Honor the King, Glorify the Almighty (Mark 12:13-17)

Honor the King, Glorify The Almighty (Mark 12:13-17)

I.) The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

We come to a text this morning which epitomizes the old saying: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Two opposing groups of people, the Pharisees and the Herodians, have joined forces to bring about the destruction of Jesus Christ.

The Pharisees were religious extremists of a self-righteous works-based system. They were advocates of the traditions of men, who hated the Romans and wanted Israel freed from its oppression. The Herodians were political zealots who loved the Romans. They cared nothing for the things of God, violated everything the Jews held sacred, and were devoted to Rome. They joined forces in Mark 3 after Christ proved Himself to be the Sovereign of the Sabbath and begin discussing “how they might destroy Him.”[1] Jesus Christ was not only seen as threat to the false religious system of the Pharisees, but the political system of the Herodians as well.

The Pharisees wanted Jesus dead ultimately because He professed to be God: John 10:31-33 makes this clear:

“The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?’ The Jews answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.’”

They know that Rome will not execute Jesus for reasons pertaining to Jewish theology, but if they present Him as a rebel of Rome they will. This is seen in Luke’s gospel when they finally do arrest Him and bring Him before Pontius Pilate. The first thing we see is that they believe Him to be guilty of blasphemy:

“And they all said, ‘Are You the Son of God, then?’ And He said to them, ‘Yes, I am.’ Then they said, ‘What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.’”[2]

They condemn Him for professing to be God in the flesh. The next thing we see is that they lie when presenting Him to the Governor of Rome:

Then the whole body of them got up and brought Him before Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.’”[3]

They do not present Him as One who professes to be God, but One who is a threat to the lord Caesar. By the way, their hypocrisy was quite evident when they asked for an actual insurrectionist to be released instead.[4] After Jesus evaded their initial trap they lied in an attempt to stir the Romans against Him.

Their initial trap is before us this morning, like a hunter attempting to ensnare an animal they sought to make Jesus Christ Rome’s enemy with a question:

“Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay or shall we not pay?”[5]

If Jesus says “Don’t pay,” that will incite the Herodians to report Him to the Romans. If Jesus says “Pay,” that will ruin His credibility among the people of Israel who hate Roman taxation.

It is almost as if they are attempting to do with Him, what He previously did with them when they questioned His authority.[6] They honestly think that they have Him between a rock and a hard place.

The Spirit inspired Psalmist accurately said:

“Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing?The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’ He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.”[7]

He who sits in heaven surely laughed and scoffed as His Anointed eviscerated their attempt to trap Him in a statement over religion and politics. The principles He established in so doing will help us to understand our responsibility to human government, and our obligation to God.

II.) The Attempt to Trap The Word in His Words

If it were not for the Scripture plainly telling us their ill intentions from the beginning, we would probably believe these men to be genuine as they:

“Said to Him, ‘Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth.’”[8]

Everything they say about Jesus is true: He loves and speaks the truth and does not allow the influence of others to sway Him in His teaching the way of God. He is not partial to any:

“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality…”[9]

“For there is no partiality with God.”[10]

The issue is that they do not actually believe what they are saying about Him, but are disguising their trap in flattery which God hates:

“The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body. Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross are burning lips and a wicked heart.He who hates disguises it with his lips, but he lays up deceit in his heart. When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred covers itself with guile, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.He who digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him. A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”[11]

“They speak falsehood to one another;
With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that speaks great things.”[12]

These men are hypocrites, and MacArthur rightly diagnoses the pathology of them:

“Religious hypocrites make awkward alliances against the truth, will say anything to gain their ground, and falsely pretend to pursue truth.”[13]

These men pretend to want the truth, only so they may get close enough to destroy The Truth, Jesus Christ.[14]

Unfortunately for them Jesus is not an imbecile:

 “He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”[15]

If we put the synoptic accounts together, we see that after Jesus perceived their malice and detected their trickery and:[16]

“knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, ‘Why are you testing Me?’”[17]

Matthew reveals that Jesus openly referred to them as hypocrites:

“Why are you testing Me you hypocrites?”[18]

J.C. Ryle says in his Expository Thoughts on Mark:

“Their flattering words did not deceive Him. He ‘knew their hypocrisy.’ His all-seeing eye detected the ‘potsherds covered with silver dross’ which stood before Him. He was not imposed upon, as too many of His people are, by glowing language and fine speech.”[19]

Their flattery may have disguised their intent and deceived the people, but it did not deceive the Christ. Puny man has yet again squared up against the One who created all things by the power of His Word, and they think they can trap Him in a statement. They do not stand a chance, because:

“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”[20]

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”[21]

“He made the world and He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature and upholds all things by the word of His power.”[22]

He is the One who created language at creation and confounded it at Babel.[23] They not only heard His claims of being I AM, but witnessed His miraculous works which validated such claims, and they think they ensnare Him.[24]

III.) Render to Caesar the Things that are Caesar’s

Let us look again at the question:

“Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay or shall we not pay?”[25]

It is important to know that the Romans taxed the people for many things such as lands and goods, and such taxation has been described as something:

 “Which bore upon Israel with such crushing weight, was systematic, cruel, relentless, and utterly regardless.”[26]

The people of Israel hated it. The tax that was most egregious to them was called the Poll-tax, which was not for land or goods but people up to 65 years of age. A days wage, a denarius, was to be paid each year by every person to Caesar. Without being explicitly stated, all who paid the tax were looked at as Caesar’s own possession. For a Jew to be thought of as the possession of a pagan ruler was blasphemous to them. Due to their skewed understanding that the Messiah would deliver them from Roman rule, the Pharisees expected Christ to refuse to pay the poll-tax. 

Remember, their chief objective is for Jesus to tell them to not pay this tax so that the Herodians will report Him to the Romans, and they execute Him.

So Jesus says to them:

“Bring Me a denarius to look at. And they brought one. And He said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this? And they said to Him, Caesar’s.’”[27]

What he did was draw them to acknowledge that the money they possessed and used daily was Caesar’s money. Since it was Caesar’s they should give back what is due to him as the sovereign of the land in which they reside:

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars’s…”[28]

The first principle established here is simple: subject yourselves to the governing authorities. The reason we are to submit to them is because God is the One who has established them:

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”[29]

You may recall what Peter says under the reign of Nero, who eventually had Peter and Paul killed:

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”[30]

Notice the will of God is that we do this for His sake, so His name is not reproached.

God’s will for our relationship with earthly authority is not only that we subject ourselves to them but that we pray for them.

The question that is often raised is this:

Q.) Is there ever a time for civil disobedience?

A.) Yes, whenever the government commands or forbids something which is contrary to the character, nature, and will of God.

1.) If they say “do” when God says “don’t,” you don’t.

2.) If they say “don’t” when God says “do”, you do.

Do not be afraid of human government:

“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.”[31]

“For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’”[32]

You either trust the workings of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, Holy, Righteous, Good, Just, Loving, and Sovereign God, or you do not.

If you do, you will learn to be content in whatever circumstance you find yourself.

If you do not, you are going to be a complete mess, and you are going to have a hard time with the next principle Jesus taught.

VI.) Render to God the Things That are God’s

Realize that even Caesar has his limits. We are to render to him what is temporarily due to him, but above all we are to render:

“To God the things that are God’s.”[33]

One should then ask:

Q.) What do we render to God?

A.) Whatever His likeness and inscription is on.

Q.) What is His likeness and inscription upon?

A.) You and the rest of humanity:

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”[34]

It is The Westminster Shorter Catechism that lays out the simple purpose of all our lives:

Q.) What is the chief end of man?

A.) Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Q.) What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

A.) The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. 

Q.) What do the Scriptures principally teach?

A.) The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

All of humanity is commanded by God to love Him with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength:

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen”[35]

All of humanity has broken this commandment, fallen short of God’s glory, and is deserving of His divine wrath for all eternity. All of humanity is now commanded by God to repent of their sins and believe the good news of the message of eternal life in His Son:

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”[36]

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…”[37]

“He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”[38]

 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”[39]

“(Christ Jesus) gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”[40]

All who believe must understand they no longer possess their own life, because it is hidden with Christ in God.[41] You are His, and your life is not your own:

“You have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”[42]

“You were notredeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”[43]

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”[44]

There is truly only one reasonable thing to do for those who have tasted of the mercy of God:

“Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.”[45]

Die to yourself every day and live to Him. Learn what He says about being a husband and a wife, a parent and a child, an employer and an employee, an official and a citizen, and obey:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”[46]

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”[47]

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”[48]

God is most glorified in the mundanity and monotony of life, and not the extraordinary and exciting.

V.) Honor the King, Glorify the Almighty

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

They sought to trap Him in a statement leading to His demise, but they are left “amazed at Him:”[49]

“They marveled, and leaving Him, they went away.”[50]

Through His answer Jesus evaded their trap, and exposed the hypocrisy of their union. I owe this thought to J.C. Ryle:

“He bids the proud Pharisee not to refuse his dues to Caesar, and the worldly not to refuse his dues to God.”[51]

To not give to Caesar what is due him is robbery. To not give to God what is due Him is defiance to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It is treason against the Most High saying:

“Not Your will be done, but my will be done!”

We are to be a people for the will of God as it is revealed in the word of God to the glory of God. The purpose of our lives is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever with the one desire of seeing His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. His will for us is that we both honor the king, and Glorify Him, the Almighty.[52] Forever we will sing of His worth:

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created…Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth…Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing…“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”[53]

[1] Mark 3:6

[2] Luke 22:70-71

[3] Luke 23:1-2

[4] Luke 23:19

[5] Mark 12:14b-15a

[6] Mark 11:27-33

[7] Psalm 2:1-4; Acts 4:25-27

[8] Mark 12:14

[9] Deuteronomy 10:17

[10] Romans 2:11

[11] Proverbs 26:22-28

[12] Psalm 12:2-3

[13] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Mark 9-16, John MacArthur; Pg 175

[14] John 14:6

[15] John 2:25

[16] Matthew 22:15-21; Luke 20:20-26

[17] Mark 12:15

[18] Matthew 20:18

[19] Sermon by J.C. Ryle; Mark 12:13-17

[20] John 1:3

[21] Colossian 1:15-17

[22] Hebrews 1:2b-3

[23] Genesis 11:1-9

[24] John 8:57-59

[25] Mark 12:14b-15a

[26] Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Merrill Unger; Page 1073

[27] Mark 12:15-16

[28] Mark 12:17

[29] Romans 13:1-7

[30] 1 Peter 2:13-15

[31] Proverbs 21:1

[32] Daniel 4:34b-35

[33] Mark 12:17

[34] Genesis 1:26-27

[35] Romans 11:36

[36] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[37] 1 Peter 2:14

[38] Colossians 2:13b-14

[39] Galatians 3:13

[40] Titus 2:14

[41] Colossians 3:3

[42] 1 Corinthians 6:20

[43] 1 Peter 1:18-19

[44] 1 Peter 2:9-10

[45] Romans 12:1

[46] Romans 12:2

[47] Colossians 3:23

[48] 1 Corinthians 10:31

[49] Mark 12:17

[50] Matthew 22:22

[51] Sermon by J.C. Ryle; Mark 12:13-17

[52] 1 Peter 2:17

[53] Revelation 4:11; 5:9-10,12,13

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