Scriptures? You Don’t Know Them: Studying Mark 12

Scriptures inscribed on a rock

The Scriptures? How well do you and I know them? As we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark, that’s the question Jesus puts before us.

If it can’t fit on a magnet, or a rock, many of us don’t know them that well. But the Sadducees did, surely. They believed the written Torah was the divine word of God.

Consequently, this is one of my favorite verses. It turns our knowledge of Scripture upside down:

Jesus said, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?”

Mark 12:24

Who was Jesus talking to when he said this?

He wasn’t talking to a Roman citizen, raised without the Scriptures. Nor was he talking to a Jewish woman, hearing Scripture from afar. He was talking not just to any Jewish man, but to the Sadducees, who took the 5 books of the Law so seriously they had the whole thing memorized. So seriously that they denied the resurrection, because they couldn’t find any evidence of it in the fine print of the Torah. So seriously they picked fights with the Pharisees with whom they disagreed on this issue.

The Scriptures as Treasure

Now, why would I find this riveting? Because it awakens me to two things:

  • the treasure of God’s Word, and
  • the reality of God’s power

This verse prods me from behind and coaxes me ahead to press on to know them better–both the Scriptures and the power of God.

I know my Bible pretty well at this point. In fact it would be easy to have my eyes glaze over when I read a familiar passage. It would be easy to have the words slide across the surface of my life, leaving behind only a vague sense of comfort. Oh, yes yes, I know that.

But I see the Scriptures differently when I watch how Jesus handled them. They are diamond hard, precise to the smallest detail, and true. Utterly true. The Word of God describes Reality. It both warns and woos.

The Scriptures as Sword

Yet, it is also living, pulsing with vitality and the very power of God. You can see why the author of Hebrews said that “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12)”. It doesn’t simply sit there, tamely, on the page. It crouches, ready to pounce.

The Scriptures are so true, so alive, they invade my mind, will, emotions, choices and say, “This not that! Open your eyes! See him! Seek him! He’s here! He’s true! Respond!”

This verse is what ignited my curiosity and launched me into digging for treasure. Bible study isn’t meant to be a walk in the park, but more like a safari in the wilderness. Watch out! You might find a tiger in those bushes! Open your eyes … you might catch a glimpse of a rare and beautiful bird.

The Scriptures and The Word Himself

It is now the middle of the last week of Jesus’ life. He has finished making the trek from Galilee to Jerusalem. He won’t be leaving for Bethany or traveling to any other towns or villages. The time for miracles is over. His final ministry before the cross will be his words. Words of warning

Just words? No, the Word himself, with the sword of the Spirit in his mouth, wielding it with consummate skill.

Day 1: Context —

The Context is Jesus’ mind, his knowledge of the Word. Read the Scriptures below and answer the questions.

  1. Psalm 118:22-23. How does Jesus interpret these verses? In addition how are they the perfect punchline for his parable in Mark 12:1-12
  2. Exodus 3:6. How does Jesus use this verse to answer the Sadducees? What is his argument based on?
  3. Deuteronomy 6:4,5; Leviticus 19:18. How do these two verses together sum up the Law? In addition how well did he have to know the letter and intent of the law to cut and paste these two words into one answer?
  4. Psalm 110:1. Jesus turns this verse into a question for the crowds. How does the familiar suddenly become unfamiliar?

Day 2: Observation —

Read Mark 12 as a series of conversations with various audiences.

  1. What was Jesus saying to the Pharisees through the parable in 12:1-12?
  2. Read the 3 confrontations in 12:13-17, 18-27, 28-34. First, who initiates each one? Next, what is the issue? Finally, who wins?
  3. What point does Jesus make to the crowd during his final week? 12:35-37
  4. What positive and negative examples does he point out? 12:38-44. How would you summarize the difference between the “beware” and “behold”?

Day 3: Meaning —

Read Mark 12 as Jesus wielding the Sword of the Spirit in the power of the Spirit.

  1. Why does Jesus tell the parable to the Pharisees? How does this parable display both the kindness and severity of God?
  2. In what way does Jesus use the Word by the Spirit to win the three confrontations?
  3. In addition, how does Jesus use the Word as a depth charge in the mind of the crowd?
  4. How do Jesus’ words to the crowd and the disciples provide authoritative commentary on what the examples mean?

Day 4: Application —

Read Mark 12 as a personal word from God to you.

  1. Jesus wields the sword of the Spirit perfectly. See how mighty he is! Take time to worship him now in song or praise. Then write out your praise if it helps you to focus.
  2. Where in your life do you need to use the Word more effectively? With yourself? Against temptation? Maybe with your husband or children? With your unsaved friends? Ask God for the specific help you need.

God gave us the Scriptures so we could know him. And he won’t hold back when we seek to know him better.

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