Mark 11:27 - 12:44


One of the distinctive things about Jesus was that He spoke with a calm but unshakable authority. This set him apart from the rabbinical teachers of that day who were always having to quote the opinion of some earlier rabbi or expert.

Jesus spoke from God. He was able to say, "Thus saith the Lord." And He even went further to say, "Thus saith ME."

He did not only speak with authority; He also ACTED with authority. He acted with authority when He commanded demons to leave those whom they had possessed. He acted with authority when He told a storm to be silent. He acted with authority when He told a lame man to walk, when He rebuked disease and it departed, and when He commanded a dead girl to get up. And He acted with authority when He came in and cleansed the Temple, driving out those who had come to make a profit instead of to listen to the Prophet.

Imagine what would be the reaction if an out-of-town carpenter showed up this Sunday in your church and began overturning pews and tossing around the offering plates. What would be your reaction? It would probably be the same as was seen by the Temple leaders.

"What gives you the right to do these things?"

"Just who do you think you are?"

That is the question asked by the leaders of the Temple in verses 27-33. They come to Him in an official delegation and ask Him point-blank concerning His authority by which He has done these acts.

But that is not all. The question does not go away. This will be the underlying question behind everything presented in chapter 12. This is reflected in the form of a chiasm.

Priests, scribes & elders question the Authority of Jesus.

He responds with a parable (11:27 - 12:9).

Quote from the Psalms points to Jesus as Christ (12:10-12).

Attack of Pharisees & Herodians: Legal question on taxes (12:13-17).

Attack from Sadducees: Resurrection (12:18-27).

Attack of scribes: Legal question on foremost commandment (12:28-34).

Quote from the Psalms points to Jesus as Christ (12:35-37).

Jesus warns of the scribes and their false authority which they use to prey on widows.

Living illustration of widow’s two coins (12:38-44).

It is evident from this chart that the pivotal point in this section shall take place when Jesus speaks of the resurrection. Jesus is moving to the cross. And the question of His authority shall ultimately be answered when we see His authority manifested over death.



1. The Question.

They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, 28 and began saying to Him, "By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?" (Mark 11:27-28).

The delegation who comes to Jesus is made up of the most important men in the nation of Israel. Three groups are mentioned:

Together, these three groups comprised the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of Israel. There were 70 members of that August body. Their president was the high priest himself.

Notice that they do not ask Jesus why He cleansed the Temple. They knew why He had done what He had done. They knew that they had turned the Temple into a den of robbers. They knew that they were guilty of fleecing the flock instead of feeding the flock. And so, the question is not, "Why?" but rather, "By what authority?"

Jesus has not been ordained by any reputable denomination. He has no seminary degrees hanging on His wall. He goes by not title such as "reverend" or "rabbi." So what gives Him the right to overturn moneychangers’ tables or to drive out animals being bought and sold? What gives Him the right to stop the "business as usual" within the Temple?

If Jesus answered

He was acting on His own authority

His enemies could say

He is a megalomaniac

He was acting on the authority of God

He is blaspheming God

2. The Answer.

And Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things.

"Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me." (Mark 11:29-30).

Jesus turns the question over to them. He does this by asking about the baptism of John. Notice that it is specifically the BAPTISM of John about which He asks, not the ministry of John or even about the character of the man John. The question regards the source and the authority of the baptism of John. It came from one of two locations:

(1) From heaven.

(2) From men.

The baptism of John was something new and different in the religious life of Israel. They were used to ceremonial washings. At several of the main entrances of the Temple there were large pools dedicated to ceremonial washings. The priests were constantly having to wash themselves before serving in the Temple.

But John’s baptism was different. It was in rivers and streams. And it was part of a call to repentance. And it was accompanied by the promise of One who was to come to establish a Kingdom.

3. The Reasoning.

They began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’

"But shall we say, ‘From men’?’ -- they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. (Mark 11:31-32).

I enjoy playing chess. There sometimes comes a point in a chess game where, no matter what you do, you are going to lose a piece. That is what happened here. They pondered their possible range of answers and came to the conclusion that, no matter what they said, it would be wrong.

If we say...

"From heaven"

"From men"

Jesus: "Why did you not believe him?"

They will lose popularity with the people

They are more interested in fighting Jesus and in holding onto their popularity than they are in learning the truth.

4. The Response.

Answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things." (Mark 11:33).

"A person’s epistemology is determined by his theology." - Hendricksen

There is a lesson here. It is that when you refuse to believe the teachings of Jesus, then no further teachings are given. The criteria for receiving further spiritual truth is receiving and believing that which you have been given.



Jesus now proceeds to relate a parable. This parable must be seen in the context of this confrontation with the leaders of the Temple. It is still an issue of authority.

1. The Story.

1 And He began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.

2 "At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers.

3 "They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.

4 "Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully.

5 "And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others.

6 "He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

7 "But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’

8 "They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.

9 "What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. (Mark 12:1-9).

The man in the story was a landowner. As a landowner, he owned a vineyard. In the course of time, he leased the land to a group of vine-growers with the agreement that, at the time of the harvest, he would be given a share of the produce.

Josephus describes the statue of a golden vine which adorned the temple gate.

"...but that gate which was at this end of the first part of the house was, as we have already observed, all covered with gold, as was its whole wall about it; it also had golden vines above it, from which clusters of grapes hung as tall as a man's height." (Wars 5:5:4).

When the harvest came, the unfaithful vine-growers treated the landowner with disdain, even going so far as to beat and kill those of his servants which were sent to represent the master.

When the master sent his own son, the vine-growers murdered him, hoping to steal the son’s inheritance for themselves.

What you must understand is that Jesus is borrowing from an Old Testament parable. The parable is from the pages of Isaiah.

Let me sing now for my well-beloved

A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.

My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.

And He dug it all around, removed its stones,

And planted it with the choicest vine.

And He built a tower in the middle of it,

And hewed out a wine vat in it;

Then He expected it to produce good grapes,

But it produced only worthless ones. (Isaiah 5:1-2).

Sound familiar? It sounds very much like the cursing of the fig tree which took place in the last chapter. That was a judgment against the nation of Israel. This is a similar judgment. Verse 7 indicates the identity of the vineyard.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,

And the men of Judah His delightful plant.

Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;

For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress. (Isaiah 5:7).

Jesus begins His parable in the same way. Again there is a vineyard. Again there is a wall and a wine-vat and a tower. But this time, the focus is not merely upon the nation, but upon the leaders of the nation.

Character in Story

What it Represented


God’s kingdom

Owner of the Vineyard


Vine-growers to whom the Vineyard was leased

Leaders of the nation

Servants of the Owner


Son of the Owner


It is not the vineyard that is being condemned, but the vine-growers who hold control over the vineyard. Remember the initial issue which gave rise to this parable? It was when the Jews asked Jesus what was His authority. This parable answers that question. His authority comes from the Father. He has authority because He is the Son - He is the heir to the vineyard. They are the sharecroppers who were charged with the job of raising fruit, a portion of which was to be returned to the Master. But they have been unfaithful in their duties. They have taken up the mantle of a false authority. And in their pseudo-authority, they are rebelling against God Himself.

The following lessons come to us from the story.

We tend to read this story out of long years of association and as a result, we do not feel the emotional impact. But to anyone reading the story for the first time, it seems incredible that the master could be so longsuffering in the matter of the cruel treatment of His servants.

When was the last time that you were startled by the love and the patience and the forgiveness of God?

Did you ever stop to wonder what happens if, at the end of it all, the rebellious farmers repent of their sinful actions and receive the landowner? He forgives them. And he welcomes them into his family to take the place of the Son who they murdered. And he gives them the vineyard as their inheritance.

This parable reveals some basic truths about Jesus.

(1) It reveals that Jesus is the Son of God.

He had described Himself to the populace as the "Son of Man." Mark has shown Him to be the Servant of God. He is both of those things. But He is also the beloved Son of God.

(2) It reveals that Jesus will be rejected by the Jews and killed by them.

Jesus knows that there is a cross awaiting Him.

(3) It reveals the ultimate triumph of Jesus.

There is coming a day when the Lord shall return to take His vineyard and to render judgment upon those unfaithful stewards. Forty years from the date that Jesus stands talking in the temple, the Roman general Titus will surround Jerusalem, capture the city, burn that same temple to the ground, and carry the surviving inhabitants away into captivity.

2. The Scriptures.

"Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; 11 this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? (Mark 12:10-11).

The Scripture to which Jesus refers is Psalm 118:22-23. This Psalm speaks in its context of the nation of Israel. As the nations of the world sought to build their empires, they regarded the nation of Israel as a rock that was merely in the way - a rock that was to be set aside from the important affairs of men. But this tiny nation was to play a key role in God’s economy.

Do you see what is happening? Jesus takes this passage which refers to the nation of Israel and He applies it to Himself.

There is a lesson here. It is that Jesus is the personification of the nation of Israel. He is everything that the nation of Israel was supposed to be.



Descendents of Abraham

Descendant of Abraham

Nation of priests

The High Priest of God

A witness to the nations

Word of God & light of the world

Keeper of the law of God

Righteousness of God

What does that mean to us? It means that we have been called to be everything that Jesus is.

m Spiritual descendants of Abraham.

m A nation of priests coming boldly before the throne of grace

m Salt and light as we take the gospel to a world in darkness

m Living holy and righteous lives

Jesus gives the Psalm a new meaning. He points out that, in the same way Israel has been rejected in the past, so now the leaders of the nation are themselves going to pass a similar judgment upon the Messiah of Israel. They look at this little Galilean rabbi and they think that He is merely in the way. A stone to be rejected and cast aside. What they cannot realize is that this stone is to become the foundation stone for God’s covenant people.

3. The Response.

And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away. (Mark 12:12).

I don’t know if they understood all of the implications of the parable. But they understood enough to know that it was directed against themselves. They saw themselves as the unfaithful vine-growers. And their attitude was murderous.



This murderous attitude found quick expression in a hasty coalition betwee two unlikely groups - the Pharisees and the Herodians.

1. An Unlikely Coalition.

Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. (Mark 12:13).

There were no two groups who were more opposed to one another than the Pharisees and the Herodians. They stood at the two opposite ends of the political spectrum. It was like the Klu Klux Klan joining forces with the ACLU.

There is a principle here. It is that the world will hardly agree about anything. But they will agree that they don’t like you if you stand for Jesus.

2. A Politically Incorrect Question.

They came and said to Him, "Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we pay or shall we not pay?" (Mark 12:14-15a).

The Romans had ruled over Jerusalem in one form or another since 63 B.C. Since that time, there had been a gradual increase in taxes, all going to fund the Roman Empire. To be fair, it must be admitted that the Romans also provided certain services such as their system of roads. However, it is always true that government takes away more than it gives and Rome was certainly no exception to this rule.

Earlier in this century a rebellion had taken place under the banner of "no tribute to the Romans." It was claimed by these rebels that taxation was tantamount to slavery.

There were three taxes which were collected:

    • Ground Tax: Made up of 10% of all the grain and 20% of all the wine and fruit produced.
    • Income Tax: 1% of a man’s income.
    • Poll Tax: A flat tax of one denarius (a day’s wage) was paid by all men from 14 to 65 years of age and on all women between the ages of 12 to 65.

The enemies of Jesus have come up with a trick question. They feel that He will be wrong, no matter how He answers.


If Jesus answers

Pay the Tax



Jesus will lose popularity with the people by advocating an unpopular tax

Don’t Pay the Tax

Jesus can be accused of inciting a rebellion against Rome

Notice how they approach Jesus. It is with flattery. They are lying through their teeth., hoping to disarm Jesus.

3. An Answer.

...But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, "Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at."

They brought one. And He said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" And they said to Him, "Caesar’s."

And Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s." And they were amazed at Him. (Mark 12:15b-17).

Jesus calls for a denarius. The fact that He had to call for one seems to indicate that He did not have a single denarius to His name.

A denarius was a silver coin. It was one day’s wages for a Roman soldier. On one side of the coin would have been an image ot the Roman emperor - Tiberius Caesar. On the other side would have been an image of the goddess of peace. Around the image was an inscription which read, "Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the Divine Augustus, Chief Priest."

It was the practice of all new emperors to issue new coins with their own likeness stamped on the face. There is a sense in which the coin was considered to be the personal property of the king. It bore testimony to the rule of the king whose likeness it carried.

The first thing that a rebel or a conqueror would do would be to issue new coins with a new face.

Things with Caesar’s image




Give them to Caesar

Things with God’s image




Give them to God

There is a principle here. It is that the state is ordained by God. The state brings valuable services to the people of God. And as we share in the benefits of the state, so also we are to share in the responsibilities of the state.

But what about paying taxes to a government that has set itself up against God? Is it right to pay your good, hard-earned money to a government that wastes it, or puts it to a purpose that you adamantly oppose?

Jesus says that it is. He calls us to give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. But notice that there is a limit as to what belongs to Caesar. Our ultimate allegiance is to belong to God. Caesar may own our money. But God owns US.

This has a direct impact upon the underlying issue in this chapter. That issue is one of AUTHORITY. Legal and political authority is real, but it is only of limited scope and duration. Final and lasting authority is in the hands of God.

Jewish Leaders


Had a limited and finite authority over the nation of Israel.

Has been given authority over a eternal kingdom.

Required to pay taxes to Rome in coins bearing the image of the Emperor.

The recipient of that which is in the image of God.

An earthly authority.

A heavenly authority.

This authority shall end.

This authority shall never end.

Both of these types of authority are ordained by God. Jesus was not advocating an abolition of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. Neither was He advocating a rebellion against Rome. Rather, He was establishing His claims to a higher authority - one that would be eternal both in scope and in nature.



The next question coming to Jesus also follows this theme of authority. In this case, it is a question of the authority of RATIONALISM. The rationalists of that day were known as the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were made up of the aristocracy. They were the advocates of Hellenization. They held the Law of Moses in high regard, but did not hold that the rest of the Scriptures were inspired. They did not believe in angels or miracles. They were not looking for any future Messiah and they rejected any notion of a future bodily resurrection. They tended to represent the upper class, the royalty and the priesthood. They were the intelligencia.

Have you ever noticed that when people achieve a certain social strata, they often stop believing in certain things? Politicians are like that. And so were the Sadducees.

They did not believe in the supernatural. They did not believe in miracles. And Jesus had the effrontary to have performed miracles. Therefore they decided on a plan that would put Him in His place.

1. Their Question.

18 Some Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection) came to Jesus, and began questioning Him, saying,

19 "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves behind a wife and leaves no child, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother.

20 "There were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and died leaving no children.

21 "The second one married her, and died leaving behind no children; and the third likewise; 22 and so all seven left no children. Last of all the woman died also.

23 "In the resurrection, when they rise again, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had married her." (Mark 12:18-23).

The question is meant as a trick. It is not a sincere question. It is one of those "can God make a rock so big that He cannot move it" questions. It is a question designed to disprove the doctrine of the resurrection.

The question revolves around the laws of the leverite marriage as set forth in the book of Deuteronomy. Remember, the Sadducees only believed in the books of Moses.

There were seven brothers. The oldest is married, but before his marriage can produce any children, he dies. According to Jewish Law, it is now the responsibility of the second brother to have a child by that wife and to raise the child as the heir of the first brother (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). And so, he marries here, but dies before there are any children. And so it goes with the third and the fourth and the fifth and the sixth and the seventh. By this time, I think that I would be a bit suspicious of the woman. But she eventually dies, too.

Now is the question. Whose wife will she be in the resurrection? Do you see what the Sadducees are doing? They are not asking this question because they are actually worried about this situation. They are asking it because they think that the question shows a flaw in the whole teaching about the resurrection. They expect Jesus to stutter and stammer and get red in the face so that they can laugh at Him. But he does nothing of the sort.

2. The Answer.

Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? (Mark 12:24).

Jesus was not intimidated. He had honest answers to their questions. But before He answers their question, He comments upon their reason for their lack of understanding.

Sometimes we get the idea that unbelievers are well-educated and that they have reasonable and thought-out reasons as to why they have chosen to reject Christ.

Back in the 1970's, Paula and I used to go up to Florida Atlantic University to share the gospel with students on campus. When I first started doing that, I thought I was going to hear all sorts of deep, intellectual arguments about why they did not hold to the teachings of Christianity.

Do you know what I found out? I found out that they were as confused as anyone else.

It has been said that when a hundred pagans jump off a sinking ship, a hundred Christians will hit the water. It is like saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. Why is that? It is because foxholes are real. They cannot be explained away in a comfortable intellectual discussion.

Jesus always takes serious people seriously. But these Sadducees were not asking a serious question. They were merely trying to win an argument.

There was a time when I used to try to give the gospel to everyone that I met, whether they wanted to listen or not. I don’t do that now. I have learned that God only takes serious people seriously. He gives those who seriously seek for Him a promise:

"And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13).

Are you an honest questioner? Are you sincere in your search for God? I have good news for you. You will find Him. And when you do, you will learn that He has found you.

The answer of Jesus comes in two parts:

a. The manner of the resurrection.

"For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. (Mark 12:25).

The resurrection does not constitute a continuation of life as it is on earth. The old physical laws will no longer apply. And the old physical and social relationships will pale to insignificance in the presence of our relationship with the Lord.

b. The fact of the resurrection.

"But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?

"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken." (Mark 12:26-27).

The Sadducees rejected the resurrection because they did not think that it was taught in the Torah - the first five books of Moses. But Jesus points out that this is not the case. He does this by quoting the words of tbe Lord to Moses when He spoke to Him out of the burning bush (Exodus 3:6).

In that passage, God identified Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If He IS the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then it stands to reason that they must still be alive. And if they are alive, then there is life after death.



Jesus was in the critic's den. He had answered trick questions from the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and even the Herodians. He had answered them correctly and He had answered them in a way that showed that His authority was supernatural. He had put them all to silence.

And it is in the midst of this situation that one of the scribes comes forward and asks a legitimate question.

Matthew calls him a lawyer - an expert in the Mosaic Law.

We don't know much about this man. Mark says that he was a scribe. A scribe was a man whose profession it was to make copies of the Scriptures. As a scribe, he knew the Bible forwards and back.

The scribes and the Pharisees were known for adding things to the Law - for building a fence of ordinances around the Law to protect the Law. But they were also known for trying to sum up the entire law into a single sentence - a general statement that would summarize the entire Law.

Hillel was once challenged to expound the entire Law while standing upon one leg. He replied:

"What you hate for yourself, do not to your neighbor. This is the whole Law, the rest is commentary."

When asked a similar question, Rabbi Akiba had answered:

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

There were others who believed that all of the laws of the Old Testament carried an equal weight. As a result, there was an ongoing debate among the Jews on this matter.

1. The Question.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" (Mark 12:28).

I have to admit that on first glance I questioned this man's motives. He is in bad company asking a question where every question up to this time has been asked under false pretenses. If that were not bad enough, Matthew's parallel account says that he asked this question to "test" Jesus.

But the comments of Jesus to this man indicate that his heart was in the right place. The test was not so much to trip Jesus up as it was a test of orthodoxy. And hence, a test of AUTHORITY.

2. The Answer.

Jesus answered, "The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one lord; 30 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.’

"The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31).

Notice that the issue here is one of obedience to the LAW. This is seen in the question which the scribe first asked, "What COMMANDMENT is the foremost of all?" (Mark 12:28). After Jesus answers the man’s question, He will conclude by saying:

"There is no other COMMANDMENT greater than these." (Mark 12:31b).

Jesus did not say that all of the commandments were equally important.

He could have. He could have said, "When God talks, you listen and you obey with equal vigor everything He says." But Jesus didn't do that. He recognized that there are some commandments which are foundational to all the rest. And the most foundational is LOVE.

The scribe was asking a question about the LAW. When you say the word "law" and then look for a corresponding verb to go with it, that word is "obedience."

We would all agree that obeying God is important. That is not at issue here. What this scribe is asking is this: "What is the number one way of obeying God?" The answer is love.

When asked about the secret to the Christian life, Augustine replied, "Love God and live as you please." He wasn’t advocating sin and he wasn’t saying that we can ignore the commandments of God. He was saying that when you love, obedience comes naturally.

Think about it. If you really love God, you don’t have to be told not to set up any other gods or idols or not to take His name in vain or to set aside a day to worship Him.

If you really love your parents whom God has given to be an authority over you, then you do not have to be told to honor your father and mother.

And if you really love your neighbor who is created in God’s image, then you don't have to be told not to bear false witness against him. You don't have to be told not to steal from him or murder him or commit adultery with his wife or covet his possessions. Love is tested by obedience. And when you love, obedience comes naturally.

a. Love begins with God.

Do you see it? Before Jesus talks about loving man or even about loving God, He begins by talking about who God is.

Jesus answered, "The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord’" (Mark 12:29).

What has that got to do with love? It has everything to do with love.

The reason that we love is because God is who He is and because He has done what He has done. Love is defined by God because GOD IS LOVE.

Do you want to know what real love is all about? Look at God. Look at the Creator who carefully and tenderly fashioned man in His own image and placed him into a beautiful garden that was specially designed for him.

And when man sinned in rebellion against God and brought death to the world, look at the promise that God gave of one who would one day restore it all.

Do you want to know what love is? Look at God bringing His people out of slavery in Egypt and watching over them in the wilderness. Look at His accepting their repentance after they had deserted Him to worship an idol. See His faithfulness in feeding them each day and in watching over them each night.

Do you want to know what love is? Look at God sending His own Son to be born to a humble family with a lowly stable as a delivery room and a feeding trough for a cradle.

Do you want to know what love is? Look at the cross as the Son of God hangs spread-eagle on rough, wooden beams, His body afire with all of hell's agonies and His ears ringing with the taunting mockery of His enemies. Listen to Him whisper a prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

You have been loved with an infinite love. And you are called to love with that kind of measure.

The story is told of a young married couple who were going through some difficult times. He was working two jobs and she came to the point where she just couldn't cook another meal or wash another dish or change another diaper.

One day she packed her bags and walked out. A day passed. Then two. The days turned into weeks. He struggled to bring some order to the shattered family.

She had left no forwarding address and, on the rare occasions she would call, he would beg her to come home. "Honey, the kids miss you and I miss you and we all love you. Won't you please come back to us?" And instead of answering, she would hang up the phone.

Finally in desparation, he took the money from their meager savings account and hired a private investigator. The next day he was given the address of a motel in a small town in another state. Leaving the kids with their grandparents, he drove all night, arriving at the seedy motel early the next morning.

Fearing the worst, he went to the room and knocked at the door. She opened it. No words were spoken, but none needed to be as they embraced.

After they had returned home and several days had passed and things had returned to normal, they were sitting in the living room one evening and he gathered the courage to ask a question that had been heavy on his heart for some time.

"Honey, when you were gone and would call on the telephone, I told you that I loved you and missed you, why didn't you come home?" She replied, "Before it was just words; but then you came."

God spoke to the Fathers by the prophets of His love for His people. But then He came. And that made all the difference.

b. Love for God is tested by love for others.

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31).

Jesus told His disciples that at His second coming with all of His angels, He would sit upon a glorious throne and that the nations would be gathered for judgment and that the people would be separated as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. What is fascinating to me is the criteria which Jesus said would be used in that judgment.

"Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

"‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;

"‘Naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink?

"‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?

"‘And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

"And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’" (Matthew 25:34-40).

Jesus goes on to say that the opposite is also true.

"Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;

"‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’

"Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or You sick, or in prison, and not take care of You?’

"And He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’" (Matthew 25:41-45).

The unbelievers are quick to protest, "Lord, if had known that it was You, then we would have baked You a cake!"

And Jesus answers, "That’s the whole point. If you had known it was Me, then your actions wouldn’t have been done out of love. They would have been done out of selfishness in order to receive something back."

Bill Cosby talks about the change that came over his parents when they became grandparents. They would come to visit and they would dole out food and clothes and money to the grandchildren and Bill would say, "These are not the same people who raised me. These are old people who are trying to get into heaven."

If Jesus was hungry, would you feed Him? If He was thirsty, would you give Him something to drink? If He came to your doorstep, would you invite Him in? Jesus says, "You do it, because it is Me."

c. Love is the test of orthodoxy.

"...to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." (Mark 12:33).

There was nothing more orthodox to the Jewish mind that the observing of burnt offerings and sacrifices. These rituals had been passed down from Sinai. They were the means by which God had made Himself known to His people. And yet, they paled to insignificance beside the importance of love.

What is the test of your Christianity? Jesus never said that people would know that you are a Christian because you are...

- Presbyterian.

- Calvinist.

- Hold to the right prophetic scheme.

He did say, "They shall know you are My disciples when they see your LOVE."

Now, I don't mean to say that love is the ONLY test of orthodoxy. There are a lot of people who claim to love who want nothing to do with Christ. And there are things that we Christians believe which are important to be believed.

But you can hold all of the right teachings and all of the correct doctrines and if you do not have love, it is all in vain. To borrow a line from the Apostle Paul, you can...

Speak with the tongues of men and of angels.

Have all of the gifts of prophecy.

Know all mysteries.

Have all knowledge.

Have all faith, so as to remove mountains.

Give all your possessions to feed the poor.

And suffer a martyr's death.

And if you do not have love, it doesn't impress God one bit. It impresses me. If you did just one of those things, I would be impressed. But that is because I am too easily impressed.

God is harder to impress. He isn’t impressed by any of those things. But He IS impressed by love.

That is what impressed Jesus about this man. It wasn’t the fact that he was a Pharisee. It wasn’t even the fact that he asked a good question. It was that he had a comprehension and an understanding of the centrality of LOVE.

d. Love is the test of proximity to the kingdom.

And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And after that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions. (Mark 12:34).

Those of us who have participated in Evangelism Explosion might have interrupted and said, "Jesus, You're messing it up! You haven't asked him the two diagnostic questions and you haven't spoken to him about faith and repentance and you haven't even mentioned the cross!"

And Jesus would have smiled and said, "Those things are important. Faith in Me and hope in the cross - faith and hope; but the greatest of these is LOVE."


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