These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, commentary, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Mark 11:27-12:12 Bible Study Guide And Commentary
The religious leaders challenge Jesus’ authority (11:27-33)
The parable of the evil vine-growers (12:1-12)
Paying taxes (12:13-17)
I. Chapter 11:27-33 Discussion Questions
How did the religious leaders challenge Jesus?
What may have been their motivation for challenging Him?
What do you think of their question?
Did Jesus answer them? Why or why not?
Did they answer Jesus’ question? Why would they not answer it?
What do we learn about people and about human nature from their response?
What do we learn about Jesus?
Mark 9:7 – This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him.
Matthew 28:18 – I have been given all authority.
Colossians 1:15-17 – Everything is under Jesus authority.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. The leaders challenge Jesus – By what authority do you do these things? This is the wrong question. They should have been asking the question, “Why did we not drive out these greedy businessmen earlier?” “Why did we allow the temple to become a place of business and profit instead of worshipping God?” But they didn’t ask those questions. In debates there a number of strategies for trying to win an argument. The purest form of debate is to discuss the merits of the issue at stake, in this case, should those people be allowed to run their business there. However, many debaters who are on the losing side of an issue use other strategies to attempt to confuse the issue. One of the most common is called an ad hominem attack. This attacks the other debater’s character or credibility. It is considered a weak debating tactic only used by those who have already lost the argument. Not surprisingly, this is the strategy which the leaders turned to because of their public humiliation.
2. Jesus’ reply – Jesus did not directly answer their question. Why? Perhaps it would be a case of casting pearl before swine. Or more likely, Jesus knew that telling them He was the Son of God and it was His house would stir up their anger and hatred against Him even more. So He asks them to first answer by what authority John the Baptist ministered.
3. The leaders evade Jesus’ question – They rejected John the Baptist as a prophet of the Lord. Sensing a pattern here? It seems that they rejected everyone God sent. Their guilt, jealousy, and lust for power kept them from accepting John and Jesus as from God. But because of the crowds present who supported John, they did not want to publicly admit that they didn’t believe him. From the passage on the cleansing of the temple, to their rejection of God, to their hatred for and desire to kill Jesus, to their hard hearts toward the sick and needy, we can see that the religious leaders were the most morally corrupt of all of the Jews. They were hypocrites. Their religion made them look nice on the outside, while their hearts were stained black with sin. This is an important reminder that following religious rituals is not the answer. It wasn’t the answer then. And it isn’t the answer now. We need to allow God to transform our hearts. Matthew 15:8.
4. They don’t answer so Jesus didn’t answer. What lesson can we learn from Jesus’? He didn’t just do what people expected Him or wanted Him to do (ie: answering questions). He didn’t answer just because He could. Sometimes answering a question is the easiest thing, but not the best thing. By putting a question back to people, we can challenge their assumptions and encourage critical thinking. Of course Jesus answered many questions as well. Each situation is a unique and requires a different type of response. Pray for wisdom from God to deal with both argumentative and sincere question askers.
II. Chapter 12:1-12 Discussion Questions
Who is the “them” in 12:1?
Who is the one who planted the vineyard in this parable?
Who are the vine-growers?
Who are the people who the owner of the vineyard sent to receive some of the produce?
Who is the beloved son?
Explain verses 10-11?
So what is the main point of the parable?
What prophets in Israel’s past were rejected and beaten or killed?
Why did Israel reject so many of the prophets?
Why did God keep sending more?
What do we learn about human nature? What do we learn about God’s nature?
What was going to happen to those evil vine-growers? Has this happened yet?
How did this parable relate to the question of where Jesus got His authority?
Jeremiah 20:1 – Jermiah was beaten.
Nehemiah 9:26 – Killed the prophets.
2 Chronicles 24:20 – Zechariah was stoned to death for admonishing the people to return to the Lord.
Psalms 80:8 – You removed a vine from Egypt, cleared the ground and planted it and it took deep root.
Isaiah 5:1 – Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. 2 He dug it all around, removed its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it And also hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected it to produce good grapes, But it produced only worthless ones.
Matthew 5:11 – Blessed are you when people insult and persecute you because of My name.
Hebrews 1:1 – God did speak through the prophets and now He speaks through His Son.
Psalm 118:22 – The stone which the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. He began to speak to them in parables – This parable was directed primarily to the religious leaders who had rejected John and now were rejecting Him. It speaks both to their rebellion against God and to Jesus’ authority.
2. The parable – Jesus tells a story about a group of vine-growers. These workers rented a vineyard from the owner. Basically they are renting a productive vineyard on a plot of ground for a period of time. Evidently, they make an agreement with the owner to take care of the vineyard and harvest its produce. After the harvest, they are supposed to give some to the owner and keep part for themselves because of their work. And yet because the owner is far away they do not give him his due. When the owner tries to collect what he is owed they beat the various people he sends all the while refusing to pay. Finally they kill the owner’s very son. Jesus says that the owner will come and destroy them and give the vineyard to others. What is the meaning of this parable?
3. The symbols –
A. The wicked vine-growers are the leaders of Israel, religious or political. They are supposed to workers for God. God has given them every blessing and advantage. You can see God’s great care for the vineyard in that He planted it Himself, protected it with a wall, and built a tower to watch over it. He took care of it and helped it to become productive. The leaders of Israel were supposed to be His stewards to take care of the vineyard. He gave them this responsibility. They were answerable directly to Him. Yet instead of faithfully fulfilling their responsibilities as God’s stewards, they greedily sought to use their position for personal benefit in order to get rich. They didn’t give to God what belonged to Him, but instead kept it for themselves. We see this very thing happening in the last chapter where the temple becomes a place of business. The religious leaders allowed/supported this arrangement likely for their own personal benefit. They are characterized by greed, selfishness, rebellion, violence, dishonesty, and hatred.
B. The vineyard could be God’s kingdom. The nation of Israel was supposed to be God’s kingdom on earth. God showed great care and love for the people of Israel. Deuteronomy 7:7. He didn’t choose them because they were better than others. But He did invest a lot in them. He performed hundreds of miracles on their behalf, sent prophets, gave them the Scriptures, preserved them throughout a tumultuous and rebellious history, and sent His only Son to die for them. No matter how much they rebelled against Him, He never abandoned them. Jeremiah 29:11.
C. The slaves the owner sent are the prophets. Which prophet can you think of did the people fully accept and listen to? Samuel perhaps comes the closest, though they didn’t listen to him about appointing a king. Isaiah and Jeremiah were largely ignored. Jeremiah was thrown into a pit and beaten by the religious establishment. His first copy of Jeremiah was burned by the king. Many believe that Isaiah was the prophet which is said to have been sawn in two in Hebrews 11. Zechariah was killed. Elijah and Elisha were largely ignored. Elijah lived as an exile. When he ministered the king’s court employed hundreds of false prophets. Joshua 1:17. The people claimed that they obeyed Moses. But if that is obedience, I would hate to see what disobedience is. John the Baptist was killed albeit by Herod. The fact is that most of the prophets were rejected during their lifetimes. Future generations claimed to disagree with their forefathers, but then did the same thing again to prophets sent to them. Why? When the cat is away the mice will play. I think that the vine-growers liked it when the owner was away on the journey. Then they were free! The Jews too didn’t want to be reminded of their sins as it caused them to feel guilty. They would close their eyes and pretend everything was fine.
D. The son – Jesus is obviously the son, the last emissary sent by the Master. The leaders should have seen Jesus’ authority like the people did (Matthew 7:29). They should have seen His miracles and His teachings and welcomed Him with open arms. That would have required humility, submission, and repentance, traits which they were totally lacking.
E. Judgment is coming – Jesus warned them about the coming punishment for their rebellion. It wasn’t too late. If they turned away from the murderous hate in their hearts, they could still be forgiven. Some scholars say that this judgment refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. That could be partially it. But I’m not sure it refers specifically to one event so much as it confirms that each person would be held accountable and judged for their willful rejection of Christ. Hebrews 9:27. For some judgment would come sooner. For some it would come later. But each person would be held accountable for their behavior. They thought the owner was far away, too far away to do anything to them. But the owner could return from His journey at any time, and when He did there would be a great reckoning.
4. What lessons can we learn from this parable?
A. We learn about the nature of man. People are totally depraved. When left alone, they run away from God and His commands as fast as they can. A thousand years, the rise and fall of governments, and massive cultural changes doesn’t change that. Think about it. The first generation of Jews to rebel against God’s prophet lived in Egypt as slaves. They rebelled in the wilderness. They rebelled in the Promised Land. They rebelled under the Davidic dynasty. They rebelled under the Babylonians. They rebelled under the Persians. They rebelled under the Romans. This stretched for more than a millennium.
B. We learn about the nature of God. God is so gracious and so kind. He would have been perfectly just in wiping out these evil vine-growers long before, but He gave them chance after chance after chance. By the time their destruction would come, no one could blame God for it. Their doom was on their own heads. Isn’t God gracious to us? Think back over the past few days and weeks. How many times have you sinned? How many times have you forgotten God? How many times have you ignored His commands like these religious leaders? How many times has your heart been stained with sin while you smile and look clean on the outside? We all deserve punishment just like these vine-growers did. God did not choose us because of our goodness either. He saw a forlorn, rocky, barren ground. Instead of rejecting the ground as an unusable wasteland He made it His personal project to restore it. He removed the rocks and junk. He tilled it. He fertilized it. He gently and carefully planted sees. He removed weeds. He watered it, gave sunshine, and the list goes on and on. Even when the ground didn’t bear fruit as it should, He patiently waited and kept tending it. This is how God treats us. He doesn’t cast us aside at first chance, but patiently loves and nurtures us. Do you allow Him to have His way in you?
C. We learn to be patient and gracious with others as God is with us – In the last chapter we learned about the importance of forgiving others. Here we learn it again. If God was patient with these rebellious people (and with us) for thousands of years, shouldn’t you be patient as well? Next time you are tempted to get angry with your roommate, co-worker, family member, etc. remember this parable. Remember how patient and gracious God was towards you.
D. We learn that God gives responsibilities to people – God gives responsibilities to people in His kingdom (vineyard). He expects us to use the gifts He has given to us for the building up of the body of Christ. Yet the vineyard still belongs to Him. We are to serve not for our own benefit, not for our own ambitions. We are to serve in His vineyard for His glory. The fruit belongs to Him, not to us. Are you a worker in His vineyard or just an eater? Share story of the Little Red Hen book.
E. We learn that everyone is personally accountable to God – There will be a great day of reckoning. The Master is gone on a journey, but He won’t be gone forever. The mistake of the vine-growers was that they thought the Master was far away. To them out of sight was out of mind. Do not make the same mistake. God sees everything we do. There is a record of every action, every word, every thought. What’s in your record? What you have already recorded cannot be undone except with Christ’s blood. Repent of the mistakes you have made. But the good news is that there are still a lot of blank pages. How are you going to fill up those blank pages? What are you going to record this weekend, next week, next month, next year? Are they going to be filled with things you are embarrassed about? Or perhaps fluff? Or will they be filled with useful and productive things which you have done for God? (Ephesians 5:16)