And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 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?" But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." And they brought one. And he said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to him, "Caesar's." 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.
What do the Scriptures principally teach? The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man. In the passage before us, our Lord and Master, Saviour and Friend, is pressing upon us a duty that we all must not abdicate. God has pressed upon us both duty to Him and duty to man. You don’t have to be a Christian to do it! God requires everyone to render duty to Him as the Creator, and the benefactor. The Lord also requires everyone man everywhere to render duty to his fellow men.
Things are heating up in Jerusalem to the climax. Jesus has offended the religious powers and they are out to get Him, Mark 11:18. They want Him dead, so they come to Him in an effort to lay a trap for Him. They want Jesus to make a verbal misstep that they can use to their advantage. The text before us today is the first in a series of attacks launched by the enemies of the Lord Jesus. Their goal in all of these attacks is to either discredit Him with the people or to have a reason to accuse Him before the state. They are out to get Jesus and they do not care how they accomplish their goal.
There is no question that Jesus unites people – either in love or in opposition. Here are the religious hypocrites, the Pharisees, united with the secular and compromising Herodians. They were gathered together against the Lord Jesus. But we must always bear in mind that it was ‘…to do whatever the hand and plan of God had predestined to take place.’
The nations rage against the Lord and His anointed (Psalm 2:1-2). There can’t be any union between the marvellous Kingdom of God that is holy and the kingdom of darkness which is full of sin, iniquity and transgression. Remember that Jesus had come into Jerusalem as the Messiah King prophesied in the Old Testament. This is the last week before His death. It is the Passover week. He had then gone to cleanse the temple, by driving out the traders and the money changers. The religious authorities had been so provoked that they had all ganged up together to deal with Jesus accordingly. They had even formed a coalition with the Herodians and were set on laying their hands on Him. They were now negotiating with Judas to betray Jesus.
At this point, Mark records by the guidance of the Holy Spirit that the Pharisees have come to ‘trap Him in His talk’; they had come to entangle Him and bring Him to ruin. And so in their flattery, pretence and wickedness they said, "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.
Their mouths were full of hypocrisy, the venom of asp is upon their lips. However, they spoke the truth in their human cunning. These were all masters of human deception and flattery. They spoke in forked tongues, pointing out of the integrity, impartiality, faithfulness and unparalleled teaching ability of Jesus. However, the problem was that as they admitted, they knew this to be true, they knew that the Lord did not care about their duplicity in speaking! But it was for this very reason that they were trapping Him, so that they can be rid of one who so exposed their folly. I suppose they were still harbouring bitterness having been left speechless, helpless and guilty with their inability to answer honestly the question of about the baptism of John the Baptist. The parable of the tenants had left their ego balloon pricked and wasting away! It is at this point they wage a new onslaught against Jesus in this passage.
If you are a child of God, then do not expect a different treatment. The world is united in opposition against you. The world loves sin and so sin is baked every moment. This is abhorrent to every believer. This is the reason you had to restrain yourself so many time as you came. Many times it is subtle – especially in this country. They look at Christians in derision, they laugh at the gospel, they scoff at the truth, they mock Christ and they suppress the truth denying God. This world is alienated from God and as the Lord has said it is held captive by the force of the devil, in some sense. It is for this reason that it groans awaiting its redemption. Look at your work place – how many times have chosen to keep quiet instead of objecting at some immorality and sin being committed. In school, how many times do you have to shut your ears. Many times I have to shut my eyes so that I do not see iniquity. It is a broken world. Thank God it is not our home.
This means that you have a duty to be very vigilante so that you are not corrupted by the wickedness of this world. It means that you have to put in place measures that will not make you too comfortable in this world. You have to stop nursing dreams that would make you a child of this world more than a child of God. Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, rather be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In responding to the worldliness the Lord shows three ways to respond to this world:
a) Exposure (v. 15b) – Jesus knew their hearts. He knew they were nothing but hypocrites. He knew they had no respect for Him or for His ministry. In fact, Jesus knew that they hated Him and wanted Him dead. Knowing their intentions, He confronts them publically. He says, “Why tempt ye me?” The question is, “If you really believe all the things you just say, why do you feel like you have to put me to the test?” the hypocrisy of these men is clearly revealed in Luke 20:20. With that one, simple question, Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of their hearts. He also exposes the words as nothing more than insincere flattery.
b) Example (v. 15c-16) – To answer their question, Jesus asked for a “penny”. This was the Roman coin known as the “denarius”. As I mentioned earlier, it was a day’s pay for the common worker in those days. The world, though blind understands examples and illustrations. The Lord used them a lot. We also should use examples as He did in responding to the world.
c) Exhortation (v. 17) – Jesus answers their question in this verse, but not in the way they expected. Though there were only two possible answers in their minds: God and Rome. Jesus showed them that there were actually three answers.
Every human being as a duty to others. This is why the Lord stated,
“Give everyone who begs from you … and as you wish, that others that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31.
Apostle Peter says,
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:8-11.