The Chief Priests, Scribes, and
Questioning Jesus’ authority
Jesus asks about John’s baptism
The rulers avoid answering Jesus’
Parable of the Tenants (12:1-12)
The Pharisees and Herodians (12:13-17)
Questioning Jesus on paying taxes
to Caesar (13-14)
“Render to Caesar the things that
are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (15-17)
The Sadducees (12:18-27)
Questioning Jesus on resurrection
Jesus points out the error in
their question (24-27)
Authority, heaven, men,
vinedressers/tenants, beat, son, killed, rejected, chief cornerstone/capstone,
taxes, hypocrisy, tempt, resurrection, heaven, “God of the living”
1a. chief priests, scribes, elders (27), Pharisees, Herodians
(13), Sadducees (18)
1b. The alliance was a marriage of convenience.
They were united against Jesus in spite of their own quarrels (Pharisees vs.
Sadducees [cf. Acts 23:6-8], scribes vs. Herodians
[strict observance of the Mosaic law vs. condoning
loose morals]). The conspiracy had started long before Jesus entered Jerusalem; the Pharisees
had been planning with the Herodians to kill Jesus
(cf. Mk 3:6). Jesus was their greatest threat, and, as the saying goes, “The
enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Instead of obeying God’s teachings, they would
rather get rid of Jesus and fight to keep power for themselves.
1c. The chief priests, scribes, etc.
temporarily set aside their differences to oppose the gospel. They were a
powerful force because they controlled many classes and groups in society
(conservative and liberal, rich and poor, Jewish patriots and Roman
sympathizers, etc.) They were like the strong man Jesus spoke of (Mk 3:27). On
the other hand, the twelve disciples were still fighting among themselves (Mk
9:34; 10:37). They seemed incapable of overcoming the opposition. However,
“with God all things are possible” (Mk 10:27); after the disciples received the
Holy Spirit, they were more than capable of standing up against persecution
from the same people (Acts 4:8, 13, 18-20; 5:27-29).
1. Before, the scribes openly
accused Jesus of being demon-possessed (Mk 3:22). Now, because of Jesus’
popularity, they couched their accusation indirectly in the form of a question.
The question was intended to force Jesus to incriminate Himself. If Jesus
answered, “From heaven,” they would accuse Him of blasphemy (cf. Mk 2:7). If He
answered, “From men,” they would accuse Him of insurrection against the Roman
2. Jesus knew that the elders,
scribes, etc. dared not say anything bad about John the Baptist (11:32). In
response to their trap, He used John’s authority from heaven to catch them at
their words. Asking about John’s baptism served two purposes. First, as the
ensuing discussion shows (11:31-32), the answer to Jesus’ question is also the
answer to their question. Second, John’s baptism (cf. Mk 1:4) was a reminder
that they should repent.
3. They were interested only in
preserving their power. They refused to answer Jesus’ question because the
truth would hurt their standing among the people. In the eyes of the world,
their answer might seem wise (refusing to acknowledge Jesus’ question).
However, while Jesus’ words had spiritual wisdom, their answer actually meant
4. Jesus actually had already
answered their question (cf. Question 2). They knew the answer, but refused to
accept it. They were blinded by their own self-righteousness. They questioned
Jesus not because they wanted to know the truth, but because they wanted an
excuse to accuse Him. Jesus rebuked them for their hypocrisy in the parable of
the tenants. They understood His meaning, but did not repent (cf. 12:12).
5. People might be offended by the
doctrine of the one true church or claim that praying in tongues is not the
work of the Holy Spirit. We must learn from Jesus, who did not directly
confront His accusers, but referred to the word of God.
6. planted a vineyard, put up a
hedge/wall, dug a wine vat, built a tower, rented the vineyard, went away
The landowner’s actions show how
much he valued the vineyard (cf. Isa 5:1-2). The wall and watchtower protected
his property. He would use the pit for the winepress to hold the fruit of the
vineyard. He entrusted other farmers to work in his vineyard so that these
tenant farmers could also reap the benefits of his riches. At the same time, he
kept possession of the vineyard because he was the one who had put all that
effort into it (cf. Did You Know 2).
7. Took/seized, beat, sent away,
wounded in the head, threw stones, treated shamefully, killed
The tenants never intended to pay.
All along, they had wanted to take the vineyard for themselves. When the
landowner continued to send his servants to collect, the tenants became
increasingly vicious, to the point of murder.
8. The tenants’ greed for the
vineyard dictated their actions. At this point in the story, they had killed
many servants (12:5). Perhaps they had grown so bold that killing a man meant
nothing to them anymore. Perhaps they felt they had nothing to lose. To them,
the landowner’s son was just another obstacle to be gotten rid of so they could
gain the inheritance (12:7). They did not recognize that the landowner had the
final say on who receives his vineyard.
9a. Vineyard—Israel, God’s people,
9c. Tenants—unfaithful and treacherous workers; the chief priests,
scribes, and elders;
9d. Servants sent to collect—prophets. Many workers bravely spoke for
God, even though many before them had been killed doing the same. John the
Baptist is an example (Mk 6:27).
9e. Landowner’s son—Jesus
9f. Others who are given the vineyard—the Gentiles; those who are
faithful to God
10. Jesus was rejected by the chief priest, etc. (the builders) as useless.
Their unbelief would cause them to fall and be crushed (Lk
20:18). Jesus is the capstone of the church because salvation is found in no
one else. The Lord promised salvation. At the appointed time, He came to earth
to save us. The more we understand God’s plan, the more wonderful He is to us
was part of their hypocrisy, which Jesus saw through (12:15).
is the most important is for us to praise God (Mt 5:16) and for God to praise
us. We must not make the mistake of loving praise from men more than praise
from God (Jn 12:43; 1Thess 2:6).
12. The question was designed to trap Jesus in a religious and political
dilemma. If He answered, “Yes,” the Pharisees would claim that Jesus was a
Roman collaborator and turn the people against Him. If He answered, “No,” the Herodians would use that as an excuse to ask the Romans to
13. Jesus transcended the issue of paying taxes. He teaches that we must
fulfill both our earthly and spiritual responsibilities. It is not a matter of
choosing one over the other. We must not use our religion as an excuse to avoid
our responsibilities to society (cf. Mk 7:11-12). More importantly, we must
honor God above all because He has given us everything. We must put our faith
into practice, so that we can glorify God in a sinful world (Php 2:15).
14. It is our duty to submit to our government “for the Lord’s sake”
(1Pet 2:13-14). We must obey the laws of the country we live in, as long as we
do not disobey God’s commandments. This includes paying taxes according to the
law (Rom 13:5-7). More important, though, is our debt to God, and “the
continuing debt to love one another” (Rom 13:8 NIV).
15. The Sadducees asked about a very specific scenario. They wanted to
limit the scope of the debate on their own terms. But Jesus would not play
their game. Instead of addressing their question, Jesus revealed their error.
16. Because their goal was to catch Jesus in His words, they lost sight
of the big picture. Their scenario was so contrived and unrealistic that it was
meaningless. Therefore, Jesus rebuked them for not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God (12:24). They had failed to understand
from the Scriptures that there would indeed be a resurrection of the dead, and
they had failed to trust that God had the power to establish a new order of
existence in the resurrected life beyond what we can imagine with our limited
17. God is “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
God is also the God of the living. These two facts imply that although Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob died, they will be raised to life in the future, and they were
in fact alive in God’s eyes (cf. Lk 20:38).
18. Because the Sadducees gave Jesus a logical puzzle, Jesus gave them a
logical response. Jesus reasoned from the Bible (which they claimed to believe)
to disprove their conclusion. They could not deny that God Himself said, “I am
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (12:26). They also
could not deny that God is the God of the living. These two beliefs imply that
there will be resurrection.
19. “Can God create a rock so big that He can’t lift?” “Can God do
evil?” “How can a person be resurrected if his body is cremated and the ashes
These questions reveal the hearts
of the people who ask them. Like the Sadducees, they want to discredit God with
logical difficulties. This was the same reasoning of the people who mocked
Jesus on the cross (cf. Mk 15:30-32). It made more sense to them for Jesus to
come down from the cross. They did not understand that Jesus had to die on the
cross to redeem the sins of mankind. When a person chooses to reject Jesus in
spite of the overwhelming evidence of His divine authority, he or she is
“greatly mistaken” (12:27).
20. It is a losing battle trying to solve these puzzles. Jesus did not
directly answer the Sadducees’ question. Instead, He used the Bible to reveal a
fallacy in their reasoning. If a person only wants to cast doubts on your
faith, you don’t have to spend too much time with a puzzle. If a person is
earnestly seeking the truth, we can refer to biblical verses to show that God
is beyond our understanding (Job 36:26; Rom 11:33). God would not be truly God
if He can be completely figured out.