When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, the Jewish leadership perceived Him as a great threat. The scenes recorded in Mark 12 further clarify Jesus’ unique role in the storyline of Scripture.
(1) In Mark 12:10-11, Jesus quoted Ps 118:22-23 to portray God’s sovereignty in establishing Him as the foundation of God’s kingdom even though the Jewish leadership rejected Him. The Parable of the Vineyard Owner (Matt 21:33-46//Mark 12:1-12//Luke 20:9-19) echoed themes of Isaiah 5, where the prophet described Israel as an unfruitful vine even though planted by God Himself. In the parable, the tenant farmers represent the Jewish leadership; like their fathers before them, they had rejected and killed the landowners’ slaves. When the tenant farmers saw that the landowner had sent his son to collect produce, they said, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and the inheritance will be ours!” (Mark 12:7). Jesus knew what would come of Him. He cited Ps 118:22-23, saying, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This came from the Lord and is wonderful in our eyes” (Mark 12:10-11).
(2) In Mark 12:26, Jesus cited the Lord’s self-disclosure to Moses at the burning bush to establish God’s eternality, and not human relationships, as the first principle of the resurrection. The authors of the Synoptic Gospels record Jesus’ interaction with the Sadducees when they approached to ask Him about how earthly relationships would be identified in the resurrection (Matt 22:23-33//Mark 12:18-27//Luke 20:27-40). Citing Moses’ command that a brother should marry his brother’s widow and have children by her, the Sadducees proposed a nearly ridiculous scenario. If a woman married into a family of seven brothers—and they all died—“in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be, since the seven had married her?” (Mark 12:23). Moses spoke his words on the plains of Moab concerning Israel’s soon-to-be situation in Canaan. There a widow would need children so as to have a means of support in her older years (Deut 25:5). The Sadducees were not so concerned with the specifics of how a widow could survive without support. Jesus chided the Sadducees because they failed to understand “the Scriptures or the power of God” (Mark 12:24). In Mark 12:26, Jesus quoted from Exodus 3 where the Lord spoke to Moses at the burning bush, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The Sadducees quoted a text that was situational; Jesus replied with a text that concerned the eternal, unchanging nature of God. In the resurrection, each person’s relationship with God will eclipse relationships they enjoyed on earth. In denying the reality of the resurrection, the Sadducees were badly deceived (Mark 12:27), Jesus said.
(3) In Mark 12:29-31, Jesus quoted Deut 6:4-5 and Lev 19:18 to establish the primary commands of the law. Matthew and Mark wrote that just after the Sadducees tested Jesus regarding His understanding of the resurrection, another Jewish leader approached Jesus to ask Him which commandment He thought was most important in the law (Matt 22:34-40//Mark 12:28-34). Jesus offered a twofold reply stating that love for God and love for one’s neighbor (Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18) needed to be woven together as the primary commandment in the law. After setting out the ten commandments in Deuteronomy 5, Moses went on to command Israel to love God with all of their heart, soul, and mind (Deut 6:5). In Leviticus 19, Moses commanded Israel to be holy by living with integrity in all that they did. Their love for one another was to reflect God (Lev 19:18). In both texts Jesus cited in response to the question about the greatest commandment in the law, Israel’s ethics were based in the unity of God’s character.
(4) In Mark 12:36, Jesus quoted Ps 110:1 to present Himself both as a descendant of David and superior to David. Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote that after the various delegations of Jewish leadership had finished interrogating Jesus, He asked them about characteristics of the Messiah (Matt 22:41-46//Mark 12:35-37//Luke 20:41-44). Jesus wanted to know how the Jewish leadership synthesized the tradition that the Messiah would be a descendant of David with David’s statement in Ps 110:1 where David addressed as “Lord” the one seated at God’s right hand (Mark 12:35, 37). Who was David calling “Lord?” Jesus asked His opponents. What the Jewish authorities had failed to realize was that the Messiah was not only the son of David, He was also the Son of God, David’s Lord.