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Mark 12:13-17 Jesus and taxes

Gospel of Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Joel and Mary Nadel, Covenant Church

From J.C. Ryle’s “Expository Comments on the Gospels - Mark”

House Rules: Phones, Respect, Stay on the Text

Pray

Background

Approaching the end of Jesus earthly ministry
First part was Him establishing His purpose for God’s people - that He/the Son of God, has come to save His people from their sins - Repent and believe the Gospel
Jesus has entered into Jerusalem amid much excitement among the entire population - we are in the last week of Jesus’ life
His popularity is frightening to the Roman and Jewish political and religious leadership
Jesus is challenging the Jewish religious leadership over their leadership and their corruption - unable to discredit Him they are now secretly building a case to have Him executed
Today: After having His authority challenged by the chief priests and elders, He is now challenged by the Pharisees and Herodians to try to trap Him into breaking the law.
Mark 12:13–17 NASB95
Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. They came and said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? “Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.” They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.

People of different religions can unite in opposing Christ

Pharisees and Herodians come together to “trap Him in a statement.” They try to stump Him with a hard question.
Pharisees were very strict, superstitious, religious fundamentalists who were only concerned with making a religious show - they weren’t genuinely concerned about a relationship with God. They did not really understand at all the nature of God
The Herodians were politicians - supporters of King Herod - and were more concerned with pleasing him than God - they despised all religion - in fact.
The two groups were really opposites, but when a mighty teacher, Jesus, came among them and challenged them both - they worked together to stop Him
This has been the case since the beginning of the world, and continues to this day
Worldly people and religious formalists don’t care much for each other - but they both stand opposed to the pure Gospel
Whenever there is a chance to oppose the Gospel, we see these two types working together
They will show no mercy
No matter what their differences, they will always unite to oppose Christ

The cageyness of the question posed to our Lord

Mark 12:14-15 “They came and said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? “Shall we pay or shall we not pay?”
This question seemed impossible to answer without getting Jesus in trouble
If He said “Give”, the Pharisees would have accused Him before the priests as someone who saw the Jewish nation under Rome
If He said “Do not give”, the Herodians would have told Pilate, the Roman Pro-Consul, who would have charged Him with rebellion against Rome
The trap was well-planned - this was more than the planning of man - Satan was involved here.
These kinds of questions are extremely risky to Christians. These are questions of church and state or government
Where does the authority of the government end, and the church begin - the COVID pandemic brought this into stark relief
What are lawful civil claims and what are lawful church claims?
Christians have found these conflicts difficult to solve and we need to pray for God to deliver us from them
The cause of Christ suffers when the devil is able to bring churches and governments into collision
Time is wasted, energy is misdirected, ministers are distracted from their proper work, the salvation of souls is set back
A victory by the church is usually only a bit better than defeat
We need to pray for peace between church and state, and do so often

The wonderful wisdom our Lord showed in His answer

The Lord was not deceived by their flattery. He “knew their hypocrisy”
He was not fooled by the false compliments, as many are, by the flowery language and the fine speech
He made the daily habits of His enemies work to His advantage in the answer to their question
Mark 12:15-16 ““Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.” They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.””
They themselves were using a Roman coin, which had been issued by the Roman government
By doing this, they showed that they accepted the power of the Romans - or they wouldn’t have been using their money
By doing this, the Lord silences them: Mark 12:17 “And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.”
He tells them to pay their taxes to the Roman government for things of this world, and obey God in spiritual things
They should understand that they have a duty to Rome and a duty to God as well. Civil governments are instituted by God (Saul and David)
He tells the proud Pharisee he must pay his taxes to Caesar, and the worldly Herodian politician that he must pay his dues to God
An important lesson: true Christianity is never supposed to interfere with our obedience to civil governments
It ought to make us quiet, loyal and faithful citizens
We need to understand that civil governments are “ordained of God”, and we should submit to their rules and regulations, even if we disagree or disapprove of them.
Having said that, if the civil law and the law of God conflict with each other, we must obey God, rather than man
Like Daniel, in OT times, we must submit to a tyrant’s government, but we cannot stop praying just to please that government (Romans 13)

Bringing it home

We need to pray for the wisdom of Christ in these situations
James 1:19 “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;”
Many bad and evil things have been caused by a wrong view of the relationship between the government and the Church of Christ
We will be happy if we remember how our Lord made His decision in this passage, understand it correctly, and apply it in our own situations

The Gospel

1 Corinthians 15:3–4 (ESV)
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
Romans 10:9 (ESV)
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Prayer requests/Lord’s Prayer

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