Paying tax to Caesar

This is written by Matt Coombs. He is married to Pip and is on the leadership team at St Mary's with responsibility for all things pastoral, small groups and students.

Mark 12:13-27

Paying the poll-tax to Caesar
13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, 'Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the poll-tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn't we?'
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. 'Why are you trying to trap me?' he asked. 'Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.' 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, 'Whose image is this? And whose inscription?'
'Caesar's,' they replied.
17 Then Jesus said to them, 'Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.'
And they were amazed at him.

Marriage at the resurrection
18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 '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 raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?'

24 Jesus replied, 'Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising - have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob"? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!'


In these two stories Jesus comes under attack from three groups; firstly the Pharisees & Herodians, both of whom oppose the Roman occupation of Israel, and ask about paying taxes to Caesar; and then the Sadducees who question him about the resurrection (they didn't believe in the resurrection after death which made them sad-you-see). Sorry!

Both are trying to trap Jesus; either to get him arrested, or to reveal a flawed theology. If Jesus answered yes or no to the question about tax that would be tantamount to rebellion or revolution depending on whose side you stood. The Sadducees' ludicrous question is barely worth a response. Both times, Jesus refuses to play their game.

Attacks and challenges were always part of Jesus' ministry, but in Mark's gospel they intensify as he journeys towards the cross. His life and ministry clearly threaten some of their vested interests.

When our life reflects that of Jesus' it can feel threatening to those around us. Like Jesus, the closer we come to the cross, the more intense our personal attacks become. As Jesus said: "… If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own… you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you." (John 15:18-20)

Are things a little comfortable at the moment?
Or are things feeling opposed?
Is this a time to wake up?
Or is this a time take perspective of what is really going on?
What does it mean to come close to the cross for you?

To die to comfort and conformity.
To acknowledge your present suffering, and to see it for what it is.

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