Mark 11–12: Traps & Truth

Read the Bible in 2011–2021* ◊ Week 16: Saturday

After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.
Mark 12:34b

Today’s Bible reading of Mark 11–12 begins with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and closes with Him in the Temple. Remember to pray and ask God to teach you from His Word.

It is so clear in these chapters that the religious leaders did not want to understand Jesus’ teachings and the truth about His statements about Himself. He offended them by exposing who they were and were not. He uncovered their hearts, and He insulted their prestige. They feared Him. They wanted to trip Him up with their questions.

In Mark 11:15-18 Jesus turns over the tables of the money changers, and then explained why He did so, quoting from Isaiah and Jeremiah.

The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.
Mark 11:18

Rather than consider the truth of what He said about buying and selling in the Temple, the next day in Mark 11:27-33 they challenged Him, basically saying who do you think you are to go around doing and saying these things. Alan Cole writes:

“…the authorities came, angrily demanding to know ‘in whose name’ the Galilaean Rabbi taught; whose disciple was He, or what official commission had He to show? Only such commissioning could warrant and justify to them His cavalier way of dealing with the temple vendors…So the Lord, instead of a direct answer, virtually tells them that His authority stems from the same source as that of John the Baptist. Their greatest condemnation is that they do not seem to have considered the Lord’s question as a moral probe, but purely as an intellectual ‘catch’. Their query was not ‘true or false’ but ‘safe or unsafe’?”

“…they blandly said they did not know; and the Lord quietly showed what He thought of such deliberate ignorance by saying, ‘In that case, I, too, refuse to tell you…’. The root of the trouble lay not in their intellects, but in their stubborn will. They stood self-condemned. The Lord’s question was not a trap; it was yet another opportunity for them to realize and confess their blindness and ask for sight.”1

In 12:1–11, Jesus told the parable of the vineyard and the vine-growers and angered them yet again.

“The parable of the wicked husbandmen [vine-growers] follows very naturally upon the final refusal by the Pharisees to consider the source of the Lord’s authority. In so doing, they refused the palpable fact that they knew its source already. This is, in consequence, a parable of doom. It is more properly the parable of the rejection of the Son, than the parable of the wicked husbandmen…”2

They again tried to trap Him in Mark 12:13–17, by asking a question about taxes. Notice this group included Herodians. They were playing politics. Again, Jesus’ brilliant answer sidestepped their trap.

Next in Mark 12:18–27, the Sadducees stepped in, but they, too, were confounded by Jesus.

The next question is asked by a scribe. Matthew states he asked the question to test Jesus. Mark writes:

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”
Mark 12:28

Because a scribe was “a recognized expert in Jewish law (including both canonical and traditional laws and regulations),”3 he’s not asking from ignorance. That’s obvious is his reply to Jesus’ answer.

The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Mark 12:32-33

We don’t know the scribe’s heart or what later became of him, but he did recognize and acknowledge Jesus had stated the truth, and he did not get a stinging rebuke.

When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.
Mark 12:34

I have to say I wonder if this scribe was among those Pharisees who later believed in Jesus, and if we’ll see him in heaven.

Although they failed in their efforts to trap Jesus with their questions, the religious leaders did not stop seeking to destroy Him.


Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications. (Site has been deleted since posting).
The Pharisees Question Jesus: James Tissot. Public domain.
1,2,4R. A. Cole, The Gospel of Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI: 1961) 182–183, 183.
3HELPS Lexicon: 1122 grammateús (from graphō, “to write”) – a scribe. The Discovery Bible. Retrieved 09/06/2021.

*In 2011 I started a year-long series of posts, “Read the Bible in 2011.” You can find the other posts in the navigation menu in the header. If a day doesn’t have a link to a post, the post was simply a brief reminder about the reading. I’m filling in some of those gaps with new posts with “Read the Bible in 2011 Redux” as a category.

Copyright ©2011–2021 Iwana Carpenter

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