From:  Busy Person’s Guide to Mark 9 to 16                                  Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2019


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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:

Quickly Understanding Mark


(Volume 2:  Chapters 11 to 13)




Roland H. Worth, Jr.

Copyright © 2019 by author






Chapter Eleven



                        The Triumphant Entry Into Jerusalem With Other Passover Pilgrims       (11:1-11):  1 Now as they approached Jerusalem, near Bethphage   and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his   disciples and said to them, “Go to the village ahead of you. As         soon as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there that has never      been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you,    ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it        back here soon.’” 

                So they went and found a colt tied at a door, outside in the street, and untied it. Some people standing there said to        them, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They replied as Jesus had told them, and the bystanders let them go. 

                Then they brought the colt to Jesus, threw their cloaks on       it, and he sat on it. Many spread their cloaks on the road and     others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Both those     who went ahead and those who followed kept shouting,         Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of        the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!     Hosanna in the highest!” 

                11 Then Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. And after looking around at everything, he went out to Bethany         with the twelve since it was already late.     --New English       Translation (for comparison)



            11:1     Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples.  The disciples are not identified and instead the text centers on their selection and what they did.  Some have speculated they were Peter and John and they may well have been or the choice could easily have been based on who was nearby and immediately available. 


            11:2     and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat.  Loose it and bring it.   The village is not named--some have guessed Bethphage in light of its mention in the previous verse--but it was unquestionably close enough they could see it in the distance.  The colt was to be so young it had not yet been used for transportation:  “on which no one has sat.” 

            The Jews viewed such animal youthfulness as a kind of visual synonym for purity as can be seen in the Old Testament rite for preparing the “waters of purification” (Numbers 19:1-13).  This involved “a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come” (verse 2).  Similar in intent is the youthful “heifer which has not been worked and which has not pulled with a yoke” (Deuteronomy 21:1-9, especially verse 3); it was offered as part of a ritual to convey the message that those who offered it were free from the guilt of letting a known murderer go unpunished.


            11:3     And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”  Walking off with someone’s property is obviously a case where one needs to have a good reason and the Lord has provided them with the answer they are to give.  Sometimes people are so busy that they assume that whoever is acting in a straightforward manner and without any visual signs of guilt has every business being where they are and doing whatever they are doing.  But other folk are instinctively suspicious because it is a stranger.  Jesus has prepared them for both scenarios.  (Note the “if” in our verse:  Jesus recognized it could happen either way.) 


            11:4     So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it.  Where everyone could see them and observe what was happening.


            11:5     But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”  The implied plural (“some”) argues that these folk were not the owners; neighbors, friends, servants--it doesn’t matter; they intervened to assure the well being of their fellow locals.


            11:6     And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded.  So they let them go.  Their response, we already were told was to be, “The Lord has need of it” (verse 3).  “Lord” is a term expressing rank and position, but it still doesn’t tell anyone who the “Lord” specifically is.  It is quite possible that a specific prearrangement had been made earlier--even during Jesus’ last visit to the city--and that the ambiguous term was chosen to both indicate the person’s importance and hide the specific identity from anyone who might be hostile.   

            Sidebar:  In an event not narrated in this gospel which had occurred the previous night, Jesus had dinner with Lazarus and his family and was anointed by Mary (John 12:1-7).  Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead” (verse 9).  So word was unquestionably floating around of Jesus’ presence among both friends and foes in the Jerusalem area--especially so in a village so close that it could be seen from the one where Jesus was staying (verse 2)!     


            11:7     Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it.   To make the ride more comfortable they threw their outer garments on the animal.  This was a mark of honor, respect, and reverence.  For no ordinary person would they thought to have done this.


            11:8     And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  Allowing one’s garments to not only be sat on (verse 7) but to be dirtied by the road so that even the animal had a symbolic carpet to walk on shows the intense enthusiasm over what was happening.

            Sidebar:  Jewish tradition spoke of how the savior of the Jewish people from genocide was honored in a similar manner . . . and the custom has been found in other times and places as well:  So myrtle-twigs and robes had been strewn by their ancestors before Mordecai, when he came forth from the palace of Ahasuerus (Targum on Esther 8:15), so the Persian army had honored Xerxes when about to cross the Hellespont (Herodotus, VII. 54), and so Robinson tells us the inhabitants of Bethlehem threw their garments under the feet of the horses of the English consul at Damascus, whose aid they were imploring [in the 19th century].”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)      


            11:9     Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:  “Hosanna!  ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’  John’s account (12:12-13) tells us that when many of the Passover pilgrims already in Jerusalem heard He was on the way to the city, they enthusiastically joined in this celebratory welcome as well.  That Jesus “comes in the name of the Lord” declares that He is commissioned by, authorized by, the representative of, God Himself.  He is God’s authoritative spokesman.  The Sanhedrin had only the authority of office holding; Jesus, however, had the authority of miracle working.  The multitude were generally convinced that this translated into Him coming as a temporal monarch who would kick the Romans out of their land.  What they did not comprehend was that He had a far greater mission:  permanently removing the guilt of past sin from their lives; to use modern idiom, “kicking the sin out of their lives.” 


            11:10   Blessed is the kingdom of our father David, that comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  Their temporal hopes are found in the reference to “the kingdom of our father David.”  It is to reestablish that earthly rule that they look forward to Jesus doing.  Were they hoping that Jesus would do so as soon as He entered Jerusalem--or at least at some time during the present celebration?  In their joy of the moment and their conviction that the coming king would be an earthly ruler, that seems quite likely.  After all, what more appropriate moment would there ever be?                


            11:11   And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple.  So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.  How He lost the huge crowd we are not told.  Perhaps they regarded their job as simply delivering Him to the Temple; in His home it would be up to Him what to do next to secure His recognition and power.  The very fact that He did not do more that day, may have helped cause their emotional “high” to dissipate and encourage them to drift off slowly on their own. 

            So far as Jesus Himself, He stayed in the Temple until “the hour was already late.”  (That would also cause the bulk of the crowd to return to their lodging already.  Making their way around a city they were not used to was a good way to get lost.)  When Jesus finally did leave He did so with the twelve apostles and them only. 



                        A Lesson on the Power of Faith Backed Prayer Drawn from the   “Cursing” of the Fig Tree And Its Withering (11:12-14, 20-26):  12 Now the      next day, as they went out from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 After    noticing in the distance a fig tree with leaves, he went to see if        he could find any fruit on it. When he came to it he found     nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his    disciples heard it.     --New English Translation (for comparison)


* * * * *


                20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree        withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to him,      “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered.” 22 Jesus said   to them, “Have faith in God. 

                23 I tell you the truth, if someone says to this mountain, ‘Be      lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his       heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done   for him. 24 For this reason I tell you, whatever you pray and ask   for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.        25 Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against    anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your sins.”  [Verse 26 Omitted from NET's preferred         underlying Greek text.]  

                        --New English Translation (for comparison)



            11:12   Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry.  Presumably the hunger was produced by an early start.  Wishing to be in the Temple as long as He could would have been a natural desire.  That, however, would not stop normal human “hunger pains” from catching up with Him.  Especially if, as some conjecture, He had spent much of the night outside in prayer after skipping the evening meal.


            11:13   And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it.  When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.  In theory the fig tree offered some quick nourishment as He and the disciples traveled toward Jerusalem.  Though one might find some fig trees sprouting outside of their normal season--and this one did have “leaves” as if it were one of those--it turned out not to be the case no matter how much it  appeared different at a distance.  (Sermonically, one can easily use this as an example of the difference between first appearance and closer reality:  One may seem to the casual observer to be a faithful Christian but actually lack the behaviors and beliefs that are supposed to accompany it--a lack only recognized after prolonged acquaintance.) 

            Sidebar:  Isaiah 28:4 (“the first fruit before summer”), Jeremiah 24:2 (“the figs that are first ripe”),  and Hosea 9:10 (“the firstfruits on the fig tree in its first season”) have all been cited as examples of figs appearing at a time when it would be unusual for them to be present.


            11:14   In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”  And His disciples heard it.  Jesus expressed His annoyance at this “visual lie” by expressing the wish that it never yield a crop in the future.  In effect:  “If you are worthless now, let you be worthless forever!”             



* * * * *



            11:20   Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.  By this time the tree had visibly died--in less than 24 hours, ruling out any natural explanation.  For any tree this would have been unusual; for this kind of tree it was far more so.  (The withering had, however, begun immediately upon Christ’s words being spoken [Matthew 21:19], just not visible to others yet as it now was.) 


            11:21   And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look!  The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”  Jesus did not have to say a word; the apostles could see for themselves.  They had just walked by this tree the previous day and Peter immediately saw that Jesus’ words had quite literally come true.  Since this simply couldn’t happen (non-miraculously),  he recognized that Jesus’ words must have had some cause-effect relationship.  A destruction appropriate not just because it had mislead the Lord, but because it mislead anyone who looked at it.


            11:22   So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God.  It was not Jesus alone who had done this; Jesus was using the power God had given Him.  The lesson for them was that God would produce the “impossible” for them as well. 


            11:23   For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.  The assumption here, of course, is that there is a good reason for it being done.  Jesus’ miracles were for a purpose and not just idle wonders.  Likewise any miracle working they did.  Some of the difficulties and dangers they would face would seem as impossible to escape as moving a mighty mountain.  But through faith in God they would be able to.


            11:24   Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.  It had to be sincere faith--confident that the wish would be granted--and not mere idle wishes.  Note how Jesus words this so the principle applies to any daunting task we might face.  And promptly shifts His teaching to an instruction that, on the inter-human basis, is sometimes as hard as “moving a mountain” . . . the “mountain of anger” inside our own hearts. . . .


            11:25   “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.  Inconveniences are reasonably easy to forgive; outright evils done to us can be quite a different story.  The injustice, the brazenness, the pain, the insult. . . . all have left scars.  In such extreme cases we are told by Jesus to take the problem to the person who caused the harm and, if that doesn’t work, take it to the church (Matthew 18:15-17).

            A distinction needs to be made between “obligation” and “wisdom.”  The obligation is to forgive if requested:  Take heed to yourselves.  If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”  (Luke 17:3-4). 

            In contrast, the path of wisdom--and virtual necessity if the person is a non-Christian or a congregation is unwilling to act--is to forgive lest the anger turn to rage and we “eat up our own soul.”  And, of course, not permit ourselves to get in a situation where they have the potential to do us further harm.  There is a profound difference between forgiveness and blindness. 

            (It is highly common, however, to read our text as a unilateral one applicable in all circumstances regardless of repentance.  And, if one is able to genuinely forgive after saying the words--without holding onto anger and bitterness--that is unquestionably admirable.) 


            11:26   But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”  Christians want forgiveness but that is only for those willing to forgive when it is within their own power to do so.  God will treat us by the standard we practice toward others.



                        Jesus Intervenes To Stop Those Turning the Temple Into A Place of       Business (11:15-19):  15 Then they came to Jerusalem. Jesus entered        the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling   and buying in the temple courts. He turned over the tables of the        money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he        would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the        temple courts.  17 Then he began to teach them and said, “Is it       not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for           all nations’? But you have turned it into a den of robbers!

                   18 The chief         priests and the experts in the law heard it and        they considered how they could assassinate him, for they feared      him, because the whole crowd was amazed by his     teaching. 19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out    of the city.     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            11:15   So they came to Jerusalem.  Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  The rationale for permitting these things--besides the presumed money that was passed to key officials to gain permission--was probably along this line:  The part of the Temple where sacrifices were offered was quite holy and where only Jews were admitted as well; in contrast the outer “court of the Gentiles,” where outsiders could freely enter, was counted as unholy as the very Gentiles themselves.  Hence there could be no defilement of the Temple by permitting necessary businesses associated with the Temple in that location any more than there would be by having them located outside the physical walls of the entire Temple complex.

              It is interesting that Mark only mentions specifically those enterprises--if such businesses were to be permitted at all--that were theoretically most defensible.  Doves were for poor women to remove ceremonial uncleanness after child birth (Leviticus 12:8; the mother of Jesus offered such herself, Luke 2:22-24).  Money changers were useful not only because the Temple attracted many international visitors with their own rather than local coinage but also because the yearly Temple tax that all Jews were required to pay had to be remitted with what was called a “Temple Shekel” (actually the Tyrian Shekel).  That was of limited availability.  The demand for currency from this source was natural since it had a reputation of having a higher percentage of silver than rival issuers.         


            11:16   And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.  Rather than going around the Temple, going through it often saved time and effort for merchants moving their product from one place to another within the city.  There seemed to be no obvious harm in this and one can easily imagine this “generosity” being used to justify the sale of Temple sacrifices within the facility itself.  Jesus, as during a visit several years earlier (John 2:13-17), emphatically thought differently.        


            11:17   Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?  But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’   Jesus assaulted what was going on as subversive of the spiritual intent that applied even to the Court of the Gentiles:  “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (quoting Isaiah 56:7 to make His point).  This was the part of the Temple set aside for Gentiles.  Hence how dare anyone subvert its purpose of being a place of prayer for outsiders!

            If spiritual intent was not enough, there was the problem of blatant dishonesty in sales as well:  it had become a “den of thieves”--echoing the condemnation lodged long before by the prophet Jeremiah (7:11). 


            11:18   And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.  “Because all the people” were amazed at what He said would in no way be a threat to the priestly leadership unless this language also carries the connotation that the teaching was one that was appealing to their spiritual instincts.  The leaders saw the potential of the Lord utilizing the disgruntlement of the people at large against their policies and deeply resented it.  Rather than considering repentance, they opted for defiance and the destruction of the Messenger who was stressing the proper use of the Temple. 


            11:19   When evening had come, He went out of the city.  He did not beat a quick retreat.  If they wished to challenge Him they could.  If they tried to publicly arrest Him for “interfering with the operation of the Temple” they risked public riot in indignant response.  So Jesus stayed safely in the Temple and went about His business until daylight was fading and it was time to leave.  They would challenge Him again . . . but not on that day. 



                        Withering Of The Fig Tree (11:20-26; See Under 11:12-14 above)



                        Jesus’ Authority To Act In The Temple Is Challenged (11:27-33):            27 They came again to Jerusalem. While Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the experts in the law, and the   elders came up to him 28 and said, “By what authority are you         doing these things? Or who gave you this authority to do these         things?” 

                29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question. Answer       me and I will tell you by what authority I do these     things: 30 John’s baptism—was it from heaven or from people?      Answer me.” 

                31 They discussed with one another, saying, “If we say,     ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Then why did you not believe   him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘From people—’” (they feared the crowd,        for they all considered John to be truly a prophet). 33 So they         answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then Jesus said to them,     “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            11:27   Then they came again to Jerusalem.  And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him.  Jesus is described just as “walking in the temple” rather than “teaching in the temple.”  Perhaps this is early in the morning before the larger crowds have begun to gather or in between lessons He taught as crowds gathered, listened, and then passed on to other aspects of their Temple worship.  Certainly Jesus took advantage of the opportunity to teach in the Temple whenever He could; as He said at His trial:  I spoke openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple” (John 18:20).  But even the most passionate of teachers needs a recuperative “break” between lessons.  (As do listeners!)


            11:28   And they said to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things?  And who gave You this authority to do these things?”  The most obvious frame of reference was His chasing the merchants out of the Temple (verses 15-19) but the question logically applied to any and all the varied points on which He differed from the positions taken by the Temple leadership.  With their view of what constituted proper “authority,” they were surely demanding the identification of what rabbinic authority/authorities stood with Him in what He had to teach.  Who had approved His teaching these things?  Who had endorsed these things?  Without this He was simply another “ignorant” Galilean unworthy of acceptance.


            11:29   But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things:  Jesus is willing to answer their question but only if they answer one of His.  What could be fairer?  Why should He, alone, be the one to have to answer questions?  Hh


            11:30   The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?  Answer Me.  Not that hard a question to the bulk of His contemporaries for multitudes had gone out to him, listened to his call for repentance, and been baptized.  The problem was that the Baptizer had publicly rebuked such religious leaders as these (Matthew 3:1-12) and to embrace him would open them to the obvious response “where was the repentance he demanded?”  Not to mention open them to having to deal with John’s own kind words about Jesus (John 1:24-31).  In other words, this was a very simple question yet, paradoxically, one they very much did not want to have to answer.    


            11:31   And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’  They--or their compatriots with similar convictions--had been challenged to repent and there is no indication that they went through with baptism when faced with this demand.  At this point there were only two options:  Set right their own lives or reject the authority of his teaching (= “not believe him”).  They chose the latter.  After all, they were the proper religious authorities and their decisions regulated spiritual right and wrong.  Therefore there was “no possible way” that John could legitimately hold them to account.  Hence they not only “did not believe him,” they also “could not believe him.”  Pride and prejudice were simply too strong.       


            11:32   But if we say, ‘From men’ ”—they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed.  They could not reveal their true opinion because of fear of how the masses would react.  Dead John might be; his memory was quite alive.  To bluntly and openly spurn him ran the danger of being scorned by the masses who had loved him.  Acceptance of their rabbinic authority hinged upon at least passive cooperation and respect from these multitudes.  If they scorned the clear truth on this matter, how were they to retain it?  Their credibility and authority as teachers would be lost.    


            11:33   So they answered and said to Jesus, “We do not know.”  And Jesus answered and said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”  Now, these people were the experts--or so they wanted people to believe.  That they--of all people!--could not decide the matter was inherently absurd.  But the embarrassment was still far better than the potential side effects of outright denial.








Chapter Twelve




                        Parable Of The Dishonorable Tenants (12:1-12):  1 Then he began   to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put   a fence around it, dug a pit for its winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went on a         journey. At harvest time he sent a slave to the tenants to      collect from them his portion of the crop. But those tenants     seized his slave, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 

                So he sent another slave to them again. This one they   struck on the head and treated outrageously. He sent another,   and that one they killed. This happened to many others, some of whom were beaten, others killed. 

                He had one left, his one dear son. Finally he sent him to        them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and the inheritance will be ours!’ So they seized him, killed him, and         threw his body out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of       the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and     give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this scripture:           The stone the builders rejected has become the corner-      stone. / 11 This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our      eyes’?”

                12 Now they wanted to arrest him (but they feared the      crowd), because they realized that he told this parable against       them. So they left him and went away.     --New English Translation   (for comparison)



            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.  Either the man in this parable had an unexpected change in plans or he had all this constructed as, if you will, an “investment” knowing that others would actually administer it.  Using this imagery the vineyard consists of God’s Jewish people and the vinedressers those who organize and run it.  In the context of the first century, the latter translates into the rabbinic and priestly establishment that ran the Sanhedrin and the Temple in Jerusalem. 

            Sidebar:  The image of Israel as God’s vineyard represents a concept that Biblically knowledgeable Jews would be well aware of.  It grows out of the concept of Israel as God’s “vine,” planted in the earth.  Psalms 80, for example:


                        You have brought a vine out of Egypt; / You have cast out the nations,             and planted it.  /  9 You prepared room for it, / And caused it to take deep root, /          And it filled the land.  /  10 The hills were covered with its shadow, / And the        mighty cedars with its boughs.  /  11 She sent out her boughs to the Sea,  /  And her        branches to the River.  


            God had, so to speak, often left Israel alone.  They had His word to guide themselves by.  During such times the responsibility to honorably “manage” the property was left solely in their hands.  But, as in the parable, the leaders repeatedly had become obsessed with the property being theirs to manage, use, and alter in the ways that most satisfied their own preferences rather than remembering their obligation to the One who truly “owned” the property--God.  Hence anyone sent by God--as repeated prophets were--were mocked, scorned, abused, and sometimes even killed.  Similarly in the parable. . . .    


            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.  And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated.  And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some.  The abuse took a variety of forms but one thing was on-going:  The determination to reject the owner’s (= God’s) intervention at any and all costs.  As Stephen challenged (before he was stoned to death), “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?”  (Acts 7:52).  An exaggeration, yes, but one which anyone with a modest knowledge of Biblically recorded history knew was all too common.  As Elijah mourned to God, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword.  I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:10).  The apostle Paul appeals to this text in Romans 11:3. 

            And Jerusalem was just as hard hearted as anywhere else in the land.  In spite of the fact that it was the seat of religious government (the Sanhedrin) and the location of the sacred Temple.  Hence Jesus mourns in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”


            12:6     Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’  The final effort to gain submission and respect was the property owner (God) sending to His vineyard (Israel) not a “mere” servant but a member of His actual family.  Indeed, the son who would inherit the property.  Prestige of position if nothing else should have gained acquiescence at this point.


            12:7     But those vinedressers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’  In some ways this was totally illogical.  It should not have taken a whole lot of thought to recognize that this was as inflammatory an insult as could be given.  If the man could arrange retribution, it has now become a point of honor to do so and to utterly destroy the abusers (as verse 9 points out).  They are betting it’s simply not practical and are about to pay for their arrogant misjudgment. 


            12:8     So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard.  The fact that this was an enclosed vineyard means that there was an entrance in and out of it.  So little did they think of the son that they treat him as no more than human trash to be “cast [out]” of the property and left to rot.     

            Hebrews 13:10-13 pictures animal sacrifices being destroyed outside the gate of the sanctuary (by burning) and the language is applied to Jesus:  Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate” (verse 12).  It is impossible to believe that early sermonic expositors of Hebrews 13 could avoid tying this in with our text about the (only) Son being cast out of the vineyard.


            12:9     “Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do?  He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.  The owner had been long suffering; indeed one might even criticize him for being overly so.  In spite of that, this patience assured that those who ran the vineyard--equivalent to the type of religious leaders opposing Jesus--had been given abundant opportunity to reform for the better.  Since His authority to teach had been challenged, it was inevitable that this story’s warning would be interpreted by the religious authorities as ultimately directed at them (verse 12).


            12:10   Have you not even read this Scripture:  ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.   He had not directly answered their challenge as to what authority was behind His teaching (11:27-33), but this text--and the implication that it was relevant to what was currently happening--threw down two gauntlets:  (1)  Jesus was the unique “stone” of prophecy and (2) even the rejection of Him was natural since that prophetic precedent was involved in the solid rock being rejected as well.  Hence not only was Jesus’ teaching right, He (and it) represented “the chief cornerstone” of the spiritual house God was building.  The religious authorities were indignant at both thoughts (cf. verse 12).

            Sidebar:  This verse and the next come from Psalms 118:22-23.  The apostle Peter applied it to Christ both in direct argument before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:8-12) and in writing to Christians within what is now modern day Turkey (1 Peter 2:4-8).


            12:11   This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”  Not everything that happens in this world is due to God’s intervention, but this one was.  Weymouth’s modern speech version renders the first words, “the Cornerstone came from the Lord.”  He chose and provided it.


            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.  This is Passover season.  There are large numbers around them (“the multitude”) . . . Jesus has been receiving a receptive hearing . . . they are afraid of angering the crowd (11:31-33).  Faced with a receptive crowd and this “outrageous” claim . . . accompanied by a parable specifically targeting them . . . they were left with no practical choice but to retreat.  To use modern idiom, no doubt as they did so “steam was coming out of their ears.”  Which would have matched the rage they could not express until they were in safer quarters where they could freely vent their indignation.    



                        The Legitimacy of Paying Roman Taxes (12:13-17):  13 Then they     sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to trap him with his own words. 14 When they came they said to him, “Teacher, we       know that you are truthful and do not court anyone’s favor,         because you show no partiality but teach the way of God in      accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or      not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” 

                15 But he saw through their hypocrisy and said to them,    “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius and let me look     at it.” 16 So they brought one, and he said to them, “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.”         17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were       utterly amazed at him.     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            12:13   Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words.  Matthew 22:16 tells us that the Pharisees “sent to Him their disciples.”  The important Pharisees had not done well in their effort to entrap Jesus (12:12) so they now gave what in athletics would be called the “junior varsity team” the opportunity to test their talents.  It can do no harm and sometimes they can be amazingly successful.  They have worked out--or been given--a question that could well gain an answer that could be used against Him.  A short affirmative response would be unacceptable to the public and the Pharisees could use it as a “wedge issue” to drive public opinion away.  But a negative response could be dangerous with a different segment of opinion.  The Herodians, with their close ties to the political authorities, could put their testimony in the ears of those that could bring down government suppression upon the Lord.  


            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?  First the truth that they wish to use as a weapon against Him:  You have no concern what others think or who you might offend.  Then the question they intend to use against Him. 

            The census at Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:2) determined who could be taxed and, from that, the probable amount of revenue that could be generated.  Some seven years later Cyrenius entered Judea with the purpose of collecting taxes based on that census.  As the famous rabbi Gamaliel later recalled, when “Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him” the rebellion was crushed and Judas killed (Acts 5:37).  Anything that would challenge the Roman right to collect such taxes--any kind of tax they wanted to impose for that matter--was politically inflammatory.  It would serve as a useful pretext to agitate for His arrest. 


            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.  In a different set of circumstances, perhaps Jesus would have given a more direct answer to their question.  But He recognized that it was an insincere question not intended to bring out truth and worded His response in a way that would give both an honest response and, paradoxically, be the most difficult to use against Him.


            12:16   So they brought it.  And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”  They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”  The coin was easy enough to find.  The Pharisees might well not have had any Roman coins with them (because of the “image” Jesus refers to); the Herodians were more likely to lack such scruples.  Even if neither did, the money changers were in the Court of the Gentiles and they could have obtained it quickly from that source.  Whose money it was was transparently obvious:  It carried both the picture and the name of “Caesar.”  Hence the reply to their question came easily and was transparently obvious to any observer. . . .


            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.  They might not like it, but did not Roman money ultimately belong to the Romans?  Use their coinage and expect to pay their taxes.  The two are irretrievably interlocked.  That did not mean that God must be overlooked but that the interests of both state and God must be respected.

            This response they “marveled” at.  It was quite logical and fully avoided the traps they had set.  They had vastly underestimated His ability to “think on His feet” and to give an answer that simultaneously was fully truthful and removed their ability to use it against Him--and that on one of the most potentially explosive questions they could have raised!   im 



                        Will There Be Marriage In The Resurrection? (12:18-27):            18 Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) also came to him      and asked him, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us: ‘If a man’s    brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, that man        must marry the widow and father children for his brother.'    20 There were seven brothers. The first one married, and when    he died he had no children. 21 The second married her and died    without any children, and likewise the third. 22 None of the seven       had children. Finally, the woman died too. 23 In the resurrection,      when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For all seven had       married her.” 

                24 Jesus said to them, “Aren’t you deceived for this reason,        because you don’t know the scriptures or the power of       God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 

                26 Now as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and       the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead but of the         living. You are badly mistaken!”     --New English Translation (for       comparison)



            12:18  Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying:  To them this life is it.  There is nothing of us that survives death; we simply cease to exist.  Hence, by definition, there can be no resurrection since there is nothing to resurrect in the first place.

            Why they intervened at all is unknown.  It is quite possible that they do so not so much to prove that Jesus is wrong as to humiliate the Pharisees by obtaining the kind of intellectual victory their theological foes had been unable to.


            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.  The Sadducees emphatically rejected the authority of oral tradition and embraced that of the Law of Moses alone.  Their reasoning probably was that the prophetic literature was designed to bring men back to the Torah rather than to teach anything new.  Hence everything that was needed was found in those first five books of the Old Testament. 

            This would overlook the fact that as a functioning nation state they might well have problems that did not need to be addressed before the conquest of Palestine.  It also would overlook the fact that the Torah might present ideas that are seeds from which deeper and additional truths might be made clear by later Divine inspiration.  Since they did not believe in the authority of the prophets, the introduction of resurrection texts from that source--such as are often found in Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2, for example--would have proved nothing to them.  Hence Jesus introduces a conceptual seed from the Law itself (verses 26-27). 

            Sidebar:  The text they refer to is found in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.     


            12:20   Now there were seven brothers.  The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring.  21 And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise.  22 So the seven had her and left no offspring.  Last of all the woman died also.  23 Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be?  For all seven had her as wife.”  Having a large family such as this one (i.e., seven brothers and an unknown number of sisters) was a point of pride.  It was also a practical necessity whenever possible.  Until modern medical breakthroughs, most children would not live to mature adulthood.  Furthermore there was precious little to provide organized help for the elderly when the ability to work was finally beyond them.  Hence the existence of children was invaluable in assuring that there was someone to care for them in their old age, just as those parents had been essential to care for the children in their vulnerable years.

            That a woman could go through seven brothers and not be able to get pregnant by any of them would be “pushing probability,” but certainly not impossible.  Things simply sometimes work out that way.  In this hypothetical case, the goal of the Law to assure that there was a next generation had been obstructed, so if there was to be a succeeding generation, it had to be after the resurrection.  


            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?  They faltered on the two grounds of not understanding the Scriptures as they were intended and in effectively denying that God lacked the power to bring us back to bodily life if He wishes.  In other words He finds a failure of both Biblical understanding and of sound reasoning.  After all, if God could create us in the first place, how in the world is it improbable that He could preserve us through death itself and bring us back to bodily life if He wishes? 

            On paper that is merely a hypothetical wording of the problem for it involves what He “could” do versus what He “will” do.  The fact that the Lord introduces it at all would seem to argue that the Sadducees viewed it as literally beyond His power.  Either that or, far less likely, a denial that He will exercise the power even if He has it. 


            12:25   For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.  God resolves the problem of whose wife she will be by using His power (verse 24) to change our nature (as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44).  Marriage will no longer exist and that requires that the sensual urges that lead to it have either been removed or drastically altered.  As the result of these alterations we will be “like angels” rather than like the carnal creatures we had been while on temporal earth.  Augustine said it well:  Marriages are on account of children; children on account of succession; succession on account of death.  But in heaven, as there is no death, neither is there any marriage.”  

            That speaks to the question of God’s power.  Now as to Scriptural evidence. . . .


            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’?  “In the bush” is the literal rendering, referring to the name/description of the text about the burning bush.  In a similar manner “the Bow” referred to David’s lament in 2 Samuel 1:17-27.  (Our modern chapter and verse divisions were lacking back then.)  Here, many centuries after they have died, Moses is told at the burning bush that Jehovah remains “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6).  Was God really saying “I am the God of dust and ashes” which these great men had become?  For God to truly be--in the current rather than past tense--their God, then they must still consciously exist.  So Jesus reasons and explains. . . .


            12:27   He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.  You are therefore greatly mistaken.”  Jehovah could not have called Himself the God of persons who do not exist, and over whom death had completely triumphed.  The patriarchs, therefore, though their bodies were dead, must themselves have been still living in the separate state, and awaiting the resurrection.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)  



                        An Honest Questioner Concedes That Jesus Gave the Right Answer      To His Question (12:28-34):  28 Now one of the experts in the law         came and heard them debating. When he saw that Jesus    answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the         most important of all?” 

                29 Jesus answered, “The most important is: ‘Listen, Israel,         the Lord our God, the Lord is one30 Love the Lord your   God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your       mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is: ‘Love         your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment   greater than these.” 

                32 The expert in the law said to him, “That is true, Teacher;       you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else       besides him33 And to love him with all your heart, with all          your mind, and with all your strength and to love your           neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings        and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered        thoughtfully, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom         of God.” Then no one dared any longer to question him.

                        --New English Translation (for comparison)



            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?”  Recognizing that Jesus had given an excellent response to the question of the Sadducees, this scribe--whether inclined to be hostile or not--decided to throw in his own question.  In light of his positive response to the answer (verses 32-34), this is likely one that genuinely perplexed him. 

            It is quite possible that he had heard discussions of the matter and none of what he heard was fully convincing.  In the rabbinic thinking of the time, quite a few would have answered that the Mosaical rules on sacrifices and offerings were the most important since these were the requirements for reconciliation and acceptability with God.

            Sidebar:  In the parallel account in Matthew 22:34-39 we learn that this scribe was also a Pharisee.


            12:29   Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is:  ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Jesus appeals to Deuteronomy 6:4-5 both here and in the first sentence of the next verse.  In its original Deuteronomic context (verses 1-4 and 6-9), this meant observing all His commandments both immediately and in the future as well.  We would say today that their lifestyle was to be one of reverential and respectful obedience. 


            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.  People can make fine distinctions between “heart,” “soul” and “mind” but the point is clear:  You must love God with every part of you.  There is not to be a divided or partial loyalty.  And that love is to be whole hearted and lacking nothing you have to give--“with all your strength,” not just part of it.    


            12:31   And the second, like it, is this:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Jesus had only been asked about what was “the first commandment” (verse 28), but important as that was in its emphatic demand for unflinching obedience to Jehovah, there was still the fact that it only dealt with part of life--our relationship to God.  But we live daily in varied relationships with other people and they can’t be ignored either.  The pivotal command in that context is the seeking of constructive relationships with others.  We are to exhibit positive good will (“love”) both in what we think about them and how we treat them.

            Jesus’ own commentary on what this involves is found in Matthew 7:12:  “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  Paul’s commentary on this in Romans 13:8-10 is that the various requirements of the Ten Commandments “are all summed up in this saying.” 

            Even in the context of the original loving neighbor commandment, there is a commentary provided as to the types of things it involves (Leviticus 19:17-18):  You shall not hate your brother in your heart.  You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:  I am the Lord.”       


            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.  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.”  No quibbling; no word games, simply an admission that the Lord had summed the situation up perfectly.  And then he adds his own commentary as to the implications of full obedience to God and love of our neighbor:  that “is more than [--not just equal to--] all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  It wasn’t as if those sacrifices were not useful or could be neglected, but that in comparison with these two principles they fade into insignificance.  


            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.  The man had the right way of thinking to enter God’s kingdom.  He was not blinded by traditionalism nor by a fetish exalting the ceremonial system of the day to the level of the moral principles embodied in Mosaical Law.  Only if we get the moral fundamentals right are we likely to desire to enter the Divine kingdom.



                        The Paradox of the Messiah Being The Descendant of David (12:35-      37):  35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he said,    “How is it that the experts in the law say that the Christ is         David’s son? 36 David himself, by the Holy Spirit, said, The Lord           said to my lord, / Sit at my right hand, / until I put your        enemies under your feet.” ’ 37 If David himself calls him ‘Lord,’       how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            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?  Being in Jerusalem during the Passover, what better place to teach and debate than in the Temple?  Having been asked a question of some sort--note the “answered,” which implies this--Jesus throws out a rhetorical question, seeking an explanation for current scribal teaching.  If He was to give explanations to others, shouldn’t they have the obligation to answer His questions as well?  And, just like the scribal question about what was the greatest commandment of the Divine Law (verse 28), this one was a “head scratcher” too as one tried to work out the explanation.

            Sidebar:  The text quoted in the next verse is from Psalms 110:1.  It is introduced as a reference to Jesus by the apostle Peter in his first sermon (Acts 2:34-35) and as evidence of the superiority of Christ over angels in Hebrews 1:13.


            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.”   Hence the problem lay not in the claim that the Anointed/Chosen One (“Christ”) is the descendant of David but in what scripture also says about that figure . . . how He is both descendent of that Hebrew king and yet simultaneously superior to David--even while David was still alive. 

            Sidebar:  Note that the Psalms were written by David under inspiration:  “said by the Holy Spirit.”  It was far more than mere pious words or personal theology; it was infallibly accurate teaching delivered to him to speak and write.  Since he spoke of the then future he functioned as a prophet in doing this:  “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (1 Peter 1:21). 


            12:37   Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”  And the common people heard Him gladly.  At the least, the Psalms text argues that the Messiah was (1) already in existence when David wrote, (2) was already--in some sense--superior to King David.  Since that means the Messiah already existed in heaven, how could one avoid admitting that the Messiah was at least an angelic being or (as John does in the first verses of his gospel) that the Messiah was Deity Himself? 

            The Passover listeners were surely fascinated to hear this, but the religious leadership that was present--Matthew 22:41 indicates that the Pharisees were there and that this question was directed at them in particular--apparently made no effort to respond.  They probably had no interest in probing such matters because it involved developing the concept of the Messiah in ways they were uncomfortable with.

            Sidebar:  One could argue that this promise would be delivered later (i.e., after Jesus’ death) but the Psalms text does not say, “The Lord will say to my Lord” (as if of something in the future) but “the Lord said to my Lord” as if it is something already accomplished as of when David wrote.  Jesus already existed in the highest honored position (at God’s right hand) and what was being done even under the Old Testament was the preparatory work necessary to “make Your enemies Your footstool.”    



                        The Weaknesses of the Supposed Religious Elite Of The Day (12:38-     40):  38 In his teaching Jesus also said, “Watch out for the experts        

        in the law. They like walking around in long robes and elaborate        greetings in the marketplaces, 39 and the best seats in the         synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ property, and as a show make long prayers. These men will receive a more severe punishment.”     --New English      Translation (for comparison)



            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,  39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts,  They were prestige junkies; the honor and recognition swelled their egos and they jealously sought it out like heroin addicts seek their drug of choice.  “Long robes” were not practical for those who had physical work to do but only for those wishing to demonstrate their position “above” such everyday necessities.  Similarly, the public greetings verbally confirmed their importance.

            Of course the “best seats” were their inherent right as well as the best ones at varied “feasts.”  No doubt if they didn’t get them they would either pout or tell you your error in crystal clear language.  (Or bad mouth you to others who shared their addiction if the particular situation made a public criticism inadvisable.)    

            Sidebar:  “The best seats” in the synagogue were those arranged in front of the ceremonial “ark” which contained a copy of the Mosaical Law.  These seats did not face the ark but the rest of the congregation.  Physically this meant everyone who was present could see them and have visually confirmed the “right” of such folk to be honored and respected.  Non-verbal communication, if you will.


            12:40   who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”  Because of being so blind to their own imperfections and limitations, it is hardly surprising that outright financial dishonesty would sprout up.  In particular as they used their position as administrators of widows’ property--or as their financial advisers--to actually gut their income and possessions.  They “deserved” such enrichment for their time and effort, didn’t they?  And their obvious “piety” would protect them from most criticism.  The ancient equivalent of the modern, “If you can’t trust a preacher who can you trust?” 

            And if you doubted their sincerity, look at how much time they spent in prayer!  Hence humanitarian responsibilities were abused to harm the property and earnings of the most vulnerable (widows) while spiritual concerns were abused into a form of public display. 

            Then come the ominous words, “They will receive greater condemnation.”  They aren’t the “common everyday sinner,” they are the arrogant and prestigious individuals who take pride in their position and who in intellectual knowledge should unquestionably know better.  But they rationalize their way around any inhibitions and are, accordingly, held to condemnatory judgment by God--even more than the ones who had less knowledge and opportunity to do wrong.        



                        God Judges Charity Not By The Amount But By How Much You             Have To Give (12:41-44):  41 Then he sat down opposite the offering       box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich         people were throwing in large amounts. 42 And a poor widow

        came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a

        penny43 He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the

        truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all

        the others. 44 For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out

        of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she   had.”  --New English Translation (for comparison)



            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.  42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.   Jesus did not spend all His time in the temple teaching.  There would be breaks in teaching after He was challenged by various critics and, especially early in each day upon arrival, there would be plenty of time to observe the contrasting types of behavior among those around Him.  One of the things of interest would be how the people would treat their financial obligations to the Temple and, for that matter, their supplemental free will gifts.

            The wealthy had plenty to give and one can easily imagine them making their giving quite loud and conspicuous.  (In regards to a different setting, Jesus rebuked His contemporaries in regard to such efforts:  do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets” [Matthew 6:2].)  In vivid contrast, of no financial importance were women like this widow.  So poor she had virtually nothing at all.  She still thought it was right and necessary to give even if it was, by anyone else’s financial standards, only a “puny” amount.     

            Sidebar:  In the “Court of the Women” there were thirteen large chests into which donations could be placed.  They were popularly called “trumpets” because the opening into each was far wider at the top than the bottom.  Nine of these were set aside for paying money owed to the temple for various reasons such as money being given in place of sacrifices.  So that there would be no confusion, each was clearly labeled as to what purpose the funds were for.  In addition there were four additional “trumpets” set aside for free will gifts--in contrast to the others which were, in effect, “donations due as obligation.”     


            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.  Jesus’ words imply that they also had seen what was going on or the reference would have made no sense.  But He needed to “call His disciples” together so they would hear and be attentive to the argument He wanted to make concerning her generosity.


            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.”  Monetarily what the rich had given vastly surpassed what she had contributed but they still had large funds left afterwards.  In contrast she provided everything she had, trusting in God that she would be able to obtain food later in the day.  Hence how much one gives is as nothing when compared with the spirit and attitude that motivates the giving. 

            As the apostle Paul wrote of Christian giving, “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12).  Or as the Good News Translation words it in even plainer language, “For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” 








Chapter Thirteen




                        The Coming Destruction Of the Jerusalem Temple:  A Time Of   Widespread War (13:1-8):  1 Now as Jesus was going out of the        temple courts, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look at         these tremendous stones and buildings!” Jesus said to him, “Do         you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left on     another. All will be torn down!”

                So while he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him      privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will         be the sign that all these things are about to take place?” 

                Jesus began to say to them, “Watch out that no one      misleads you. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’        and they will mislead many. When you hear of wars and rumors       of wars, do not be alarmed. These things must happen, but the    end is still to come. For nation will rise up in arms against      nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes   in various places, and there will be famines. These are but the        beginning of birth pains.     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            13:1     Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!  One of His apostles was so excited as they left the Temple and observed its beauty, he could only excitedly urge Jesus Himself to take time to do the same.  This was not merely the view of an excited Galilean who would rarely see a very large building in the first place, but also the normal first century evaluation:  So much effort had been put into the Temple by Herod that it had gained an international reputation for its awesome beauty.


            13:2     And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings?  Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”  The building blocks were huge, some measuring as much as twenty by forty feet and have a weight in excess of one hundred tons.  Roman siege machines battered the walls for six solid days and were unable to crack them.

            Sidebar on the comprehensiveness of the destruction:  And even as He said, less than forty years afterwards, ‘Zion was ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem became heaps, and the mountain of the House as the high places of the forest’ (Micah 3:12).  Titus himself was amazed at the massive buildings of Jerusalem, and traced in his triumph the hand of God (Josephus, Bell. Jud. vi. 9. 1).  At his departure after the capture of the city, he left the tenth legion under the command of Terentius Rufus to carry out the work of demolition, and Josephus tells us (Bell. Jud. vii. 1. 1) that the whole inclosing walls and precincts of the Temple were ‘so thoroughly leveled and dug up that no one visiting the city would believe it had ever been inhabited.’   (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)    


            13:3     Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately,  Why they were sitting at that particular spot we aren’t told.  Presumably simply for a short break on the way back to Bethany--and at a spot where they could savor the beauty of the Temple for a few minutes in the setting sun.  From Luke 21:5-6 we have the supplemental information that this response occurred “as some spoke of the Temple” and its impressiveness.  Hence this occurs at the same time as what is said in the two preceding verses and separate from the presence of the other apostles.  Whether the others were following in a separate group or were ahead of this one we do not know.  Either way, it was natural to raise the matter of the timing of such an important event once the destruction of the Temple was mentioned.     

            What is especially interesting about that is that they do not challenge His claim that it will be destroyed.  They are so profoundly convinced that He is a Teacher sent by God, that the fact that He said it guaranteed it would come to pass.


            13:4     “Tell us, when will these things be?  And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?”  The timing was important for if they had that piece of information it would tell them when to assure that they and their loved ones were elsewhere so they would not be entangled in the side effects of the destruction.  Probably asked in case Jesus did not want to speak of how many years this lay in the future, they also wished to know what specific outward event (“the sign”) that would unquestionably point to what was about to happen.  This would provide at least a useful indication of relative imminence without providing a specific date.


            13:5     And Jesus, answering them, began to say:  “Take heed that no one deceives you.  They were apostles but they were still human.  One of the greatest protections against deception is the recognition that one can be deceived--not necessarily easily but that it can be done.  Then one is on guard to double check the credibility of what is done and claimed.


            13:6     For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many.  People claiming to speak on Christ’s behalf (“come in My name”) will go far as to claim that they are actually the One you are waiting for.  The scary part was not so much that this would happen at all, but that there would be such a longing for the event that the deception would ensnare “many.” 

            The wording does not require that most of this large number would be Christians--though the warning to the apostles in the previous verse clearly cautions them that such could be included.  The main targets would be the unconverted looking desperately for a earthly and temporal king--the kind that even admirers of Jesus were sometimes wishing to make Him into (John 6:12-15).

            The reasons are easy to understand.  First of all, resentment at Roman power and the various excesses of Roman governors repeatedly provided “texts and pretexts” for a violent reaction within Palestine.  Secondly, this would occur in a broader context of wars and natural disasters making one even more desirous for the claim to be true. . . .


            13:7     But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet.  Note the plural:  both “wars” and “rumors of war.”  Before the Temple’s destruction there would be repeated outbreaks of military conflict and rumors of even more threatening on the horizon. 

            Laying aside strictly Gentile conflicts, Vincent’s Word Studies provides this summary of Jewish related ones that occurred before the Great Revolt began in 66 A.D.:   Such [rumors] would be a cause of terror to the Hebrew Christians; as the three threats of war against the Jews by Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.  There were serious disturbances at Alexandria, A.D. 38, in which the Jews were the especial objects of persecution; at Seleucia about the same time, in which more than fifty thousand Jews were killed; and at Jamnia, near Joppa.” 

            13:8     For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles.  These are the beginnings of sorrows.  The non-Jewish conflicts are emphasized both because there were far more Gentiles than Jews in the world but also because the phenomena listed point to it being an era of fragile peace in which the barriers to war were repeatedly broken in a variety of places.  These were not to be mere isolated and one-time-only events. 

            War is tragic enough, but there would also be “famines” with the hunger and death by starvation that are inevitable (both inside and outside of a war context) and “troubles” of varied types to upset one’s peace of mind.  Jesus doesn’t bother to define the nature of the “troubles,” indicating that the gut wrenching events would erupt in a variety of forms.  Yet these are only the preliminaries (“the beginnings of sorrows”) to what will happen in Palestine itself. 

            Sidebar:  “Troubles” is now omitted by virtually all English translations.  Read as linked strictly with “famines,” “troubles” in a variety of forms--theft, robbery, exorbitant prices, etc.--would be the inevitable side effect of famine . . . a necessary inference from what has happened.  Taken as a distinctly separate item, any era in which the other phenomena occur is inevitably going to find a variety of other difficulties arising as well.   



                        The Coming Destruction Of the Jerusalem Temple:  A Time Of   Christian Persecution And Family Division (13:9-13):  “You must watch         out for yourselves. You will be handed over to councils and   beaten in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and         kings because of me, as a witness to them. 10 First the gospel   must be preached to all nations. 11 When they arrest you and hand you over for trial, do not worry about what to speak. But      say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you speaking,     but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will hand over brother to death,         and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have     them put to death. 13 You will be hated by everyone because of    my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 

                        --New English Translation (for comparison)



            13:9     “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues.  You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them.  Synagogues were self-governing and could inflict temporal punishment for outrageous conduct.  Hence the reference to being tried and “beaten in the synagogues.”  Paul endured such mistreatment upon multiple occasions, “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one” (2 Corinthians 11:24).

            But it wouldn’t be Jewish tribunals alone, but also Gentile “rulers and kings” before whom they would stand and face potential affliction.  As to Paul, he was brought before Felix (Acts 24), Festus (Acts 25), and Agrippa (Acts 26).  Since Paul was in Rome at the time he wrote 2 Timothy 4:16, he appeared before Caesar’s / Nero’s court to answer accusations against him.     


            13:10   And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.  Passing from the pains they would face, He reassures the apostles that before Jerusalem is destroyed the “good news” (= “gospel”) they preached would be shared throughout all the world.  Whatever might happen to the Temple, the firm roots of an abiding Christianity would already be laid down.  By the time Paul wrote Colossians he could confidently assert that “the word of the truth of the gospel” had “come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you” (1:5-6).  He writes of how the gospel “was preached to every creature under heaven” (verse 23).  Hyperbole of course, but an expression of just how profoundly widespread the gospel had already been shared.   


            13:11   But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak.  But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.  Under pressure we humans tend to panic, but the apostles are assured that even under such extremely hostile situations they would still get their message spoken in the right manner.  The Holy Spirit would be guiding what they had to say. 

            Mark simply asserts the fact; John describes, if you will, the theology of the process:  12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.  14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.  15 All things that the Father has are Mine.  Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:12-15).  That which guided them into full accuracy when teaching others, also protected them with wisdom and insight when facing legal retribution for what they were preaching.


            13:12   Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.  Even though God’s will was being faithfully taught that fact did not change the reality that many could not tolerate this “insult” to their sensibilities.  It would even cause the disruption of the family unit--both by the parents and, in other cases, by the offspring.  It would make some so insensitive that they had no problem with handing their kin over for punishment by execution.


            13:13   And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  If family ties could be so easily shattered as in the preceding verse, it is not startling that hatred would be the motivating factor.  Not hatred for some terrible evil we have done but for unswerving loyalty to the Lord.  But no amount of hatred will deny one his or her salvation--if steadfastness to the Lord remains in place.  Hatred may kill the body but it will never kill the salvation.



                        The Coming Destruction Of the Jerusalem Temple:  A Time Of  Danger, Flight, and Misleading False Prophets (13:14-23):  14 “But when         you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should   not be” (let the reader understand), “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15 The one on the roof must not come       down or go inside to take anything out of his house. 16 The one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 

                17 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are    nursing their babies in those days! 18 Pray that it may not be in      winter. 19 For in those days there will be suffering unlike anything      that has happened from the beginning of the creation that God   created until now, or ever will happen. 20 And if the Lord had not        cut short those days, no one would be saved. But because of the   elect, whom he chose, he has cut them short. 

                21 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or        ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe him. 22 For false messiahs and     false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to       deceive, if possible, the elect. 23 Be careful! I have told you   everything ahead of time.     --New English Translation (for       comparison)



            13:14   “So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not” (let the reader understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  The abomination that causes desolation is identified as the same phenomena spoken of by Daniel and when its presence is known people--not just in Jerusalem alone but from throughout Judea--need to get out of the way by quickly fleeing to the mountains.  There it would be difficult and time consuming to find them.  Although Jesus is still primarily concerned with the destruction of Jerusalem, the Roman field of operations would extend widely throughout the region and the advice is applicable to others who would or could be affected as well:  Stay out of their way!  This is seen in the fact that the instruction is addressed to those “in Judea” rather than just “in or near Jerusalem.”   

            Sidebar:  “Spoken of by Daniel the prophet” is rejected from most modern translations on the grounds that it is not found in what are regarded as the best of the ancient manuscripts.  It is, however, found in the parallel account in Matthew 24:15. 


            13:15   Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house.  The principle of flight is applied first to urban dwellers because if they get caught within the city walls they will not have the opportunity to safely leave at all.  (Homes typically had exterior stairways to the roof and entry into the house itself would not be required--as in the example in Mark 2:3-4.)  The Romans could throw a cordon around the city and attack at leisure or simply starve you out.  At the first sign of their nearness it is too late to flee with anything but the clothes on your back.  Other things take time to gather and slow you down in your desperate flight.  The emphasis has to be on saving yourself rather than saving your possessions.  The latter can be replaced, but not the first.


            13:16   And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.  The farm and vineyard worker would take his outer garment off to do the day’s labor, typically leaving it at home where there would be no danger of it accidentally (or intentionally, by others) being “lost.”  If word is that the Romans are near, even taking time to grab your other clothes could get you killed--or impressed into indefinite slave labor moving goods and equipment to help them win their war.     


            13:17   But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!  When fast flight is imperative, being pregnant dangerously slows you down.  If you are nursing the anxiety could well dry up the milk the baby so urgently needs.  Or if the baby cries out at the wrong moment the soldiers could detect where you are hiding.


            13:18   And pray that your flight may not be in winter.  Winter was the time of bad weather and swollen rivers.  Faced with the dangers of an enemy army whose behavior could only be guessed at--but one rarely went wrong assuming the worst--travel conditions would impose yet an additional level of potential danger and disaster.

            Sidebar:  Events worked out as Jesus urged them to pray.  (a) The compassing of the city by the Roman armies spoken of by St Luke (Luke 21:20) took place at the commencement of October, A.D. 66, when the weather was yet mild and favorable for traveling, (b) The final siege, if any Christian Jews lingered on till then, took place in the still more open months of April or May.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)    


            13:19   For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be.  This would be a time of unprecedented disaster because the Roman destruction of the Temple visually symbolized the rejection of the Jews as God’s people.  Such had never happened before and, having been accomplished, would never be done again.  Nor would the Temple ever be rebuilt with Divine approval for the time of its need had now gone by.

           Sidebar:  Independent of these factors the pure scale of the disaster awed even non-Christian Jews.  Josephus writes, “I do not think that any state ever suffered such things, or any nation within the memory of man.”

            The scope of the disaster has been concisely summarized by the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:  “The horrors of war and sedition, of famine and pestilence, were such as exceeded all example or conception.  The city was densely crowded by the multitudes which had come up to the Passover. Pestilence ensued, and famine followed. The commonest instincts of humanity were forgotten.  Acts of violence and cruelty were perpetrated without compunction or remorse, and barbarities enacted which cannot be described. Mothers snatched the food from the mouths of their husbands and children, and one actually killed, roasted, and devoured her infant son.  (Compare Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:56-67). 

            “Dead bodies filled the houses and streets of the city, while cruel assassins rifled and mangled with the exultation of fiends.  The besieged devoured even the filth of the streets, and so excessive was the stench that it was necessary to hurl 600,000 corpses over the wall, while 97,000 captives were taken during the war, and more than 1,100,000 perished in the siege.”

            Jesus’ words may have been hyperbolic, but did not the scale of disaster fully justify them?


            13:20   And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.  The longer a war lasts, the less scrupulous the invader feels he needs be--or should be.  Resentment breeds ever deeper anger and even rudimentary decency easily gets lost.  Say the innocent thing that gets misunderstood . . . look like you are even thinking you might be rebellious . . . deal with a frustrated soldier doing duty he hates. . . . and you may easily be the next capricious victim.  God did His part in lessening the calamity by shortening the length of the war.  The dangers would still exist but their duration be far less.

            God used both the enthusiasm of the Romans and the stupidity of key leaders of the insurrection to help accomplish this:  “In mercy they were shortened, (1) by the swift and energetic measures of the invading armies, and (2) by the infatuation of the besieged.  On his part Titus encircled the city with a wall five miles in extent, and fortified it with thirteen strong garrisons in the almost incredibly short space of three days, and Josephus makes special mention of his eagerness to bring the siege to an end.  On the other hand, the leaders of the factions within slew the men who would have taught them how the siege might be prolonged, burnt the corn which would have enabled them to hold out against the enemy, and abandoned the towers, which were in reality impregnable.  Thus the city, which in the time of Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:1-6; Jeremiah 39:1-2) had resisted the forces of Nebuchadnezzar for sixteen months, was taken by the Romans in less than five.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)  


            13:21   “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it.  During this period there would be those claiming to be the Messiah.  Christians did not even need to enquire any further.  A deluded soul it may be, but if the person exists at all it still won’t be Jesus. 


            13:22   For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  Both fake Messiahs and lying prophets would provide the message of reassurance people seek in the middle of a losing war.  They will even, upon occasion, provide acts that look beyond human capacity.  So much so that even those following Jesus (“the elect”) might easily be tempted by them in the frustration and anguish of the time.


            13:23  But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.  In a sense this is a very pessimistic message.  Even so these are things the disciples of the Lord unquestionably needed to be warned of so they wouldn’t emotionally or spiritually “be swept off their feet” when they occurred.  This foreknowledge wouldn’t stop the events from happening; but it provided the warning necessary not to fall into the folly of so many others. 



                        The Coming Destruction Of the Jerusalem Temple:  A Time For Upheaval and Jesus Providing Safe Haven For His People (13:24-29):        24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be     darkened and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will be       falling from heavenand the powers in the heavens will be       shaken26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man arriving in the     clouds with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send angels       and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends       of the earth to the ends of heaven.

                28 “Learn this parable from the fig tree: Whenever its        branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that         summer is near. 29 So also you, when you see these things   happening, know that he is near, right at the door.     --New             English Translation (for comparison)



            13:24   “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.  The catastrophe of a major losing war--and that was what happened when the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.--had been pictured in such language in the ancient Old Testament prophetic literature as well.  For example in Ezekiel 32:6-8:


                                “I will also water the land with the flow of your blood,
                        Even to the mountains;
                        And the riverbeds will be full of you.
                        When I put out your light,
                        I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark;
                        I will cover the sun with a cloud,
                        And the moon shall not give her light.
                        All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you,
                        And bring darkness upon your land,”
                        Says the Lord God.


            13:25   the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  This also reflects the kind of prophetic description the Old Testament uses in describing utter failure in a calamitous war.  For example, these words from Isaiah 13:


                                Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
                        Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger,
                        To lay the land desolate;
                        And He will destroy its sinners from it.
                        10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations
                        Will not give their light;
                        The sun will be darkened in its going forth,
                        And the moon will not cause its light to shine.


           Although Isaiah 13 is speaking about temporal judgments of national disaster because of spiritual infidelity to Jehovah, Isaiah 34:3-5 does so as well:   


                                Also their slain shall be thrown out;
                        Their stench shall rise from their corpses,
                        And the mountains shall be melted with their blood.
                        All the host of heaven shall be dissolved,
                        And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll;
                        All their host shall fall down
                        As the leaf falls from the vine,
                        And as fruit falling from a fig tree.

                                “For My sword shall be bathed in heaven;
                        Indeed it shall come down on Edom,
                        And on the people of My curse, for judgment.


            The imagery of both Mark 13:24 and 25 are joined together in such a war disaster scenario in Joel 2:10-11: 


                                10 The earth quakes before them,
                        The heavens tremble;
                        The sun and moon grow dark,
                        And the stars diminish their brightness.
                        11 The Lord gives voice before His army,
                        For His camp is very great;
                        For strong is the One who executes His word.
                        For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible;
                        Who can endure it?



            13:26   Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.  Just as the Old Testament verses above describe the coming of God in temporal judgment on Jerusalem, this verse makes plain that it is now Jesus, as the Father’s designated agent, who executes the punishment His Father deemed best for a people and religious leadership who had rebelled once too often.  Although the religious leadership were the ones responsible for engineering His unjust death itself, only a minority rejected that abuse of authority even after Jesus’ triumphant resurrection--nor did they embrace His teachings.  The Temple’s existence was no longer necessary for the promised Redeemer had come--and triumphed. 


            13:27   And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.  Lightfoot provides a very credible explanation of this verse:  When Jerusalem shall be reduced to ashes, and that wicked nation cut off and rejected, then shall the Son of man send His ministers with the trumpet of the Gospel, and they shall gather His elect of the several nations, from the four corners of heaven:  so that God shall not want a Church [= people], although that ancient people of His be rejected and cast off:  but that ancient Jewish Church being destroyed, a new Church shall be called out of the Gentiles.”  (As quoted by the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary)


            13:28   “Now learn this parable from the fig tree:  When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.  The fig tree commonly grown in that region “requires a considerable amount of warmth to enable it to put forth leaves and fruit.  Its rich flavor requires a summer heat to mature it.”  (Pulpit Commentary)  Hence they judged the approach of summer by the changes in nature about them.  They are “forewarnings” of what is to come, so to speak.  Similarly. . . . 


            13:29   So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors!  They don’t need to know when the specific time of the tragedy at Jerusalem will occur because there will be enough indications / forewarnings of it for them to get out of the path of maximum danger.    



                        In Contrast to The Coming Destruction Of the Jerusalem Temple In       Their Lifetime, No One Can Know When Jesus’ Final And Personal Return           Will Be (13:30-37):  30 I tell you the truth, this generation will not      pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth         will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 

                32 “But as for that day or hour no one knows it—neither the       angels in heaven, nor the Son—except the Father. 33 Watch out!      Stay alert! For you do not know when the time will come. 

                34 It is like a man going on a journey. He left his house and      put his slaves in charge, assigning to each his work, and      commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert. 35 Stay alert, then,       because you do not know when the owner of the house will         return—whether during evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or at dawn— 36 or else he might find you asleep when he    returns suddenly. 37 What I say to you I say to everyone: Stay        alert!”     --New English Translation (for comparison)           



            13:30   Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.  The judgment on Jerusalem will come not at some distant point in the future but within the lifetime of many then alive.  Since the destruction came roughly forty years later, this tells them that this is going to be a crisis of their generation rather than of some future one.  Many may have died by then, but far from all.


            13:31   Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.  This could be taken in either of two ways.  First of all, the catastrophe at Jerusalem would result in something seemingly impossible occurring:  The religious “heaven and earth” of the day would pass away at the destruction of the Temple, but Jesus’ words would not.  They would still be relevant both near term and long term.

            One of the problems with this is that the personal and physical return of the Master seems under consideration (as in verse 35).  Furthermore of the “day and hour” of the fall of Jerusalem it is clear that Jesus does know it--or the functional equivalent--because He has gone over in great detail what will be the preliminaries of it!  Hence the text is surely alluding to something that is in the indefinite future.  The most logical event is the final, bodily return of the Lord for judgment on the human race.  As the result of this, we “look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).  That will never occur on the current earth. 


            13:32    “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  In contrast to the destruction of Jerusalem and Jesus’ coming in temporal judgment on it, when Jesus returned for His people that would be at an unknown and unknowable date.  The passing away of the religious “heaven and earth” in 70 prefigures a far more profound and shattering event that will affect the entire cosmos and not just that one small part of the earth.  The one thing they knew for a fact was that it was to happen after the destruction of Jerusalem but how near or distant from that date only the heavenly Father had knowledge of.

            Peter depicts that future event and its purpose in these words in the second chapter of his second epistle:  10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?  13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”     


            13:33   Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.  Because they lacked knowledge of the timing of the Lord’s return, they needed to stay persistently alert and ready.  Preparedness wasn’t something they could safely delay to begin and it wasn’t something they could ever safely stop. 


            13:34   It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.  Even a temporal master leaves his household in the trust of his servants.  They have been given instructions about what to do and they are trusted to carry them out.  Similarly, Jesus left His earthly spiritual household (the church) with instructions as to what to teach and how to act.  The Lord trusts them to do their work just as the temporal lord trusts his employees.  But will it turn out to be a well deserved trust or will that trust be betrayed by his servants?


            13:35   Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—  With no pre-announced date given, they have to “stay on their toes” at all times.  Although theoretically it would seem unlikely that he would arrive after nightfall, for example, one could never be sure.  Hence the obligation of constant readiness rather than approaching their responsibilities in a sloppy and unconcerned manner. 


            13:36   lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.  For Christ to find His disciples “sleeping” carries the connotation that they are ignoring their obligations.  Not carrying them out though it is within their capacity to do so and, quite possibly, not even bothering to keep in mind what He had ordered in the first place.  Today we use an adage that well fits such avoidance of responsibility:  “When the cat is away the mice will play.”  Or, in this case, sleeping when they should be working.  


            13:37   And what I say to you, I say to all:  Watch!”  He isn’t imposing anything on the apostles that is not demanded of all believers:  Everyone is to be alert until the Lord returns. . . . whatever time duration that might turn out to be.