Christ’s Power Over Every Need
The Gospel of Mark Sermon Series
I want us to begin our study of Mark 12:13-34 by jumping to v. 30-31, we will look at the heart of this body of Mark’s gospel because it will help us better understand it, “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.” In whatever theological, political, historical, or personal opinion you or I may have – everything that we are and do, should come from a complete love of God, and for our fellow man (regardless of color, nation of origin, level of income, or beliefs).
Are You a Republican or a Democrat? (vv. 13-17)
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.
With this first group (there are three separate encounters that Mark gives us), we see that they are sent (from a larger group), with the specific task of trapping Jesus “in his talk.” They are trying to get Jesus to make an unguarded statement, to slip up, that they could use against Him. They want a sound bite that they can replay again, and again, to destroy Jesus’ credibility.
Luke calls this group, “spies who feigned themselves to be righteous,” and their plot was to deliver Jesus into the hands of the governor. The Herodians were strangers to Jesus, and would have served as witnesses whose word would have gone further than any of the Pharisees with the governor. They are pretending to have this argument between their groups, and want Jesus to help them settle the dispute. They are trying to camouflage their true intent.
“The land of Palestine was under the rule of the Romans, and the Jews were essentially captives under the rule of the Romans. Some Jews went along with this quite willingly, and as a consequence were able to profit considerably (tax gatherers, etc.).” Other Jews resisted and fought against the Romans. This was a question about a poll tax imposed on the Jewish people by the Roman government.
By the time of Jesus, the poll had been in place beginning around 6AD. It led to a revolt in Jerusalem in 66AD, revolutionaries found a following, and eventually was one of the major factors leading to the destruction of the temple in 70AD. It also, led to a group called the Zealots – which was a political patriotic Jewish group.
The Zealots refused to pay the tax because it acknowledged Caesar’s domination over them. They would not even look upon a coin which bore an image. A Jewish person had to pay the annual tribute in the emperor’s silver coins. “This question was therefore an essentially political one, aimed to elicit Jesus’ stance with regard to the ‘Zealot’ ideology.
We have seen a hint of this ideology in Mark 6:42 ff. as the feeding of the feeding of the five thousand miracle was drawing to a close, “And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. 45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.”
Why did Jesus push the disciples to leave? Because there were a group there that were trying to force Jesus to start a revolution (according to their ideology), so Jesus stopped that group, but He didn’t want the disciples, at that point, to get caught up in the politics.
As a Galilean Jesus would not have been required to pay the poll tax, which applied only to those residing in areas under direct Roman authority (like Judea). But they want to use his answer against Him. This could have been his out to this question – it doesn’t affect me, so I’m not going to answer.
Judas of Galilee (not Jesus’ disciple) had led a revolt in 6AD and for him the issue had been as much theological as political. “The historian Josephus described his [Judas] calling to revolt in these terms: ‘He called his fellow countrymen cowards for being willing to pay tribute to the Romans and for putting up with mortal masters in place of God. The theology underlying such language is that allegiance to God and Rome as a pagan occupying power are fundamentally incompatible.”
There is no answer that Jesus could give that would make everyone happy. If Jesus said ‘yes’ then he would alienate the Jewish patriots. If Jesus said ‘no’ then he could be reported to the authorities as a rebel.
(v. 15) “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one.” The coin had a stamped faced of Tiberius, and said, “Son of the divine Augustus.” For a Jewish person, it would have been religiously and politically offensive – it was carrying around a ‘graven image’ and that a man was claiming to be God. The Jewish people avoided this by carrying another copper currency – but the Pharisees and Herodians have no problem getting their hands on a denarius. Jesus wasn’t carrying this idolatrous coin, but one them had one very handy.
But Jesus is actually making an even deeper statement, than just catching them in their hypocrisy, by requesting the coin. (v. 17) “Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” – Jesus is saying that there can be obligations to the state (honor to those who hold positions, paying required taxes, following the law), and to God, and both can be maintained at the same time.
To be loyal to God, does not necessarily mean civil disobedience (because the government is not theocracy). The coin bears the image of Caesar, what image does your heart bear? The Zealots would only be happy when the kingdom returns to a theocracy run by a king (either what we want, exactly how we feel it should be, or nothing).
Who are the Zealots of today? These are those that claim to be Christian, but cannot even look at, interact with, a society they feel has compromised their interpretation of Scripture. They do not completely love God, and they do not love their neighbor as much as they love themselves.
(v. 17) “And they marveled at him,” is their response to Jesus’ ability to escape their trap. This issue is much more important that Jesus doing verbal judo. How we deal with the issue of politics shows the world our heart towards God, and towards our fellow man. Bellevue Baptist Church exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and we must be careful that in our disciple making process ends where our personal opinions, emotions, feelings, begin. Our means of shaping the world is the gospel, when we get the voting booth and the baptistry mixed up – we are headed toward decline.
What Are Your Pronouns? (vv. 18-27)
18 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.”
First off, the Sadducees did not even believe in an afterlife, nor a resurrection. So, the fact that they design their question around the resurrection, “who say that there is no resurrection” Mark is showing us their hypocrisy and warns us that they are trying to trap Jesus. But instead of it being a political trap, this question is a theological trap.
The issue that the Sadducees bring up is “what happens with relationships, specifically marriage bonds, in the afterlife?” If a person marries, and then remarries, etc. who will be their spouse in eternity? They remove the question of whether the marriages are legitimate by crafting a scenario based on a passage of Scripture.
It is a paraphrase of Deuteronomy 25:5-6, “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.” There was the cultural belief that the man lives on through the continuation of the family line.
Jesus suggests that the earthly perspective is not an appropriate view in eternity. Individuals will not be bonded together, but will be individuals, like angels (Luke tells us that the Sadducees don’t believe in angels). Earthly life is temporary; therefore, children need to be brought into this world for repopulation. God has established marriage as the context, between a man and woman, to raise that child. But in heaven, this will not be the case.
This question focuses on a current controversy on which the dominant groups in Jerusalem were sharply divided. So, again if he chooses one side over the other, then Jesus becomes alienated from the opposing side of the argument.
But, Jesus seeks to respond not only to the surface level question, but also to the foundational belief underneath. He says they are wrong for a couple of reasons, “because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God
(v. 26) “‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?” – Jesus is referencing the scene of Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:6. God has been the guide, the protector, the sustainer, helper, etc. of the fathers, and God promises salvation and deliverance to His people. “If God has assumed the task of protecting the patriarchs from misfortune during the course of their life, but fails to deliver them from the supreme misfortune which marks the definitive and absolute check upon their hopes, his protection is of little value.”
If the death of these men (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) is the last word of their history, there has been a serious breach of the promises God guaranteed by the covenant.
(v. 27) “He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” – If a person thinks that this is all that there is, there is nothing waiting for them but for them to cease to exist, then Jesus says, “you are quite wrong.” If you believe that your decisions and actions on this earth, mean noting after you draw your last breath, then “you are quite wrong.”
Jesus has told the disciples that He will die, but will be raised again three days later, and if you think that his death burial and resurrection mean nothing to you, except how you live now, “you are quite wrong.” God is the God of the living, Jesus is alive, everyone who has every been born in this world is alive – if you know Christ, you have life (eternal), and if you are not saved, then you still have life eternal, but you are eternally separated from God, which is what the Bible calls hell.
Jesus is not cute in his response to the Sadducees, he says, (v. 25) “For when they rise from the dead” – where we spend eternity is not a question of if, but when. We are not talking about how many angels can fit on the head of a needle (who cares), but where you spend eternity is incredibly important to know and understand. God keeps His promises in this life, and in the life to come.
Who Are the Sadducees of Today? They brought certain presuppositions to the Scripture (anti-supernatural, no afterlife, no angels, etc.) so that when they opened up the Scriptures, they ignored what was right in front of them, because of the false beliefs they brought with them.
They deceive themselves by drawing a false conclusion from Duet. 25:5, and Jesus replies, “because you did not know the Scriptures.” When one does not believe the Word of God, or so mishandles it, one will not have “the power of God.”
Remember Satan appealed the Scriptures when he tempted Jesus – “the Saduccees are appealing to the Scriptures falsely; Jesus crushed their argument by appealing to the Scriptures truly.”
Where Should I Focus My Life? (vv. 28-34)
28 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.
Mark now gives us, yet another religious leader (a scribe) but their interaction is quite different from the previous two. The scribe is moved by Jesus’ previous responses, which leads him to ask his own question, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” The Jewish law included 613 commandments, so it is understandable that someone may want to group them and organize them in some way, and “He seems to be asking Jesus what he understood to be the fundamental purpose and character of the law.”
The rabbis often discussed which commandments were “heavy” and which ones were “lite,” and sometimes ranked certain categories of the law as more essential than others.
(v. 33) “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.’” – all is repeated four times, we are to be completely, wholly devoted to God. Everything that makes a person is to be fully devoted to the relationship with God. “The four following phrases are not condensed: ‘out of thy whole heart, soul, mind, and strength,’ but are spread out so as to put emphasis on each one.” Also, heart is first, then soul, then mind, and last strength.
The scribe, in spite of all the plotting and scheming to trap with words, and seeking to kill Jesus (that he is more than likely aware of) – this scribe is able to see past all out that hear Jesus’ words, see his reaction to the hate, and begins to open his heart to the Savior. The scribe is able to cut through the politics, the doctrinal differences, the hateful statements – all of it. Jesus’ response to this man is not the same as the others – He does not lump all religious leaders together. He is gentle, conversational, and complementary.
(v. 34) “when Jesus saw that he answered wisely” – the original language uses the word “nounechos, from nous (intellect) and echo (to have). Using the mind to good effect is what the adverb means.” “When Jesus saw that he had used his brain . . .”
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”— The scribe is so close, what is his next step? He needed to realize that he had not loved God nor his neighbor in the way God commands, he would realize that he has sinned against God. He needed a Savior – he was there right in front of him, “not far.”
 R. C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis, Minnesota; Augsburg Publishing House, 1964) 517.
 Larry W. Hurtado, New International Biblical Commentary, Mark (Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishing, 1989) 192.
 William L. Lane, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993) 423.
 Hurtado, 192.
 R.T. France, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002) 465.
 France, 465.
 Romans 13:1-17; 1 Peter 2:13-17; 1 Tim. 2:1-6; Titus 3:1f.
 The Sadducees are attempting to use reductio ad absurdum to prove their side of the argument.
 Lenski, 530.
 1 Sam. 15:22
 Larry W. Hurtado, New International Biblical Commentary, Mark (Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishers, 2001) 200.
 France, 477. One method was to judge by the severity of the penalty attached. Thus some teachers magnified the commandments about the sacrifices, other Sabbath laws, others the law and regulations about circumcision.” (Lenski, 535).
 Lenski, 538.
 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 1 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1930) 369.