Today in Mark we look at Mark 12:13-17:
13 Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” 16 And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.
Today we look at Jesus’ famous teaching “give to Ceaser that which si Ceaser’s.” The NRSV has it give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s. But what is Jesus really talking about here?
The first thing to notice in this text is the reason why they are coming to Jesus at all. It isn’t to learn from Him or seek His wisdom. They are coming to test him. But Jesus knew this. He knew they weren’t really coming to seek wisdom or be drawn closer to God.
They wanted to trap Him and ensure that they would have reason to incite the crowd against Him.
Perhaps that is why they are so amazed at His answer. He gave the perfect answer, one that was the truth of the situation, while also robbing them of their ability to turn the crowd against Him.
It was a useful straw man argument to talk about not paying taxes. The point the religious leaders were making was that Ceasar claimed to be a god and shouldn’t a good Jew refuse to honor a false deity. The argument they were framing was more about idolatry than taxes. The cultural point of their argument was to pay that tax was to basically honor a false God.
But the thing was, they didn’t believe this. They didn’t actually believe this point they were making. The Herodians gained their status from King Herod, who was a king appoint by, and who was loyal to, Ceaser, who the false God they were talking about. So their own allegiance and belief showed they didn’t believe in the point they were making, they were just trying to mess with Jesus.
The point for us in this, is this, why and how to do we come to Jesus? Do we come for wisdom and help? Do we come with a sincere heart? They did not. And they didn’t truly see Jesus.
Notice how Jesus answers this question. He takes the money and say, whos’s face is on it? Ceaser’s. So, this money came from Him, it’s not from God anyway. So, give to Ceaser what he is due. The money wasn’t from God, it was from Rome, so give it back to them.
So, give to Ceaser what is Ceasers. We should be good citizens. We are told all through scripture to be good citizens. Respect authority. Pray for our leaders. Be good citizens of our nation.
But most importantly, give to God what is God’s. And in all things, give God glory.
Tuesday we’ll look at Mark 12:18-27.
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