1. Then Jesus began to speak to His audience in allegories, saying, "There was a man who planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress, and then built a watchtower. Then he rented out the vineyard to some farmers and moved away to another place.
2. At harvest time he sent one of his servants to these tenants to collect from them some of the harvested fruit of the vineyard.
3. But, to his surprise, they wouldn't hear of it. They seized him, beat him up, and sent him back to where he came from with nothing but a black eye and a bloody nose.
4. Then the man sent another one of his servants to them, but they took the violence up a notch with this man. They struck him hard on the head, and just generally brutalized him for a while.
5. So finally He sent yet another servant, but this one they just murdered in cold blood. In fact, over a period of time he sent many others, and some of them they beat up, and still others they killed.
6. As a last resort He sent a son, whom he loved, saying to himself 'Surely, they will respect my son.'
7. But, on the contrary, the tenants said to one another, 'This is the man's heir... come on, let's kill him, too, and the entire inheritance will be ours.'
8. So, indeed, they took the son and killed him, and threw his dead body out of the vineyard.
9. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do in such a case? Certainly he has the right to come and kill those bloodthirsty tenants and give the vineyard to others.
10. Haven't you read the passage of Scripture that says, 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
11 The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our perception'?"
12. Then the religious leaders, teachers of the Law, and the elders looked for a way to arrest Him because they were at least intelligent enough to realize that he had spoken the extended metaphor against them. But they were cowards, afraid of the crowd, so they just left Him and went away.
13. But they sent some Pharisees and followers of Herod to bait Him, in an effort to catch Him saying something incriminating.
14. They came up to Him and said, "Teacher, we know that You have integrity, that You are impartial...enlightened...indifferent to public opinion. So, because You don't pander to Your followers, but teach the way of God accurately, please tell us...in Your estimable opinion...is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
15. Of course He saw right through this trick question, and the pretentious motivation behind it. So He said to them, "Why do you keep trying to engage Me in your nonsense, playing these mind games with Me? OK, I'll bite...bring me a coin and let Me look at it."
16. They quickly handed him one, and He said, "The engraving on this coin...who does it look like? And, more importantly...whose name is on it?" "Caesar," they said.
17. Jesus said to them, "Then the answer is simple and obvious...give Caesar what is his, and give God what is His." And, once again, they were left utterly speechless by the clarity and candor with which He conveyed complex concepts.
18. Then, after this episode with the Pharisees, next came the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, with another provocative question for Him.
19. "Teacher," they said, "Surely you're aware that Moses wrote that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife, but no children, the man must marry his widowed sister-in-law, and raise up offspring for his brother.
20. Now, let's say, hypothetically, that there were seven brothers, and the first one married and died without leaving any children.
21. Then let's say that the second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no children. And the same scenario occurred with the third.
22. And so it went, but none of the seven brothers left any children. Then, finally the woman died, too.
23. Now, at the resurrection, whose wife will this woman be, seeing that she was married to all seven men?"
24. Jesus replied, "Your implausible premise is way off base because, clearly, in asking this question you reveal that you are ignorant of both the Scriptures, and of the power of God.
25. The fact is that in the next life, when the dead are raised up, they will have a completely different paradigm of human relationships...the concepts of sexuality, gender, and procreation will be rendered altogether obsolete, so, in that dimension they will neither marry nor be given in marriage...in that sense they will be in an exalted state like the angels in the heavenly realm.
26. But as to the main point of your question about the dead rising...have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the story of the burning bush, how God said to him, 'I AM (not "I Was", or "I Will be") the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?
27. In so revealing Himself, He has declared that He is not the God of the dead, but of the living...your ideas about the finality of death have caused you to completely miss the point!"
28. While this exchange with the Sadducees was still in progress, along came a religion scholar who heard the tail end of it, and was impressed with Jesus' knowledge, and the good answer that He had given them. So he asked Him, "Of all the commandments, can you tell me which one is the most important?"
29. "The most important one is about the one true God," Jesus answered, "It's this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
30. Love the Lord your God with all your passion, and with all your emotion, and with all your intelligence, and with all your energy.'
31. But there is a second one which is technically the same commandment...'Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.' There is no commandment greater than this one, revealed in these two integrated dimensions."
32. "Beautifully stated, Teacher," the man replied. "And You are absolutely right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him...
33. ...and that to have the full revelation of that you must love Him with all your passion, with all your intellect, and with all your ability, and to love your neighbor with the same love you have for yourself. Embracing this is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
34. When Jesus observed that the man had answered with such insight, He said to him, "You, sir, are on the very cutting edge of the Kingdom of God!" And from that point on no one had the nerve to ask Him any more questions.
35. And as Jesus taught in one of the porches of the Temple, He said to His audience, "Think about this...how can the Scribes say that the Christ is David's Son?
36. David himself, in a Holy Spirit-inspired declaration, said, 'The Lord said to My Lord, "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool under Your feet"
37. The point is that David himself calls Him 'Lord'...so how can it be that He is his Son?" The huge crowd that was there that day was completely delighted with the way He challenged the pretentious Scribes and their conventional wisdom.
38. And in the course of His teaching, He went on to say, "Beware of the Scribes, who like to go around preening in long robes, basking in public flattery, and generally acting piously superior;
39. Sitting at the head table in every public forum...expecting a place of honor at every feast.
40. That in itself can be dismissed simply as a basic human weakness in them that manifests itself in a dysfunctional need for attention...it is what it is. What makes it so reprehensible with this group, however, is that all the while they are playing to the crowd, publicly, they are secretly exploiting widows...preying on them...going into their houses and devouring what little they have. And yet to distract the public from discerning their dark deeds, they make long prayers and elaborate speeches which make them sound intimidatingly holy. Be assured they will receive the heavier sentence of condemnation.
41. Later He sat down opposite the treasury and witnessed firsthand how the crowd was casting money into it. That day many rich people were obviously throwing in large sums.
42. And somewhere within the stream of people who were giving, a poverty-stricken widow came and unassumingly put in two copper mites, the smallest of coins, which added together are the equivalent of half of a cent.
43. And He called His disciples over and said to them, "Here's the truth about this little woman...she has demonstrated the relativity of giving, because even though she is poor, she has put in more than all those contributing to the treasury.
44. The others all casually threw their money in from out of their vast wealth and apparent abundance...they won't even miss the money. But she, out of her deep poverty, has put in everything that she had...in fact she has sacrificed all that she had on which to live, which is why she has given the most."