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12. Parables and Teachings

1And he began to speak unto them in parables. A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it, and digged a pit for the winepress, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into another country. 2And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruits of the vineyard. 3And they took him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. 4And again he sent unto them another servant; and him they wounded in the head, and handled shamefully. 5And he sent another; and him they killed: and many others; beating some, and killing some. 6He had yet one, a beloved son: he sent him last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. 7But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. 8And they took him, and killed him, and cast him forth out of the vineyard. 9What therefore will the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. 10Have ye not read even this scripture:

The stone which the builders rejected,

The same was made the head of the corner;

11This was from the Lord,

And it is marvellous in our eyes?

12And they sought to lay hold on him; and they feared the multitude; for they perceived that he spake the parable against them: and they left him, and went away. 13And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, that they might catch him in talk. 14And when they were come, they say unto him, Teacher, we know that thou art true, and carest not for any one; for thou regardest not the person of men, but of a truth teachest the way of God: Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 15Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why make ye trial of me? bring me a denarius, that I may see it. 16And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's. 17And Jesus said unto them, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. And they marvelled greatly at him. 18And there come unto him Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, 19Teacher, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave a wife behind him, and leave no child, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 20There were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed; 21and the second took her, and died, leaving no seed behind him; and the third likewise: 22and the seven left no seed. Last of all the woman also died. 23In the resurrection whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. 24Jesus said unto them, Is it not for this cause that ye err, that ye know not the scriptures, nor the power of God? 25For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as angels in heaven. 26But as touching the dead, that they are raised; have ye not read in the book of Moses, in the place concerning the Bush, how God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27He is not the God of the dead, but of the living: ye do greatly err. 28And one of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together, and knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, What commandment is the first of all? 29Jesus answered, The first is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one: 30and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. 31The second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 32And the scribe said unto him, Of a truth, Teacher, thou hast well said that he is one; and there is none other but he: 33and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is much more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices. 34And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question. 35And Jesus answered and said, as he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that the Christ is the son of David? 36David himself said in the Holy Spirit,

The Lord said unto my Lord,

Sit thou on my right hand,

Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet.

37David himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he his son? And the common people heard him gladly. 38And in his teaching he said, Beware of the scribes, who desire to walk in long robes, and to have salutations in the marketplaces, 39and chief seats in the synagogues, and chief places at feasts: 40they that devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; these shall receive greater condemnation. 41And he sat down over against the treasury, and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. 43And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: 44for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

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The Hopeful Scribe.

28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?   29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:   30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.   31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.   32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:   33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.   34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

The scribes and Pharisees were (however bad otherwise) enemies to the Sadducees; now one would have expected that, when they heard Christ argue so well against the Sadducees, they would have countenanced him, as they did Paul when he appeared against the Sadducees (Acts xxiii. 9); but it had not the effect: because he did not fall in with them in the ceremonials of religion, he agreeing with them in the essentials, gained him no manner of respect with them. Only we have here an account of one of them, a scribe, who had so much civility in him as to take notice of Christ's answer to the Sadducees, and to own that he had answered well, and much to the purpose (v. 28); and we have reason to hope that he did not join with the other scribes in persecuting Christ; for here we have his application to Christ for instruction, and it was such as became him; not tempting Christ, but desiring to improve his acquaintance with him.

I. He enquired, Which is the first commandment of all? v. 28. He doth not mean the first in order, but the first in weight and dignity; "Which is that command which we ought to have in a special manner an eye to, and our obedience to which will lay a foundation for our obedience to all the rest?" Not that any commandment of God is little (they are all the commands of a great God), but some are greater than others, moral precepts than rituals, and of some we may say, They are the greatest of all.

II. Christ gave him a direct answer to this enquiry, v. 29-31. Those that sincerely desire to be instructed concerning their duty, Christ will guide in judgment, and teach his way. He tells him,

1. That the great commandment of all, which is indeed inclusive of all, is, that of loving God with all our hearts. (1.) Where there is a commanding principle in the soul, there is a disposition to every other duty. Love is the leading affection of the soul; the love of God is the leading grace in the renewed soul. (2.) Where this is not, nothing else that is good is done, or done aright, or accepted, or done long. Loving God with all our heart, will effectually take us off from, and arm us against, all those things that are rivals with him for the throne in our souls, and will engage us to every thing by which he may be honoured, and with which he will be pleased; and no commandment will be grievous where this principle commands, and has the ascendant. Now here in, Mark, our Saviour prefixes to this command the great doctrinal truth upon which it is built (v. 29); Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord; if we firmly believe this, it will follow, that we shall love him with all our heart. He is Jehovah, who has all amiable perfections in himself; he is our God, to whom we stand related and obliged; and therefore we ought to love him, to set our affections on him, let out own desire toward him, and take a delight in him; and he is one Lord, therefore he must be loved with our whole heart; he has the sole right to us, and therefore ought to have the sole possession of us. If he be one, our hearts must be one with him, and since there is no God besides, no rival must be admitted with him upon the throne.

2. That the second great commandment is, to love our neighbour as ourselves (v. 31), as truly and sincerely as we love ourselves, and in the same instances, and we must show it by doing as we would be done by. As we must therefore love God better than ourselves, because he is Jehovah, a being infinitely better than we are, and must love him with all our heart, because he is one Lord, and there is no other like him; so we must love our neighbour as ourselves, because he is of the same nature with ourselves; our hearts are fashioned alike, and my neighbour and myself are of one body, of one society, that of the world of mankind; and if a fellow-Christian, and of the same sacred society, the obligation is the stronger. Hath not one God created us? Mal. ii. 10. Has not one Christ redeemed us? Well might Christ say, There is no other commandment greater than these; for in these all the law is fulfilled, and if we make conscience of obedience to these, all other instances of obedience will follow of course.

III. The scribe consented to what Christ said, and descanted upon it, v. 32, 33. 1. He commends Christ's decision of this question; Well, Master, thou hast said the truth. Christ's assertions needed not the scribe's attestations; but this scribe, being a man in authority, thought it would put some reputation upon what Christ said, to have it commended by him; and it shall be brought in evidence against those who persecuted Christ, as a deceiver, that one of themselves, even a scribe of their own, confessed that he said the truth, and said it well. And thus must we subscribe to Christ's sayings, must set to our seal that they are true. 2. He comments upon it. Christ had quoted that great doctrine, that the Lord our God is one Lord; and this he not only assented to, but added, "There is none other but he; and therefore we must have no other God besides." This excludes all rivals with him, and secures the throne in the heart entire for him. Christ had laid down that great law, of loving God with all our hearts; and this also he explains—that it is loving him with the understanding, as those that know what abundant reason we have to love him. Our love to God, as it must be an entire, so it must be an intelligent, love; we must love him with all the understanding, ex holes tes syneseosout of the whole understanding; our rational powers and faculties must all be set on work to lead out the affections of our souls toward God. Christ has said, "To love God and our neighbour is the greatest commandment of all;" "Yea," saith the scribe, "it is better, it is more than all whole-burnt-offerings and sacrifices, more acceptable to God, and will turn to a better account to ourselves." There were those who held, that the law of sacrifices was the greatest commandment of all; but this scribe readily agreed with our Saviour in this—that the law of love to God and our neighbour is greater than that of sacrifice, even than that of whole-burnt-offerings, which were intended purely for the honour of God.

IV. Christ approved of what he said, and encouraged him to proceed in his enquiries of him, v. 34. 1. He owned that he understood well, as far as he went; so far, so good. Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, and was the more pleased with it, because he had of late met with so many even of the scribes, men of letters, that answered indiscreetly, as those that had no understanding, nor desired to have any. He answered nounechosas one that had a mind; as a rational intelligent man, as one that had his wits about him; as one whose reason was not blinded, whose judgment was not biassed, and whose forethought was not fettered, by the prejudices which other scribes were so much under the power of. He answered as one that allowed himself liberty and leisure to consider, as one that had considered. 2. He owned that he stood fair for a further advance; "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God, the kingdom of grace and glory; thou art in a likely way to be a Christian, a disciple of Christ. For the doctrine of Christ insists most upon these things, and is designed, and has a tendency direct, to bring thee to this." Note, There is hope of those who make a good use of the light they have, and go as far as that will carry them, that by the grace of God they will be led further, by the clearer discoveries God has to make to them. What became of this scribe we are not told, but would willingly hope that he took the hint Christ hereby gave him, and that, having been told by him, so much to his satisfaction, what was the great commandment of the law, he proceeded to enquire of him, or his apostles, what was the great commandment of the gospel too. Yet, if he did not, but took, up here, and went no further, we are not to think it strange; for there are many who are not far from the kingdom of God, and yet never come thither. Now, one would think, this should have invited many to consult him: but it had a contrary effect; No man, after that, durst ask him any question; every thing he said, was spoken with such authority and majesty, that every one stood in awe of him; those that desired to learn, were ashamed to ask, and those that designed to cavil, were afraid to ask.