Mark 12:13-40

Paying Taxes to Caesar

Mark 12:13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words.

Luke said they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere so they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. *Luke 20:20

Two traditional enemies to unite against Jesus:

  • Pharisees, the Jews nationals and opposed to any foreign overlordship. 
  • Pharisees said Herod, was an Edomite, not even a Jew on the throne of David. 
  • The Pharisees opposed the poll tax that the Romans had inflicted on Judea
  • They resented the very presence of Rome in their land.
  • The Herodians, the sold-out liberals
  • They are supporters of the foreign government of the Herod. 
  • Herodians supported the family of Herod
  • They supported the Romans who gave them the power to rule.
  • They are trying to entrap Jesus on the matter of tribute to Caesar

Mark 12:14  They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?

  • A tax that was levied on the heads of families

They started with flattery; through they said only the truth, but they hoped to through Him off His guard by setting a word trap:

  • The answer was a lose-lose question:
  • A yes answer would turn against them to the  Jews who opposed Rome, Jewish population,
  • While a no answer could be taken as treason against the state, Roman leadership.

Mark 12:15  Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”

  • A denarius (a penny): a small silver coin of 3.8 grams. One side bore the head of Caesar and the abbreviated inscription:

Mark 12:16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Mark 12:17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

Luke said: They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. and became silent. *Luke 20:26

  • Matthew added: left him and went away. {Pharisees} *Matthew 22:22

Some individuals have regarded this statement as the single most influential political statement ever made in the history of the world.

The Pharisees marveled at His wisdom and not expected such an answer from the Galilean Teacher in returning such an answer, which then cut off all discussion with Jesus.

Coinage was regarded the property of the government that minted it. They were already accepting Caesar’s authority or they would not be using his money.

Now, Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

Mark 12:18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.

  • This is the only place in Mark where the Sadducees are mentioned.
  • Nowhere is it recorded (that I’m aware of) did any of these “liberals” come to faith. Many of the Pharisees and priests did.
  • The Sadducees were an elite group of religious leaders who did not believe in the existence of the soul, life after death, resurrection, final judgment, angels or demons (Cf. Acts 23:8).
  • They did, however, accept the Torah, the books of Moses, only the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. Most of them were wealthy; the religious elites.  Only approve what can be done in the Torah.
  • Luke wrote: The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things. *Acts 23:8   This is the different between them.

They did not believe in the resurrection: “That’s why they were sad, you see.” A corny pun, but it is a helpful to remember

Mark 12:19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.

This question was based on the law of levirate marriage which was meant to protect widows economically and to preserve the family name and to keep the property in the family.

The custom of marrying the widow of one’s brother was is found in

  • Deuteronomy 25:5-6 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.  
  • (6)  The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

But it was not absolutely binding

  • Deuteronomy 25:7-10 However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.”  (8)  Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,”  (9)  his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.”  (10)  That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.

Mark 12:20-22  Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. (21) The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. (22) In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too.

This question by the Sadducees was for the purpose to discredit the doctrine of the resurrection.  They did not believe in the resurrection.

Mark 12:23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

Mark 12:24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?

Jesus pointed out their ignorance of two things the supports the resurrection

  • the truth of Scripture, and
  • the Power of God.
  • Jesus shows them where they were wrong by using the 5 books of Moses which they take their religion from and proves that they were ignorant of those very writings which they professed to hold sacred.
  • He not only corrected their opinions, but so explained the doctrine as to overthrow the false decision of the Pharisees, that if two brothers married one woman, she should be restored at the resurrection to the first

Mark 12:25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

  • Angels are in heaven: Much confusion has arisen from this verse:
  • Angels in heaven do not marry:
  • There is no children among immortal beings.!

The same God who created the angels is able to give us the new bodies we will have when Jesus returns to the earth.

First Jesus tells them that the marriage relationship does not continue after the resurrection to Spirit Being. Believers will recognize one another and I believe will not lose their distinctions as men and women,

Mark 12:26-27 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  (27)  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”

  • Jesus question expected an positive answer, for He knew well that these Sadducees were thoroughly familiar with the Law.
  • He referred specifically to

Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.  *Exodus 3:6

Remember, the Sadducees accepted only the Torah; so Jesus used the above verse and did not use past tense: I am the God of Abraham.

The Great Commandment

Mark 12:28  One of the teachers of the law {scribes or lawyer} came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

  • This next challenge was a scribe who was a Pharisee.
  • The scribes had determined that there were 365 negative precepts and 248 positive, for a total of 613 precepts in the Law:
  • One of their common exercises was discussing which were the greatest.

Mark 12:29-30  “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  (30) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The familiar words of the Sh’ma (“hear”);

  • Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  (5)  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  *Deuteronomy 6:4-5  

Notice, Jesus added Your mind,

  • What is your: heart – the thoughts or feelings of the mind
  • What is your: soul – breath, that is, (by implication) spirit,
  • What is your: mind – deep thought – imagination, understanding, will
  • What is your: Strength – a form of,  forcefulness,  ability, power

Mark 12:31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

  • Direct from the Old Testament:  “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.  *Leviticus 19:18

The first commandment summarizes the first four of the Ten Commandments. The second summarizes the commandments five through ten, which relate to how we treatment of other people.

The common key word between these 2 commandments is Love.

This is what we are to do.  Love is used 574 times in 526 verses in Bible.

Mark 12:32-33 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. (33) To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

The scribe dared to speak candidly. The Word had spoken to his heart.

did not say, mind, stayed with the Sh’ma

Mark 12:34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Could this be one of the scribes that became a Christian later on and accepting Jesus as the Messiah?

This scribe shows a proper understanding of the Old Testament, of its laws and requirements, would prepare the mind for Christianity, and help someone to embrace the Gospel when presented.

Whose Son Is the Christ?

Mark 12:35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David?

  • Matthew wrote:  While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,  (42)  “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied.  * Matthew 22:41-42

The Jews believed that the Messiah had to be a physical descendant of David (2 Sam 7:12; Isa 9:7; Jer 23:5ff; et al.).

Mark 12:36  David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘

  • Jesus quoted: Of David. A psalm. The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” *Psalms 110:1

Mark 12:37 David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with delight.

The common people heard him gladly, not the Religious Leaders, held the people in contempt.”  John wrote:

No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them {or under a curse}.” * John 7:49

Pharisees believe the people are easily led astray because they do not know the law.  Who fault is that.

Pharisees declined to make, not through ignorance, but through unbelief in Jesus’s claim as the Messiah

  • The Jews believed that the Messiah would be David’s son
  • The only way David’s son could also be David’s Lord would be if the Messiah were God come in human flesh!
  • The answer, of course, is the virgin birth, etc. (Isa 7:14; Mt 1:18-25;

Before this week was over, the Son of David would die and would be resurrected back to life.

This section closes with a warning against the pride of the scribes

Mark 12:38-39 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law {Scribes}. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, (39) and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.

  • Long, flowing robes, reaching to the feet, worn by the scribes as a sign of their official position, in order to attract attention with fringes.
  • When Christ sent his apostles out to preach, he directed that they should be clothed as the common people  {Matt 10:10}
  • Be on your guard. Be cautious about hearing them or following them

Mark 12:40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

Notice it was men, very evil individuals.

Exodus 22:22-24 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.  (23)  If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.  (24)  My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.

  • The Scribes go after widows property by obtaining control of their property
  • They took advantage of their ignorance and their unprotected state, and either extorted large sums for their counsel, or perverted the property to their own use.
  • Money reveals the state of the heart as few other things can.
  • Widows had little means of support, were socially powerless and honorless in a society emphasizing status and honor, and were to be protected under Jewish law
  • Whatever their specific crime, the charge of “devouring widows’ houses” portrays them as worse than tax gatherers.  Heavier judgment for them.

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