Mark 12:13-17: Later (while still in the Temple courts), some Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus, in order to try and catch Him in His words. They asked, “Teacher, we know you’re a man of integrity, for you aren’t swayed by man because you pay no attention to who they are; But you teach the way of God in accordance with the Truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay, or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus knew their hypocrisy.
Jesus: “Why are you trying to trap me? Bring me a Denarius and let me look at it.” So they brought Jesus a coin.
“Whose portrait is this? Whose inscription is this?”
They answered: “Caesar’s.”
Jesus: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”
- Herodians were influential Jews who favored the Herodian Dynasty. They were also supporters of Rome (from which Herodians received their authority). Their job was to maintain the authority and politics of Herod.
- Pharisees were in charge of the Temple grounds, and were concerned for religious rule and standards.
- The Temple was built by Herod the Great, one of his 5 temples, each to different “gods”. By this time, the Temple’s concern was no longer worship, but of political powers.
So the Pharisees, as mentioned in chapter 11, had dropped the ball on keeping with the holiness within the Temple, to say the least. Here, they’re teaming up with Herodians. So together, you have those whose purpose was to stand on God’s side, with those who oppose God and stand on Rome’s side. Herod, who was a tyrant, was also an obvious anti-Christ. So basically, you had supporters of the anti-Christ’s rule and people who were supposed to be supporters of God’s rule, yet didn’t. So all in all, both were on the side that’s against God.
- Trap: Regardless of which one Jesus was to go with, Church or State, either answer would incriminate Him.
- Hypocrites: pretending to be on opposite sides, yet actually both on the side of money. Also, as I mentioned above, it was actually the temple of Herod, not of God. The Pharisees claimed “of God”, but were neither serving nor glorifying Him.
2) The Trap: Let’s look now at how they began to set the trap for Jesus: Verses 13-14: “Flattery”
When somebody’s full of himself, or self-proclaim deity, then their own paranoia alone would see a frontal attack. But if you dance around them some with gifts and praises, then you’ll have a better chance of catching them off guard. Then, when the person’s all high in your compliments, they’re not expecting you to hit them over the head. But Jesus was never full of Himself, nor self-proclaiming. So He saw their attack from the beginning…their flattery didn’t work.
3) The Temple: Remember, this all took place within the Temple. As I mentioned in Chapter 11, no inscribed images were allowed in the Temple, other than that of the image of God (inscribed on our hearts). The coin of the day had the image and inscription of the Roman King. The Roman king was the leader of an Imperial cult.
- The Imperial cult was a religion based on godship of Roman Emperors (like the Egyptian Pharaohs). In fact, this cult had its origins in Egyptian, Eastern, and Greek practices were the kings were gods. Roman Emperors were regularly deified (claimed gods) after their deaths, appointed by an act of the Senate (much like the “Saints” in the Roman Catholic Church today). This attribution was seen as the highest possible manifestation of gratitude and honor, and had both religious and political function.
So back to the coin. The silver coin/Denarius bore the image of the deified Emperor Tiberius. The coin also had an inscription on it that said, “Augustus Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus.” This reflected both the deification of Augustus, as well as Tiberius’ desire to highlight his relationship to his deified predecessor…it’s a manifestation of the Anti-Christ. So to bring a coin into the temple courts was idolatry.
In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus tells them to show Him a coin or denarius, and they do, just as they did here in Mark…they were in the Temple Courts! Imagine, while in the Temple courts, Jesus asks, ‘Does somebody have a coin? Show me a coin.’
‘Sure Jesus, I have a coin right here…here ya go.’ Or even if they had to look for one, they still bright it right into the Temple to show Jesus…something the Pharisees, the keepers of the Temple and religious rule, should have caught immediately. But instead, they willingly brought an idolatrous image into the Holy Temple. This shows that their focus was already not on God, which defeats the purpose of their position (chapter 11).
4) Give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s, give to God what’s God’s:
- The coin: bore the words and image of Caesar, one who demanded worship of himself.
- Humans: made in the Word and image of God.We owe Caesar/the government taxes, so pay your taxes. What do we owe God? Can we out-give God? The Church belongs to God, and we were created to worship God.
Whose image is on you? Whose inscription is on your heart? Give to Caesar that which bears his image and inscription. Give to God that which bears His image and His inscription.
5) When Jesus went to the Temple, He was looking for worshippers, not to Himself, but to God, as the Temple was meant for. But instead, He found money changers. Money changers were buying and selling, which means that there was idolatry within the Temple Courts. Jesus also found proud keepers of the Temple: It looks good on the surface, but “God is not here.” Then the very people who care for the Temple came to Jesus with hopes to trap Him in His words.
The question though, is “What right do you have to judge Jesus and His words?”
God made a covenant with His people, and they’re not holding up their side of that bargain. Now they come and send people to judge Him based on their own sinful and rebellious hearts.
Whose Image is on you? Show it then! Prove with your actions that God’s Word is inscribed on your hearts!