Read Mark 12:13-17
When I was travelling in New Zealand a couple years ago a t-shirt grabbed my eye, in bold letters the shirt proclaimed, “I support two teams, the All Blacks and whichever team is playing the Wallabies”. It’s amazing how a common enemy can unite people, allowing them to set aside their own differences in order to rally against someone or some group they consider to be a greater enemy.
The Pharisees and the Herodians were traditional enemies. To sum up a complex historical political situation in a nut shell the Herodians were supporters of the Roman occupation and control over Jerusalem whilst the Pharisees vehemently opposed Roman occupation. Now taking seriously how passionately the Pharisees opposed a foreign governments’ occupation of what they considered God’s land, this was no small difference of opinion that they could easily ignore. However, on this day, their hatred and fear of someone else was enough for these two traditional enemies to work together.
No prizes for guessing the one that they were against – Jesus. The Herodians and Pharisees put their minds together to come up with a question certain to lead to Jesus’ downfall, and yet on the outside it appears to be such a simple question: ‘should we pay taxes’?
The Pharisees and Herodians believe they have laid the perfect trap – see there doesn’t seem to be any right answer that can get Jesus out of this one. Either Jesus says ‘no’ and sides with his people, particularly the religious zealots who opposed all Roman control, and is then arrested on political insurrection charges. The Herodians would have been only too happy to report back to the Roman government Jesus public act of political rebellion. Jesus’ only other option would be to say ‘yes’ and side with the political force that was opposing his people and therefore lose the support of the Jewish people.
Yet as only Jesus could, he gives an answer that silences everyone. He calls for a coin (I love the fact that Jesus didn’t have a coin on him and had to ask someone else to bring it to him!) and looking at the coin he asks the assembled mob ‘well whose face is on it?’. Every Denarius was stamped with the image of the Emperor and thus Jesus declares; ‘give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’. He could have stopped there but he doesn’t, he adds one more line that I believe would have stunned the crowd into silence, ‘give to God what is God’s’.
Here were people arguing over whether or not they should pay taxes and Jesus confronts them with a greater issue, just as every coin is marked with the image of its creator – the Emperor – so is every human being marked with the image of our creator. Genesis 1:27 tells us that humans have been made in the image of God, we bear the mark of our creator, and therefore just as we are to give to Caesar what is Caesar we are also called to give to God what is God’s, and so what is God’s? Every one of us belong to him and are made in his image and therefore we are commanded to give our lives back to him in humble obedience.
- What stood out for you in today’s story? Do you have any questions?
- What does it look like to give your life to God?
- What are area’s of your life that you try to keep control over instead of give them to God? What would it look like to give these to God?
- How has your life looked more like everyone else’s and less like what King Jesus says it should look like. Is there anything you can do to change this?
Pray For Each Other
If you get a chance during the week sometime read Mark 12:18-27 as we continue with Mark 12:28 tomorrow.