Mark 12:13-17 – Paying Taxes to Caesar

Christian MölkMark Leave a Comment

Mark 12:13

  1. Since they don’t dare to arrest Jesus because of the people, they now try to trap Jesus with difficult questions so that the people will turn against Jesus.
    1. This was not the first time that the Pharisees wanted to entrap Jesus (Mark 10:2).
      1. When Jesus eventually stood before the Great Council, an unsuccessful attempt was made to use this to have Jesus condemned to death (Mark 14:55-59).
  2. The “Pharisees” were a “revival movement” among the Jewish people who studied the Pentateuch carefully and tried to live their lives accordingly. The word “Pharisee” roughly means “the consecrated”.
  3. “Herodians” were followers of Herod Antipas who ruled Galilee and Perea and founded the city of Tiberias.
    1. This Herod was the son of Herod the Great who murdered the boys in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16).
  4. The Pharisees and the Herodians had little in common, but one thing they could apparently agree on was to get Jesus out of the way.

Mark 12:14

  1. From 6 AD, the Romans forced the Jewish people to pay taxes to the emperor.
  2. If Jesus answered yes to this question, it would mean that he accepted that the emperor was Lord of Israel instead of God, and then he would have the religious against him.
  3. If Jesus answered no to this question, it would mean that he wanted to rebel against Rome and then he would be classified as a revolutionary and political enemy by the Romans.

Mark 12:17

  1. Since the Pharisees and Herodians used the emperor’s coins, they had already accepted the Roman rule and thus they should also pay the Roman taxes.
    1. Had Israel given God what belongs to God, they would never have come under Roman rule.
  2. Reverence for Caesar was an important part of Roman society, and neither Jesus nor the apostles criticized it as long as Caesar did not go against God (1 Peter 2:11-17).
    1. But there was also another side to the imperial veneration that involved sacrificing to the emperor and thus worshipping the emperor as a god. The Jewish people had an exemption from this aspect of the imperial cult as long as they paid their taxes.
      1. This exception also applied to the first Christians as long as the Romans considered the Christians to be a Jewish sect. But eventually, when Christianity and Judaism parted ways, this no longer applied to Christians, leading to the martyrdom of those who refused to sacrifice to the emperor. This in turn led to internal Christian divisions between those who had refused to sacrifice to the emperor and those who had agreed to do so.
    1. So Jesus agreed that God’s people should revere the emperor and pay Roman taxes, but he did not agree to sacrifice to the emperor or to worship the emperor. So Jesus calls for giving money to Caesar but worship to God. In this way, both are satisfied.
  3. As long as the state does not go against God’s will (Acts 4:18-20), we should obey the state and pay taxes (Romans 13:6-7).
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