Looking through the synoptic Gospels and comparing the records that follow Jesus’ actions in the Temple and His being questioned as a result of those actions, one is forced to notice similarities and differences. As has been seen, Matthew reports the parable of the two sons, the parable of the tenants, the parable of the wedding banquet, the challenge concerning Caesar and taxes, the question from the Sadducees about marriage the resurrection, and the rabbinic challenge concerning the greatest commandment. From there, Matthew has Jesus proceed to offering up the “seven woes” that comprise the twenty-third chapter of his Gospel. Matthew built on Mark’s account and traveled a longer path in the story of Jesus that he presented, and it must be said that Matthew’s account is the busiest of the three.
Mark, which is generally understood to have provided the basis for both Matthew and Luke, does not have a parable of the two sons, narrates the parable of the tenants, lacks a parable of the wedding banquet, recounts the conversation about the paying of taxes, reports the question by the Sadducees, and offers up a memory of the question about the greatest of the commandments. In something of an anomaly, Mark’s presentation of the exchange concerning commandments is actually longer than that which is reported by Matthew. Matthew and Mark differ in their account of Jesus’ words, with Matthew’s Jesus saying “All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (22:40). In Mark, Jesus does not say this.
In addition, “The expert in the law said to Him, ‘That is true, Teacher; you are right to say that He is one, and there is no one else beside Him.’” (Mark 12:32b) Here, the expert in the law quotes back to Jesus what has been said, which also informs the reader that Mark has another statement that is omitted by Matthew, in that Jesus here says, to begin His response to this man, “The most important is: ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’” (12:29) This is the preface to the specific quotation from Deuteronomy in regards to loving the Lord with heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is also a reminder that in Matthew, Jesus is not reported to have mentioned “strength.” The man continued, conflating Jesus’ answers and the quotations together, saying “And to love Him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (12:33).
Just in case it may be thought that this study was reaching a bit by calling attention to the fact that the section being called to mind with the neighbor quotation from Leviticus begins with mention of the peace offering sacrifice, and that this serves as yet another reminder of the setting---that being the Temple and that which takes place in the Temple, this response confirms that such was not a reach at all. Beyond that, just to reconfirm the intimate ties between the Temple, the importance of the promised land, and concepts concerning the kingdom of God, Mark reports that “When Jesus saw that he had answered thoughtfully, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” (12:34a)
This final statement is also part of a fuller account (in this particular pericope) than that which is on offer from Matthew. Luke omits this exchange concerning the commandments entirely, which is not surprising. One remembers that Luke made no mention of the withered fig tree in conjunction with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, so it apparently does not fit with Luke’s overall purpose. Following his report about Jesus’ actions in the Temple and the questioning from the authorities that He underwent there, Luke follows Mark by not presenting a parable of the two sons, and moving right along to the parable of the tenants. There is no parable of the wedding banquet as part of Luke’s Temple narrative, though Luke does present a great banquet, with similar features, in his fourteenth chapter. Following the parable of the tenants, Luke moves to the discussion about taxes, and then to the question about marriage and the resurrection.