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Mark - Who is Christ?
A Bible Study Course on the Gospel of Christ according to MARK
PART 6 Jesus' Entry Into Jerusalem and His Last Works (Mark 10:46 - 12:44)

7. The Question Respecting the State and Tribute Money (Mark 12:13-17)

MARK 12:13-17
13 They sent some of the Pharisees and of the Herodians to him, that they might trap him with words. 14 When they had come, they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are honest, and don’t defer to anyone; for you aren’t partial to anyone, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we give, or shall we not give?” But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test me? Bring me a denarius, that I may see it.” 16 They brought it. He said to them, “Whose is this image and inscription?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus answered them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” They marveled greatly at him.

Christ’s enemies came to him pretending to be his disciples, to ask important questions. They did that to ensnare him, to file a claim against him, and to lay hands on him immediately. Both contradicting parties, the religiously fanatical Pharisees who refused to pay taxes to the Roman authority, and the soldiers of King Herod who cooperated traitorously with the Romans, came together to lay a trap.

It is no new thing for those who are at variance, to join in a confederacy against Christ. As such the enemies have, at all times, united and cooperated against those who believed in Christ. These enemies follow their master in craftiness, who taught them hypocrisy and lying. They question politely, with apparent humility, yet intend at the same time to destroy him whom they asked. Hypocrisy is the most impure sin. Therefore you have to examine yourself: Are you true and upright in your words and deeds, or do you pretend to be a friend to someone while you hate him from within?

Christ’s enemies had to confess that he was free and truthful and feared no man, but taught, in his union with to God, the way of love through the maze of selfishness.

They asked Jesus about a financial matter, for with money love ends for many. Money has power in this and not in the other life. Here in this life, covetousness and greed with envy afflict millions. Our economic systems are founded on capitalism or nationalization. Money has more power than we can imagine, and many are servants to money.

The Pharisees considered the tax imposed on them by Caesar as a sin. They hated it for they sacrificed for the temple and for their good deeds, while Herod’s soldiers supported the tax collection in principle, for they lived off it. They asked the meek Son of God: “Is it against our Law to give tribute to Caesar?” supposing that he would be trapped by his answer.

Then Jesus took a coin. He showed them the face and name of Caesar on it, to indicate that the coin did not come from the Jews, but was issued by the Romans, and said to them: “Pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay to God what belongs to God.” In this statement, he neither contradicted the Roman law, nor created the thought of revolution in his followers. The apostles also called for submission to the existing government. Christians are law abiding, and pray for the rulers who are answerable before God, knowing that the authorities entrusted to them by God are according to their worth.

In addition to obeying the political rulers, Christ stressed obedience to the great God. As much as God is greater than Caesar, we have to obey God rather than men. Finally, God possesses the Caesars with their money, and all the gold of the world, as he possesses all states and countries. They are like drops of water in his hand.

Christ is wiser than all the wise of the world. He is truthful and straight in his wise saying. His love to those who wish to trap him is a part of his wisdom, that he may guide them to repentance and submission to Almighty God.

Christ commands us to submit to temporal authority, and to pay taxes. Moreover, he calls us to submit to God, and to put our money and lives at his disposal. Do not take firm hold of earthly things, but trust your Lord, giving up to him all your life concerns. He who serves his Lord faithfully experiences that the Holy One never leaves him.

Our submission to the living God is the limit at which the right of possession ends. Where religion and the state are separated from each other, the Christian can serve his state sincerely and sacrificially. Yet he has to serve God rather than men, for the Holy One is the center and the upholder of the universe.

PRAYER: O holy God, you are the All-Ruling, and the merciful Almighty. Forgive our love of money and our excessive interest in earthly things. Free us completely from hypocrisy, covetousness, and envy, that we may trust you alone, and give up our concerns to you. Lead the powerful countries not to struggle for riches, wealth, and pomp, but to serve the poor, and allow the freedom of faith, that the thoughts of men may be changed from material concerns to spiritual life, from selfish covetousness to the service of love. Amen.


  1. What is the wisdom in Christ’s answer to his tempters?


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