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MARK 12:35-40
Series:  The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Thirty Nine

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 10, 2019

If you are able - please stand with me as we come together before God’s word - and would you read with me our text for today:  Mark 12:35-40.


And as Jesus taught in the temple, He said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, in the Holy Spirit declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’  David himself calls him Lord.  So how is he his son?”  And the great throng heard Him gladly.


And in His teaching He said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers.  They will receive the greater condemnation.”


[The Question]


We are looking at Jesus’ final week of ministry leading up to the cross and His crucifixion, death, and resurrection.  Today is... Tuesday - of that final week.


Which is helpful for us to keep in mind as we’re coming to verse 35 - that verse 35 comes after verse 34 and is part of an ongoing sequence of events happening on Tuesday - final week. 


Sometimes we can loose sight of the forest because we’re focusing on individual trees.  Focusing on shorter sections of Scripture and not the big picture flow of what’s going on.  How verse 35 fits into the big picture.


Tuesday began with Jesus and the disciples - in the morning - on their way from Bethany to Jerusalem - passing the withered fig tree - and Jesus teaching about having faith in God.  Then they arrive at the temple in Jerusalem.


Jesus was teaching about what?  Having faith in God.  Trusting God with our lives.  What it means to live in the Kingdom of God.


Which has been Jesus’ on task message and ministry since Day 1.  Mark 1:15 - Jesus saying “the Kingdom of God at hand.”  I’m right here in the flesh and blood of humanity.  God is offering you relationship with Him through Me.  You need to repent of your sin and believe in the Gospel - Me - have faith - trust God with your life - for all that God offers you through Me.


Through whatever else is going on - Monday - Tuesday - whenever and whatever - all the little trees - in order for us to get what Jesus is doing and what Jesus is teaching - we need to keep in mind that Jesus is always on task.


So Tuesday morning Jesus arrives at the Temple and begins to teach.  And as Jesus is teaching in the Temple a series of groups come to ask Jesus questions.  Groups that are so polarized politically and religiously that they make what’s happening in Washington look functional.


But the one thing they all agree on is that they all see Jesus as a threat to their carefully constructed political religious world.  They fear Jesus.  They hate Jesus.  So these questions are designed to take Jesus… down and out.


These groups come to where Jesus is teaching in the Temple and they tag team - taking turns - one group after the other - each group comes with questions about Jesus’ authority and education and allegiances and doctrine.


Which Jesus responds to - always “on task” - re-framing the questions and turning the discussion back to the truth of Who God is - Who He, Jesus, is - and what is means to have a relationship with God - repenting and trusting Him.  God’s kingdom is at hand.  Have faith in God.


Last Sunday we ended with a Scribe who had come to Jesus with a question. 


The Scribes were who?  The Scribes were the religious scholars and theologians of the day.  They were the “go to” guys when someone - like the Pharisees - had questions about the law or interpreting the law.


After all those groups and their attacks - thinly disguised as questions - and Jesus’ “on task” responses - this scribe comes with a seemingly sincere question about the law and Jesus knocks the answer out of the park.  It’s a mic drop - walk off - end of discussion answer.


Which is was.  Mark - in verse 34 - Mark tells us - “after all that no one dared to ask Him [Jesus] any more questions.”  Literally - they just didn’t have the guts to do it. 


In Mark’s record of Jesus final week - until Jesus’ arrest - there are no further questions coming from the opposition.


That’s the back fill for verse 35.  The Tuesday crowd - watching the inquisition and response - the crowd has been watching Jesus silence the political and religious leaders.  They just saw the mic drop. 


All eyes are on Jesus.  Jesus has the crowd.  They’re listening big time.


Grab the intensity and opportunity of the moment. 


Jesus has come into the flesh and blood of our humanity to defeat evil and to save those who will repent and believe in Him.  So now Jesus seizes the moment - the “discussion” - to “on task” teach - so now Jesus is asking questions


Jesus asks the question: “How can the scribes say that the Christ [the Messiah] is the son of David?  


Comparing a whole lot of Scripture - the religious leadership of that day - and every day - even today - agrees that the Messiah - the Christ - is the descendant of David.  The Messiah will sit on the throne of David because the Messiah - the Christ - is a descendant of David.


We’re together?


Then Jesus quotes David - Psalm 110:1 - a Psalm that everyone agreed was referring to the Messiah - the Christ:  ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’ 


Briefly unpacking that.  Jesus states that David - under inspiration of the Holy Spirit - the author of Scripture - David writes of a conversation between “the Lord” - which in Hebrew is the name Yahweh - God.  Yahweh saying to “my Lord” - which in Hebrew is the title “adonai” - meaning “lord” or “master.”


Which here is the title given to the One that Yahweh designates as ruling over God’s people on the thrown of David - the coming Messiah -  because everyone agreed that Psalm 110:1 is talking about the coming Messiah.


“My God said to my Lord...”  God had promised to put the Messiah’s enemies “under your feet” - under the feet of the Messiah.


Which - in Old Testament battle imagery - meant forcing a defeated enemy - a commander or king - to lie down in the dust in front of whoever had defeated them - so that the conqueror could put his foot on the neck of the defeated enemy - a position of total humiliation and subjection - usually before decapitation.


Reading on through Psalm 110 - the descendant of David - the Messiah - is described not only as all conquering - but in apocalyptic terms as crushing the kings and rulers of the whole earth on the day of God’s wrath.  And in spiritual terms as being a priest forever - an eternal priesthood not tied to the Levitical priesthood.  And as someone who will judge all the nations.


So in Psalm 110 - which everyone agreed was about the Messiah - what God is promising the Messiah is the complete defeat of his enemies - absolute pre-eminence, power, authority, majesty - emphasis lordship - mastery that can only be appropriately descriptive of God.


So how - Jesus asks - how can David - who wrote Psalm 110 - how can David call his descendant - the Messiah - His Lord - His Master?  How is that possible?


How many of you like math?  How many of you hate math?


If A = C, and B = C, then A = B.

This is known as what?  The Transitive Property.


There are ways that property doesn’t work.  Is this true?


If A > C, and B > C, then A > B.


Meaning:  Back in September the 49ers beat Detroit 30 to 27.  And also in September, Detroit beat New England 26 to 10.  So the 49ers are a greater team than New England.  Which is why - in reality - the 49ers actually won the Super Bowl.

“We have a false transitive property foul.  Beating someone that beat my team doesn’t mean that you beat my team.”


If  David’s descendant is his Lord  A = C


And if David’s God is his Lord.  B = C


Then the Lord - the Messiah David’s descendant - is God.  A = B


Jesus’ “on task” question - in that strategic moment - Jesus’ question is forcing the Scribes and the religious leadership and the crowd to think about their understand of just Who the Messiah really is.


We know this.  The prevailing understanding was that the Messiah would restore David’s kingdom and restore Israel to her greatness - the envy of the nations as it once was.


Palm Sunday - two days earlier - the crowd was all in:  “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest!”  (Mark 11:9,10)


And we know that Jesus’ opponents and the crowd - they all were looking for a Messiah that would sit on the Davidic throne and kick the Romans back to Rome - trampling Israel’s enemies under His feet.  To them, that’s what the Kingdom of God was all about. 


Power and politics and position and religion and their understanding of how God did things.  So that their reasoning had led them to believe that the Kingdom of God is political not spiritual - religion being just an extension of power and politics - that the kingdom of God is all about Israel and Israel’s greatness - and not the nations coming to God.


Not Who Jesus - the Messiah - not Who Jesus really is and what God offers to all of us through the coming of His Kingdom - to anyone one of us who will repent and believe.  Who will come to Him by faith.


Jesus’ question is forcing them to think about their understanding of just Who the Messiah really is.


If David himself calls Him Lord, how then can He be his Son?  Meaning He can’t be David’s son merely in the sense of biological descent.  He must be far more than that. 


The conclusion that Jesus is forcing His listeners to come to is that the Messiah - the Christ - in the flesh and blood of His humanity is merely the Son of David.  But in realty the Messiah - the Christ - is greater than David.  And, in fact - the Messiah is God.


And if Jesus really is the Messiah.  Then Jesus is…  God.  Which was the conclusion - the answer - the religious leadership choked on.  Understandably.


How do we process that?  It is impossible for us to fully understand the deity and greatness of Jesus.


Just touching on a few Scriptures.  The references are overhead.


By Christ Jesus “all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible..”  (Colossian 2:16)


Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of His power.”  (Hebrews 1:3b)


Through Jesus all things “whether on earth or in heaven” are being reconciled to God.  (Colossians 1:20)


Jesus is subjugating tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and the sword - meaning He is turning all that is evil to what will promote and accomplish what is good.  Evil becomes the servant of Christ.  Because of Christ, creation actually benefits from what might have destroyed it.  (Romans 8:31-39)


Jesus is the God - who has created all things - sustains all things - and is involved in restoring all things.  Apart from Jesus nothing exists - including us.  Apart from Jesus it all comes apart.  Apart from Jesus - Satan, sin, and death… they win.


But Christ Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Paul writes that the whole of creation is moving toward the final day when the whole miserable record of human war and conflict and evil will be ended.  When God will have finished His working in and through humanity and human history.


On that day every knee will bow - in heaven and on earth and under the earth - and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ - Messiah - is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:9-11)  


Enemies put under His feet.  Mic drop.  We’re done.  Period.


Someone has said that trying to describe the greatness of Christ Jesus is like trying to play Mozart on a kazoo.  Words can only go so far. 


The only way to come close to processing Who Messiah Jesus is - is through the incarnation - Immanuel - God with us - the Kingdom of God being “at hand” in the flesh and blood of our humanity.


Christ can only be both the son of David and the Lord of David through the incarnation.  Fully human and fully divine.  There is no other way to resolve the apparent contradiction.


Which is the answer that the religious leaders choked on.  Son of David was a biological reality.  Messiah went beyond where they were willing to go.  The implications of what that answer required, they rejected outright.


Mark records that the crowd - at least for the moment - “the great throng heard Him gladly.”


Maybe they we’re enjoying seeing the temple leaders silenced - humbled - by Jesus’ logic and teaching.  Maybe they were learning from Jesus and taking in what He was teaching.  We don’t know.


But it is sobering to consider that this crowd that welcomed Him in triumph on Sunday - who gladly listened to Him on Tuesday - called for His crucifixion on Friday.  In some sense they got the coming of the kingdom but choked on the requirement of heart level repentance and belief.


Jesus’ identity is the central issue of life.  The whole issue of how to enter God’s kingdom and how to live in God’s kingdom is wrapped up in the issue of Who Jesus is. 


Who Jesus is - is a question every one of us must answer one way or the other.  Is Jesus the Son of David?  Yes.  Is Jesus the Christ?  Yes.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.


Is Jesus the Lord of my life?  Or not?  That’s the repent and believe part.


In the day to day of life - in the places and relationships where we do life - is that how you - and I - is that how we’re actually living?  Or not?  Does Jesus govern all we say and do?  Are we by faith trusting Him fully?


Verse 38 brings us to Jesus warning.  [The Warning] 


“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. 


Long ago in a church far far away.  Robes and collars were an expectation.  A religious - political - cultural necessity in order to do ministry.  US Capitol - Armenian clergy and others leading the rally which was both political and spiritual - and yours truly in a robe.


Paul wrote, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”  (1 Corinthians 9:22,23)


Point being that - as we are prayerfully obeying God - there are things we do that we would not normally do, the purpose of which is to connect with and reach people with the Gospel.


But it’s easy to go beyond where Paul is at.  As an pastor in the Armenian church - we are often seated at the head table at banquets - we’re often given the best seats at community events and in church services.  We have standing - recognition - in the community because of our ecclesiastical position.


I’m called a “verabadveli” - in Armenian that means “very reverend.”  Which is how a person with a certain degree and ordination should be publicly recognized and greeted.


The weirdest thing has been when people have tried to kiss my hand.

Obviously that doesn’t happen here.  Different ministry.


That separation from the common people and that standing in the community and that honor can go to your head.  For any of us that gets even a little recognition or is tempted to seek after it.  It’s way too easy to loose touch with our own depravity and the necessity of God’s grace and Christ’s work on the cross on our behalf.  The message of the Kingdom and the ministry of the Gospel.


Jesus says “beware the scribes.”  Look carefully at them and consider them.


Notice how they like to walk around in long robes.


What were long white robes with tassels on the fringe.  Robes of their position that they would put on and then head out to where they knew people would be - the marketplaces.


So that people would greet them with respect and deference and honor.  Greetings in the marketplaces that they liked.  That stroked their egos and their sense of self-worth.


Consider the Scribes who have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at feasts.


In Jesus’ day - like today - a synagogue was a place of worship and study and a community center.  In the villages and around Jerusalem a synagogue was a gathering place of God’s people.


In center of the building was the Bema.  Which was a slightly raised platform.


During the service - the Hazzan - who was the synagogue leader and custodian - would bring out the scroll - from the Torah closet where it was kept.  He would bring it out and unroll it at the Bema to the Scripture portion for the day.


Then the person who had been selected in advance to read the Scripture would read.  Think Jesus reading from Isaiah.  Then that person would share how that portion of Scripture was related to daily life.  Jesus saying, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  (Luke 4:16-21)


Around the Bema - ground level - were seated the common people.  Like us.


Which is an amazing picture of how God’s word comes into the midst of God’s people who gather around it.  That imagery is intentional.  A weekly reminder of the central significance God’s word should have in our lives every day.  Kingdom of God at hand.  Trust God.


Seated on three sides around the main floor - on raised seats - like stone bleachers.  What were called the chief seats.  What were the best seats in the house.  This is where the pillars of the community sat.   People who had recognized - honored - respected positions in the community. 


These were the people that when you passed them on the street - in the marketplaces - you pointed them out to your children.  “You need to grow up to be like him.” 

These were the people that - to sit in those seats - they had to be chosen by the community to sit in the “chief seats” - the best seats in the synagogue.


Same thing was true at feasts.  The best seats went to those who ranked highest socially.  Who were recognized by the community and given those places of honor.


Jesus says to watch them because they like sitting there.  Why?  Because they like the recognition.  Sitting there is about them.  It’s about power and politics and position and religion as a way to gain influence over others.  Sitting there isn’t about God and humbly serving God - the kingdom of God and having faith in Him. 


Those same honored scribes devour widow’s houses.


“Pretense” translates the Greek word “prophasis” - which has the idea of doing something that hides our real motivation.  The pretense of long lofty prayers spoken publicly in the temple to convince the widow of the scribes piety and devotion to God.


One of the functions of Scribes was to be a consultant in estate planning for widows.  But instead of helping those who came to them in need of assistance they used their position to further their own self-centered ambitions - reputation - and greed.


Their role gave them the opportunity to convince a susceptible widow that her money - or property - should be given to the scribe to further his sacred ministry.  Or, at least, it could be given to the temple - where the scribe would still benefit from it.  At the very least because the scribe still took out his “consultation fee.”


Observe the long prayers of the Scribes who are using their position and pretense of piety to rob the helpless and needy.


Everyone one of us will always act consistent with what really believe.  Not what we say we believe.  Pretense.  But consistent with what at our heart level - at the core of who we are - what we actually believe.


Jesus’ warning - “beware” - is calling on the crowds to observe and study the religious leaders.  To consider if those in leadership are actually living consistent with what they profess to believe in or do they believe something else.


Despite all the robes and greetings and seating arrangements and long pious prayers if the religious leaders believe that God’s kingdom was about politics and power and prestige and position and a Messiah who would restore a political kingdom then they’re only acting consistent with what they believe.


Why shouldn’t they hang on to and expand their positions of power and prestige?  Why shouldn’t they take Jesus down and out?  Jesus who threatens their carefully constructed little world.


Then Jesus - in that powerful ministry moment - Jesus concludes His public ministry with this warning:  They will receive the greater condemnation.”


They are in a position to know better.  These are the leaders of God’s people who should serving in humility - in sincerity - in love and compassion and grace and mercy - who should be leading the nation towards God.


They will receive a greater judgment from God - greater condemnation.


Which is a warning to the crowd.  Examine your own hearts and your own response to Jesus.  We can all play the hypocrite.  The great throng that on Tuesday hears Jesus gladly and on Friday calls for His crucifixion.


What’s really going on in their hearts?  What do they really believe?


Processing all that...


If you’ll bear with me an oldie but goodie illustration.


There was a man who was suffering from a tickling in his throat - a buzzing in his ears - and occasional dizzy spells.  So he went to see his doctor.  Who examined him and discovered that his tonsils were highly infected and that was effecting his whole body.  So the man had his  tonsils out.


Which wasn’t too big a deal.  The man enjoyed the ice cream.  It didn’t take too long until he had recovered from the surgery.

But he still had a tickling in his throat - a buzzing in his ears - and occasional dizzy spells.   


So they called in a second opinion - a specialist - who traced it down to his appendix.  So the man had his appendix out.  Which wasn’t too big a deal with the way they do surgeries these days.  After a couple of days in the hospital he was back home again.  He had to be careful about lifting heavy weights.  But it wasn’t too long and he was feeling pretty good. 


Except that he did have a tickling in his throat - a buzzing in his ears - and those occasional dizzy spells.


Well, after further consultation they decided it was his teeth.  So he had all his teeth out.  That was a little more intense.  But he didn’t take too long to get over that and he was amazed how well he could get on with implants.  So he was doing pretty good.


But, he had to admit in spite of all that, he still had a tickling in his throat - a buzzing in his ears - and those occasional dizzy spells.


Well, the doctors didn’t know what to do.  They thought, well, maybe its stress related.  So they suggested a long vacation.  The man liked the idea. 


So he headed off to Jamaica.  Spent about a month on the beach resting and working on his tan.  While he was there he went into one of those touristy shops that sells really nice clothes and told the man that he’d like to buy a shirt.


So the salesman asked, “What size neck?”  And he said, “14½.” 

The salesman
looked at him a bit and said, “Excuse me sir.  Do you mind me suggesting that you would probably feel more comfortable with a 16?”


The man was very indignant.  He said, “I’ve been buying my shirts all my life.  And I think I have a pretty good idea of what size shirt I wear.


The salesman said, “Pardon me sir.  I didn’t want to offend you.  I mean - I’m prepared to sell you any size shirt.  That’s my business - sell shirts - whatever the size.  But, I would suggest that if you wear a 14½ when you should be wearing a 16.  It’s just possible that you might have a tickling in your throat - a buzzing in your ears - and just occasional fits of dizziness.” (1)


We have this tendency towards self-deception.  Towards thinking that we’ve got it all together.  That we get Scripture and what it means to follow God.  We’ve heard this before.  I always wear a 14½ collar.


Sometimes we need a reality check.  To hear Jesus’ “beware” warning for our own lives.  Calling us back to Him.   


Jesus - the Christ.  Preeminent in creation - in redemption.  God in the flesh and blood of our humanity.  The kingdom of God at hand.  Who invites us to trust Him.


In the day-to-day of where we live our lives - what do our responses to all that - what do our actions - our priorities - what do our actions tell us about what we really believe about Who Jesus is and what it means to live trusting God in His kingdom?






1. I believe this was originally shared by Major Ian Thomas - “Trying to Live a Life You Don’t Have” - Hume Lake, 08.23.92)


Series references:

Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).

Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2:  Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.