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The Parable of the Wicked Tenants


Then he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 2When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. 5Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10Have you not read this scripture:

‘The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone;


this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is amazing in our eyes’?”

12 When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.

The Question about Paying Taxes

13 Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. 14And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? 15Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” 16And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” 17Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.

The Question about the Resurrection

18 Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, 19“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 20There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; 21and the second married the widow and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; 22none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. 23In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”

24 Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”

The First Commandment

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

The Question about David’s Son

35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at my right hand,

until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’

37 David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

Jesus Denounces the Scribes

38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

The Widow’s Offering

41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”


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There is a difference between Matthew and Mark in their narrative of the withering of the fig tree; for Matthew says that it was on the day after that Christ made a public appearance as King, while Mark appears to throw it back to the following day. 99     “Que le jour ensuyvant les disciples prindrent garde à ce qui estoit advenu à l’arbre;”— “that, on the following day, the disciples took notice of what had happened the tree.” But the solution is easy; for they agree in this respect, that Christ, on the day after that he made his solemn entrance into the city, cursed the tree; only Mark states what Matthew had omitted, that the occurrence was observed by the disciples on the following day., So then, though Mark has stated more distinctly the order of time, he makes no contradiction.

He appears to differ more openly both from Matthew and from Luke in the narrative of chastising the traders; 1010     “En l’histoire des marchans chassez hors du temple;” — “in the narrative of the merchants driven out of the temple.” for while both of them declare that Christ, as soon as he entered into the city and temple, drove out those who sold and bought, Mark simply says that he looked around on all things, but has thrown back the driving of them out till another day. 1111     “Et puis il remet à l’autre jour ensuyvant ceste reformation du temple;” — “and then he throws back to the other following day that reformation of the temple.” But I reconcile them in this way, that Mark, not having spoken about the purifying of the temple, afterwards inserts it, though not in its proper place. He relates that, on the first day, Christ came into the temple, and there looked round on all things. 1212     “Et là regarda tout autour ce qui s’y faisoit;” — “and there looked all around at what was done in it.” Now why did he look so earnestly, except for the purpose of correcting something that was wrong? For, having been formerly accustomed to pay frequent visits to the temple, it was not the novelty of the sight that affected him. Now as Mark ought immediately to have added, that those who sold and bought in the temple were driven out of it, he says that Christ went out of the city; but, having omitted what was worthy of being related, he inserts it afterwards.

But perhaps some will be more inclined to believe that, in this narrative also, Mark observed the order of time, which the other two Evangelists had disregarded; for though they appear to indicate an uninterrupted succession of events, yet as they do not name a particular day, there would be no impropriety in dividing what we find to be connected in their writings. For my own part, however, I prefer the conjecture which I stated first; for it is probable that this demonstration of his power was made by Christ in presence of a large multitude. But any one who will consider how little care the Evangelists bestowed on pointing out dates will not stumble at this diversity in the narrative.

Matthew 21:10. When he entered into Jerusalem. Matthew says that the city was moved, in order to inform us that the transaction did not take place secretly, or by stealth, but in the presence of all the people, and that the priests and scribes were not ignorant of it. Under this despicable aspect of the flesh the majesty of the Spirit was apparent; for how would they have endured that Christ should be conducted into the city, attended by the splendor of royalty, with so great danger to themselves, if they had not been seized with astonishment? The substance of it therefore is, that Christ’s entrance was not made in a private manner, and that his enemies abstained from opposing it, not because they treated him with contempt, but rather because they were restrained by secret fear; for God had struck them with such alarm, that they dare not make any attempt. At the same time, the Evangelist glances at the careless indifference of the city, and commends the piety of those who have just reached it; for when the inhabitants, on hearing the noise, inquire, Who is this? it is manifest that they do not belong to the number of Christ’s followers.

Mark 12:32. Master, thou hast spoken well, and with truth. Mark alone mentions that the scribe was softened down; and it is worthy of notice that, though he had attacked Christ maliciously, and with the intention of taking him by surprise, not only does he silently yield to the latter, but openly and candidly assents to what Christ had said. Thus we see that he did not belong to the class of those enemies whose obstinacy is incurable; for, though they have been a hundred times convinced, yet they do not cease to oppose the truth in some manner. From this reply it may also be concluded, that Christ did not precisely include under these two words the rule of life, but embraced the opportunity which presented itself for reproving the false and hypocritical holiness of the scribes, who, giving their whole attention to outward ceremonies, almost entirely disregarded the spiritual worship of God, and cared little about brotherly kindness. Now though the scribe was infected by such corruptions, yet, as sometimes happens, he had obtained from the Law the seed of right knowledge, which lay choked in his heart, and on that account he easily allows himself to be withdrawn from the wicked custom.

33. Is better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices. But it appears to be incongruous that sacrifices, which are a part of divine worship, and belong to the first table of the Law, should be reckoned of less importance than charity towards men. The reply is, Though the worship of God is greatly preferable, and is more valuable than all the duties of a holy life, yet its outward exercises ought not to be estimated so highly as to swallow up brotherly kindness. For we know that brotherly kindness, in itself and simply, is pleasing to God, though sacrifices are not regarded by him with delight or approbation, except with a view to another object. Besides, it is naked and empty sacrifices that are here spoken of; for our Lord contrasts a hypocritical appearance of piety with true and sincere uprightness. The same doctrine is to be found very frequently in the prophets, that hypocrites may know that sacrifices are of no value, unless spiritual truth be joined to them, and that God is not appeased by offerings of beasts, where brotherly kindness is neglected.

34. But when Jesus saw. Whether this scribe made any farther progress is uncertain; but as he had shown himself to be teachable, Christ stretches out the hand to him, and teaches us, by his example, that we ought to assist those in whom there is any beginning either of docility or of right understanding. There appear to have been two reasons why Christ declared that this scribe was not far from the kingdom of God. It was because he was easily persuaded to do his duty, and because he skillfully distinguished the outward worship of God from necessary duties. Nor was it so much with the design of praising as of exhorting him, that Christ declared that he was near the kingdom of God; and in his person Christ encourages us all, after having once entered into the right path, to proceed with so much the greater cheerfulness. By these words we are also taught that many, while they are still held and involved in error, advance with closed eyes towards the road, and in this manner are prepared for running in the course of the Lord, when the time arrives.

And after that, no man ventured to put a question to him. The assertion of the Evangelists, that the mouth of adversaries was stopped, so they did not venture any more to lay snares for Christ, must not be so understood as if’ they desisted from their wicked obstinacy; for they groaned within, like wild beasts shut up in their dens, or, like unruly horses, they bit the bridle. But the more hardened their obstinacy, and the more incorrigible their rebellion, so much the more illustrious was Christ’s triumph over both. And this victory, which he obtained, ought greatly to encourage us never to become dispirited in the defense of the truth, being assured of success. It will often happen, indeed, that enemies shall molest and insult us till the end, but God will at length secure that their fury shall recoil on their own heads, and that, in spite of their efforts, truth shall be victorious.

Mark 12:43. Verily I say to you. This reply of Christ contains a highly useful doctrine that whatever men offer to God ought to be estimated not by its apparent value, 122122     “Selon le prix qu’il vaut au monde;” — “according to the price at which it is estimated by the world.” but only by the feeling of the heart, and that the holy affection of him who according to his small means, offers to God the little that he has, is more worthy of esteem than that of him who offers a hundred times more out of his abundance. In two ways this doctrine is useful, for the poor who appear not to have the power of doing good, are encouraged by our Lord not to hesitate to express their affection cheerfully out of their slender means; for if they consecrate themselves, their offering, which appears to be mean and worthless, will not be less valuable than if they had presented all the treasures of Crœsus. 123123     “De Crœsus, lequel on dit avoir esté si riche;” — “of Crœsus, who is said to have been so rich.” — The allusion is to Crœsus, King of Lydia, whose vast wealth was a proverb among the Greeks and Romans. — Ed. On the other hand, those who possess greater abundance, and who have received from God larger communications, are reminded that it is not enough if in the amount of their beneficence they greatly surpass the poor and common people; because it is of less value in the sight of God that a rich man, out of a vast heap, should bestow a moderate sum, than that a poor man, by giving very little, should exhaust his store. This widow must have been a person of no ordinary piety, who, rather than come empty into the presence of God, chose to part with her own living. And our Lord applauds this sincerity, because, forgetting herself, she wished to testify that she and all that she possessed belonged to God. In like manner, the chief sacrifice which God requires from us is self-denial. As to the sacred offerings, it is probable that they were not at that time applied properly, or to lawful purposes; but as the service of the Law was still in force, Christ does not reject them. And certainly the abuses of men could not prevent the sincere worshippers of God from doing what was holy, and in accordance with the command of God, when they offered for sacrifices and other pious uses.