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Mark 12:13-17


Intro: Things are heating up in Jerusalem. 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.

        In this text, they come to Jesus with A Question Of Ownership. This challenge from these evil men has something to say to our hearts today. I just want to share two thoughts with you today. I want you to see The Jews And Their Attack and I want you to see The Lord And His Answer.

        The teaching found in this text gets right to the heart of Who’s we are and of Who we serve. The Lord has something to say to His people and to those who do not know Him. He has a word for your heart today. God wants you to know that He has a claim on your life. He wants you to know that you have an obligation to serve Him. He wants you to know Who you belong to! So, let’s move through this text together as I try to preach about A Question Of Ownership.



A.  v. 13a  The Conspirators – This verse tells us that the men who approached Jesus came from two very different groups that held opposing beliefs. The Pharisees were the religious conservatives of the day. They were very legalistic in that they tried to keep the very letter of the Law of God perfectly. The very name “Pharisee” means “the separatists”. Still, they were marked by pride and self-righteousness. They were often rebuked by Jesus because their religious activities were merely external in nature. They had no real faith relationship with God. Yet, the Pharisees were very nationalistic in their political views. They hated being under Roman rule and wanted to be free from it.

        The Herodians were a political party among the Jews who were supporters of King Herod. They enjoyed the benefits they received because of the Roman occupation. While the Romans controlled their country, the people enjoyed religious freedom, protection and prosperity. King Herod supported the Romans and sought to bring Roman culture to Israel.

        Normally, these two groups had nothing to do with one another. They were polar opposites. They hated one another. Yet, they came together for the common goal of destroying Jesus.

        There are two forces that have the power to unite people for either good or evil. Those forces are love and hate. I have seen love unite people for the common good and I have seen hate unite people in a quest to destroy others. These men were brought together in their common hatred of the Lord Jesus, Who they saw as a threat to their way of life.  


(Ill. Sadly, you see these same conspiracies in church life. People will unite in their frustration and aggravation. They will come together for the common goal of getting rid of a Pastor they don’t like, or of undermining people they don’t agree with. When those kinds of activities take place, they are certainly not of the Lord! They are a work of the flesh.

        The church, and church people, should be united by the bond of love. When we are controlled by love, we will seek good and not evil. May love be our calling card as we travel through this world, Mark 12:28-31; John 13:35; 1 Cor. 13:1-8.)


B.  v. 13b  The Conspiracy – These men came together in an effort to “catch Him in His words”. The word “catch” has the idea of “hunting, or of setting a trap to catch one’s prey”.

        They wanted to outsmart Jesus and get Him to say something that would get Him in trouble with either the Roman authorities or the common people. If they could get Jesus to offend Rome, they could label Him as an insurrectionist and Rome would take care of their problem for them. If they could discredit Jesus with the common people, He would lose His influence there. Either way, their problem would be solved.


(Ill. It is a tragedy when people seek to trap others so they can attack them. But, this happens far too often in our world. When a person listens to the words and watches the actions of another in an effort to find fault with them, that person has a serious spiritual problem. That is not the way of love. 1 Cor. 13:5, “…thinketh no evil.” Literally, this phrase means “takes no worthless inventory”.

        Real love does not: 1.) Remember injury 2.) Believe all it hears about another 3.) Look for fault in others! If this attitude were practiced in the church, it would solve about 90% of any church's troubles.

        The problem with the Pharisees and Herodians was that they were lost men who operated in the power of the flesh. They had religion, but they did not have salvation. That makes them the most dangerous people of all! I have seen more trouble caused in church by religious, lost Baptists than I have ever seen caused by the lost!)


C.  v. 14a  The Compliments – These men come to Jesus and they try to use a psychological trick. They come to Him with flattery. People will do that, won’t they? They will try to butter you up before they drop the hammer on your head. That’s what these men are doing.

        They come to Jesus and they call Him “Master”. That word means “teacher”. Then they begin to share their compliments with Jesus. Here is what they are saying. “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity, and that you do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not the kind of man Who can be manipulated, but you truly teach the way of God.”

        Everything they said about Jesus was true, but they didn’t believe a word of it. This is nothing more than insincere flattery designed to cause Jesus to drop His guard and say something stupid. Given the way these men have treated Jesus in the past, you can almost hear the sarcasm in their voices.

        This trick might have worked with an ordinary man, but not with the Lord Jesus. He knew their motives and He could see the condition of their hearts, v. 15.


(Ill. You would do well to watch out for those people who are always trying to flatter you. An ancient Greek Philosopher by the name of Antisthenes said, “It is better to fall among crows than flatters; for those devour only the dead -- these the living.” How true that is!

        There are people all around us who try to get us on their side through flattery. They try to ingratiate themselves to others through the use of excessive compliments. Beware of those who try to flatter you. They are dangerous and ultimately they will turn on you.

        The real danger with flattery was summed up well by Dale Carnegie. He said, “Flattery is telling the other person precisely what he thinks about himself.” Jesus could have believed everything good they said about Him because it was all true. We would do well to ignore the good things that are said about us. There is a danger that we might just come to believe them. As Adlai Stevenson said, “Flattery is all right so long as you don't inhale.”)


D.  v. 14b-15  The Challenge – With their sarcastic flattery out of the way, they get o the real reason for their visit. They ask Jesus about paying “tribute to Caesar”. The “tribute” was a poll tax that every Roman subject was required to pay each year. The poll tax was a “penny” or “a denarius”, which was a day’s pay for the common worker.

        For both of these groups this was a matter of the separation of church and state. The Pharisees believed that religion was superior to the state. The Herodians believed that the state was superior to religion.

        The Herodians probably did not mind paying the tax, because they liked all the benefits they received from Rome. “The Herodians held that government was dominant over religion. They would agree that taxes must be paid to Caesar rather than to God.”[i]

        The Pharisees, on the other hand, hated the tax, because they detested Roman rule and they recoiled against using a coin that bore a graven image of the Emperor. “The Pharisees believed that the state and all other power and authority were to be subject to religious rule. Therefore, they were strongly against paying taxes to a foreign king. Paying taxes to a secular government was an infringement upon God's right.”[ii]      

        They come to Jesus to ask Him of paying this tax is “lawful”, or allowed by God. They were trying to force Jesus into a corner. They thought there were only two possible answers, yes and no.

        If Jesus said “no”, they could label Him as an insurrectionist and have Him arrested for opposing Roman law. If He said “yes” He would lose face with the common people, who also hated paying the tribute money to Rome.


(Ill. Watch out for people who come to you asking questions about your beliefs. Some may sincerely be seeking truth. Most, however, have seen something in you that they disagree with. They are not coming for information, but for confrontation.

        It always makes me a little bit nervous when someone approaches me with an off the wall question. You can tell by the way they come to you and begin the conversation that they are going to try and prove you wrong.)



A.  v. 15b Involved Exposure – 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.


(Ill. How do you like that phrase, “But, He knowing…?” These men thought they would pull a fast one over on Jesus. They thought they could outwit Him and trap Him in His words. They never realized that He could see exactly what they were. He could see the very condition of their hearts. He knew they were nothing more than “hypocrites”.

        Did you know that He knows your heart as well? Jesus knows everything there is about you, He knows if you are saved. He knows if you are just playing church. He knows if you are just playing a part so others will think well of you. He knows where you truly stand with God! He knows you, Heb. 4:13.

        The question is, what does He see when He looks into your heart? Does He see saving faith and new creature? Or, does He see dead religion and nothing more? We may deceive one another, but we will never deceive Him. He knows the truth about us and one day, we will face Him in judgment, Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16.)


B.  v. 15c-16  Involved An Example – 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.

        When they brought the coin to Jesus, He asked “Whose is the image and the inscription?” They answered “Caesar’s.” On the front of the denarius was an engraving of the head of Caesar Tiberius, that was the “image”. In Latin on the front were the words “Tiberius Caesar, divine Augustus, son of Augustus.” On the back, in Latin, were the words “Pontifex Maximus, High Priest of the Roman nation.” Those were the “inscriptions”.

        It is no wonder the religious Jews bristled at using these coins. After all, they claimed divinity for Caesar and they claimed that Caesar was the High Priest of the Roman Empire.


(Ill. What amazes me so much about this is the fact that Jesus had to borrow a coin to use as an illustration. He is the “Lord of Glory” and He doesn’t have a “penny” to His name! These men come to Jesus asking Him about money and He doesn’t even have any! This reminds me of two important truths.

        First, I am reminded that Jesus became poor that I might become rich. 2 Cor. 8:9, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” He had nothing so that we might have everything, Matt. 8:20.

        Second, I am reminded that Jesus lived His life in this world as a Spirit-filled man. He did not need to have His pockets full of money to be content. He walked by faith and he simply trusted His Father to meet all His needs. That would be a great lesson for us all to learn today, Matt. 6:25-33; Phil. 4:19.)


C.  v. 17  Involved An Exhortation – Jesus answers their question in this verse, but not in the way they expected. They though there were only two possible answers: God and Rome. Jesus showed them that there were actually three answers. Let’s examine His response.

·         “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” – When Jesus held up that denarius, He saw, and the people confirmed, that it had the “image and inscription” of Caesar on it. In that day, coins that bore the image of a ruler were considered to be the property of that person. So, Jesus says, “This coin belongs to Caesar, give it back to him if he ask for it.”

        In this statement, Jesus recognizes the legitimacy of the state. I would just remind you that we have an obligation to honor the authority of the state in our lives, Rom. 13:1-7. God determines who our earthly rulers will be, and we have a responsibility to obey them. (Ill. The coming election – Vote the Bible and not the party then leave the results in the hands of the Lord. You cannot help who gets elected, but you have a responsibility for your vote!)

        The people who lived in ancient Rome enjoyed many benefits by being in that Empire. They enjoyed peace, protection, justice, safe travel, good roads, and many other things. All of that had to be paid for, so Rome taxed the people. The same is true today. We enjoy certain things in our society that must be paid for. Roads, schools, police and fire protection, clean water, military protection, etc., all have to be funded by the taxpayers. I don’t know of anyone who enjoys paying taxes. I don’t like the way government spends our tax dollars, but we are commanded to do so by the Word of God. I think we are over taxed, but until that changes, we have a responsibility to pay them on time and in full.


(Ill. When it comes to the Christian and government, there are four basic attitudes. Let me share them all and tell you which one I think is biblical.

1.  God alone is our authority – There have been people who would totally separate themselves from all worldly associations and go off to live apart from the world, from sinners and from human government. The monks in the ancient monastic systems come to mind here.

2.  The state alone is our authority – This is the view of secularism. In this view that state is the sole authority in a person’s life. This is the most dangerous of the four.

3.  God and the state are both authorities, but the state is dominant – People who hold this view pay God lip service, but believe the word of the state has more authority than the Word of God.

4. God and state are both authorities, but God is dominant – This is the biblical view. This was the view articulated by Jesus in these verses. Those who hold this view obey the state as long and the demands of the state do not violate the clear teachings of God. When God and the state are in opposition, God is the final authority. When the state stands in opposition to the Word of God, (i.e. When we are commanded to perform an immoral act; go against our conscience; stand against the clear Word of God, etc.) - we have a clear duty to oppose the state and obey the Lord, regardless of the personal costs.

        There is much more that could be said about church/state relations, but I do not have time to go into all of it today!

·         “And to God the things that are God’s” – The coin bore the image of Caesar and thus it belonged to him. Giving him what was his was not wrong. However, some things do not belong to Caesar. Just as the coin bore the image of a man; all men bear the image of God.

        Jesus is saying, “Give Caesar his money, because to bears his image. It is his! But, your devotion belongs to God, because you bear His image. You are His!”

        Every human being in this world was created in “the image of God”, Gen. 1:26-27. Thus, He owns us and He has the right to demand that we yield ourselves up to His will for our lives. Even if you are not saved, the Lord owns you by right of creation. If you are saved, He owns you by right of creation and by right of redemption, 1 Cor. 6:19-20.

        Just as Caesar has the right to demand what is his, God has the right to demand what belongs to Him. Every human has an obligation to give God their worship, their obedience, their praise, their love and their gratitude. We owe Him that for being Who He is and for all that He gives to us. (i.e. life, air, water, food, shelter, family, etc.)

        You bear the image of God! That image you bear is a symbol of divine ownership. God has the right to tell you how to live. He has the right to tell you how to believe. He has the right to demand your obedience. He has the right to demand that you receive His Son as your Savior!

        According to Rom. 13:4, the state has the “power of the sword”. When we fail to obey the state, there will be consequences, such as imprisonment and death. When we fail to obey the Lord there are also consequences. There is Hell for the unbeliever and chastisement for the believer.

        Jesus is telling those men, and us, that we have an obligation to honor the rule of the state, but we have a higher obligation to commit our lives to the Lord and obey Him and His Word. Yielding to the state is our earthly duty. Yielding to the Lord is our eternal duty!


(Ill. Are you truly saved today? Have you yielded your life and will to Jesus Christ? Have you bowed before Him and confessed Him as Lord and Savior and received Him into your life? Have you believed the Gospel?

        Are you yielded to His authority? Or, do you do as you please, working Him in when you feel like it? Do you live as one “owned” by the Lord or do you serve as your own master?

        If you are not saved, you need to come to Jesus and He will save you. If you are not surrendered, and many, if not most, are not, then you need to get before Him and yield to His will for your life.)


Conc: When they heard the Lord’s answer, “they marveled at Him”. Literally, they stood there with their chins on the chests. They came to trap Him, but He turned the tables on them and He trapped them. They could not argue with what He had said to them. They simply left.

        I do not what you to simply leave today. I want you to examine your heart and see where you stand with the Lord today. Do you trust Jesus for salvation? If not, come to Him now! Have you yielded the totality of your life to the control and dominion of the Lord? If not, come to Him now! Are you truly giving to God the things that are God’s?

[i] Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary - The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible – Mark.

[ii] Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary - The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible – Mark.


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