Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mark 12:13-17 Pharisees and Herodians seek to catch Jesus in His Words

13 Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. 14 When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 “Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” 16 So they brought it. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” 17 And Jesus answered and 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 chief priests and elders having been rebuked by Jesus and His Authority through God’s Word now rather dubiously seek to continue their hostility towards Jesus through the Pharisees and the Herodians. Not that they themselves didn’t want to hurt Jesus, they had every intention of killing Him, but because they feared the crowds they sought to destroy Him subtly. Therefore rather than submitting to the Lord and trusting in Him as sent from God as His son to His vineyard; that is the nation of Israel of which they were then rulers and leaders over. They again redouble their efforts to try to undermine Jesus’ Person and Authority; this time through the Pharisees and Herodians. Early on the scribes who came up from Jerusalem to Jesus’ native Galilee tried the same; to destroy His Name and reputation amongst His own people when they slandered Jesus to the crowds there by saying that He was casting out demons by Beelzebub. For which Jesus said: 28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 “but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”— 30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Mark 3:28-30 So now they employ the same tactic, destroy the Man’s reputation and credibility amongst the people, all because they wanted to take vengeance on Jesus for His Words again them, but also to preserve themselves and their own places under Roman rule. Now that the chief priests went to some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to execute their latest scheme has implications beyond it. Since it is by their own evil desires to destroy Jesus that God will fulfill His plans for His Son, and thus His purposes through Him, for both the Jews and Gentiles. That is in the immediate, the uniting of deeply held and diametrically opposed religious and secular views in ancient Judaism with one common goal; the destruction of Jesus. Jesus’ stirring the pot to a boiling since His arrival in Jerusalem with His Messianic entry in Jerusalem on a lowly donkey with multitudes praising Him; then His cleansing the Temple before declaring a parable against the leadership there, is doing just, uniting all the various factions in Israel with one common goal, to crucify the Christ. So that through their hatred of God and His Son, God might establish His plans for the entire world. Not that they themselves in anyway thought they were hostile to God; they thought they were God's in their seeking to destroy Jesus (John 8:42-47).
So while they are scheming new ways to catch Jesus in His Words they are actually just giving Him opportunity to declare God’s Word, and thus establish the gospel within their midst to those who will hear and heed His Words. For God’s plans are never thwarted by mans. Neither by powers on earth, or by powers of hell. Believers then should always take that to heart for whatever earthly or demonic powers would do to try to thwart God’s plans for you, rest assured God can undue or turn on its own head into fulfilling His will for you, and for all. As God promises in His Word.

No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the LORD. Isaiah 54:17

Now we know what the Pharisees are; they are strict legalists that make weighty measure of little matters, and often little weight of what God says are the weightier matters (see Matt. 15:1-20; 23:1-39; Luke 16:14-18). The Herodians on the other hand were loyalists or supporters of the Herod's and their evil legacy. And thus they were driven by their lust for secular power and the perks thereof; not religious power. And in contrast to Pharisees, who were at least outwardly pious, the Herodians made no attempt to be so. Simply stated they were licentious in their lives and ruthless in their drive for power, and thus they emulated much of what drove Rome’s hierarchy, which they were subservient too under the Herod's. Now Jesus warns of both the leaven (i.e. doctrine) of the Pharisees and Herod. Herod’s leaven might be loosely surmised as “the ends justifies the means.” While the Pharisees leaven is "hypocrisy" that makes much use of the burdensome traditions and commandments of men while making little use of God's commandments when these conflict with their own, or their own agenda's. Therefore like the Pharisees the Herod's wanted their places maintained while they were under Roman rule. And that is what brings them together in an evil collaboration to try to stop what they perceive as a mutual threat to their mutual well being. Previously they collaborated once before in Galilee when Jesus healed a man with a withered hand in a synagogue; but there is was the Pharisees who sought out the Herodians (Mark 3:1-6). So the chief priests and elders in Israel in employing them play a shrewd hand. Combining strict religious authority, with loyalist secular, to find a fault with Jesus so as to bring an accusation against Him. For if Jesus acquiesces to the Pharisees generally held notions that submission to Rome is treason towards the God of Israel; then He loses all credibility amongst His own people that He is indeed the Messiah. While if He commands that His followers should not pay taxes to Caesar, then the Herodians have grounds for making a case against Him through Roman law. And thus the means by which the Pharisees and Herodians seek to entrap Jesus is very carefully thought out and worded. The basis for it coming in the form of a question of the legality of paying taxes to Caesar or not. Legality under the Law of Moses, and legality of not doing so under Roman law. And so they begin by asking Jesus: “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 “Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” vs. 14-15
Now their statement to Jesus that He was true, and that He cared about know one, that is He did not regard the person of men, is more then their acknowledging that Jesus did not show partiality too anyone. It is an attempt by them to trap Him by His own integrity in doing so (as the King James Bible Commentary states). For again if He acquiesces to either sides view then He loses all credibility; but if He remains resolute then they will have grounds to go before the Roman authorities to lay a charge against Him. And it’s all utterly hypocritical given that their “masters” having failed in their attempts in calling Jesus’ Authority into question; which they inwardly came to acknowledge as coming from God; are now seeking to assail His Sinless character through them. And this through men (the Herodians) whose lives were spent in courting the favor of the power brokers in ancient Israel by doing their ruthless deeds for them. Now the Scripture says of Jesus in repsonse to their question about paying taxes to Ceasar, "...But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” vs. 15 Now the verb translated knowing is a primary verb which means only “to know” unequivocally in the perfect tense. And being given in the perfect tense; which in Greek means it is a past tense verb with results continuing on into the present, Jesus already knew their hypocritical plot even before they hatched it. Yet Jesus requested that they bring Him a denarius which was the state coin of Rome, which must have delighted the Pharisees. Since Jesus did not request the regional currency issued by the Herod’s. An official coin that was devoid of a graven image in an attempt to keep the second commandment in the Law forbidding graven images; which was recognized by Rome and of course widely accepted amongst the Jews. No instead the Lord Jesus requested they bring Him the official state coinage of Rome. And having brought it to Him, Jesus simply asks them: “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” 17 And Jesus answered and 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. Vs. 16-17

Now Jesus’ response is the basis of what we have in Romans 13 as the definitive chapter on believers submission to authority because all authority has its origins in God. That is the essence of Jesus’ Words here to both the Pharisees and the Herodians and ultimately to us. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” For ultimately all governance is given by God. Therefore if this is taxes then pay them their taxes. For that is why the Lord Jesus Christ requested the Roman coin with Caesars’ image on it. To show them and us; that though unjust men may rule in governance; all authority has its origins in God and thus we are to honor the office, if not the man or women in it, for in so doing we honor God. Now to the Jews who frequented notions of, or actively sought out means to rebel against the then ruling Roman authorities and their agents, this was a radical departure from the thought of the day. Nonetheless submission to and honoring of all authority; whether this is parents, grandparents, school teachers; employers, civil magistrates, police or whatever other forms of governance we may encounter in our lives is our duty as Christians and is not only found in the Law of Moses but is clearly a stable of New Testament theology. That is why this remembrance day we must honor our nation’s troops because in many ways they exemplify the highest obedience to the first half of Jesus’ command in that they are willing to give their lives for the state and the citizens within. Therefore this Nov. 11 we who are privileged to live in Canada please take a moment and remember the past and current veterans. And as Christians let us put aside our opinions on the validity or non- validity of military service and instead offer up a prayer for their and their families well being; for their healing and comfort from the physical wounds and emotional scars that many have incurred and are enduring in their latest service of this great country of ours.

Now the second part of Jesus’ commandment render “…to God the things that are God’s.” Is tied with the first but is also independent of it; in that there are things that God requires of us that the state does not. And thus obedience to the state does not disavow these; just as obedience to God does not disavow our God required duties to the state; to pay our taxes, to obey and pray for all ruling authorities, and to live peaceably within our communities (1 Tim. 2:1-2; Titus 3:1-2). Therefore whatever things God requires of us as disciples of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ we should most gladly render. For the Christian duty is as Jesus said two-fold, rendering to the state and rendering to God therefore we are bound to obey God through both. Though I realize there remains the possibility that the state may command something of me that would put me into conflict with God. But living in Canada I have not yet encountered anything that the state requires of me that puts me into conflict with God. Though there are many things that the state sanctions as "lawful" that God's law does not and thus I will not such as homosexual "marriages", abortion, legalized gambling and pornography to name a few. For these things are clearly hostile to God's moral law and destroy and enslave the lives of men and women something that the state should not do, but does by it's sanction of these things. Which is why the church of Jesus Christ must always be a voice against such things; expecially where we have a voice because of democratic rule. Nonetheless the state does not require that I do these things. Therefore I'm not for church and state alignment, for the states agenda; and it's moral agenda will never align itself with the church of Jesus Christ and God's agenda which is to liberate men and women from sin and give them life through the gospel. Therefore I'm always for obedience towards God and the state, where the state does not require of me that which is hostile towards God as Jesus commands and the New Testament church clearly taught and exemplified (Rom. 13; 1 Peter 2:15-17; 2 Peter 2:9-10; Jude 5-10).

Now the most important thing that we can do in obeying God is to receive His Son the Lord Jesus Christ into our lives. For that is the beginning of becoming a disciple of Christ and experiencing the life changing power and presence of God within us. Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ invites us all to receive Him and eternal life through Him by repentance and faith, by turning from our sins and believing in Him as God’s Son who was willingly crucified for us so that we could be forgiven and freed from our sins through His death on a cross by which we die to sin with Him when we believe in Him having been baptized into Him (Rom. 6) and thus we have new and everlasting life imparted into us the moment we believe in Him (Eph. 1:13-14). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Cor. 5:17

Now Jesus’ crucifixion death was only the beginning of His restoring us back to God. For three days after His burial in a rock cavern tomb Jesus rose from dead so that by His resurrection from the dead He could vanquish death forever from those who believe in Him, as Jesus says: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me though He may die, he shall live." John 11:25 Therefore Jesus Christ’s resurrection life, is the life that He not only imparts in us who believe in Him, but is the life that believers are now called to live out by His Indwelling Spirit within us which brings us to life and union with Christ. For the Christian life cannot be lived out in one's own strength or power. Nor can ones own righteousness make one good enough to be accepted by God. It requires both God's Righteousness imputed to us, and His Power imparted into us by faith in Jesus Christ's Person. Therefore please consider our Lord Jesus gracious invitation to receive everlasting life through Him and His Work alone. 28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30

Scripture Quotations
The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

Other Resources Consulted
King James Bible Commentary on Mark 12:13-17
Nelsons Bible Dictionary: “Money in the Bible”

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