Red Letter Year: 2/19

Mark 12:28-44

28 One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

32 The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. 33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

34 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

35 Later, as Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple, he asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law claim that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 For David himself, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’ 37 Since David himself called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with great delight. 

38 Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. 39 And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. 40 Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.”

41 Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. 43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”


The first part of today’s reading gives a rare instance of Jesus and a religious leader having a more positive interaction. This expert in Scripture approved of Jesus teaching and seems to have asked a serious question. Jesus answers directly (also rare) and commends the scribe. Jesus then offers his own scriptural discussion question, one hinting at the promised messiah being greater than David (i.e. God’s own son), but no one took him up on it.

The  rest (vv. 38-44) go together, as the advantages enjoyed by the religious leaders are contrasted against the widow who gives all that she had. Like the Temple clearing incident before, Jesus condemns the entire religious economic structure. The Temple as an institution is hopelessly corrupt and ready to be cursed. But it is this same Temple that the widow brings her mite to. Her faithfulness is not abrogated by their faithlessness. Of course, Mark’s point in sharing all this is not to give us insight into the Temple situation itself, but to share teaching still relevant to followers of Jesus in his own day – and still relevant today. Followers of Jesus are to take the widow for our example, not the religious leaders. Giving, not taking advantage. Sacrificing ourselves, not growing fat on the sacrifices of others. 

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Red Letter Year: 2/15

Mark 12:1-12

12 Then Jesus began teaching them with stories: “A man planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. At the time of the grape harvest, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers grabbed the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed. The owner then sent another servant, but they insulted him and beat him over the head. The next servant he sent was killed. Others he sent were either beaten or killed, 6 until there was only one left—his son whom he loved dearly. The owner finally sent him, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’ But the tenant farmers said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ So they grabbed him and murdered him and threw his body out of the vineyard. What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do?” Jesus asked. “I’ll tell you—he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others. 10 Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. 11 This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.’”

12 The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.


This parable is an extended response by Jesus to the questioning of his authority we read yesterday. Unlike some of his parables, the point here was evident to its main target, the religious leaders understand that Jesus means they are the tenant farmers, the servants they have killed are the prophets, including John the Baptist, whose arrest and death seem to be an underlying sticking point between Jesus and these leaders. Jesus borrows and adapts this parable from Isaiah 5.1-7, with the focus of the owner/master/lord’s (all the same word in Greek: kurios, often used of God) judgment being not the vineyard itself (as it is in Isaiah), but on the tenants – the religious leaders who have failed in their task. The majority of the people are still with Jesus at this point, v.12 makes clear their presence is what saves Jesus from immediate arrest. But as the parable foreshadows, the death of the beloved son (same expression the voice of God uses at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration) is about to take place. But that is not the end of the story. Jesus ends by quoting Psalm 118.22-23. The rejected one who becomes the central leader is a recurring motif in Israel’s story: Jacob, Moses, and David are prime examples. The understanding was that this stone represented all of them and also pointed to the Messiah who would come and also go from rejected to cornerstone. If you’ve ever been rejected, this should give you hope, since the motif continues and is a recurring theme in the ongoing story of the spreading of Jesus and his Good News.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.