WHO WILL YOU SERVE?

MARK 12:13-17

In our study in Mark, he continues speaking of Jesus’ last week of His earthly ministry. On Psalm Sunday He came into Jerusalem on a donkey in fulfillment of what the Old Testament prophets spoke of regarding the Messiah. On Monday He cursed the barren fig tree, which represented the barrenness of the nation of Israel. He then went into the temple and drove those who were making a profit off of God, ripping the people off who came to worship God.

And on Tuesday He was questioned by the chief priests, the Scribes and the elders. They wanted to know by what authority He did all these things and who gave Him the right to disrupt their business. And Jesus gave it right back to them, asking them if the ministry of John the baptist was from God or man.

Jesus caught them, and they refused to answer. If they said John’s ministry was from God, then why didn’t they believe the things that John taught, that Jesus was a Messiah. If they thought John’s ministry was from man, the people would be upset with them because the people believed John was a prophet of God. So instead of seeing their error, they refused to answer the question, and they went away defeated and mad!

It is after this that Matthew tells us Jesus spoke 3 different parables to them that related to these religious leaders. These parables exposed their evil hearts and there was nothing they could do about it except repent, which they refused to do, so they left. But that is not the end of the story. When Jesus finished with these parables, we are told in Matthew 22:15-16, "Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians..."

Now it is time for a big pow wow, a high level meeting of supreme importance was now taking place. They were plotting on how they would catch Jesus in the words He said, how they might trip him up. You see, what was in their hearts, evil, is now being manifested in their lives. That is where we will pick-up our story this evening, in Mark chapter 12, beginning in verse 13.

MARK 12

VERSE 13

1. All the idea’s were presented at this meeting on how they might catch Jesus, and this is going to be the one they all agreed on. And it was a good plan as we are going to see. All the hard work they put into this was going to pay off, at least that is what they thought.

2. Now in this group that is sent out are two groups of people that hated each other. On their religious views they were on opposite ends of the spectrum, and yet for this cause they were united, they were going to take Jesus down. We saw this in Mark 3:6, as these same religious people were upset that Jesus healed a man who had a crippled hand on the Sabbath day. After that incident, we read "Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him." Mark 3:6.

3. Now to help you to understand where these two groups of people were coming from, let me share with you some of their beliefs, starting with the Pharisees. Now the Pharisees were the ultra-conservative, right wing, religious people and they were nationalists. They hated Rome with a passion and wanted out from that yoke of bondage.

On the other hand, the Herodians were the exact opposite. They were the ultra-liberals of their day. They really didn’t care much about religion or God. They only thing they were interested in was self, and they kept looking for more power. Thus, they sided with Rome because Rome had the power.

I told you, a strange thing to see these two groups working together for the same cause, but they were willing to ignore these huge differences in order to catch Jesus and bring Him down. Again, at this same incident recorded in Luke, we are told "So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor." Luke 20:20. That hatred, that evil that was growing in their hearts was now being manifested in their lives, in their actions! And despite what happened to the Sanhedrin in the previous encounter with Jesus, they continued this campaign against Jesus, this time by the Pharisees and the Herodians.

VERSES 14-15a

1. Look at all the sweet talking that they are doing. They are setting Jesus up for the kill! And really, what they said of Jesus was true. Jesus spoke the truth no matter how it affected a person. He held nothing back and He would not lie to save Him or anyone else. And they did pick a hot topic - TAXES! Even today it is a hot topic, no one really likes to pay them, only to receive the benefits from them. Rome taxed many different things and they also had the annual tax that was demanded by the Roman Emperor for all Jews since 6 AD, when Judea became a Roman province. And, of course, it was very unpopular because it typified the Jews subjugation to Rome. And it seems that it is this annual tax is what is spoken of here.

VERSES 15b-16

1. In Matthew we are told that "...Jesus perceived their wickedness..." Matthew 22:18. And in Luke 20:23 we are told that Jesus "Perceived their craftiness..." It is amazing to me that they still didn’t get it, that they in no way were going to pull the wool over on Jesus. In fact, as we are going to see, they are spreading out a net and they are only going to catch themselves in it. It is as David said in Psalm 35:7-8, "For without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit, which they have dug without cause for my life. Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly, and let his net that he has hidden catch himself; into that very destruction let him fall."

2. We are no different today. We do things that we think no one knows about, and we forget that the creator of heaven and earth know’s all and He see’s all, you can’t hide anything from Him! Hebrews 4:13 says "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

3. These religious men, these Pharisees and Herodians, looked very sincere. They looked like they were seeking a answer to their question to help them live as God would want them to. And I’m sure many of the Jewish people who gathered around were waiting to hear what Jesus was going to say, for they too hated to pay taxes! The thing to remember is it doesn’t matter how you say things, how good you look outwardly, if your heart is far from God. You may be able to fool people, but you can’t fool God!

4. As David was handing the kingdom to his son Solomon, listen to what he said in I Chronicles chapter 28, verse 9. We read "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever." He is encouraging his son Solomon to serve the Lord with a loyal heart, a perfect heart!

5. Now a denarius was the average day’s pay for a worker. And on this Roman coin was a picture of Tiberius Caesar Augustus, and the inscription on the coin read in Latin and said, "Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Augustus." You see, they saw themselves as god! On the other side of the coin was Caesar dressed in priestly garments and the phrase "Chief priest" was written in Latin, or PONTIUS MAXIMUS! If you remember, that is what Catholics call their Pope today! Not only did these Caesar’s consider themselves to be god, but the high priest. And thus, you could see how this irritated the Jews!

VERSE 17

1. What a great answer! Jesus tells them to pay what you owe to Rome, don’t hold back but give to Caesar that which belongs to him. And give to God that which belongs to Him - our life! Now that is great wisdom. You see, God desires our life, that we surrender it to Him. Paul, in Romans 12:1-2 said this, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Our lives are a living sacrifice unto God, pleasing in His sight. He wants our hearts, something the religious leaders were not willing to give to Him!

2. Also, we are to pay our taxes, give to our government what they deserve. Turn to Romans chapter 13, and lets begin reading in verse 1. It says "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor." Romans 13:1-7.

It doesn’t matter if the government is good or bad, for you or against you, you still have the duty to give to them their due, for God has established these governments! Now some like to argue that our government is wicked, but they forget what Rome was like. Rome was big into slavery, 80% of its people were slaves! They killed the innocent people by the thousands. Immorality was rampant. The taxes were heavy upon the people. America, compared to Rome, was like heaven. So if Jesus told them they were to pay taxes back then, so should we today!

3. There are only two reasons by which we are not to be obedient to the government that is over us. One is if they tell you to do something that goes against or contrary to what God has said in His Word. The second one is if they tell you that you can’t do something that God has called you to do, like sharing Jesus. When the religious leaders told Peter and the other men not to speak of Jesus anymore, they continued to do it. We read in Acts 5:29, "But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men." Also, in Acts 4:18-20 we read "And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." In America, that is not the case. We still have much freedom, but people, not wanting to pay taxes, will use any excuse not to pay, but God is telling us to give to Caesar that which is his.

4. And keep in mind the issue is not really the taxes, but who are you going to serve? Jesus said in Matthew 22:21, "...‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." All God wants is for us to believe and serve Him, to give our lives back to Him to be used for His glory.

5. Once again they went away, as Matthew 22:22 says, "When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way." They just kept shaking their heads wondering what went wrong. They thought they had Him but they got caught instead. Two groups of people have been shot down by Jesus, and just two more to go! You would think they would have learned that you can’t fight against God and win! But of course they didn’t!