The Gospel of Mark – Part 42
Questions and Observations – Part 1 – Mark 12:13-34
Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – July 12th, 2020
- After His confrontation with the religious leaders about His authority, and telling the parable of the vineyard, the religious leaders try to trap Jesus by asking Him a number of questions. We will go through both the questions asked of Him and the questions Jesus asked, as well as His observations in this two-part mini-series within our series in the Gospel of Mark.
- Today we are looking at the questions about paying taxes, the resurrection, and the most important commandment. From these questions and Jesus’ answers, we are instructed and informed about these vital and important subjects. In knowing His answers, we have the truth of God on these subjects and will be best served by aligning our lives to these truths.
Question about paying taxes
Mark 12:13-17 ESV
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
- The religious leaders were out to get Jesus, and they thought the best way to do so was to trip Him up and trap Him in His words. So, they started to ask Him questions. They were not sincere in wanting to know the answers, they just wanted to find a reason to bring Him down.
- The first question had to do with the controversy of paying taxes to the Romans. There were three main camps on this subject: the first was the anti-government group called the zealots. They flatly refused to pay the tax, because for them it would be an admission of the Roman right to rule. The second group was the Herodians, who were pro-government and thought that everyone should pay taxes and support them. And the third group was the moderates, those in the middle, which would be the Pharisees who payed taxes but did not want to do so (these three main camps are similar to what we have today).
- They tried to set Jesus up by flattering and placing Him on a pedestal as a teacher, one who was true, one who did not care about people’s opinion, one who was not swayed by appearances and one who truly taught the way of God. Now all of these things were true of Jesus, and Lord held up to be the same way, because these were amazing characteristics! I wish we and all of our leaders were this way. But by stating these characteristics of Christ, they were setting Him up to take Him down.
- So, they asked Him the loaded question about the government and if we should pay taxes to them. Jesus knew that they did not genuinely want to know that answer to this question. He knew they were hypocrites, saying one thing but really being another. He knew the intention of their hearts and knew that they were trying to trap Him. So, He called them out, “Why are you putting me to the test?” Why are you testing me if you know all these things about Me?
- Jesus asked them to bring to Him a coin. And looking at the coin, He asked them whose “likeness and inscription is this?” and they said “Caesar.” They give to Caesar what is Caesars and give to God what is Gods. In giving this answer Jesus, legitimized the Roman government’s authority to rule, noting that these things had their image on them, and also at the same time legitimized God’s authority on our lives because His image is stamped on us.
- There is both an “Internal Revenue Service” – give to them the things that are theirs because their image is stamped on it, and they have “authority” and a “right” to it. There is also an “Eternal Revenue Service” – give to God the things that are His because His image is stamped on it, and He had the “authority” and a “right” to it. Yes, we have accountability to the delegated authority that God gives to the government on the things that bear it’s image, and yes, we have accountability to the final authority on things that bear His image, namely our lives. Let that sink in. They marveled at His answer, and so should we. Both marvel and live by it. (See also Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-6, 1 Peter 2:13-17)
Question about the resurrection
Mark 12:18-27 ESV
And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
- The Sadducess were religious leaders that did not believe in supernatural beings (angels/demons) nor in an afterlife. They were a group within the Sanhedrin (the ruling religious counsel of the Jews – think senate – see Acts 23:6-10). They rightly quoted the law of Moses (Deut: 25-5-10) about the obligation brothers have to each other concerning their name, inheritance, and offspring. They were using this passage thinking that if there were a resurrection and marriage is a permanent state, then whose wife would this woman be in the resurrection? (They were also trying to “trap” Him according to their interpretation of scripture).
- Jesus directly rebuked them by stating that they were wrong because, “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” There are religious leaders and people who still base their interpretation and practice of religion on a misguided and ill-informed understanding of both Scripture and the power of God. We must make sure that we have a correct understanding of both of these things – but truthful study and observation – not reading into what is there but seeing what is there for the truth of it.
- Jesus then stated, “when they rise from the dead” – you can count on this as a fact – not something that is fiction – “they neither marry nor are given in marriage” – which means that marriage is truly “until death do you part.” It is a temporal, not an eternal institution. You will not be married in heaven – there will be no need for procreation – that time will be over (that is another reason why we need to wait for the resurrection – until the full number has come in).
- Jesus then also went on to state that we “will be like angels in heaven” – this does not mean that we will be angels – we are and will always remain human – but we will be like them when it comes to marriage – that we will not be married in heaven. In stating these things, Jesus also rebuked them about the truth that there are angels and also an afterlife (which they did not change their opinion).
- Jesus then goes on to quote the OT (Ex. 3:6)– which they did see as the authoritative word of God – as the evidence for what He was teaching. When God interacted with Moses on Mt. Horeb out of the burning bush, He said “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” not “I was the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In this statement it means that even though these guys had physically died, that they were still alive – because God “is not God of the dead, but of the living” – which tells us that those who have “died” are not truly dead – they are indeed still alive.
- These teachings inform us about the importance of knowing scripture and the power of God truly, knowing that it is authoritative – and what it says is true and will happen, knowing that there are indeed supernatural beings and there is an afterlife. The wise person will align their life to these truths.
Question about the most important commandment
Mark 12:28-34 ESV
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
- This guy is more sincere and really does want to know the truth and the answer. Jesus said that He was “not far from the kingdom of God.” This statement means that one can know the truth, which leads them to the kingdom, but they only enter the Kingdom when they pledge allegiance to the King – knowing the truth does not mean that one belongs to the truth – you belong to the truth then you believe it and follow.
- There was a debate between in the religious community about which laws were more important and which ones were least important. The rabbis counted 613 individual statutes in the law, 365 which were negative and 248 positive. Attempts were made to differentiate between the “heavy” or “great” and the “light” or “little” commandments (the Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol. 8 p. 736).
- In answering the question, Jesus quotes from Deut. 6:4-5 and Lev. 19:18. Knowing God is one, and loving Him with all that we are over and above all other things is the first part of the most “important commandment.” And then “loving our neighbor as ourselves” is the second part of the most “important commandment” – all the law and prophets hang on these two things (see Matt. 22:40). If you want to sum up the commandments from the Old Testament, this is the statement – and these are the things that we are to still do today under the New Covenant established in the New Testament. In doing so we are within the good bonds of God and will produce the good fruit of God. These things must be applied to our lives as well and we live as NT Christians as we follow the way of Christ who is the King. Don’t be a person who is “near the kingdom.” Be a person who is “in the kingdom.”
- God is the God of truth, and from Him all truth is and flows.
- God has given authority to the government. Give to them what is theirs and give to God what is Gods.
- God has established an afterlife, those who are physically dead are not dead but alive. They are supernatural beings in existence and marriage is an institution of earth and not of heaven. Knowing these things will give you comfort and also provide wisdom for how you live and how these things relate to eternity.
- God has given us the summation of His commands – to know Him and love Him with all we are above all other things, and to love our neighbors and ourselves. These are the “laws” of the kingdom – be a person who believes and also lives by them – a person who is “in” the kingdom and not “near” it.