The religious leaders ask Jesus where His authority comes from. What gives Him the right to heal people on the Sabbath, teach about God, do miracles, and cast out demons? Who exactly does He think He is—and where does His authority come from? This question is a trap: if He claims His authority is from God, then they can argue that God does not endorse someone who breaks His laws; but if He says His authority is His own, then He will be in trouble with the crowds and perhaps even with the Roman governor.
Jesus, however, issues a challenge: I’ll tell you what you want to know if you’ll answer My question first. But He asks them an impossible question—impossible not because they don’t know the answer, but because they cannot say the answer.
12 Then He told a story.
Jesus: There was a man who established a vineyard. He put up a wall around it to fence it in; he dug a pit for a winepress; he built a watchtower. When he had finished this work, he leased the vineyard to some tenant farmers and went away to a distant land.
2 When the grapes were in season, he sent a slave to the vineyard to collect his rent—his share of the fruit. 3 But the farmers grabbed the slave, beat him, and sent him back to his master empty-handed. 4 The owner sent another slave, and this slave the farmers beat over the head and sent away dishonored. 5 A third slave, the farmers killed. This went on for some time, with the farmers beating some of the messengers and killing others until the owner had lost all patience. 6 He had a son whom he loved above all things, and he said to himself, “When these thugs see my son, they’ll know he carries my authority. They’ll have to respect him.”
7 But when the tenant farmers saw the owner’s son coming, they said among themselves, “Look at this! It’s the son, the heir to this vineyard. If we kill him, then the land will be ours!” 8 So they seized him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 Now what do you suppose the owner will do when he hears of this? He’ll come and destroy these farmers, and he’ll give the land to others.
10 Haven’t you read the Scriptures? As the psalmist says,
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very stone that holds together the entire foundation.
11 This is the work of the Eternal One,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.[a]
12 The priests, scribes, temple leaders, and elders knew the story was directed against them. They couldn’t figure out how to lay their hands on Jesus then because they were afraid the people would rise up against them. So they left Him alone, and they went away furious.
The leaders are stunned to learn they will face judgment themselves. It goes against everything they believe about themselves and about God.
13 Then some Pharisees and some of Herod’s supporters banded together to try to entrap Jesus. 14 They came to Him and complimented Him.
Pharisees: Teacher, we know You are truthful in what You say and that You don’t play favorites. You’re not worried about what anyone thinks of You, so You teach with total honesty what God would have us do. So tell us: is it lawful that we Jews should pay taxes to the Roman emperor or not? 15 Should we give or not?
Jesus (seeing through their ruse): Why do you test Me like this? Listen, bring Me a coin[b] so that I can take a look at it.
16 When they had brought it to Him, He asked them another question.
Jesus: Tell Me, whose picture is on this coin? And of whom does this inscription speak?
Pharisees: Caesar, of course.
Jesus: 17 Then give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor. And give to God what belongs to God.
They could not think of anything to say to His response.
Jesus turns the question back on them. It isn’t about taxes. It is about knowing and being faithful to the one true God.
18 Later a group of Sadducees, Jewish religious leaders who didn’t believe the dead would be resurrected, came to test Jesus.
Sadducees: 19 Teacher, the law of Moses tells us, “If a man’s brother dies, leaving a widow without sons, then the man should marry his sister-in-law and try to have children with her in his brother’s name.”[c]
20 Now here’s the situation: there were seven brothers. The oldest took a wife and left her a widow with no children. 21 So the next oldest married her, left her a widow, and again there were no children. So the next brother married her and died, and the next, and the next. 22 Finally all seven brothers had married her, but none of them had conceived children with her, and at last she died also.
23 Tell us then, in the resurrection [when humans rise from the dead],[d] whose wife will she be? For all seven of them married her.
Jesus: 24 You can’t see the truth because you don’t know the Scriptures well and because you don’t really believe that God is powerful. 25 The answer is this: when the dead rise, they won’t be married or given in marriage. They’ll be like the messengers in heaven, who are not united with one another in marriage. 26 But how can you fail to see the truth of resurrection? Don’t you remember in the Book of Moses how God talked to Moses out of a burning bush and what God said to him then? “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”[e] “I am,” God said. Not “I was.” 27 So God is not the God of the dead but of the living. You are sadly mistaken.
28 One of the scribes who studied and copied the Hebrew Scriptures overheard this conversation and was impressed by the way Jesus had answered.
Scribe: Tell me, Teacher. What is the most important thing that God commands in the law?
Jesus: 29 The most important commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Eternal One is our God, and the Eternal One is the only God. 30 You should love the Eternal, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”[f] 31 The second great commandment is this: “Love others in the same way you love yourself.”[g] There are no commandments more important than these.
Although Jesus is asked for only the single most important commandment, He answers by naming two commands: love God and love others. He includes both because these two teachings can never be really separated from each other. Some people think they can love God and ignore the people around them, but Jesus frequently makes it clear that loving God apart from loving His people is impossible.
Scribe: 32 Teacher, You have spoken the truth. For there is one God and only one God, 33 and to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves are more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice we could ever give.
34 Jesus heard that the man had spoken with wisdom.
Jesus: Well said; if you understand that, then the kingdom of God is closer than you think.
Nobody asked Jesus any more questions after that.
35 Later Jesus was teaching in the temple.
Jesus: Why do the scribes say that the Anointed One is the son of David? 36 In the psalms, David himself was led by the Holy Spirit to sing,
The Master said to my master,
“Sit at My right hand,
in the place of power and honor,
And I will gather Your enemies together,
lead them in on hands and knees,
and You will rest Your feet on their backs.”[h]
37 If David calls Him “Master,” how can He be his son?
The crowd listened to Him with delight.
Jesus: 38 Watch out for the scribes who act so religious—who like to be seen in pious clothes and to be spoken to respectfully in the marketplace, 39 who take the best seats in the synagogues and the place of honor at every dinner, 40 who spend widows’ inheritances and pray long prayers to impress others. These are the kind of people who will be condemned above all others.
41 Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, where people came to bring their offerings, and He watched as they came and went. Many rich people threw in large sums of money, 42 but a poor widow came and put in only two small coins[i] worth only a fraction of a cent.[j]
Jesus (calling His disciples together): 43 Truly this widow has given a greater gift than any other contribution. 44 All the others gave a little out of their great abundance, but this poor woman has given God everything she has.
- 12:10–11 Psalm 118:22–23
- 12:15 Literally, denarius, a Roman coin
- 12:19 Deuteronomy 25:5
- 12:23 Some manuscripts omit this portion.
- 12:26 Exodus 3:6, 15
- 12:30 Deuteronomy 6:4–5
- 12:31 Leviticus 19:18
- 12:36 Psalm 110:1
- 12:42 Literally lepta, a Roman coin worth an insignificant amount
- 12:42 Literally, kodrantes, a Roman penny