Mark 12:28-44 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

Note: For more information relevant to this present passage of Mark twelve, see the accompanying Appendix (PDF download) that provides the complete Scripture text of the companion passage of Matthew 23:1-39.

1. How does Jesus answer the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” See Mark 12:29-30 (printed below)

Jesus answered, The greatest commandment is this, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one; (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. (Mark 12:29-30)

Jesus answers by referring to Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 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.”

2. In what way does the poor widow fulfill the great commandment? Note Mark 12:42-44 (printed below)

Then there came one poor widow, and she put into the treasury two copper coins which together make a small fraction of a denarius. (43) Jesus called his disciples to himself and said to them, I tell you the truth, This poor widow has given more than all those who are depositing offerings into the treasury; (44) because each of them gave from their abundance; but she out of her poverty gave all that she had, her entire income. (Mark 12:42-44)

The poor widow gave all that she had. In a very practical and radical way, she was exhibiting that very love for God that is the essence of the whole law. She was exhibiting a complete love for and trust in the Lord her God.

3. What does Jesus say about the scribes? See Mark 12:38-40 (printed below) How is their behavior a violation of the great commandment?

In his teaching Jesus said, Beware of the scribes. They like to walk around in long flowing robes, and be greeted in the marketplaces, (39) and occupy the most important seats in the synagogues, and the place of greatest honor at banquets. (40) But they devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance offer long prayers. They are the ones who shall receive greater condemnation. (Mark 12:38-40)

Jesus tells His hearers to beware of the scribes. The scribes enjoyed being the center of attention and taking for themselves the positions of greatest honor. Instead of loving God and honoring Him, they loved themselves and loved to be the recipients of honor. Their religion was all appearance, while in fact they violated not only the first but also the second great commandment (cp. Mark 12:31).

4. List some of the things for which Jesus condemns the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-28 (printed below).

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You tithe mint and dill and cummin, but you have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and integrity. You should have done these things, and not have neglected the other things. (24) You blind guides who strain out the gnat, but swallow the camel! (25) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You wash the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (26) You blind Pharisee, first wash the inside of the cup and of the dish, and then the outside will be clean also. (27) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly they are full of dead men’s bones and all kinds of filthiness. (28) In the same way, you also outwardly appear righteous before men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Matthew 23:23-28)

The scribes and Pharisees displayed a pre-occupation with those things that are of secondary importance, while neglecting the truly great matters of true religion (Matthew 23:23-24). They were very concerned to present a publicly respectable and reputable spiritual life, but they disregarded the state of their hearts and their personal lives (Matthew 23:25-26). Their religion was limited to the external and served as a veneer that concealed a putrid contradiction (Matthew 23:27-28)

5. After having expressed His righteous indignation against the scribes and Pharisees, how does Jesus close His discourse? See Matthew 23:37-39 (printed below)

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets—and she stones those who are sent to her! How often have I desired to gather your children together, like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (38) Look, your house is left to you deserted; (39) for I say to you, You shall not see me again, until you shall say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. (Matthew 23:37-39)

Jesus closes His discourse with an expression of deep sorrow and pity for these men who were religious hypocrites. He expresses a yearning for their salvation and solemnly warns of the judgment that awaits them if they do not acknowledge Him as their Savior and Lord.