The Gospel of Mark
Chapter 12: Overview
In 11,27 we were told that Jesus is walking in the temple. In 13,1-2, we are told that Jesus leaves the temple. Everything that happens in between takes place there.
It is unusual to set the end of the Temple visit at 13,1-2; most commentators treat chapter 13 on its own from verse 1. However, 13,1-2 marks the final departure of Jesus from the Temple and would seem to be a good conclusion to chapter 12.
It is in 13,3 there is a new beginning with Jesus now sitting on the Mount of Olives, across the valley from the Temple. The question asked by the disciples then leads into discourse of this chapter as we will see.
The pattern here in chapter 12 seems to be linear. Some commentators look for a circular arrangement (as in 2,1-3,6) with the parable of the tenants (12,1-12) as the centre piece.
Better I think is to see that the various confrontations in the Temple begin with the basic issue of authority (11,27-33). This is followed by the parable of the tenants and the vineyard (12,1-12) as Jesus' response to that opening encounter . Next we have the Pharisees and Herodians (12,13-17) seeking to trap Jesus and they are followed by the Sadducees (12,18-27). Here we have Jesus' various enemies all trying to get the better of him.
There follows by contrast the friendly exchange between Jesus and the scribe (12,28-34) with the conclusion that no one dared to question Jesus further (12,34).
Thereafter Jesus takes the initiative and raises a question himself (12,35-37). This is followed by his criticism of the scribes (12,38-40) and his observation of the widow (12,41-44).
Reading the departure from the Temple, 13,1-2, as a conclusion to all this provides a better context to the episode of the widow, 12,41-44. Whilst there may not be a "sandwich" here, her appearance comes between a devasting criticism of the authorities 12,38-40 and the prediction of the destruction of the Temple, 13,1-2. The consequences of this we can explore in due course.
This whole time in the Temple is entirely a trial of strength between Jesus and the Jewish leaders in various guises. The disciples take no part between Peter's comment on the fig tree (11,21) and the summons of Jesus at the end (12,43).
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