Mark 12:1-44

“Turn to Mark chapter 12. Last few weeks as we’ve been studying in Mark, we’ve seen this true state of the House of Israel [really the House of Judah, the real House of Israel having been deported to the shores of the Caspian Sea by Assyria in 721 B.C. and never returned]. We saw last week, Jesus cursed this fig tree that was a great picture of the state of the nation of Israel, the House of Israel [and at this point, Judah represented both the House of Israel and Judah, as Judah was the last remaining representative of the 12-tribe nation of Israel to actually be left in the land]. God desired to see some fruit but instead, as Jesus was looking for figs, the tree didn’t have figs, there was no fruit. And in turn Jesus cursed the fig tree, the tree withered up. And that’s not far from the time that we read here in Mark 12, where God is going to curse the nation of Israel. And last week we talked too from John 15 that like that, Jesus says to us in John 15, he says to us, you know, ‘I desire to see fruit in your lives…’ And if there’s not fruit, then we’re in a dangerous position. We saw that in John 15, much like this fig tree, much like the House of Israel. And the fruit, of course, that he wants to see is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of thanksgiving and praise, the fruit of the gospel. But I think, if I was to summarize that in one main word, it would be “love”. And we do talk about that at times. The main thing that God desires to see in my life and in your life is love. That is the primary thing. And we’re gonna look at that and consider that a little bit this morning. Yesterday we had this renewal of vows, a little wedding sort of ceremony. I don’t know what you’d call it technically, in the church, but it was a wedding. It was fun. And, two people decided to renew their vows, a husband and wife. And other folks joined in with that too. God desires a love relationship with us, and that we would express that love in our life, that our heart would beat for him. He’s not so interested in the other things, the other duties and performances that we have. But he really wants our heart, he wants to walk in the garden with us, wants us to enjoy him, spend time with him-just to walk hand in hand with him and fellowship with him. Maybe today you’re at a place where you need to renew your vows to the Lord, you know. You’ve been a Christian awhile, and like the Church at Ephesus there’s not a lot of flame in the fire, you know. So maybe this morning would be a good time to renew those vows to the Lord. It’s about love, you know a wedding is always a great opportunity to speak about love. What God desires with us is intimacy and an intimate relationship. Maybe you’re here and you’ve never received Christ into your life and maybe today should be sort of a wedding where you express and you choose the Lord this morning. Let’s say a word of prayer, and then we’re gonna look at Mark chapter 12. ‘Thank you, Lord, that we can once again come together and spend time with you as a body. I would imagine though for some of us it’s been a busy week and maybe we haven’t spent a lot of time with you. And I would imagine that that does bother you, because you want to walk with us, you want to just spend time with us. You love us. You want people that love you. And I pray Lord that you speak to us more about that this morning as we’re together, as we spend time with you. That we would realize the love you have for us, but also realize how you desire us to love you. And I pray we would, all the more. But thank you for this time, in Jesus name, Amen.’

Let’s read verse 1 of chapter 12. “Then he began to speak to them in parables, ‘A man planted a vineyard and planted a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine-vat and built a tower, and he leased it to vine-dressers and went into a far country. Now at vintage time he sent a servant to the vine-dressers that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vine-dressers. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another servant and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head and sent him away shamefully treated. And again he sent another and him they killed, and many others, beating some and killing some. Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, They will respect my son. But those vine-dressers said among themselves, This is the heir, come let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard. Therefore, what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-dressers and give the vineyard to others. Have you not even read this Scripture, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.’ And they sought to lay hands on him, but feared the multitude for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them, so they left him and went away” (Mark 12:1-12). This parable, to the listeners here before Jesus, especially the religious leaders, they tune into what he’s saying here, it’s pretty clear. If you have just a basic understanding of the Old Testament, it’s clear what he’s saying to the people of Israel. And he’s given us just a picture of their state again and of the history, their history. In this parable, Jesus is referring to this man that’s planted this vineyard, and that man is God [the Father], that man refers to God. God has planted this vineyard. The vineyard is the House of God, is the House of Israel [at this time the literal House of Judah is all that remains], the nation of Israel, his people. Psalm 80, we read the Psalmist says that very fact. He says, “You have brought a vine out of Egypt, you have cast out nations and planted it. You prepared room for it and caused it to take deep root and if filled the land. The hills were covered with its shadow and the mighty cedars with its boughs. She sent out her boughs to the sea and her branches to the river.” He said, you took this vine, a wild vine in Egypt, you took it out and planted it in the Promised Land, and it just prospered and became a nice vineyard that went from the river to the sea, and you did this Lord. And the vine very clearly in Scripture, this vineyard is this House, the people of Israel. The vine-dressers are those that have stewardship there, and that’s the religious leaders. They have the Law, the Prophets, that specifically. And they were to take care of the House of Israel, minister to the House of Israel. The servants, here, are God’s Prophets, typically. Those that he sent to warn over and over the people of Israel. But they’re off track, they’re missing the point. Eventually, as you read there, they treated the Prophets poorly, he sent his one and only Son. That’s what he’s doing at this very moment as you read. Jesus is the Son, standing before them. And he says, he prophetically says, you know, they took the son, threw him out and killed him, and that’s what they’re gonna do in just a few days. Then Jesus says prophetically after that, 'What’s the owner of the vineyard gonna do? God? He’s gonna destroy the vineyard, and of course that happens just thirty or forty years after this time [69-70 A.D.]. God sent many a prophet to the nation of Israel. Many times he sent folks to them to tell them what it was all about, to warn them, say, ‘Hey man, just love God with your heart, man. Just walk with him, just adore him, just praise him.’ Repeatedly he would send people, you know, you read the book of Hosea, a beautiful book. But he would even try to woo them, just woo them back to him, that they would have a heart for him, many times. And yet they would abuse these prophets, over and over, and eventually they rejected his son and killed his son. And soon, as we read, God is gonna deal with the vineyard as a whole and the vine-dressers. He’s gonna take the vineyard and give it to another. Of course the Church ages starts at this point, and now God has this very special relationship with us as the Church-the nation of Israel was on hold for awhile in a sense, you could say [70 A.D. to 1948 to be specific-and won’t totally be restored till after the return of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth]. And God still has a work to do with them. But this is similar to prophecies we read in the Old Testament in other places such as Isaiah. In Isaiah we read, “And now, please let me (this is God speaking) tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will take away its hedge, it shall be burned, and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste and it shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briars and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it. For the vineyard of the Lord is the House of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold oppression, for righteousness but behold a cry of help (Isaiah 5:1-7). [Look up this Scripture in the NIV and read it. It is quite revealing, he’s talking about Judah, verses 3-4.] He came looking for fruit but instead he found a very different state. And in Isaiah’s case God spoke of the exile when he was gonna really lay waste to the vineyard. Well here you see a similar thing. God was so patient. You know, I read this, I was thinking, you know, just how I could encourage you about God. As I read this, you just can’t help but consider the love of God again. You read through the Scriptures over and over you can just see God’s love. But here what is the thing that you see is that God’s love is longsuffering. My goodness, his love is so longsuffering. People in Israel, he was just so patient with them, just waiting and waiting, sending all these representatives, trying to get them back on course, over and over again, so longsuffering with them. The Psalmist cried in Psalm 86, he said, “But you O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in mercy and truth.” Paul said a similar thing to the church of Rome, he says, “Now may the God of patience and comfort…” His love is so patient, is so longsuffering with you and I, so longsuffering. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us the same thing about the love of God, that it’s longsuffering, a love of tremendous patience. I tell you, I’m so thankful for that. As I consider my life, that God has been so longsuffering with me. Some of the roads I’ve been down and some of the things that I have done, I’m glad I don’t serve Buddha, have to worry about going back later, as a bug or something, because of some silly thing I did. Or even Allah, it seems Allah is like a bug-zapper, he just zaps you as soon as you get out of line, you know. I serve Jehovah, a God that’s longsuffering and patient, so patient to me. If you’re struggling, maybe today, you’ve been struggling with this or that sin in your life, be encouraged that God is longsuffering. He is patient with you--trying to work through something in your life. Maybe you haven’t got there yet. God will take his time, man, he is patient, longsuffering, waiting, waiting for you and trying to help you along to just get things right. But you know I think sometimes folks misunderstand the longsuffering of God and they start to think that maybe God approves of certain lifestyles or decisions that I [we] have made or behaviors that I [we] have. Sometimes we go down roads of certain lifestyles or decisions that we have or behaviors that we have, sometimes we go down roads and God is longsuffering and we think, ‘Well, he’s just approving of what I’m doing.’ Hasn’t done anything necessarily yet, and yet I look in my life and I still think, ‘I still see some blessing in my life, I must be doing OK.’ But yet you know from the Word of God, you’re clearly outside what he’s said, and maybe you’re trying to rationalize in another way, but consider his longsuffering love. But understand that it is not necessarily that he approves when you get outside his Word. That’s for sure, he doesn’t approve of that at all. Don’t confuse the two. If we do not repent, if we get on a certain road and we’re saying ‘Alright, it’s OK, I’ve been doing this for awhile. No problem. Nothing’s happened yet.’ If you don’t get off of that road, just follow the parable through. Eventually, eventually, you do break that last straw. God’s love is righteous. And he waits, and he waits just as you do sometimes with your children, if you’re parents and they’re out of line, you don’t necessarily walk right up and smack ‘em. You know, you try to sometimes, but you try to wait awhile, work with them, try to be longsuffering with them, to a degree anyway. But eventually they break that last straw. Now there’s consequences, so today if you are outside of God’s desires, his will for your life, and you know that-maybe you think it’s been fine-the day will come. The day will come, God will chastise you, if you’re a child of God. If you’re not a child of God then you will someday certainly see judgment. We considered this a little bit on the “men’s breakfast” on Saturday. You know the Israelites, God did so much for them, all those miracles, all those miracles, just providing for them. Whenever he did something good they were happy. But if it was ever contrary to what they desired they were very displeased, always refusing to love him, to trust him. Just wanting someone to take care of them rather than, you know, a real Lord, a God to love. They were very self-centered, they complained a ton, belly-ached a ton. And we looked on Saturday morning that eventually they broke the last straw. They just keep complaining and complaining. Then in the wilderness, God sends the 12 spies. Ten of them come back and say ‘Hey, we can’t get this Promised Land. No way, these guys are big over there.’ Two of them come back, Joshua and Caleb, and say, ‘Hey, we can do it with the Lord.’ But then, of course, the ten were influential, and the whole community in Israel were like, ‘Awe, let’s go back to Egypt’, and again they got into that mode, and this time they broke the last straw. And God said to them, ‘Alright, I heard what you said, you don’t want to go into the Promised Land, you’re not going to the Promised Land. That’s what you said, that’s what you want, that’s what you get this time. I’ve worked with you, I’ve been patient, I’ve been moving you along. You’ve complained, I kept moving you along. But today is it. You’ve got to that point. For every day the spies were in the Promised Land, you’re gonna spend a year in the wilderness. And you’re gonna die in the wilderness.’ He said, ‘The only two that are gonna make it to the Promised Land is Joshua and Caleb. And your kids, you said that your kids were going to get destroyed in this Promised Land. No they’re gonna make it, and they’re gonna prosper there.’ But eventually, eventually, we get to that point, if we don’t repent, we get to that point and break that last straw because God is a righteous God. He’s so longsuffering, so patient for our own good, that he’s gonna [eventually] deal with it. And how he often will punish us is by giving us just what we ask for, giving us just what we’re seeking after. He’ll give it to us, “Alright, you want it? You got it man.’ ‘You want that to be your lord? Want that to consume your time? You can have it? It’s yours, keep it. You really don’t want me, I won’t bother you too much.’ Eventually he gives us what we ask for. But we don’t understand today, the reality, the full impact of what that means. The people of Israel, once they started to clue in, said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not good.’ Well then they tried to get to the Promised Land on their own, and that didn’t work out very well either. [Lesson:] You can’t just grab hold of what you want, you’ve got to let God give it to you. And of course, he wants to give you so much. If we would just love him and receive what he wants to give us. Thank God, that he is so, so longsuffering towards us. But may it not give us a false sense of security. Instead may it just cause a love to well up in our hearts for him. And that love will be expressed ultimately in obedience. I pray that we are like Joshua and Caleb. “But my servant Caleb” God said “because he has a different Spirit in him and has followed me fully, I will bring him into the land where you went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” He had a different spirit, a different heart, God said. ‘He obeyed me fully, so he’s gonna get there.’ Didn’t get into this rut of complaining and belly-aching. You know, what is the Promised Land today? All the more if we just realized what it was for you and I. Paul says in Colossians ‘It’s attaining to all the riches and full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ He says the Promised Land for you and I today is just growing and understanding what we have in Christ, and then appreciating that and then experiencing that, because he is everything. That’s the Promised Land. God is a God of love and he wants us to love him, and as we love him we experience all that we could ever ask for. Because in loving him and spending time with him and worshipping him is what it’s all about. He’s got all the answers. As Colossians says, he’s got all the treasures. So when we go on these other roads like the people of Israel in Hosea, we go on these other roads, man, these other idols, they just don’t quite do much for us, but with him it’s true. He’s truly all we need. If you’re here today and you’ve not received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior I’d encourage you to consider this text today. No matter where you’ve been, no matter how rebellious you think you’ve been, maybe undeserving, God is a God of longsuffering, God is patient. If the people of Israel would have just repented, things would have been all set. So today if you are not a Christian and you’ve decided to turn to God, well, he’s gonna receive you, that’s for sure. No matter what road you’ve been on, just look at how longsuffering he is. If you chose not to, consider the text too, that God is a God of righteous love, and he’ll bring judgment. But boy is he longsuffering. You know, we read in Peter, “But consider that the longsuffering of the Lord is salvation.” Maybe you’re here today as a non-Christian, haven’t received Christ as your Lord and you’ve just been down all sorts of roads. God has just been patient, just waiting. And Paul said the same thing. He said, “However, for this reason I obtain mercy that in me first Christ Jesus might show all longsuffering as a pattern for those who are going to believe on him for everlasting.” And God of course, Paul was really against Jesus there initially, wanted to kill Christians. You know as I was reading this, I was thinking some of these guys that were confronting Jesus as we go through Mark 12, and we know after the cross, that a decent number of Pharisees and religious leaders do actually come to Christ. Probably a small percentage, but a good number of them, because you read about them, later in the epistles and things, these guys that come to Christ. I was just wondering, you know, some of these guys standing before Jesus, you know, confronting him and trying to trap him, not realizing at that time what they were doing. And then later, coming to Christ, some of those that did, and thinking back to those times where they actually stood physically with Jesus and were trying to trap him in his words and just against him. I just-boy God is a God of tremendous love and compassion and mercy. So wherever you are today, consider that and rejoice in that. And I guess lastly before we move on, if God’s love is longsuffering-our love to one another should be longsuffering. That says it’s a forgiving love, a love that continues to forgive and forget, longsuffering. You know, you slap me, I forgive you and I come back, and you slap me and I forgive you and I come back, you slap me and I forgive you and come back, and that’s what it is, it’s longsuffering, you know. That’s the love of God. That’s the way he is with you and I, 1 Corinthians 13, that’s the love that we should have one to another, a love that’s longsuffering. “Enduring all things”-1 Corinthians 13-“Bearing all things.” But also we’re to show this love to those in the world. “But you have fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love [agape love], patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came to me at Antioch…But out of them all the Lord delivered me…Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:10-12). For he says ‘I’ve been longsuffering, I was persecuted and persecuted, they even stoned me and I got back up and went right back into the city, began to preach and love ‘em.’ So you and I, Christians here this morning, are to be longsuffering with one another, but also with those in the world. And persecution is a promise, to get poked and slapped, is a promise. But we’re to be longsuffering, that’s our response.

Verse 12, Due to the hardness of their hearts the vine-dressers before Jesus, these religious leaders respond to his parable. The way they respond is that they’re provoked to anger. That’s their hearts, man. A hard heart is when you don’t get things your way and you get angry, and they just get angry. In fact, Luke tells us that they seek to lay hold of Jesus at that very hour. But they’re unable to because of his popularity at that moment. They certainly don’t know what it means to be longsuffering because they are just teed-off with Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 13, thinking about the love of God again, 1 Corinthians 13 says that love is not easily provoked. And you know, God is looking for fruit in these people’s lives. And obviously you see by reading these Scriptures they didn’t have it at all, because love is not easily provoked. And these guys are just teed-off and trying to get a hold of Jesus. And also we know in 1 Corinthians 13 that love does not behave rudely. And of course they’re pretty rude in their behavior here, they’re trying to take hold of him. But that’s what God desires to see in your life. You know if you read this and you consider these guys, in some cases we can see some of us in these guys, you know. You know, you just press me to a point, I get provoked, I get angry, I fly off the handle. That’s not the love that God desires, that’s not the fruit that he desires to see in your life. Or you just behave rudely, you know. If there’s anyone you’ve behaved rudely with I encourage you to go and repent and ask for their forgiveness. Because, man, love does not behave rudely, just doesn’t. God wants to see love in your life.

Verses 13-17, “Then they sent to him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to catch him in his words. When they had come they said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are true and care about no one, for you do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God and truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Shall we pay or shall we not pay?’ But he, knowing their hypocrisy said to them, ‘Why do you test me? Bring me a dinarius that I may see it.’ So they brought it and he said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ and they said to him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marvelled at him.” I wonder if some of these guys came to Christ maybe later and reflect back to this time, trying to trap Jesus. But the Herodians and the Pharisees have joined together. Before this, they weren’t the best of friends, these two groups. But you know, enemies will join together for a common cause, and these guys have. And now they’ve really thought this one through, they’ve got Jesus there in Jerusalem, and if they can get him to in some way say something against the Roman government, well they can go to Pilate and the Romans will take care of him. But if they get him, if they can get him to say something that maybe would anger the people-maybe paying homage to the Roman authorities. And the Jewish people obviously didn’t like the Romans. So if he can say something that maybe would make the people angry, then they’ve got some grounds again to get hold of him. Well, Jesus, you can never trap him. He takes care if it pretty clearly, and they say ‘Listen’, they say, ‘you know, is it right to pay the poll tax, is it right for us to go and pay taxes to Caesar, a Jewish man? You know, you’re a guy who doesn’t really pay respect to anybody, and you kind of do what you want to do, and seem to just teach the way of God.’ And of course they’re hypocrites in what they’re saying, they don’t really believe this anyway, trying to set him up, butter him up so he’ll respond in a certain way. But he says, ‘Hey man, give me a coin. What’s on this coin? You see Caesar, the picture of Caesar? Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But give to God what is God’s.’ Clearly we read in the Bible God’s instituted a government, he’s instituted the government and we read, and it's hard to even comprehend, but he’s appointed the leaders that we have [this sermon given while Bill Clinton was in office as President of the United States]. And then he says, ‘Pray for them without ceasing.’ He says, ‘Honor the king.’ So he says, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s-that fits into my plan-and give to God what is God’s.’ These few guys that have come, Luke and the other gospels tell us they’ve come like spies, they’ve been sent just to trap. And I think of again, love, you know. Jesus says, you know, ‘You guys, there’s no fruit, so you’re gonna be cursed. You’re like the fig tree.’ And here you just see their thoughts. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13 that God’s love thinks no evil, and obviously all they have is evil thoughts. They’ve gotten together conspiring, you know, ‘How can we trap this guy, and how can we even do it dishonestly if we need to?’-bunches, bunches of evil thoughts. Also we read in 1 Corinthians 13 that love does not rejoice in iniquity. Man, they would have been just parading in joy if they could have trapped him here. It says, “Instead, love rejoices in the truth”, and they just don’t rejoice in the truth. They want their own way. We’re told in 1 Corinthians 13 that “Love believes all things”, just trusts. That’s far from their hearts. Now where are you today? Are there some folks that maybe, well you had some evil thoughts against. Maybe somebody’s done something against you and sometimes when that happens thoughts can come into your mind and you can just start thinking things that just are evil, you know. If something bad happened to somebody that you know [that you don’t like], well, you wouldn’t have too much trouble sleeping at night, if you heard the report, ‘Tommy, he got hit by a car, Oh well.’ You know, we can do that in our thoughts, can’t we, people that have just these evil thoughts, rejoicing maybe in iniquity rather than rejoicing in truth and in the love of God. Well, God wants to see in your life, God wants to see in my life, he wants to see fruit. He doesn’t want to see all the other stuff, he wants to see fruit, and the fruit is love. He wants to see love. He wants to see it in your thoughts. He wants to see it in your actions. And that’s what tells it all, that’s the whole picture, man. Are you a Caleb, can you say you obeyed him fully? Had his different Spirit in you? Or are you more like the Israelites, just in your thoughts and in your heart? God wants to see fruit in our life, and it’s love. Who are you more like? Are you at times more like the guys before Jesus? Or are you more like the love that God desires in 1 Corinthians 13?

Here, Jesus, as a side-point, does say this truth about honoring Caesar. And we’re to honor ‘Caesar’, certainly that’s obeying God [cf. Romans 13:1-7, Daniel 4.], except when Caesar gets outside of God’s law. But when we’re told to pay taxes, if it’s 95% of our income, we’re to pay 95% of our income, because that’s not outside of God’s law. Obviously it’s warped if we were to pay that much, but that’s not outside God’s law. We’re to pay taxes. And the laws of the land, if they, if you can’t go to Scripture to find one that says the law is outside of God’s will, you’re to obey the law, whatever it is-in all that you do, that’s obeying God, that’s loving God. Obeying him, that’s loving him with your life.

You know, this marriage thing has come up a lot, over the last number of weeks. I’ve been in a lot of discussions about marriage and what marriage is and what marriage isn’t. Sometimes people think that marriage is really just this agreement between two individuals. You know, if you live together eight or ten years, you’re married, you’re an Adam & Eve basically, you’re married together [common law], you know, you’re spending time together, you love each other, that’s marriage. But God has instituted the government [i.e he’s instituted the physical governments over people in the world, as evil as some of them are-this is a mystery that baffles some, but read Romans 13:1-7 and Daniel chapter 4.] He’s given the laws of the land. Marriage today, the equation of marriage today includes the law, it includes the legal aspect. Marriage today includes that certificate, you’re not married today [except in one state where common law is still on the books]-if you don’t have that certificate today, you’re not married. If you don’t have the state’s approval, you’re not married, because God’s instituted the laws. If the laws get outside of God’s plan then it’s different [i.e. gay or same-sex marriages are outside of God’s plan, for sure]. When today we’re heading down the road where evidently in our state [Massachusetts] not long from now and in other states [Vermont, so far], you know, there’s gonna be this same-sex marriage thing. Well, clearly that’s outside of God’s law. And so therefore the Bible says that’s depravity, that’s not God’s desire at all. So in that case I don’t give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, because it’s outside of what God has desired. But in all the other cases it’s part of God’s will, it’s God’s desire for me to obey Caesar.

Verses 18-23, “And some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and they asked him, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother’s brother dies and leaves his wife behind and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers, the first took a wife and dying he left no offspring. And the 2nd took her and he died, nor did he leave any offspring, and the 3rd likewise. So the seven had her and left no offspring, and last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection when they arise, whose wife will she be, for all seven had her as a wife?’” Now it’s important to understand that the Sadducees do not believe in angels, they do not believe in spirits [demons], they do not believe in the resurrection. They believe that when you die, you die and that’s it. That’s why they’re Sad-You-See, a pretty sad belief to have [Sadd-U-Cee’s, ha, ha]. And, they’re trying to trap Jesus, they’re trying to trap him in this little riddle. But also they’re trying to prove a point in front of the Pharisees, because the Pharisees and them debated. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection, the Sadducees didn’t. So they’ve got a clever way here to prove a point, make themselves look good, but also trap Jesus. Well, you could only imagine them trying to come up with this, trying to think this one through. “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Are you not therefore mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God. For when they rise from the dead they do neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels in heaven. But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him saying, ‘I’m the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob?’ He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You’re therefore greatly mistaken’” (Verses 24-27). They only believed in, really, the authority of the Torah, the first [five] books of Moses, so he goes right to the book of Moses to prove that there is a resurrection. He says ‘God said in the burning bush, I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ He wouldn’t say that if they were dead, he would say ‘I was the God’, past tense, they’re dead, they don’t exist anymore. He says ‘I am the God, meaning they still exist. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob still were living he says. They were with him, of course. And, so he goes right back to their Law showing them that right in their own Word that they didn’t even know, he said, ‘You guys didn’t even know the Scriptures. You study it, you miss out on the beautiful truth of it. “’And therefore, because you do not know the Word of God, you do not know the power of God.’”-because you’re not walking with God and seeking him in his Word, truly seeking him, just the power of God. And the power of God includes rising, taking folks and rising them up from the dead, he can do that. And he will do that, and in fact he’s gonna do it again in a most beautiful way in just a few days. He’s gonna take a man and pull him right out of the grave, Jesus Christ himself. He says ‘You guys just don’t know the power of God, man. And therefore you’re short-sighted, and man, you’re pretty sad, because, you have such a hopeless faith.’ Love, love we’re told in 1 Corinthians 13, that “love hopes all things.” If there was no resurrection, man, there would be no hope, that’s what Paul said. Paul said [in 1 Corinthians 15-the resurrection chapter] “If Christ is not risen your faith is futile, you’re still in your sins. Then all those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life alone we have hope in Christ we are of all men the most pitiable.” He says, ‘Without the resurrection, without eternal life, it’s just silly to be a Christian.’ But then we read in 1 Corinthians 13 that God’s love includes hope, “it hopes all things”, and of course that tells you and I that we have a great hope, and that’s in a risen life later when we’re gonna be with the Lord. We’re gonna get raised from the dead, man. We’re gonna go in the twinkling of an eye, we’re gonna get new bodies and we’re gonna be right there in the throne room with God and just praise and worship and live like we’ve never even comprehended to a degree what it’s gonna be like. [Click here to see what Paul had to say about the 1st resurrection to immortality: http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/corinthians/cor15-16.htm.] So because of that, you and I have a great hope, a great hope. Paul concludes 1 Corinthians 15, he says “But thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, be immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”-because you have a great hope. God loves you so much, he’s gonna give you eternal life if you’re a Christian here today. You’re gonna spend eternity with him, so you have a great hope. Just to serve, to be steadfast, be immovable. Sometimes, you know, when things get certain ways in our lives, you know, they get kind of crazy, we start to get in despair, and we don’t have a lot of hope. As Christians we got a tremendous hope. No matter how dark it gets outside, no matter if the stock market crashes and America really gets kind of weird, we’ve got a great hope, because of where we’re going, because of the Lord. So therefore we keep serving, we keep loving and praising him. He’s given us eternal life. Our love, the love of God that he’s given to us, will not disappoint us. God is the God of the living, and that’s the greatest hope. [And I might add here for those who are a bit confused, the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6 said in talking about some of the saints who had actually seen Jesus, but were now dead, he said this of those Christians who had died, “…after that, he was seen of above 500 brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto the present, but some are fallen asleep.” In Luke 8:41-42, 49-52-55, Jesus came to the house of Jairus, whose 12-year-old daughter had just died. The crowd gathered around the girl was wailing and weeping (verse 52), but Jesus said, “Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.” She was dead. In verse 54 it says “and he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called saying ‘Maid arise’. And her spirit came again and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.” Now what is the lesson here? Was Jesus lying about the girl being dead? Well, no. To God (and the apostle Paul) we see the dead are just sleeping-why??-because it is God who can “wake up the dead.” In Isaiah 26:19 it says about those (Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, and all who are to be in the resurrection to immortality, “thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for the earth shall cast out the dead.” If you read verses 20-21, you see this is written in context with the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ [cf. Revelation 19] and the resurrection to immortality of the saints [cf. 1 Corinthians 15:49-54]. So to the very One who can raise the dead, “awake” the dead, yes, the dead are merely sleeping. To God the dead are not really dead but sleeping. Are you going to argue that point with Jesus, God the Son, or the apostle Paul? I guess you can if you want to. In Acts 2:29 it says, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.” In Psalm 16:10 this same patriarch David himself prophecied of his own resurrection when he said, “For thou wilt not leave my soul [Hebrew: Nephesh :flesh, body] in hell [Sheol, the grave]; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (read vs. 9-11) David is considered one of the patriarchs, along with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Jews say they are dead, even Peter said David was dead and buried “and his grave is with us to this day.” But to God, they’re all asleep, awaiting his wake-up call (Isaiah 26:19; 1 Corinthians 15:6,49-54). So this is what Jesus means when he’s stating that God is the God of the living, and names Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who naturally, to us, are quite dead and buried. But to the God who can “awake the dead” they’re not dead, just sleeping. The Sadducees clearly didn’t understand the power of God here.]

“And one of the Scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’ Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord: and you 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: this is the first commandment.’” This is what it’s all about-“And the second is namely this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’ And the Scribe said to him, ‘Well said, teacher, you have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but he, 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 one’s neighbor as oneself is more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ But after that no one dared to question him” (Mark 14:28-34). He says, ‘Now here’s a guy who’s getting kind of close. Here’s a guy who’s starting to clue into a little bit of what the kingdom of God is about and what I’m looking for. He says ‘You’re not far from it.’ Hopefully this guy made it. But the guy agreed, he says, ‘You know what’s the greatest commandments?’ Jesus said, ‘This is what it’s all about, this is the greatest commandment, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, all your thoughts, all your passions and with all your strength, all your energies, you are to love God-that’s the greatest commandment. And from that comes the next one, that you love your neighbor as yourself. That’s just gonna naturally result. Of course, as we’ve seen, being a servant like Jesus, that’s the kingdom of God [that’s the heart and core of the kingdom of God. The physical aspect of the kingdom of God comes to earth in several stages, shown in Revelation chapters 19, 20 and 21.]. And again that’s what God desires from you and I today. It’s about love, man. That’s the greatest commandment.

Verses 35-37, “Then Jesus answered and said while he taught in the temple, ‘How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David, for David himself said by the Holy Spirit, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies my footstool.’ Therefore David himself calls him Lord. How is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.” They of course, as we’ve seen, they looked for the Messiah, the son of David. They understood the promise that God made to David that the Messiah was coming, one of his descendants, and Jesus is just playing with them here, also trying to show a truth to them if they’re willing to receive it. It’s just ‘Now you say that the Messiah is the son of David.’ He doesn’t’ deny it. It’s true. But he says, ‘How does this work out? David said to the Messiah, he said, the Lord said to my Lord, to the Messiah, he said in the spirit, sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.’ He called his descendant his Lord. Now how’s that gonna work out? And the people that are listening are like, “Cool.” They just really enjoyed some of Jesus’ teaching. The Pharisees and Scribes and Sadducees were just baffled at this. But of course, the way it worked out is that Jesus is the Messiah, is the son of David, but we realize from the gospels that Mary, she was, became pregnant by the Holy Spirit and had Jesus, who was man, descended from David [through Mary], but he was also God, he was Divine [log onto: http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/prophecies/1stcoming.htm ] So that’s how David could say this to his descendant and call him Lord.

Verse 38, “Then he said to them in his teaching, ‘Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the market places, the best seats in the synagogues, the best places at feasts, who devour widows houses and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” You know, when I read this, I can’t help but think of this book that I have at home called “The Fifty Years in the Church of Rome.” And the book starts right off, it’s a big book, and to be honest with you, I’ve never read to the end of the book. But I read enough to remember this story. The book starts out with this young boy, who’s the author of this book. He’s referring back to when he was young. Just the vivid memory of being at home the day after his father died. And his mom and brothers and sisters were in great distress living on a little farm in Canada and dad has died, and you can only imagine. But who shows up at the door but a priest, and the priest came to the mother and said, “Hey, you know, you need to pay me some money, if you’re gonna get your husband out of purgatory.” And she’s like, “I don’t have any money. My husband’s died, I’ve got kids to feed.” He says, “Well, your husband, he’s not in a good place, and you’re gonna pay me some money.” [My thought at this point would have been somewhat along the lines, “Where’s that shotgun of dad’s?”…But it gets better. Read on.] And this man refers back to this vivid memory. [In the church history section under the title “History of the Sabbatarian Church from Jerusalem to Oregon” you read of this same Greco-Roman church that supplanted the early Judeo-Christians and Quartodecimen Christians of Asia Minor.] And the priest looked around and said “Who’s cow is that?” And they had one cow. And she said, “That’s our cow, it’s all we’ve got. It’s the only way I’m gonna provide for these kids.” He said, “Well, you don’t have any money, tell you what, I’m gonna take your cow.” So this man referred back to being a young boy in Canada and watching mom and the kids looking out the window as the priest walked away with the only cow they had. And that’s what Jesus says is these guy’s hearts here, man-they like the robe, they like the greetings in the marketplaces, they like the best places-but they’ll devour a widow, take her home. Their hearts are so rotten, so evil. We’re told in 1 Corinthians 13, that love does not parade itself, and love is not puffed up. And love doesn’t envy, it’s just humble. It’s just not self-seeking, desires to bless. I hope that’s our hearts this morning. I hope God comes and says, ‘Man, this group, this congregation here, they’re just full of love. Look at the love, man. Look at their thoughts, even. They’re just filled with good thoughts.’

Verse 41-44, “Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury, and saw how people put money into the treasury, and many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites (which makes a quadrance). So he called his disciples to himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury. For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.’” So as they’re standing there, let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 13, and we’ll just kind of conclude with that. But as they were standing there Jesus points out this elderly lady. The religious people, as we understand, are coming by and they’re just emptying their golden coin there, and the wealthy are making sure that it’s noticed, that people understand that they’re giving, you know, thousands of gold coins, yet it really doesn’t do anything to their bank account, they have a lot more. But here this elderly lady comes up, and no one really noticed. She puts in two copper coins. These copper coins are very thin, they’re worth very little. The total value is about a fifth or two-fifths of a penny. That’s how much she put in there. But she put in everything. And she did it “As unto the Lord.” She said, “Well, this will buy me some grain today, and I need to eat, but man I just love God. I’m gonna put these two in there, and I’m gonna trust the Lord for my provision.” And she dumped them in there, and Jesus said, ‘Now that, that’s what it’s all about, man. That’s beautiful, all that she’s put in there. These other folks, they haven’t given at all, there’s no love there, there’s no sacrifice and service from the heart. But she’s clued in.’

“Love does not seek it’s own, but it seeks the good of others.” Let’s conclude as we read 1 Corinthians 13. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [agape], I become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long, and is kind. Love does not envy. Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” I’m so thankful that God’s love never fails. “…but whether there are prophecies, they will fail, whether there are tongues, they will cease, whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly [some translate, “through a darkened glass”], but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also know. And now abides faith, hope and love [agape], these three, but the greatest of these is love [agape]” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13). I just felt the desire today just to exhort us again, God comes to our lives and he looks for fruit, and it can be summarized in one general term-love [agape love].”