GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 41
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2011|
|There are a lot of issues in life that you can ride the fence. There are a lot of things that you can waffle between. Christianity is not one of them. You have to come down on one side or another. You must choose sides.|
Heads or Tails
The title of the message this morning is Heads or Tails: Which Side Are You On? Heads or Tail: Which Side Are You On? There’s a lot of issues in life that you can ride the fence. There are a lot of things that you can waffle between. Christianity is not one of them. You have to come down on one side or another. You must choose sides. You must choose allegiance.
Unwavering is unacceptable in the Christian life. In fact, in the book of Revelation it says from the angel to the church of Laodicea, listen to that the Word of God says. I know your works. You’re neither hot nor cold. So because you’re lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. What’s interesting is the writer is saying the people waffling between being hot, devoted to the Lord and being cold, against the Lord are rejecting Christ and this morning we will see from the text, I want us to examine which side are we on. Where is your allegiance, church, today? Is it to the world? Or is it to the Lord Jesus Christ? Because if you’re not for the Lord, you’re against Him.
Mark 12:13 is the text we’ll consider, and as you’re turning there, remember where we were last week. Jesus is being attacked by the religious leaders. Last week, Jesus diffuses their questions and silences the crowd but they regroup. They don’t give up. And we see now a second attack. Verse 13: “And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. [They’re buttering Him up, if you haven’t figured it out by now.] Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.’ And they brought one. And he said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said to him, ‘Caesar’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at him.”
Three major sections just in this short chapter or this short section. Let me give you the first one. We see the assembling of false authority. We see the assembling of false authority, and I want to draw your attention to the kingpins behind the scene because that’s what’s happening here. There are kingpins behind the scene. Just a moment earlier, we notice the high priest, in verse 27. The scribes and the elders came to attack Jesus. By what authority do you have the right to do these things? Jesus silences them. Look at verse 12 of chapter 12, and they left Him and went away. Now, even though they failed miserably, they have not given up. They are regrouping. They are devising a different plan. They’re going to put a trap out for Jesus to fall into again. They’re coming up with a different scheme. And so they regroup.
Now, right out of the gate, you notice the word they in verse 13 and that’s the key word. Who are the they? Go back to 11:18. Let me show you the they. They’ve been gathering back in chapter 11 when Jesus entered into the town. It says in verse 18, “the chief priests and the scribes heard it [Jesus cleansing the temple] and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.”
The Sanhedrin are like the mafia. They are the kingpins. They are coordinating and devising and arranging and constructing plans to attack Jesus. Plan A doesn’t work so they go back and regroup, and Plan B is to enlist two distinct groups to come together to trap Jesus. We see the kingpins on the scene. We see the pawns on the stage because that’s what they are. These two groups are nothing more than just pawns. Notice the combination back in chapter 12—the Pharisees and the Herodians. Now, you should have realized that’s not a group that normally gets together, right? The same book or the same instance is in the gospel of Matthew and the gospel of Luke.
Matthew gives us an insight in chapter 22 verse 16: “the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him….” Now that’s interesting. They’re not sending the seasoned veterans to go after Jesus. They’re sending the junior disciples. Luke gives us another interesting insight. Chapter 20 verse 20: “they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.”
Generally these two groups are sworn enemies but they are coming together to try to trap Jesus. Now this is not the first time they’ve come together. Back in Mark 3, let me show you the first time early on in Jesus’ ministry where these two groups come together and collaborate. Look at verse 6. Jesus just got finished healing a man with a withered hand. Notice what it say: “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the [Who?] the Herodians.” What were they talking about: How to serve the Lord? How to be faithful to God? No. They wanted to kill Jesus, destroy Jesus.
Now the Pharisees were the right-wing elite. They were the religionists of the day. They believed that if they followed the Torah to the T that God would save them, God would revolutionize the country. God would take over and give it to them, give them the power and control. And so they were faithful unto the Lord. The Pharisees in the time of Josephus, the historian of that time, writes that 6,000 Pharisees opposed Rome by going up against Caesar and Herod, and because of their opposition, Herod decided to destroy them. And some of the key Pharisees died for their devotion. That’s the Pharisees.
On the other hand, we have the Herodians. These men love a pagan culture. They loved athleticism. They loved Hellenistic thinking. They loved the theatre. They loved the arts. They loved education. They loved to learn. These men were basically bent to support Rome because Rome supported them. The desire of the Herodians was for power. The desire for the Pharisees was for self-righteousness but they both came together to destroy Jesus. This is the false assembling of authority.
Notice what happens secondly. We see the group assembling under authority but they realize—we realize—they have no authority. But then they ask a question about authority. Write it down. We see the assembling of false authority. But then they have a question of authority. Jesus notices, first of all, hypocritical attitudes. Look at verse 14: “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God.”
They address Jesus as teacher. That’s a common term of respect, but they will not listen to what Jesus’ message is. They address him and almost flatter him. They’re starting to butter up Jesus with empty praises, as you see. But Jesus notices what they’re doing. They’re saying, Jesus, you’re faithful to teach the Word and will of God. We know that. You’re not swayed by appearances. This is what they’re saying, in essence. Jesus, you don’t act based on who a person is, whether a man is rich or poor, whether a man is trained or unschooled, whether a man is a slave or a master. It doesn’t matter to you. You’re going to speak the truth. And that is the truth for Jesus.
But Jesus sees right through it. They’re not sincere what they’re asking. They’re hypocrites. Have you ever had someone try to butter you up before asking you for something? Mom, you’re the greatest person in the world. In fact, you’re stern when you need to be with me and you’re soft when you need to be with me. Okay, Robby, what do you really want, right? That’s what my mom says to me. But that’s what they’re doing to Jesus. They’re trying to soften him up. They’re trying to trick him and ask him a question.
But Jesus sees right through the hypocritical attitudes. And he notices, secondly, they have a hidden agenda, write it down. We see hypocritical attitudes but Jesus sees the heart of it, which is a hidden agenda. After they softened Jesus us, they asked him the question, Is it lawful for us to pay [and here’s the key] a poll tax to Caesar or not? Shall we pay or shall we not pay taxes? That’s what they’re asking Jesus. They’re hoping to trick him.
Now, the question by the Pharisees had already been answered many years ago and this is how. The question and the sentiment of the people was that they oppose this tax. When Jesus was just a child in 6 A.D., there was a man by the name of Judas the Galilean. Have you heard of him? Judas the Galilean decided that the tax was leading to paganism and it was idolatrous. And so what he said is we’re going to come against Rome and we’re not going to pay the tax. So Judas the Galilean goes in town. He rounds up a bunch of guys. They band together, they unite together. They go up against Rome in 6 A.D. and guess what happens? They all get slaughtered. Rome decimates the place. They wipe out all the men.
Now you may be familiar with this attack because it’s found in Acts 5:37. Remember when Gamaliel said before the Sanhedrin, John and Peter are of God. But you remember Judas the Galilean trying to rise up against Rome and he died. If these men are not for God, it’ll die. But if these men are for God [what did he say?] it will not be stopped. That’s what he’s talking about. So the same sentiment as there, even though it had been squashed, the people still were mad. That same desire against Rome, that we don’t want to pay the tax was still there and I’ll prove it to you.
In 66 A.D., there was another insurrection or another riot. Guess what it was over. Paying taxes! And it caused them to bind together. They came together again. They went after Rome. Rome said enough is enough and then, in A.D. 70, it was ultimately what led to the destruction of the temple, and Rome said, I have had enough and they destroyed it. The census was required by every male and it caused a bunch of people to be mad.
This is the sentiment that’s happening in the people. And so what’s happening is Jesus is set up. He sees the assembling of the false authorities. Secondly, he sees in the crowd a question of authority. But notice what Jesus gives and write down the third aspect. He gives an authoritative response. It’s all about authority. Jesus gives an authoritative response. Now the crowd thought they had tricked him, but notice what Jesus does. He calls for a coin. Jesus says, look at verse 15, Bring me a denarius. They thought they had tricked him. It’s kind of like a catch-22 here. See, if Jesus says you don’t have to pay taxes, it’s an indictment against Rome, the Herodians are there to arrest him, and attack him and speak to Caesar to come and take care of him. If Jesus says you do have to pay taxes, the Pharisees are there with the devout Jews and they’re going to attack Jesus and say, Jesus, you’re making us do something that is against God. It’s almost like Jesus can’t win.
But they don’t realize they’re not messing with a man; they’re messing with God. Notice that Jesus in the text doesn’t have a coin and neither does Jesus—watch this—neither does Jesus’ disciples. They don’t have a coin. It’s almost as if Jesus is calling for a coin from his attackers to prove that neither Jesus nor the disciples are carrying these coins. It’s almost an indictment against the crowd. See, the crowd didn’t have to carry the coin. It wasn’t like a Hebrew shekel. You didn’t use it for commerce. It was a special coin only minted to pay the tax and by these people having it, it was an indictment on the people.
Listen to what Warren Wiersbe, the great commentator, said, Caesar’s image is on his coins so they must be minted by his authority. The fact that you possess these coins and use them indicates that you think they are worth something. Therefore, you’re already accepting Caesar’s authority or you would not use the money. But you were created in the image of God and, therefore, must live under God’s authority as well. Their question is about money. Jesus’ response is about commitment and this is the heart of the message.
I said all that to get to this: Jesus calls for repentance. He calls for a coin and then he calls for repentance. Look at verse 16, a verse that’s baffled many people. I’ve heard many people speak on this and preach on this in different ways. I’m going to share with you what I believe Jesus is saying here. Verse 16: “‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ [That’s the key.] They said to him, ‘Caesar’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Render [or give] to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at him.”
That word marveled is an interesting word. They were blown away at Jesus’ response. Tiberius, who was Caesar in Jesus’ day, had minted these coins with his picture on it affirming the belief —get this—that he was the highest religious figure in the world, that he was the one to be bowed down to, he was the one that was divine. This was offensive to the Jewish people because they understood the second commandment, which was what? Do not make a carved image or a graven image in place of who? God. Do not worship any other gods or make any image in the face of God.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t have the coin, like I said earlier. What’s interesting is the zealots of Jesus’ day, the zealous, rioting bunch, not only did they not keep the coins. The zealots would not even look at the coin because they thought it was sacrilegious. Why? Because they knew there was one God and only one God who was worthy to be worshipped. When Jesus makes the distinction between giving what’s Caesar’s to Caesar and giving what’s God’s to God, this is what he’s doing. He’s saying there’s a divided loyalty in the group. Your allegiance is between Caesar and God. You can’t ride the fence. And what Jesus is saying is this—Caesar is not the highest priest. There’s only one God and your loyalty, your devotion, and your adoration should be to God. And the people were amazed. I mean, they were blown away. They never thought that Jesus would say something like that.
The key to understanding the text is the word image. That word image is the same word used in Genesis 1:26: “God said, ‘Let us make man in our [What?] image. [Same word] Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”
Jesus is challenging the divided loyalties of the people and this is what he’s saying. Caesar with his image can have his coins; you were made in the image of God. The imprint of God is stamped upon your life and so you need to give God what is God’s. You’re aliens and citizens of this world because you are not residents of this place. And so if the coin bears the image of Caesar, give it to Caesar. If you bear the image of God, give it to God.
Now, what does it mean to give to Caesar what his? That’s the question because there’s a distinction here. To give to Caesar what is his, there are three ways or three application points. Write them down. Three things. I’m drawing this right out of the text. The first one is you need to obey. Who do you obey? As believers, we are to subjects ourselves to our government. Did you know that? Whether you agree with it or not, we are to subject ourselves to the government. Go to Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
Why do we subject ourselves to the government? Because we are thankful for the government. The road that you drove on to get here to church, we can thank the government for, right? The water that we used to bathe in last night—hopefully some of us—was from the government. We can thank them. The postage, the mail system was by the government. And in the context of this message and the book of Mark, Mark was writing to a Roman church, or a Roman group of believers. And in Rome, they were thankful for Romans who built bridges, Romans who built aqueducts. They built the water system. They had a military presence and they preserved peace. So they appreciated these things. So the civil government was instituted by God and we, as citizens, should subject ourselves to them.
But you don’t understand, Robby. What if there is an idolatrous, pagan leader who’s about to kill Jesus Christ unrightfully. Should we follow that government? Yes. It’s what he says. Because they’re about to kill Jesus and Jesus is saying give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. The first thing we should do is obey.
The second thing we should do is pay. Look at verse 6 of chapter 13. We should pay our taxes. “For because of this you also [Should what?] pay taxes [Wow. That’s in the Bible. That’s pretty amazing.] for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.” Even though the leaders would reject the notion that they are ministers of God—notice what he says—you pay taxes because the people in power are actually ministers or servants of God. They are being orchestrated and led by the Lord behind the scenes. The fact of the matter is it’s not an option. It’s an obligation. You, as a believer, must obey and subject yourself the government. You must pay taxes.
Thirdly, and more importantly, you must pray for our leaders. That’s a big one that we forget to do as believers. Go to 1 Timothy 2:1: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,…”
So many people are always quick to condemn and to criticize the President, the Congress, governmental leaders. And guess what my response to people now is? When people are criticizing any one of those groups, guess what my response is? Are you praying for their salvation? Because you should. Before we criticize, let us get on our knees and pray for these men and women, that God would radically save them and change them, that God would fill them with his Spirit and direct them, knowing that God’s in control anyway. God providentially is in control anyway.
But here’s a good question. Robby, when do we stand up against the government? Do we ever do that? Do we? Yes. As believers, our allegiance first is to God, second to the government. If the government ever forces you and I to do something contrary to the will of God and the word of God, we follow God and his word first. Period. That’s what the Bible would say.
A perfect example of this is found in Acts 4-5. John and Peter are brought before the Sanhedrin. They are attacked for preaching about Jesus. Notice what the Sanhedrin says, Acts 5:27: “when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying [Notice this], ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name [that’s the name of Jesus], yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’”
Do you see it? But frankly, that’s not what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is not interested in giving Caesar what’s Caesar’s. Jesus is stating that you need to give God what’s God’s because the people were not giving God what was rightfully his. Jesus is basically saying to the crowd you’re making a fuss over what’s Caesar’s, but you’re disregarding what’s rightfully God’s. You have divided loyalties. You guys are riding the fence. You’re not giving God all that he deserves. You’re like two sides to a coin. You’re waffling between two sides. What Jesus is saying is stop playing games. Give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s but, more importantly, give to God what’s God’s.
You know what Jesus is saying? Come in real close. Jesus is saying you guys are caught up in idolatry. That’s what he’s saying. He’s saying you, some kind of way, have fallen into idolatrous practices. Exodus 20 are the Ten Commandments. Listen to the commandments: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. [That means zero.] You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
You know, the rabbis said out of all the 613 commandments in the Old Testament, there were three that you could never break. In a life or death situation, you could break, if you had to save your life, you could break all the other ones, but there were three cardinal commandments you could never break. And here’s what they were: 1) adultery; you could never enter into adultery. Second, murder; never, by any means, life or death, enter into murder or engage in murder. And the third one was what? Idolatry. Under no circumstance were you to engage in idolatry. Why? Because there is one true God. He is worthy to be worshipped and you should never give your affection or your attention to anything other than God. It was strictly forbidden.
Now, let me correct our thinking of idolatry, because what you’re thinking of is like I used to think of. Robby, I don’t have a carved image on a shelf that I pray to and worship. That’s what we think of idolatry, right? But that’s not just only idolatry. Idolatry is more than that. It has to do with your devotion. Get this. It has to do with where your affection lies. Let me give you four ways that you can engage in idolatry. Write them down.
First one is this—you can seek security in something or someone other than God. Seeking security in something or someone other than God. Let me give you another one—desiring something or someone more than God. Idolatry. Setting our affection somewhere else. It is an unwillingness to part with something or someone for God. Our affections are somewhere else. And finally, when we pray to something or to someone other than God. Why? Because you and I are imprinted with the image of God and when we substitute something created for the creator, it’s idolatry. When we allow something to fulfill us with a desire or affection that only God can give us, that is idolatry. When we look to a political system, when we look to science or Hollywood or Oprah or anything in the world today to fulfill us, People magazine, to fulfill us with affections and desires and to change our system to follow the world and not the Word, it’s idolatry.
Think about it this way. If you had to make a list this morning of the things of greatest importance to the least importance in your life, just think of that list right now in your head…boom, boom, boom, boom. Think about it in your mind…1, 2, 3, 4. And if you’re honest with yourself and you make the list, if God’s not the top, it’s idolatry.
So what’s the walking point for us? Here it is. What are the idols in your life? Think about it. What are the things you are serving? Where are your affections in this world? Maybe it’s your job. Maybe it’s success in the world, right? Maybe it’s coveting other things. Maybe it’s making a name for yourself, right? Maybe it’s prestige. Maybe it’s power. Maybe it’s possessions. Maybe it’s a desire for a relationship. Maybe it’s the relationship you have has become an idol. What are the idols in your life this morning?
I want to encourage you, though. If you have ever doubted your self-worth in here, listen to me. If you’ve ever gotten to the place where you despise your own existence, I want you to remember you are made in the image of God. And God doesn’t make mistakes, right? And the greatest gift you can give to this great God is the prized possession that he has been wanting since he created you. Who is it? It’s you.
But the problem is because of sin, our relationship with God has been disfigured. The image of God in us has been marred because of sin. So you allow sin to take root in your life, it continues to separate you from God. Thankfully, for the Lord Jesus Christ, right, he came to the world, lived a sinless life, went to the cross and died, went into the ground and rose from the dead, ascended at the right hand of the Father, seated now by God. He lives today interceding for us, that if we repent and we trust in Christ, he becomes the once and for all sacrifice in our life. He restores the relationship we have with God. He gives us the true image of God. We are made in his likeness. And so I want to ask you this morning, I want you to examine the sin of your life. Is idolatry rampant in your life this morning?