Mark 12:12. And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.
Christ’s enemies could not injure him then, partly because the people heard him gladly, and were ready to protect him, but still more because the appointed time for his suffering and death had not fully come.
Mark 12:13-14. And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his word. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regard not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth:
They meant “to catch him in his words,” if they could, so they baited their trap with flattery. Whenever a man begins to flatter you, be on your guard against him. If he tries to commence a conversation with you by uttering words of excessive admiration, depend upon it that he admires something that you have got more than he admires you; and, therefore, be on the watch against him. Our Saviour must, in his heart, have utterly despised men who were so foolish as to imagine that they could entrap him by their flattering words. After that preface, they asked the questions which they thought would impale him upon the horns of a dilemma: —
Mark 12:14-15. Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give?
They knew very well that, if Christ said, “Do not give tribute to Caesar,” the Romans would have taken him up, and imprisoned him for preaching sedition, but, on the other hand, if he said, “Pay tribute to Caesar,” the Jews would have said that he was their enemy, and not a true patriot, or else he would not have admitted that the chosen people were bound to pay taxes to their Roman conquerors.
Mark 12:15-17. But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.
He had answered them with matchless wisdom without committing himself in any way.
Mark 12:18-23. Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them, for the seven had her to wife.
No doubt they thought that they had completely entangled him that time. How could he answer such a difficult question as that? But, you see, they had based their enquiry upon the erroneous supposition that things are to be in another state as they are here; so Jesus was able at once to answer them as effectively as he had just answered the Pharisees and Herodians.
Mark 12:24-27. And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.
His answer carried the war into the enemies’ camp. They professed to believe in Moses, yet they denied the existence of spirits and the fact of the resurrection; but Jesus Christ proved to a demonstration that God cannot be the God of the dead. If, therefore, he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still alive; and if he be your God, and my God, dear friends, we need not fear extinction; we must live, and we must live for ever.
Mark 12:28-34. And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.
He had so decidedly put all his questioners to the rout that no other man had the audacity to court defeat at his hands. The infallible wisdom of Christ had put all his accusers and tempters to flight.
Mark 12:35-36. And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, —
In Psalms 110:1, —
Mark 12:36-37. The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son?
They could not answer that riddle, but we can. We know that Jesus is both David’s son and David’s Lord; a man like ourselves, of the great human race, yet “very God of very God,” blessed be his holy name!
Mark 12:37-40. And the common people heard him gladly. And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
We often hear foolish people say “You must always preach in love, and not say anything against anybody; Jesus did not denounce anybody.” Oh, dear! then what about this denunciation of the scribes? Were Jesus here today, he would not be the mollusc creature that some people want us to be. He had a backbone, and a conscience, and a very heavy right hand, and he brought that hand down, like a sledge-hammer, upon cant and hypocrisy and error, and if we would be like Christ, we must be manly, and bold, and outspoken. They tell us this in order that we may easily glide through the world, and that all men may speak well of us. But so did their fathers to the false prophets; and do you suppose that we who preach God’s Word, are going to keep back any part of our testimony because it will bring us into ill repute with the ungodly? God forbid! We live for something higher and nobler than being fed upon the breath of evil men. If there be error in high places, if there be vice anywhere, it is the duty of the minister of Christ, in his Master’s name, to attack it with all his might. Here we find our Lord and Master plainly declaring that the scribes, the great masters of the law, were a set of pretentious hypocrites who robbed even the widow and the fatherless, and who would, in due time, “receive greater damnation.” Even so must the truth still be spoken, whoever may be offended by it.
Mark 12:41-42. And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, —
Doubly poor, because she was not only a widow, but in poverty: “a certain poor widow,” —
Mark 12:42-44. And she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; —
Christ measures what we really give by what we have left, — by the proportion which what we give bears to what we possess: “For all they did cast in of their abundance;” —
Mark 12:44. But she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
So she gave more than any or all the others did.