Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The parable of the vineyard let out to wicked husbandmen, Mar 12:1-12. The Pharisees and Herodians question him about paying tribute to Caesar, Mar 12:13-17. The Sadducees question him about the resurrection, Mar 12:18-27. A scribe questions him concerning the chief commandment of the law, Mar 12:28-34. Christ asks the scribes why the Messiah is called David's son, Mar 12:35-37. He warns his disciples against the scribes, Mar 12:38-40. Of the widow that cast two mites into the treasury, Mar 12:41-44.
A certain man planted a vineyard - See this parable explained, Mat 21:33-41 (note).
At him they cast stones and wounded him in the head - Or rather, as most learned men agree, they made short work of it, εκεφαλαιωσαν. We have followed the Vulgate, illum in capite vulneraverunt, in translating the original, wounded him in the head, in which signification, I believe, the word is found in no Greek writer. Ανακεφαλαιοομαι signifies to sum up, to comprise, and is used in this sense by St. Paul, Rom 13:9. From the parable we learn that these people were determined to hear no reason, to do no justice, and to keep the possession and the produce by violence; therefore they fulfilled their purpose in the fullest and speediest manner, which seems to be what the evangelist intended to express by the word in question. Mr. Wakefield translates, They speedily sent him away; others think the meaning is, They shaved their heads and made them look ridiculously; this is much to the same purpose, but I prefer, They made short work of it. Dr. Lightfoot, De Dieu, and others, agree in the sense given above; and this will appear the more probable, if the word λιθοβολησαντες, they cast stones, be omitted, as it is by BDL, the Coptic, Vulgate, and all the Itala.
This is the heir - So they appear to have acknowledged in their consciences that this was the Messiah, the heir of all things.
The inheritance shall be ours - By slaying him we shall maintain our authority, and keep possession of our revenues.
And will give the vineyard unto others - The vineyard must not perish with the husbandmen; it is still capable of producing much fruit, if it be properly cultivated. I will give it into the care of new vine-dressers, the evangelists and apostles. - And under their ministry, multitudes were brought to God before the destruction of Jerusalem.
And they send unto him - See this, and to Mar 12:17, largely explained on Mat 22:15-22 (note).
Shall we give, or shall we not give? - This is wanting in the Codex Bezae, and in several versions.
See this question, concerning the resurrection, explained in detail on Mat 22:23-32 (note).
When they shall rise - This clause is wanting in BCDL, four others, Syriac, later Arabic, later Persic, Coptic, Saxon, and two of the Itala. Griesbach leaves it doubtful.
But the God of the living - Θεος, God, is left out by ABCDKL, and in more than forty others, Syriac, one Arabic, one Persic, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, Saxon, Vulgate, Itala, and Origen. Griesbach has omitted it.
Thou shalt love the Lord - On the nature and properties of the love of God and man, and the way in which this commandment is fulfilled, see the notes on Mat 22:37, etc.
And the scribe said - The answer of the scribe, contained in Mar 12:32-34, is not found either in Matthew or Luke. This is another proof against Mark's supposed abridgment.
Thou art not far from the kingdom of God - This scribe appears to have been a prudent, sensible, and pious man; almost a Christian - so near the kingdom of God that he might have easily stepped in. It is very probable that he did at last believe in and confess Jesus.
How say the scribes - See Mat 22:41, etc.
The common people heard him gladly - And were doubtless many of them brought to believe and receive the truth. By the comparatively poor the Gospel is still best received.
Beware of the scribes - See on Mat 23:1 (note), etc.
Cast money into the treasury - It is worthy of observation, that the money put into the treasury, even by the rich, is termed by the evangelist χαλκον, brass money, probably that species of small brass coin which was called פרוטה prutah among the Jews, two of which make a farthing, and twenty-four an Italian assarius, which assarius is the twenty-fourth part of a silver penny. We call this, mite, from the French, miete, which signifies a crumb, or very small morsel. The prutah was the smallest coin in use among the Jews: and there is a canon among the rabbins that no person shall put less than two prutahs into the treasury. This poor widow would not give less, and her poverty prevented her from giving more. And whereas it is said that many rich persons cast in Much, πολλα, (many), this may only refer to the number of the prutahs which they threw in, and not to the value. What opinion should we form of a rich man, who, in a collection for a public charity, only threw in a handful of halfpence? See Luk 21:1, and see the note on Mat 5:26. The whole of this account is lacking in Matthew. Another proof that Mark did not abridge him.
Let us examine this subject a little more closely: Jesus prefers the widow's two mites to all the offerings made by the rich.
In the preceding account, Mar 12:41, it is said Jesus beheld how the people cast money into the treasury. To make this relation the more profitable, let us consider Christ the observer and judge of human actions.
I. Christ the observer.
1. Christ observes all men and all things: all our actions are before his eyes, what we do in public and what we do in private are equally known unto him.
2. He observes the state and situation we are in: his eye was upon the abundance of the rich who had given much; and he was well acquainted with the poverty and desolate state of the widow who had given her all, though that was but little in itself. What an awful thought for the rich!
"God sees every penny I possess, and constantly observes how I lay it out." What a comfortable thought for the poor and desolate! The eye of the most merciful and bountiful Jesus continually beholds my poverty and distress, and will cause them to work for my good.
3. Christ sees all the motives which lead men to perform their respective actions; and the different motives which lead them to perform the same action: he knows whether they act through vanity, self-love, interest, ambition, hypocrisy, or whether through love, charity, zeal for his glory, and a hearty desire to please him.
4. He observes the circumstances which accompany our actions; whether we act with care or negligence, with a ready mind or with reluctance.
5. He observes the judgment which we form of that which we do in his name; whether we esteem ourselves more on account of what we have done, speak of it to others, dwell on our labors, sufferings, expenses, success, etc., or whether we humble ourselves because we have done so little good, and even that little in so imperfect a way.
II. See the judgment Christ forms of our actions.
1. He appears surprised that so much piety should be found with so much poverty, in this poor widow.
2. He shows that works of charity, etc., should be estimated, not by their appearance, but by the spirit which produces them.
3. He shows by this that all men are properly in a state of equality; for though there is and ought to be a difference in outward things, yet God looks upon the heart, and the poorest person has it in his power to make his mite as acceptable to the Lord, by simplicity of intention, and purity of affection, as the millions given by the affluent. It is just in God to rate the value of an action by the spirit in which it is done.
4. He shows that men should judge impartially in cases of this kind, and not permit themselves to be carried away to decide for a person by the largeness of the gift on the one hand, or against him by the smallness of the bounty on the other. Of the poor widow it is said, She has cast in more than all the rich. Because: 1. She gave more; she gave her all, and they gave only a part. 2. She did this in a better spirit, having a simple desire to please God. Never did any king come near the liberality of this widow; she gave all that she had, ὁλον τον βιον αὑτης, her whole life, i.e. all that she had to provide for one day's sustenance, and could have no more till by her labor she had acquired it. What trust must there be in the Divine Providence to perform such an act as this!
Two important lessons may be learned from her conduct. 1. A lesson of humiliation to the rich, who, by reason of covetousness on the one hand, and luxury on the other, give but little to God and the poor. A lesson of reproof to the poor, who, through distrust of God's providence, give nothing at all. Our possessions can only be sanctified by giving a portion to God. There will be infallibly a blessing in the remainder, when a part has been given to God and the poor. If the rich and the poor reflect seriously on this, the one will learn pity, the other liberality, and both be blessed in their deed. He must be a poor man indeed who cannot find one poorer than himself.