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Jesus tells a story, with a pointed application

12 1a Then he began to talk to them in parables.

1b-11 “A man once planted a vineyard,” he said, “fenced it round, dug out the hole for the wine-press and built a watch-tower. Then he let it out to some farm-workers and went abroad. At the end of the season he sent a servant to the tenants to receive his share of the vintage. But they got hold of him, knocked him about and sent him off empty-handed. The owner tried again. He sent another servant to them, but this one they knocked on the head and generally insulted. Once again he sent them another servant, but him they murdered. He sent many others and some they beat up and some they murdered. He had one man left—his own son who was very dear to him. He sent him last of all to the tenants, saying to himself, ‘They will surely respect my own son.’ But they said to each other, ‘This fellow is the future owner—come on, let’s kill him, and the property will be ours! So they got hold of him and murdered him, and threw his body out of the vineyard. What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard is going to do? He will come and destroy the men who were working his vineyard and will hand it over to others. Have you never read this scripture—‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?’”

12 Then they tried to get their hands on him, for they knew perfectly well that he had aimed this parable at them—but they were afraid of the people. So they left him and went away.

A test question

13-15a Later they sent some of the Pharisees and some of the Herod-party to trap him in an argument. They came up and said to him, “Master, we know that you are an honest man and that you are not swayed by men’s opinion of you. Obviously you don’t care for human approval but teach the way of God with the strictest regard for truth—is it right to pay tribute to Caesar or not: are we to pay or not to pay?”

15b But Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why try this trick on me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.”

16 So they brought one to him. “Whose face is this?” asked Jesus, “and whose name is in the inscription?”

17 “Caesar’s,” they replied. And Jesus said, “Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God!”—a reply which staggered them.

Jesus reveals the ignorance of the Sadducees

18-23 Then some of the Sadducees (a party which maintains that there is no resurrection) approached him, and put this question to him, “Master, Moses instructed us that if a man’s brother dies leaving a widow but no child, then the man should marry the woman and raise children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers, and the first one married and died without leaving issue. Then the second one married the widow and died leaving no issue behind him. The same thing happened with the third, and indeed the whole seven died without leaving any child behind them. Finally the woman died. Now in this ‘resurrection’, when men will rise up again, whose wife is she going to be—for she was the wife of all seven of them?”

24-27 Jesus replied, “Does not this show where you go wrong—and how you fail to understand both the scriptures and the power of God? When people rise from the dead they neither marry nor are they given in marriage; they live like the angels in Heaven. But as for this matter of the dead being raised, have you never read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him in these words, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not God of the dead but of living men! That is where you make your great mistake!”

The most important commandments

28 Then one of the scribes approached him. He had been listening to the discussion, and noticing how well Jesus had answered them, he put this question to him, “What are we to consider the greatest commandment of all?”

29-31 “The first and most important one is this,” Jesus replied—‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength’. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. No other commandment is greater than these.”

32-33 “I am well answered,” replied the scribe. “You are absolutely right when you say that there is one God and no other God exists but him; and to love him with the whole of our hearts, the whole of our intelligence and the whole of our energy, and to love our neighbours as ourselves is infinitely more important than all these burnt-offerings and sacrifices.”

34 Then Jesus, noting the thoughtfulness of his reply, said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God!” After this nobody felt like asking him any more questions.

Jesus criticises the scribes’ teaching and behaviour

35-36 Later, while Jesus was teaching in the Temple he remarked, “How can the scribes make out that Christ is David’s son, for David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool’.

37 David is himself calling Christ ‘Lord’—where do they get the idea that he is his son?”

38-40 The vast crowd heard this with great delight and Jesus continued in his teaching, “Be on your guard against these scribes who love to walk about in long robes and to be greeted respectfully in public and to have the front seats in the synagogue and the best places at dinner-parties! These are the men who grow fat on widow’s property and cover up what they are doing by making lengthy prayers. They are only adding to their own punishment!”

41-44 Then Jesus sat down opposite the Temple almsbox and watched the people putting their money into it. A great many rich people put in large sums. Then a poor widow came up and dropped in two little coins, worth together about a halfpenny. Jesus called his disciples to his side and said to them, “Believe me, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. For they have all put in what they can easily afford, but she in her poverty who needs so much, has given away everything, her whole living!”