tim. 5:5, Zech. 7:10). The religionists usually hold gain to be piety (see 1Tim. 6:5) and deceive the hearts of the simple by good works and fair speeches in order to serve their own belly (Rom. 16:18).

2)    Religionists like to pretend the spiritual form of piety and lead captive silly women (2Tim. 3:5-6) and make them dedicate money willingly. These religionists who are greedy for money have been erred from the faith and the Lord condemns that they will receive greater condemnation and they have pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1Tim. 6:10).


Mark. 12:41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.

YLT: “And Jesus having sat down over-against the treasury, was beholding how the multitude do put brass into the treasury, and many rich were putting in much,”

The Background: the outermost part of the Holy Temple was the Court of the Gentiles (the Gentiles could not go further). Through the inward stone steps, there was a court of women (the Jewish women could not go further). Deeper within, it was the inner court (the Jewish men could not go further). There were thirteen offertory boxes under the porticoes of the court of women for worshipers of God to devote money. The orifice of the box was similar in shape of a horn. When the money was cast into the box, it gave off sounds. At that time, men usually cast money into the box in public, so the amount of money could be seen by others.

Literal Meaning: “saw how the people put money into the treasury”, it unveiled that the Lord attached great importance to the devotion of money ---- He did not count the amount of money there, but saw how the people devoted the money.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The Lord is also sitting opposite the “treasury” ---- the status of devotion, and sees how we “put money into the treasury”!

2)    What the Lord cares is not the amount of money that we devote, but the heart and attitude of our devotion of money.

3)    Each according as he is purposed in his heart; not grievingly, or of necessity. For God loves a cheerful giver (2Cor. 9:7).


Mark. 12:42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.

YLT: “and having come, a poor widow did put in two mites, which are a farthing.”

The Background: “lepton” was the smallest one in Jewish bills at that time, and it was worthless. “Quadrans” was the smallest one in Roman bills at that time. “Two mites” were equal to “a quadrans”. 

Literal Meaning: from this verse, we can see that widow’s devotion has the characteristics as follows:

1.    She was “a poor widow” ---- the word “poor” showed that she was rather poor in the external things besides the body. “Widow” indicated that she was alone and helpless and rather weak.

2.    She “came” to devote ---- note that it was a voluntary devotion, not a reluctant payment. Considering her condition, it was rather good of her if she did not complain or seek supplications. Who would rebuke her if she did not devote? She had the right of not coming to devote.

3.    She “threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.” ---- Note that what she had put were two mites, not a quadrans. If it was a quadrans which could not be divided, she had only to devote them all. However, she could keep one of the two mites and devote only the other one without devoting them both. Here we could see that how absolute attitude of her devotion was.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    What the poor men like the widow could devote was rather a few. The amount of money in the treasury might not be less even though they did not devote. Why they devoted on earth? Today many believers have such thoughts ---- let those rich men take the responsibility for the works of the Lord! Is it possible that the Lord needs such several mites of mine?

2)    There is also someone who says that those who have money devote their money and those who have strength devote their strength, and since I have no money, I devote our strength and I need not devote money.

3)    There are also men who are reluctant to devote money in big bills. They purposely change the money in big bills into that in small bills before going to the church lest there is no small money to devote.

4)    The Scriptures mentioned that she was a poor widow without recording her name, which let us learn that: (a) we shall not devote with the purpose of remember our names; (b) we shall not escape devotion because of poverty.


Mark. 12:43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;

YLT: “And having called near his disciples, he saith to them, `Verily I say to you, that this poor widow hath put in more than all those putting into the treasury;”

Literal Meaning: this verse indicated two matters:

1.     The Lord was moved by the devotion of the poor widow and taught the disciples by her example.

2.     The Lord held different views upon devotion from men in the world. The real value of the money one devotes lies in the quality, not in the amount.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    If our devotion is set upon our own wealth with a view that we have something to devote, there will be of little spiritual value. However, if our devotion is built upon our poverty and helplessness, we will surely be accepted by the Lord.

2)    Some believer humbly confesses that what he has devoted counts nothing and is only the two mites of the widow. Though his intended to show his self-abasement, he actually has lowered the value of the widow’s two mites, for what the poor widow had put in was more than all those who had given to the treasury in the sight of the Lord.

3)    What the Lord focuses on is different from what men focus on. Men looks on what is visible, and the Lord looks on what is invisible. Men sees the visible money ---- they ask how much you have devoted. The Lord sees the invisible thing ---- He will ask how much you love Him. Men count how much you have devoted, and the more the better, but the Lord sees that how much you have remained ---- how much that you should devote but have not devoted, the less the better.

4)    She threw in two mites without publicizing herself and went away quietly. Men disdained to pay attention to her, but the Son of God the Lord Jesus knew what she had done. He did not praise the money devoted by rich men, but praised the two mites devoted by the widow. The motivation of believers’ devotion is not gaining men’s praise, but gaining the Lord’s praise. The Lord’s praise is a priceless treasure.

5)    The Lord did not care for the amount of our devotion, but the heart of our devotion. When we put the money into the offertory box, has our heart also been devoted to Him?


Mark. 12:44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."

YLT: “for all, out of their abundance, put in, but she, out of her want, all that she had put in -- all her living.'”

Literal Meaning: “for they all put in out of their abundance”, it showed that they still had something to keep their life after devotion.

  “But she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood”, it indicated that she had to live her life in reliance on God after devotion.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The Lord does not see how much you have devoted, but how much you have left in your pocket.

2)    What she had put into the box was not “out of their abundance”, but “out of her whole livelihood”, namely, she devoted the indispensible and only part that kept her life. It manifested her complete obedience and confidence.

3)    Though two mites were rather minute, it had sufficiently manifested her love toward God. She poured her whole love to God through this matter. She preferred to be starved to death, but was unwilling to fail in loving God. She regarded God was worthy of her love without any consideration of her life. Since God was the object of her love, she would never be alone in her widowed life any longer.


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


The Nature of the Kingdom of God

A.   He who must honor the Son of God can partake in the kingdom of God (v.1-12).

B.   There must be separation between those of the world and those of God (v.13-17).

C.   It should be the risen life that lives in the kingdom of God (v.18-27).

D.   What is most important in the kingdom of God is to love God and men (v.28-34).

E.   Christ is the king in the kingdom of God, and men should not puff up (v.35-39).

F.    One shall completely overcome the bondage of money in the kingdom of God (v.40-44).


The Attitudes of Men Towards the Lord

A.   The religionists ---- who refused Him and even killed Him (v.1-12).

B.   The politicians ---- who schemed to kill Him according to His words (v.13-17);

C.   The philosophers ---- who created difficulties for by the reasons (v. 18-27);

D.   The lawyers ---- who tortured Him by complicated laws (v.28-34);


The Teachings Learnt From the Wicked Vinedressers

A.   The nature of the kingdom of God (v.1):

1.    A vineyard ---- it is of the range of life;

2.    Set a hedge around it ---- it has boundary and realm;

3.    Dug a place for the wine vat ---- it is for the sake of satisfying God;

4.    Built a tower ---- it is on account of defending against the invasion of the enemy;

5.    And he leased it to vinedressers ---- it has been given to those of God to be governed, but the lordship is still of God Himself;

6.    And went into a far country ---- it is given to those who have freewill to be managed.

B.   The responsibility of men to the kingdom of God ---- they must deliver the fruit on time (v.2) ---- they should be grown up.

C.   God showed His compassion and mercy to those who seriously lacked responsibility ---- He sent servants again and again (v.3-5).

D.   The utmost of God’s love and the extremity of men’s rebellion ---- He sent His beloved Son, but the Son was killed (v.6-8) ---- men’s opposition to God was manifested in the Lord.

E.   The building of the kingdom of God is depended by men’s attitude towards Christ ---- reject or rely on (v.9-12) ---- if men reject Him, no matter how skillful they are, they cannot build it. If men rely on Him, though men have no strength, the Lord must build it in person.


The Lord is the Stone (v.10)

A.   To the leaders of Judaism ---- the stone that the builders rejected ---- the Lord was rejected by them.

B.   To believers ---- the chief cornerstone ---- the Lord is the basis of building the church.


The Problems of Believers in Life

A.   The problems in the world (v.13-17):

1.    The key problem is not “whether we should pay the tax or not”, but we should have separation from the world.

2.    Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

B.   The problems concerning the faith (v.18-27):

1.    Men can neither understand the Scriptures nor know the great power of God through fleshly mind.

2.    God is not a God of the dead, but the God of the living ---- the knowledge of God does not depend on reasons, but life.

C.   The problems concerning the interpretation of the Scriptures (v.28-37):

1.    The focal point of the Scriptures lies in how to treat God and how to treat men.

2.    One shall not interpret the Scriptures according to the letters only, but also through seeking the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

D.   The problems concerning money and vainglory (v.38-44):

1.    Money and vainglory are the most difficult temptations for common believers to overcome.

2.    The faith, love and hope of God are the mysteries for us to overcome money and vainglory.


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Mary Zhou