Sunday, March 26, 2006

Matt Messages - Coins, Questions, and Christ

“Coins, Questions, and Christ”
March 26, 2006
Mark 12:13-44

Jesus is in Jerusalem on the week in which He is going to be crucified, Passion Week.

Jesus has predicted that the Jewish Religious Leaders will arrest Him, condemn Him, hand Him over to the Romans, who will mock Him, spit on Him, flog Him, and kill Him [Mark 10:32-34]. And that is just days away.

On this day, Jesus enters into a feisty debate with the Jewish Religious Leaders. What I’m going to call: “Coins, Questions, and Christ.”

There were three main parts to the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Religious Council)–the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Scribes (or Teachers of the Law). In Mark 12, each of those parties (the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Teachers of the Law) approach Jesus and engage Jesus with a tricky question. And He takes on “all comers.”

Today, we’re going to listen to Jesus’ answers to their questions as well as the question and teaching that He has for them. And we’re going to draw five applications for our lives today.

Let’s begin with prayer.


Mark chapter 12, verse 13.

“Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, ‘Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. [Are you buttered up yet?] Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?’” Stop there for a second.

First, you need to know that the Pharisees and the Herodians were not natural allies. The Pharisees were very concerned about holiness, and you know what kind of a guy Herod was. But they were united in their common fear of Jesus.

So, they are sent together to try to trap Jesus in His own words.

They try to butter Him up by saying that they know that He can’t be buttered up and then they try to impale Him on the horns of a dilemma.

No one likes paying taxes. And the Jews under the oppressive hand of the Romans especially hated paying taxes. Here they were in their own homeland, given to them by God, and they were having to pay taxes to these foreign devils.

So if Jesus says to pay Roman poll-taxes, He might fall out of favor with the crowds who love Him so much. But if He says to not pay the Roman poll-tax, He’ll get in trouble with the Roman authorities. Either way, the Pharisees and the Herodians win.

But Jesus doesn’t fall for it. V.15

“But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. ‘Why are you trying to trap me?’ he asked. ‘Bring me a denarius [a days wage and the normal currency to pay the poll-tax] and let me look at it.’ They brought the coin, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this [literally, who’s image]? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar's,’ they replied. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.’ And they were amazed at him.”


Now, Jesus isn’t saying that Caesar (or the government) owns all the money and God doesn’t. We know that.

Jesus is saying that it is possible to submit to the government without compromising your submission to God. In fact, Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 say that it is part of our submission to God to submit to the ruling authorities.

And Jesus is forging His own third way between the horns of the dilemma.

Yes, the Romans are in power, so give them what they ask for.

But give God what He asks for!

Did you ever think about that last phrase in Jesus saying? I think it’s important.

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

What is God’s?

Whose image is stamped on the coin? Caesars.

Whose image is stamped on you? God’s.

What does God want? He wants you.

April 15th is coming, and it’s time to get your taxes prepared. Often this passage is seen as a biblical call to be honest and prompt in paying your taxes. And it is.

But it is also, deeper, a call to give yourself to God.

And I think that’s what amazed the crowd when Jesus answered like this.

Not only did He give a straight, unpopular answer to the question, but He took the answer in a direction that forced people to consider whether or not they were giving themselves to God as He deserved.

Do you think of yourself as devoted to God? Belonging to God? God’s rightful possession?

I think that one of the major mistakes in our thinking is that we often think of ourselves as own possession.

“It’s my body.”
“It’s my bank account.”
“It’s my bonus.”
“It’s my car.”
“It’s my relationship.”
“It’s my life.”
“It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”

But that’s not true. All humans (even nonChristians) are stamped with the image of God. “Give to God what is God’s.”

And Christians are double-stamped!

We belong to God through redemption. We’ve been bought back with a heavy price.

“Give to God what is God’s.”

Question. What have you been holding back? ....

So the Pharisees and the Herodians have lost round #1.

The Sadducees step up for round #2. V.18

“Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother.” Stop there for a sec.

The Sadducees were a powerful, wealthy religious party during the days of Jesus’ ministry. They only believed in the first 5 books of the Bible. And they didn’t think that the Book of Moses, the Torah, taught that there would be a resurrection from the dead. [That’s why they were “Sad, you see.” Ha, ha.]

Well, the Sadducees are going to try to trip up Jesus on this doctrine–the doctrine of the resurrection. They are going to do it by offering a case study that takes the Mosaic law of levirate marriages to its extreme.

A levirate marriage was a social institution created in the Mosaic law-code to keep inheritances in the family lines and keep the Jews from intermarrying with Gentiles. “If a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother.”

It sounds strange to us, but it worked. The firstborn from that marriage was considered the firstborn of the deceased first husband.

But the Sadducees are going to try to make fun of resurrection using it. V.20

“Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. [Levirate marriage enters in.] The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. [Levirate marriage.] It was the same with the third. [Levirate marriage.] In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. At the resurrection [ha, ha] whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?’” In other words, “Resurrection is ludicrous!”

They think they’ve got Him. What a dumb thing to believe that God is going to raise the dead! Ha, ha. Do you know anyone who thinks the same way? V.24

“Jesus replied, ‘Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? [You don’t know squat!] When the dead rise [there’s going to be a new state of things], they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

You don’t know what you’re talking about! You think that resurrection means simply life going on as it is. But the resurrection that is on the way is going to change a whole lot of things. V.26

“Now about the dead rising–have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!’”

You don’t know squat!

Notice how Jesus uses their own books against them! He appeals to Exodus 3 and the burning bush. God says that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And that means to Jesus that they are alive or at least will be alive again so that God can keep His promises to them.

The “power of God” is going to raise Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob one day so that they can enjoy the fulfillment of all of God’s I AM promises to them. Guaranteed. Because God always keeps His promises!

Jesus is saying that resurrection is real.


Resurrection is real.

The Sadducees may not understand it.
The Sadducees may make fun of it.
The Sadducees may not believe in it.

But Sadducees don’t know what they’re talking about.

Resurrection is real. Get ready to live forever.


Remember our FOREVER series of messages this last Fall?

Forever is coming. And it won’t be in a disembodied, floating spirit state.

Forever means new resurrection bodies.

Are you ready?

Resurrection Sunday is just 3 weeks away.

We will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. And Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection to come.

If you don’t believe that, you don’t know squat.

Strike One, Pharisees.
Strike Two, Sadducees.

The Teachers of the Law are up to bat. This time, the questioner isn’t so antagonistic. V.28

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ [Which is the greatest? Which one is the Head of the Commandments that all of the other 612 flow from? V.29] ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these.’”


After the word “love,” the key word in v.30 is ALL. A-L-L. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

He’s saying God wants all of you.

He is worthy of your all.
He deserves you all.
He is desirous of your all.

Love God with your all.

And right along with that (can’t be divorced from it, in many ways it’s how we do it!) is love your neighbor like you love yourself.

None of us have kept these Great Commandments.

So, right here we are forced to see and are helpfully reminded of our need of a Savior.

Only One has ever loved God with His All. And He died on the Cross to pay for all of the times we have not.

Only One has ever loved His neighbor perfectly. And He died on the Cross to pay for all of the times we have not.

The first thing that this commandment does for us is drive us to recognize our need of a Savior.

Have you trusted the Savior?
Are you thankful for the Savior’s perfect love of God and others?
Are you trusting in the Savior’s redeeming sacrifice for your unloving heart?

Your Blood Has Washed Away My Sin
Jesus, Thank You!
The Father’s Wrath
[For Not Loving Him With My All] Completely Satisfied
Jesus, Thank You!
Once Your Enemy
[Not Loving You At All], Now Seated At Your Table
Jesus, Thank You! (Jesus, Thank You, Pat Sczebel, 2003)

The first thing that this commandment does is drive us to recognize our need of a Savior.
The second thing this commandment does for us is to inform our behavior.

This is how we are to live.

Love God with Your All and Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.

Everything flows out of that.

When I have a hard choice to make, I like to ask myself this question, “What does love do in this situation?” “What does love look like in this situation?”

And when I get my best answer to that, I know what I need to do.

Love God, Love People, and [most of the time] you know what to do in any given situation.

Everything flows from that. Not that it’s easy, but it’s simple.

Love God with Your All and Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.

This begs the question again. What are you holding back?

This particular teacher of the law turned out to not be an enemy. V.32

“‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.”

Notice that these people come to Jesus to question Him, but in the end, He stands in judgment over them!

This man brought the toughest question the scribes have ever asked, and not only did Jesus answer it, but from a lordly position told this man that he was close to the kingdom.

And “from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.”

In other words, Jesus the won hands down. 1, 2, 3.

And then, He asks His own question. V.35

“While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, ‘How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: ‘'The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’' David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?’ The large crowd listened to him with delight.”

In case anyone disputes Jesus’ authority and mastery over the Scriptures, Jesus asks a question of His own to put the Teachers of the Law to shame.

Apparently, they were teaching that the Messiah (the Christ) was the Son of David. And of course, He is.

But they must have seemed to have the implication by that, that the Christ was merely the Son of David. But Jesus shows from Psalm 110 that the Christ is much more than that.

David, writing Psalm 110 says, “The Lord [YHWH, God] said to my Lord [David’s Lord]: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’' David himself calls [the Christ] 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?’”

He must not only be Great David’s Son, but Great David’s Greater Son–God’s own Son!

The Christ is God’s Son!


The Teachers of the Law thought they had the Christ neatly in a box.

But the Christ doesn’t fit in their box.

He is Lord.

Humble Yourself Before God’s Son.

If you have never humbled yourself, take note of what God is going to do in v.36. He is going to put all of Christ’s enemies under His feet.

Humble yourself now and you won’t have to face that destruction.

If you are a Christian, you are called to humble yourself before Christ, as well.

He is the master. And we are His servants.

He is God’s Son.

The Teachers of the Law were not humble. And Jesus condemned them for it. V.38

“As he taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.’”

Jesus hates pride in all of its forms. But religious pride is especially distasteful to Him.

Remember two weeks ago? True greatness comes not from being served, but by humbling yourself and serving others.

These Teachers of the Law had no Love of God and love of others.

All they had was love of themselves.

And Jesus says that they “will be punished most severely.”

Humble Yourself Before God’s Son.


There was a widow who did just that. V.41

“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. [And the crowd loved it! God must love those rich people!] But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. [1/64 of a denarius, 1/64 of a day’s wage, the smallest coins in circulation. But Jesus noticed. V.43] Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.’”

She trusted God with her all.

At this point, she loved God with all her heart, all her soul, all her mind, all her strength, and all her money.

She trusted God to take care of her needs.

My friend Russell writes, “She could have put just one [coin] in the receptacle and saved the other for herself and still she would have given more than the rich people in front of her. She would have given 50% while many of them were giving only 10 or 20%.

But she didn't do that. She put them both in. Jesus says in verse 44, ‘She, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.’ More than the money, I would say, she was giving her very life. In a statement of faith and trust in God's ability to provide, she put all her money in the collection box, saying–in essence–‘Here is all that I am Father, I place it in your hands’” [Russell Muilenberg, “Sold Out Devotion” An Unpublished Sermon].

Now, I don’t think that this is teaching that we are all to immediately empty our bank accounts and give them to some ministry (though I don’t want to under-emphasize the example and call to give generously and sacrificially that is present here).

But I think the key thing to get here is that she trusted God with her all.

It was a trust thing. Not an amount thing.

Again, anyone can be great in God’s eyes, it’s not the amount. It’s the faith.

God wants us all.

He wants us to trust Him with our all.

I’m going to ask the question a third time this morning: What are you holding back?

God’s stamp is on you. Give to God what is God’s.
You’re going to live forever. Get ready.
Love God with your ALL. And love your neighbor as yourself.
Humble yourself before God’s Son.
And trust God with your all.

What are you holding back?