These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, 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 12:28-40 Inductive Bible Study
Love God and love your neighbors (28-34)
The Messiah is divine (35-37)
Be pleasers of God rather than pleasers of people (38-44)
Verses 28-34 Discussion Questions
Do you think this scribe was trying to test/challenge Jesus like the others?
What is the most important command? Why is this the most important? What other commandments are tied to this one?
How would you define “loving God?”
How can you show love to God whom you cannot see?
What does with “all your heart, all your soul, all your strength” mean? Is there any difference between these three things? Why are is it repeated three times?
What is the second greatest commandment? Why is this so important? Who does it include?
What can you do to love your neighbor?
Are you fulfilling these commands? What do you need to do to love God more? To love your neighbor more?
What additional observation did the scribe make? What was Jesus’ response to it? What does this show us about his motivation for this question?
What does it mean that he is not far from the kingdom of God?
Deuteronomy 7:9 – God is faithful and keeps His covenant with those who love and obey Him.
Deuteronomy 6:2-6 – Shema.
John 14:15, 21 – He who keeps My commands is the one who loves Me.
1 John 4:19 – We love because He first loved us.
John 15:12-14 – Love one another as I have loved you.
John 21:15-17 – If you love Me, feed my sheep.
Matthew 6:24 – You cannot serve God and money.
1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or the things in the world.
1. Not all of the scribes and religious leaders were hostile to Jesus. We know in other passages that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea believed in Jesus. Others were surely either believers or at least on the fence. This scribe seems to be one who is more open to Jesus. There are several reasons to believe that his question was sincere and not a desire to trap Jesus. Firstly, it would seem that this is not a trick question. Jesus would not have incriminated Himself unless He gave a really off the wall answer. Secondly, Jesus answered it at face value. Often when they asked Him questions to trap Him He asked them questions in return or ignored their question to get back to the heart of the issue. In this case, He simply answered it. Thirdly, the scribe agreed with Jesus’ answer. Fourthly, he added the observation that loving God is more important than burnt offerings. Finally, Jesus thought highly of the scribe’s answer and commented that he was close to the kingdom of God.
2. What is the most important commandment? This is a great question. In the Old Testament there are hundreds upon hundreds of commands. These range from detailed steps to dealing with daily matters to overarching life direction principles. Each commandment was important and should have been followed, but how could someone go through all of those minute commands and still keep their eyes on THE most important principles which guide all of the other commands? Jesus is about to tell the core commands in the Bible. These are the foundation from which all others flow. See Matthew 22:36-40. Jesus said that all of the law and the prophets stem from these two commands. Let’s go around the table and mention any command you can think of in the Bible. Here are a few examples:
A. Do not worship other gods – Love God.
B. Rest on the Sabbath – Love God
C. Do not divorce and remarry – Love your neighbor (wife)
D. Do not bear false witness – Love your neighbor
E. If you see your neighbor’s ox in a pit, get it out and return it to him – Love your neighbor
As you can see, the list goes on and on. Virtually every (if not all) command in the Bible is a specific way in which we need to show our love to God and to our neighbors.
3. Verses 29-30 –
A. You shall love – People are commanded to love God. It’s not, “you have your belief and I have mine.” Every person should love God. He is the Creator. He made us. He fashioned us in His own image. He sustains our very lives and our very world. Every breath is from Him. He also forgives and sanctifies and gives new life. What should we do? We should love Him because He first loved us. It is brazen rebellion to not love God. Loving God is right. It is what we should do. The words “you shall love” shows us that love is a choice, an action, a decision, not a feeling.
B. The LORD – YHWH. I AM WHO I AM. The eternally existent and self-sufficient Supreme Creator. He should be the Master of our life.
C. Your God – God is personal. He desires a personal an intimate relationship with each of us. He is not an impersonal force such as Hinduism teaches. He is not a concept. He is not a state of mind like New Age beliefs may say. He is not distant and uncaring like taught by deists. He wants to be your God. He wants to be your Father. He wants to have a personal relationship with you. He cares about you as an individual. What is more, He sent His only Son to die for you. Because He is personal, He answers our prayers and He sympathizes with us in the struggles and challenges which we face.
D. With All – To what degree should we love God? What would your families or friends say about how much you should love God? In China it is very common to say, “Having a belief is good. Just don’t be too extreme.” The idea is that belief is good because it can give us comfort or hope. Yet do not spend too much time, energy, or effort on it because your job, career, and things are more important. This kind of idea greatly lowers God. It makes Him our servant to be there and help us when we need it rather than the other way around. Jesus says we are to love God with ALL our heart, soul, and mind. Not just part. Not even 90 or 99%. What does that mean? What would that look like in action? It means that we should put God first. He is the priority. You cannot be too extreme in following God because He is worthy of any possible sacrifice we could make. Other passages tell us that love for God means we are to obey Him. If we love Him with all our heart we should obey ALL of His commands, not just the convenient ones. We cannot pick and choose. We have to open up our lives and say to God, “Here I am, my life, my family, my money, my home, all of it is yours. Do with me whatever you want. I am here to serve you.” What would you sacrifice/give for your child? Are you willing to give that (and more) for God? Is there anything in life you have held back from God thinking that this is yours while you will serve Him in other areas? You need to give it up to God today.
E. Your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength – Those shows us the comprehensive nature of the love we are to have for God. It is to be inside and out, visible and hidden, our thoughts, and our actions. We are to love Him with all of our mind. This includes all of our thoughts. Do your thoughts honor God? Do not allow your mind to run wild. If a printer were hooked up to your mind to print out your thoughts for all to see, would you be ashamed? If so, then you are not loving God with all your mind. In addition, loving God with our mind means we are to make decisions, both big and small, out of a desire to serve and obey God. We are to put Him first in all the decisions which we make. When you make a decision do you ask for God’s guidance? Do you evaluate your decision based on the Bible? Do you make the decision out of a desire to please God? If we are only commanded to love God with all our heart then it would be easy to separate our “heart emotions” from our actions. A person might think that they disobeyed God’s command out of necessity, but still love God in their heart. But we are also commanded to love with all our strength. What do we use our strength for? To move and to act. Loving God with all of our strength means everything which we do should be done out of a desire to please God. In Bible times there were a lot of farmers. These farmers worked from sunup until sundown day after day on their farms. It was hard work and included cutting down trees, carrying heavy rocks, tilling the soil, etc. Perhaps they thought they were too busy on the farm to serve God. Maybe when they became old and could not work in the fields anymore, then they would serve God. But then they would not have much strength left or much time left. We should use our strength to serve God while we are young and while we still have plenty of energy. Many of you here are in the workforce. You pile up thousands of hours at your job. Some of you may be struggling because you want a promotion or a better career. How about your service to God? Do you use up all your energy on yourself and your own career? Are you so tired from your work that you have no energy left to serve God? To read the Bible? To go to church? To share the gospel? Remember Jesus didn’t say love the Lord your God with any strength you have leftover after you get off work or retire. He said to love God with all of your strength. Are you doing that? If not, think about what you need to change to start loving God with all your strength.
4. Verse 31 – Jesus gave the scribe an extra bonus answer about the second most important commandment. This one is closely related to the first. Many times we love God by loving people. See Matthew 25:36-44. We cannot see God. But we can see the people around us. Our love for God should motivate us to love them as well. There are many examples that loving the people around us is THE WAY by which we love God. For example, in giving. I don’t think there is any cash in heaven. God has no use for your pieces of paper with Chairman Mao (or Lincoln) on the front of it. But we give to God by giving to people in need or people (such as missionaries or pastors) who use those funds for serving God. See 1 John 4:20. I had three brothers so I heard this verse from my mom many times growing up. God requires us to show our love for Him by obeying His commands to love the people around us. When I heard this verse growing up sometimes I thought, “Yeah, but God is perfect and my brother is not.” And yet Jesus said we should love each other as He has loved us. John 15:12-14. We certainly didn’t deserve His love, but He loved us anyway. Another example is found in Jesus’ conversation with Peter in John 21:15-17. He told Peter that if he loved Jesus, he should feed His sheep. Teaching and preaching the Word was the mission Christ called Peter to. What is God calling you to? He certainly calls each of us to share the gospel. This is one of the best ways we can show love to a lost world, by giving them the chance to be part of Christ’s family.
Love your neighbor as yourself – Jesus showed in the parable of the Good Samaritan what the term “neighbor” means. What does it mean? You can see these passages and Jesus’ answers were carefully fashioned to take away any potential excuses which we would have. The commands are extremely clear. There is nothing ambiguous or confusing. Hence, they become a good question when we are not sure what to do. These commands can be a helpful guide in giving us direction.
A. Love God first. This command comes before the command to love your neighbor because loving God is more important. IF you have to choose between loving God and loving a person, you should always choose God. You can ask yourself, “Am I loving God first? Am I loving God with ALL my heart, soul, mind, and strength?”
B. Love your neighbor as yourself. Last week we learned an important question about how to face controversial topics. Do you remember what it was? It was, “What does the Bible say?” This week, we will learn another important question. This question is, “What is the loving thing to do?”
Should you scold your wife or not: “What is the loving thing to do?”
Should you yell at your child or not: “What is the loving thing to do?” Sometimes it might be loving to yell at your child, such as if they are about to run in front of a car, but generally it is not.
Should you visit your friend in the hospital or take a nap: “What is the loving thing to do?”
So many problems you face can be solved by asking two questions, “Is this loving God?” and “Is this loving my neighbor?” If today you learn to ask these two questions of yourselves regularly it will be a successful study.
5. The scribe agreed with Jesus – Then he added the observation that these things are more important than burnt offerings. See 1 Samuel 15:22. His observation was spot on. This was the core problem with the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They followed most of the commands of the law, but they didn’t do it from love. Many times they did it out of wrong motivations like a desire for recognition. Their rituals became empty and meaningless because they did not love God with all of their heart. This is why loving God has to be at the center of all we do. Do you go to church because you love God or because of a different reason? If it is not because you love God, then you are wasting your time. See 1 Corinthians 13. Hopefully we will each evaluate our own hearts and ask God to increase our love for Him, to correct our motivations where they have gone astray, and to give us the strength and will to obey all of His commands and truly love because He first loved us.
II. Verses 35-37 Discussion Questions
Where was Jesus teaching?
What point is he making?
Why does he make this technical analysis of the passage?
Who is the first LORD? Who is “my Lord?” Who do the other pronouns in this verse refer to? So then who is David referring to when he says, “my Lord?”
Matthew 22:41-46 – Parallel passage.
Psalms 110:1 – Old Testament passage this is quoted from.
1. Jesus was teaching in the temple – Considering how much the priests, scribes, and other religious leaders hated Jesus, it could be a little surprising that He was still able to teach in the temple. One would expect that they would drive Him out and refuse to allow Him to teach publicly there. Of course we know that Jesus is all powerful and He could have supernaturally kept them from acting on their hearts’ intent to drive Him away. But I don’t think that is what is happening here. Instead, I believe they allowed Him to teach in the temple because Jesus was wildly popular with the public. They were scared to admit that they didn’t believe John was from God because of their fear of the crowds. In the same way, they feared the crowds’ reaction if they publicly showed hostility to Jesus. This is why they were waiting and scheming to find a private place and time when they could catch Jesus away from the prying eyes of the people.
2. Jesus was a student of the Word – We see that Jesus again and again refers to the Old Testament in His teachings. He doesn’t just refer to famous passages, although He does that. But He also brings up obscure passages to preach from like the passage in these verses from Psalms 110:1. What do we learn about Jesus from this? He knew the Word. In fact, He had memorized large parts of it. This enabled Him to quickly respond to the challenges of the Pharisees and other religious leaders with Scripture refuting their beliefs. It also shows His high regard for the Old Testament. He didn’t come espousing a new religion. Rather, He came to show that He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Application: Do you know the Word? Do you keep memorizing it? Are you able to quickly answer questions with Scripture? Do you enjoy just talking about and discussing the Scriptures you have studied with your friends or other believers around you? These are all goals which we should set for ourselves. See 2 Timothy 2:15.
3. David himself said in the Holy Spirit – Jesus is verifying the inspiration of this passage and by implication other Old Testament passages. David wasn’t speaking only his own thoughts or ideas. The Holy Spirit was guiding him. See 2 Peter 1:21.
4. Verse 36 – This verse has a lot of pronouns in it as well as repeating the word “Lord” twice. It is helpful if we replace these words to understand the meaning better. Then it would look like this:
“YHWH said to my Lord (the Messiah), ‘sit down at YHWH’s right hand until YHWH puts the Messiah’s enemies beneath his feet.”
This is a reference which David made to the coming Messiah. He was given the place of honor and power at YHWH’s right hand and finally all of His enemies were made into a footstool for His feet. That means that the Messiah would have to wait until the time when all of His enemies would be forced to bow the knee and finally be subdued when He rules. See Philippians 2:4-12. Currently we are in the stage where the Messiah is sitting at God’s right hand waiting for the last part of that verse to be fulfilled.
5. Jesus uses the verse to teach that the Messiah is divine – David was probably the second most esteemed person in all of Jewish history behind Moses. He led Israel as king during its brief golden age. The people were hoping for a Messiah who would be someone kind of like David, someone who would unite them, throw off Roman rule, achieve military victory, and set up his kingdom. David had already accomplished this before only he had thrown off Philistine rule. Jesus uses this verse to try to show them that the Messiah is so much greater than they were expecting. In fact, they were aiming too low. Their hopes were on a physical level rather than a spiritual level. Jesus shows them that David referred to the Messiah as “my Lord.” Why? Because the Messiah has a much higher status than even David. The only way to have a much higher status that David is to be divine. Therefore Jesus is making the point that the Messiah is divine. They were right in expecting the Messiah to be descended from David, but He was so much more.
Application: What is Jesus to you? Many people hope that Jesus will satisfy their physical desires, give them a comfortable life, make them wealthy, give them an attractive wife, etc. The Jews at the time of Christ made the same mistake by hoping for a Messiah who would save them from all of their troubles. But that is not who Jesus is. Why do you put your faith in Him? Why do you follow Him? The right answer is that we need Him spiritually. He can deliver us from our sins. Do not lower Jesus down by expecting Him to be like all of the other so-called gods which are fashioned in man’s image.
III. Verses 38-44 Discussion Questions
Why did Jesus warn people about the scribes?
In what way is it dangerous that the people’s religious leaders behaved like this?
What was their motivation? Why did they do this?
What does this teach us about people?
Is it wrong to wear nice clothes? What is the problem?
What can we learn about prayer in this passage?
Teaching Points Verses 38-40
1. Beware of the scribes – Jesus was not afraid of rumpling feathers. He spoke the truth which needed to be said even if it upset powerful people. Think for a second how bold Jesus was. He went into the temple, the lion’s den. This was the domain of the most powerful Jews in Israel, people who hated them. With all of them watching waiting and scheming for a way to kill Him, He speaks out against them. He didn’t beat around the bush or subtly hint at their problems. Instead He laid them right out in the open for everyone to see. We should remember that Jesus was not seeking a fight. At other times He purposefully avoided confrontations with the Pharisees because at those times it would have distracted from His ministry. But now His ministry is coming to a close. And He needs to grab this chance to warn the people about the wolves-in-sheep clothing who are leading them spiritually.
2. Who like to walk around in long robes – Why? They liked special clothing so that all the people who saw them would immediately know their rank and position. Passersby would immediately give them the attention and deference which they sought. Perhaps they could jump to the front of the line at the market or get discounts or special favors. As they passed by, heads would turn and eyes would stare. People would whisper “there goes Rabbi Ben Judah!” And this recognition was exactly what they wanted.
Application: In this day and age, many people still dress to be noticed. In the Western world a lot of people color their hair blue or red or pink or other absurd colors. One of the reasons is that they are dying for attention. Sometimes people get tattoos for the same reason or piercings in strange places. Heavy makeup and funky styles are other examples. Even in church people may dress up because they want others to notice how nice they always look. Perhaps a guy dresses up to impress a girl or vice-versa. Ladies especially (but guys too) may spend lots of time in front of the mirror to look just right so that they will turn heads. Unfortunately some ladies wear very little for the same reason. They want attention and feel that they need to expose themselves in order to get it. And they will draw attention, but often from unscrupulous characters. Those who notice them are noticing their body and not who they are (although the one is a reflection of the other.) So is it wrong to dress up? Is it right to dress up? Should we dress casually? Sloppily? If we focus on the external appearance we are missing the point. Our key desire should be to please God. From that angle certain ways of dressing certainly don’t please God. A simple question to ask yourself is “Would I want to meet Jesus dressed like this?” If the answer is yes, it is probably OK to wear it. Be a good testimony to the people around you and don’t seek to draw attention to yourselves just to get it. See 1 Peter 3:4.
3. Like respectful greetings in the market places – Another manifestation of their desire for recognition from people was their habit of giving and seeking these special greetings. If anyone didn’t notice them by their special clothing they would surely notice after their extra loud and extra courteous greetings. You can almost imagine the pious religion dripping from their robes as they walked by offering greeting after greeting. The problem was not greeting others. The problem was their motivation. They were greeting others because they wanted to be noticed and they wanted to impress others with their smooth words and religion. Imagine if I go to church all dressed up and loudly greet every single member whom I see with an especially smooth greeting. People would notice me. Mission accomplished! While this action was not wrong, the motivation behind it was. We would do well to always ask ourselves why we do what we do. Keep evaluating your heart at all times. See Proverbs 4:23.
4. Chief seats and places of honor – These guys would always try to get the places of honor for themselves. They would love the red carpets, long-winded speeches, and luxurious cars with special license plates that are part of the lavish ceremonies of officials in China. These guys started doing this kind of thing almost two thousand years even before there was a People’s Republic of China. And they are not alone. It is human nature. We want this credit. We like to be complimented. We like to be honored. We like to be noticed. We like to be popular. Don’t we? I do! Now that we follow Christ, we need to be different. We are no longer to live seeking our own way. Instead we are to remember Jesus’ reminder that the first will be last and the last will be first.
5. Who devour widows’ houses – It is not completely clear what Jesus refers to. A good guess is that it refers to these religious leaders taking advantage of the poor and unsuspecting financially. Unfortunately wolves have been using the name of religion to exploit the elderly and unsuspecting for thousands of years. There is an entire network in the US called TBN which has a lineup of tele-evangelists, many of whom are doing just that. Many of them outright beg for money. They might be preaching on Psalm 119:4 and say that every person needs to give $1,194. They have agents at phone banks ready to take donations. Meanwhile they make grandiose and unbiblical promises that God is going to return many times over what they donated if they just have faith. These speakers dress immaculately. Masters of persuasion, they are excellent speakers whose words flow from their lips like honey. The promises implant pictures in people’s mind which leaves them almost in a trance. Many stories have broken how naïve people gave their entire life savings never to see it again. Perhaps the religious leaders of Jesus’ day financially exploited others as well. We see from their attitudes toward the crowds and uneducated that they looked down on the “sinners” around them with contempt. Probably they convinced themselves that they were doing a good thing by robbing them.
6. For appearance sake offer long prayers – A long prayer is not by its nature any more spiritual than a short prayer. Long words are not any more spiritual than short words. Repetition does not make one’s prayer anymore spiritual. Rise and fall of tone does not make it any spiritual. Using Christian words doesn’t make a prayer any better. Memorizing it ahead of time doesn’t. Speaking it loudly or quietly doesn’t. What makes a prayer spiritual? What makes a prayer worthy in God’s ears? John 4:24. This doesn’t refer exclusively to prayer, but I believe it applies. Our prayers are to be in spirit and truth. In spirit means they are to be sincere, from our heart. Being genuine and real to God is the most important. God already sees our hearts so don’t put on a façade. Truth is the other pillar of prayer. We need to base our prayers on the promises and truth of Scripture.
7. These will receive greater condemnation – God did not forget what the religious leaders were doing. Not only were they responsible for their own sins, but they were also responsible for leading the people astray. God would remember and repay. If we are spiritual hypocrites like they were, we too will face the same condemnation.
The Widow’s Mite Verses 41-44 Discussion Questions
What was Jesus’ observations about the people as they gave?
What principle do we learn about giving?
What should a rich person learn from this?
What should a poor person learn from this?
What may Jesus say to a poor person who decides to wait until they have more before they give?
Verses on Giving
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 – He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly.
Acts 20:35 – It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Philippians 4:19 – God will supply all of your needs.
Deuteronomy 15:10 – Give generously.
Deuteronomy 16:17 – Give as God has given to you.
1 Chronicles 29:9 – They offered to God with a whole heart.
Proverbs 3:7 – Do not withhold good when it is in your power to do it.
Proverbs 21:26 – The righteous gives and does not hold back.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son.
1. Jesus was observant – He carefully noticed what was going on around Him. By observing, Jesus was able to identify many areas that needed to be addressed through teaching. He was not a person to be content with the status quo. Instead, He examined a situation to see it for what it was and to see how it needed to be improved, specifically what people needed to do to start doing it God’s way.
Application: Like Jesus we need to be observant. Parents need to observe their children and look for opportunities to instruct them in a way more perfect. See Psalms 32:8. Leaders in the church should do the same thing. Observe and teach the Word to address the issues you see. This makes teaching practical rather than hypothetical. Fellowship or small group leaders should do the same thing.