Hello Bethel. This is Rick Simon, one of your Richland Campus elders and today it is my privilege
to share today’s passage with you, which is Mark 12: 13-34, which looks at 3 encounters that
Jesus had near the end of His ministry with the Jewish leaders who were trying to catch him in a
trap. As always, Jesus saw their hearts and answered them accordingly.
In the first encounter, (verses 13 -17) the Pharisees and Herodians came together to ask Jesus a
question. The Herodians were supporters of the family of Herod and of the Romans who gave
Herod the right to rule over the Jews. The Pharisees on the other hand, considered Herod to be
a usurper of the throne of David. After all, Herod wasn’t even a Jew, but an Edomite. The
question they came together to ask in verse 14 was “Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar
or not? Either a positive or negative response to this question would have offended one or the
other of these groups.
Instead, Jesus sees their hearts and discerns their motives. He instructs them “Bring me a
denarius and let me look at it.” They brought him a coin and acknowledged that it was Caesar’s
image on the coin. The coin was evidence of Caesar’s authority. The fact that the Jewish leaders
possessed this coin is evidence that they recognized that the coin had value and an indication
that they accepted Caesar’s authority. Otherwise, they would not be using his money! Jesus’
statement to them in verse 17 “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”
acknowledges that these Jewish leaders have a responsibility to live under both the authority of
God as well as the authority of the government. His answer is just as true for us today.
The second encounter found in verses 18-27 came from a group of Sadducees, a Jewish sect
that based their beliefs solely on the teachings of Moses. They did not accept teaching
regarding life after death, final judgement, angels or demons as none of these topics were
written about by Moses. So Jesus in answering their question points out their error, beginning
in verse 24 he said: “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power
of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like
the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in
the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of
Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ [d] ? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly
When God spoke from the burning bush he spoke in the present tense. Those patriarchs were
alive when God spoke these words to Moses. So, Moses did teach that there is life after death,
thereby demonstrating the ignorance of these learned Sadducees.
The next encounter came from a scribe in verses 28-34. These scribes had established 613 laws
to govern acceptable religious behavior. They loved to debate which of these laws were the
most important. This scribe may have been wanting to enter into debate with Jesus, but our
Lord, as always, gives a profound answer that ends all argument. His words, as always, are just
as true for us today as when Jesus first spoke to them:
The most important one,” answered Jesus, in verse 30 “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our
God, the Lord is one. 30 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: ‘Love your neighbor as
yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The scribe acknowledges the wisdom of this answer and Jesus – seeing his heart, that he had
showed some spiritual understanding, responds that he is not far from the kingdom of heaven.
In each of these encounters, Jesus looked at the hearts of the those asking the question –
rebuking those who were trying to trap Jesus by exposing their hypocrisy and their ignorance.
But when Jesus sees that the heart of the scribe is open to hearing spiritual truth, his answer is
a gentle and encouraging one.
The application for us is to check our heart condition.
Do you substitute your own judgement over God’s word?
Do you rebel against governmental authorities?
Do you rely on your own strength when you’re faced with life’s challenges?
Do you put God first in your life?
If we approach life with hardened hearts, God will recognize our spiritual sickness and we will
consequences. If, on the other hand, we have soft hearts, remain open to biblical truth and to
the Spirit’s promptings, we will be blessed.
Jesus, you see our hearts and know our deepest thoughts. Cleanse us of our wrong desires, our
hypocrisy and our ignorance. Help us to focus us on you and strengthen us that our lives may
look more and more like you. Amen.