ReMARKable: Flip The Coin

ReMARKable: A Study of the Gospel of Mark

 “Flip of the Coin”
March 7, 2021
Mark 12:13–17 (ESV)
13 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.

A Planned Attack (13-15a)

In these verses we discover a calculated attack, carried out by those who opposed Jesus.
Consider The Unlikely Cooperation (13a) – Mark 12:13–17 (ESV)
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, and we immediately discover the coordinated attack carried out by a strange association of people.
  • Pharisees
    • We really have no surprise to their involvement in any plan to hurt Jesus and His ministry. Why? Well, let's look at who they are:
      • The Pharisees were self-righteous legalists that held such a strict adherence to the law that they added an additional 613 manmade laws from the original 10 commandments. Because of their self-righteous legalism, they condemned anyone who wasn't a Pharisee, and they are still alive today. (Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots) 
  • Herodians
    • These guys are aPolitical faction of the Jews, and they were activists for Rome -somewhat like today's lobbyists. These guys were fiercely loyal to King Herod who welcomed Roman influence within Jerusalem with open arms all while enjoying the lavish benefits that Rome offered. Their actions made them natural enemies with the Pharisees.

So, what would bring a rival group of religious legalists and political activists together?

Mark 3:6 brings the Herodians and the Pharisees together.
6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
While they despised each other, because their goals and values were vastly differed, their hatred for Jesus served as the unifying factor in their cooperation. They came together solely in opposition to Christ, and it still happens today. Groups with nothing in common will fight together to remove religious freedom or the Gospel advancement. Folks, nobody is attacking other religious groups. Only Christianity. What does that tell you? Why are they so threatened by Jesus? Because sinful humanity has always rallied behind a mutual enemy, and that enemy is the one true Holy Son of God.

Before we continue, let's define some 'stuff'

THEY – Who are they?
Those who are out to do away with Jesus. So the enemy. And, the enemy will align with whomever he can to steal, kill or destroy your life.
The Motivation (13b) – 13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk.

The Motivation (13b)
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk.

As in previous times, these people have no desire to learn from Jesus or even receive anything from Him. They had one agenda – to TRAP Him. To catch him in his words. In His views. In His actions.
To Steal, To Kill, & To Destroy
The Greek word for “catch” in verse 13 conveys an image of a trap for hunting game, a snare. The committee from the Pharisees and the Herodians thought they could trap Jesus with a question that had political and religious connotations.
If He speaks in opposition to Rome, He will be accused of being a rebel;
If He sides with Rome, He will lose credibility with His own people.
The trap is then motivated by a desire to discredit Jesus and rally the people against Him. This is a common scheme often used by the enemy and many continue to follow his lead. They will go to great lengths to formulate questions or discussions in such a way that will lend themselves to accusation and condemnation. Such motivations are never pleasing to the Lord or led by the Holy Spirit. This is the guy or gal that brings you all the hypothetical and incredulous statements or questions:
Can God create a rock so big he cannot pick it up? 
Did Adam have a belly button? 
Where did Eve’s kids find a spouse? 
The Bible is no longer relevant in our times. Its full of contradictions. 
How can a loving God…fill in the blank.
It’s a trap. No true desire to learn or receive anything from Jesus.

The Deception (14a)
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.

Take notice how these hate-filled, deceptive groups come to Jesus. Flattery. Superficial praise.
  • Let's break it down
    • Teacher – acknowledging wisdom and position.
    • We know you are true –Character and integrity (ironic, too)
    • Do not care about anyone’s opinion – Validated by God alone
    • Not swayed by appearances – favoritism and partiality
    • Truly teach the way of God – You bring the word, Jesus!

Clearly, this was all a carefully orchestrated plan. These had not received Jesus as the Christ; in fact, they were repelled by His claims of deity. They cared nothing for His teaching, refusing to hear or heed His words. They certainly did not admire Jesus; they hated Him! This was all vain and meaningless words of empty praise, hoping Jesus would believe their lies and fall for their schemes. Learn to be cautious during times like these. That is not to say that people can’t be genuine in their efforts to encourage, but at times there is an ulterior motive. If someone has to convince you how amazing you are, how they really are your friend, or how much they are for you, be cautious. As sinners, sometimes we use flattery to disguise our true motives.
Parents, how many times have your children approached you with "momma, that food was so delicious, best meal I've ever had, can I have..." or "Oh Dad, you're looking good! Have you been hitting the gym?? Hey, can I have..." The irony is that they were 100% right about what they said. But, they were not sincere. This brings us great concern, and that is, do we say the right things about Jesus but, with a lack of sincerity? How many times have we said "God, you're so awesome and powerful, I just love your creation. Can I have..."

The Question (14b) 
Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”

After all of the flattery and deceit, they finally get around to asking their well- crafted question – Is it lawful for Jews to pay tribute to Caesar? Should we pay our taxes or not? No doubt they had put much thought into these particular questions. They assumed there was no way Jesus could answer this question without doing harm to His credibility and reputation.
“Taxes” (kēnson) was a Latin word meaning “census.” It referred to the annual poll tax (head tax) demanded by the Roman emperor from all Jews since a.d. 6, when Judea became a Roman province, and the Jews hated the poll tax. Not just because of the price: 1 day wage. Due each year, but because of a pagan and oppressive Roman ruler charged them to live in their own country. It was political and morally offensive.

Regarding the two groups brought their own ideals to the scheme:
  • The Herodians
    • Held the government and the Roman state in high regard. They viewed the demands of the state as precedent over loyalty to God. Government was dominant over religion, and taxes must be paid to Caesar rather than God. Maybe what was most offensive was that they denied much of the supernatural, including life after death. 
  • The Pharisees
    • They were Loyal to Jewish independence and sovereignty, and their religious practices in higher regard than the state or even law. Religion should be dominant over government. They despised Roman authority and taxation.

Paying taxes meant acknowledging Rome’s power over their nation—something they were too proud to admit (John 8:33)—as well as supporting pagan idolatry. If Jesus approved paying taxes to Rome, He would be in trouble with His own people; but if He opposed the paying of taxes, He would be in trouble with Rome.

What a question!!
The problem is, you can't trick the Son of the living God!

A Prudent Answer (15-17) In response to their coordinated attack, Jesus offered a wise and compelling answer. Notice His Wisdom in verse 15:
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.”
We must remember that this isn’t the first time Jesus had dealt with accusations and attempts by those who opposed Him to discredit His ministry and minimize His influence. He was not surprised nor caught off guard by their tactics. Jesus knew their hypocrisy, and this is very comforting but also quite challenging. We hide nothing from the Lord. He is fully aware of the desires and intents of our heart. He knows what motivates our actions and the attitudes we possess. The Lord knows whether our behavior is genuine and sincere or if there are other motives behind our words and deeds.

His Witness (16-17a)
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.”

Rather than falling victim to their hypocritical scheme, Jesus responds publicly in great wisdom. He called for a Roman denarius and asked His accusers whose image it bore? They admitted the it had the inscription of Caesar on it. The Lord then challenged them to pay that which belonged to Caesar unto the state and to pay that which belonged to God unto the Temple offering. The coin someone produced was a Roman denarius. If it dated to the time of Jesus, it would have had the image of Tiberius Caesar on one side and on the other side it said he was the son of the Divine Augustus, Son of the most high. It literally said Tiberius was the son of god because the Romans claimed Augustus was a god. How ironic that the true Son of God would be holding a coin with that inscription. They were under Roman authority, receiving benefits from the Roman state, and thus were obligated to render the taxes levied by the state. Jesus taught them to submit to the rule of law and honor the government which held authority over them. Warren Wiersbe states, “Taxes are not a gift to the government; they are a debt we pay in return for services rendered (police and fire protection, social agencies, defense, etc.).”

God and Government: Which do we obey?
Their question was either/or

Jesus' answer: "Yes"

Our responsibility to our government can be summarized in three words. Pray, Pay, and Obey. We are commanded to pray for those who are in authority over us. Second, we should pay the taxes we owe, and third, we must obey the laws of our government. Obedience to the law is part of our Christian testimony.
Some have asked the question, “Do we ALWAYS have to be loyal to our government?”
Generally speaking, You and I should honor and obey human authority unless it contradicts God’s Word. There are at least two occasions when you may choose not to obey our government. If the government commands you to do something God’s Word prohibits, then you should obey God. Or, if the government forbids you to do something God’s Word commands, then you should obey God. By the way, I firmly believe that government should not mandate affairs of the church, and when we disobey government orders for the sake of Scriptures, this is called civil disobedience. There are always negative consequences to civil disobedience.

Jesus shifts the discussion from politics to principles. This is an issue of principle.
The Principle – We honor God by honoring God ordained establishments.

These principles remain for the church today. I know we don’t agree with how the government spends a lot of our tax dollars, but we are obligated to abide by the laws of the state. God ordained human government, and He expects us to abide by the laws and pay what is required of us.
Romans 13:1–2 (ESV)
13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Romans 13:7 (ESV)
7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Wiersbe re-phrases this passage - “Caesar’s image is on his coins, so they must be minted by his authority. The fact that you possess these coins and use them indicates that you think they are worth something. Therefore, you are already accepting Caesar’s authority, or you would not use his money! But don’t forget that you were created in the image of God and therefore must live under God’s authority as well.”

This is where we flip the coin.
There’s another coin. The coin of your life.

“Who’s image in stamped upon your life?”

We are all created in God’s image. The Latin phrase for that is imago dei. In the first chapter of the Bible we read, “So God created man in His own image...male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) Regardless of the cultural lies, we are ALL created in the image of God. We are all given a gender upon birth. The British evangelical scholar, Dr. John Stott, wrote: “We bear the royal stamp of God upon us, we are His kingdom’s royal coin. Jesus looks to us and asks, ‘Who’s image is this? Who made this life? Who owns it? Who gives value to it?’ Our Creator, of course. And Jesus challenges us, ‘This life is not yours. It was provided for you to use. But, it really belongs to someone else. So, give it back!’” While we are all made in Gods image, the question remains Have I given my life to Him and allowed Him to save me?

Their Wonder (17b)
And they marveled at him. These were literally amazed at the wisdom of Jesus.

They were speechless regarding His response. They had come to trap Him with a well-crafted question, but He did not fall victim to their scheme. What they hoped would tarnish His reputation became an encounter that revealed undeniable wisdom. One cannot encounter the living Christ and fail to be in awe of His presence. All do not respond, much like those who challenged Him that day, but His wisdom and power are undeniable. He is the sovereign of the universe and the living Word. He provided salvation and eternal life for all who come to Him by faith. When we stop to consider the greatness of Christ, we stand in awe and wonder of Him!
Live it Out

Who’s image is stamped on your life?
Are you giving to God that which is God’s?

  1. Your submission
  2. Your offerings & tithes
  3. Your time
  4. Your heart

You are enjoying the benefits of the One whose image you bear. So, render to Him and surrender to Him. Jesus knows your sincerity & your hypocrisy, so, simply put, words to Jesus are meaningless if we are only testing Him and not trusting Him.Check your motives, attitudes and desires. Guard your heart. Friends, it honors God when we honor the authorities He has placed in our lives.
Pray, Pay, Obey
Acknowledge God’s ownership over you.
Render and Surrender.
“The One that demands everything from us has given everything for us.”

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