Mark 12:13−44

November 6th, 2013| Topic: aBeLOG, Mark | 2

Mark 12:13−44

God’s absolute ownership demands the entirety of the disciple in utmost love for God and for neighbor.

“The things of Caesar, give back to Caesar, and the things of God, to God.”
Mark 12:2–3

Mark 12:1–44 focuses on the theme of loyalty to God and is carefully structured. Two illustrations bookend this central motif: a negative illustration (the tenants in the vineyard parable, 12:1–12), and a positive one (the widow in the Temple, 12:38–44). In both these boundary units, the consequence of disloyalty is expressed clearly—judgment on the religious leaders (12:1–9 and 38–44). Two additional sections (12:10–12; 12:35–37) contain Christological affirmations from the Psalms that demonstrate the authority of God as being mediated through Jesus.

A  Negative illustration: God’s ownership demands fruit-bearing (12:1–9)

B  Christology: God’s ownership reinstated through Jesus Christ (12:10–12)

C  God’s ownership includes the entirety of the disciple’s life (12:13–17)

D  God’s faithful ownership extends to eternity (12:18–27)

C’  God’s ownership demands utmost love from the disciple (12:28–34)

B’  Christology: God’s ownership is manifest through, and mediated by, the Son of God, Jesus Christ (12:35–37)

A’  Positive illustration: God’s ownership demands the disciple’s all (12:38–44)

The episodes in the center of the structure (coin of taxation, 12:13–17; possibility of resurrection, 12:18–27; primacy of the commandments, 12:28–34) establish why one should be totally loyal to God.

Of all the Roman taxes, this poll tax or census was especially distasteful to the Jews of Palestine: a payment to oppressors is never liked. While as a Galilean, Jesus was not expected to pay the poll tax, the religious leaders asked his opinion anyway; whatever he said would land him in trouble, either with the Jewish patriots or with the Roman authorities. This was a blatant attempt to catch Jesus in his words. But he turns the tables on them.

Jesus’ use of “image” (12:16) is deliberate; it is likely listeners would have thought of the “image” of God in which human beings were created (Gen 1:26–27; 5:1; 9:6). Jesus’ argumentation in Mark 12:17 may be unpacked as follows (what’s in bold is explicitly stated in the text):

Unstated Major premise I: Ownership of anything is established by the image and inscription on it.
Stated Minor premise I: The denarius bears Caesar’s image and inscription.
Unstated Conclusion I: The denarius belongs to Caesar.

Unstated Major premise II: Ownership of anything is established by the image and inscription on it.
Unstated Minor premise II: Humans bear God’s image (Gen 1:26–27).
Unstated Conclusion II: Humans belong to God.

Stated Final Exhortation: Give Caesar his; give God his.

The next episode carries the theme of loyalty further (12:13–17), with Jesus declaring that God is one whose authority and ownership goes beyond what is visible, audible, and tangible. His authority is from eternity to eternity, for his power knows no bounds; death can do nothing to thwart his plans. And this authoritative one’s word in Scripture can be trusted; he is faithful to his people. Therefore the disciple owes total allegiance to this powerful and trustworthy God whose reach spans not only the here-and-now, but also the hereafter: God’s faithful ownership extends to eternity.

And disciples are to love God and their neighbors as themselves with all their being (12:28–34). This is followed by the story of the widow (12:38–44)–a paragon of loyalty to God who, unlike the rich who put in much from their surplus, put in two coins from her poverty (12:41, 44). She gave all she had—both coins, not just one! And it is “all her life” that goes clinking down the coffers. This widow had obeyed the greatest commandment, loving God with all of her being. She was the disciple!


  1. marc November 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Thank you for being a faithful servant of Christ; God’s wisdom is seen as His thoughts become your words. I have been blessed by viewing your chapels at DTS online and in reading your blog.

    PS I am in the north of Canada.

    in Christ,
    Galatians 6:10


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