Mark 12:13-37

Title: Not far, but still too far

Text: Mark 12.13-37

Introduction: we are in the midst of a sermon series on the authority of Christ. The larger series begins in chapter 11 and concludes at the end of mark and it deals with the last week – The Passion Week –of Christ. Our story begins for us in 11.1 where Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly on the colt of a donkey. This is a picture of the Messiah seen in the OT. If the series is about the Authority of Christ, then the temple is the theme throughout chapter 11 and it is the place where the confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders begins. It is here at the end of chapter 11 Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders as to what he’s been doing and why he’s been doing it. Who does he think he is? They want to know what authority he thinks he has and by whose authority he does what he does.

In Chapter 12 Jesus explains his authority in a parable, the parable of the tenants. This parable clarifies to the religious leaders that Jesus is telling them that they have been irresponsible with the authority granted them by God and that authority is now being taken away. Furthermore, not only is their authority being taken away, but Jesus is the authority of a new temple that is being built. And, Ephesians teaches us that we as believers are the new temple being built in Christ. And by the way, Jesus is the authority at that moment – they just reject him.

Beginning in 11.27 we read 6 controversy stories. The 1st two were covered last week. We’ll cover the next 4 today. And that’s a stretch, because the last one I will tie in next week with a message on the abuse of power by the religious leaders. We’ll spend more time on that passage next week, but it is included in today’s sermon.

These next four controversy stories

  • Tribute and Taxes
  • Marriage and the Resurrection
  • The Great Commandment, and
  • A Riddle: is David’s son the Son of David?

These 4 stories all deal with the religious leaders confronting Christ. The 1st two here are produced out of evil intent. They want to trip him up, so to speak. The 3rd appears to be more off the cuff or spontaneous and out of curiosity. This 3rd passage shows us that not all of the religious leaders were hostile to Jesus. In the 4th story, Jesus takes the initiative and asks them a question – a riddle really. It appears to stump them for they can’t answer him.

Transition: So let’s work our way through each story. 1st, making note about the oddities and contradictions in each one. Then, we’ll tie it all together at the end and presents some application for us today. 1st we begin with

I.     Tribute and Taxes (13-17)

exp.: rd v 13; the context of they is found in v 27; they sent them (Pharisees and Herodians) in order to trap him; them are two groups: the Pharisees and the Herodians; that’s weird! Note the oddity here:

  1. These two groups were on opposite sides of the political spectrum. The Herodians, named after Herod the Great, were huge supporters of the government. The Pharisees hated the interference of the government.
  2. 2ndly, notice their flattery; rd v 14; this may be true, but it isn’t what appeals to these guys! This flattery is extremely odd when you consider 3.6; they want to destroy him and they’re willing to come together, set aside their differences to defeat a common enemy. They hate him, but butter him up with flattery. It is a good thing that he isn’t moved by their flattery! Rd v 15a; he saw through their façade! Q.: why is this hypocrisy?
    1. Well, 1st because they just said he isn’t moved by these things, but we’re going to do just that! That’s talking out of both sides of your face.
    2. 2ndly, Rd 15b; one of them pulls out a denarius and hands it to him. Now, if they are so against the monetary system, isn’t it hypocritical to use it for their own personal gain. That they would even have one in their possession is hypocritical. They condemn these coins because they have an image on them; namely, Caesar. And yet, these Jewish leaders will use the very thing they condemn because it benefits them. You see that in v41-44;

exp.: and his answer is in line with the wisdom of Solomon. Render: it basically means to give back to Caesar what is his and to God that which is God’s.

app.: That’s is so insightful! With one answer he appeased both groups. They thought he would pick a side and alienate either the people or the government. V17 says they marveled at him!

t.s.: my guess is it is pretty hard to impress these guys. Nevertheless, they are. So group two steps up ready to pounce and trip him up with a question about

II.    Marriage and the Resurrection. (18-27)

exp.: rd v 18; Mark is informing his Gentile readers who wouldn’t necessarily know the philosophy and theology of Sadducees just what the contradiction or oddity about this confrontation would be. He tells us straight out: these guys don’t believe in resurrection from the dead. In Acts 23.8, Luke tells us a little bit more about these guys. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. They didn’t believe in these things because these were all apart of the afterlife, which they didn’t believe in.

  1. They understood Sheol to be the grave. And that was that. No afterlife. Annihilation.
  2. They only accepted the Pentateuch as Scripture. That’s what makes v 19 interesting – it comes from what they hold to: the teachings of Moses. They have no problem in their doctrine with v 19-22.

So, they didn’t believe in the resurrection. But look at what they say in v 23;

Do you see what they’re doing? They’re making fun of that doctrine – the resurrection. How silly they think it is and to prove it, they use what they do believe to make silly what they don’t believe.

Jesus answer: rd v 24; be careful now, your ignorance is showing! With the previous two groups Jesus answered in a very clever way. With these guys, he shoots straight. “You’re wrong and here’s why: You don’t know Scripture and you don’t know the power of God!” In v 26 he uses the Pentateuch, their Bible to refute them. He didn’t say I was the God of these men, but I am… meaning, present tense – they’re alive with me now. In v 24 he said they were wrong. In v 27 he says they are greatly wrong!

  1. You’re wrong because there is a resurrection.
  2. You’re wrong because there is no marriage – we’ll be like angels in the resurrection and they don’t marry!
  3. This is so cool, because Jesus affirms for us the existence of angels! – Of which they don’t believe! Psalm 91 says God commands his angels concerning the protection of his people. Jesus refers to them in Matthew 18.10 as guardians over children.

t.s.: having put these previous groups in their place, Mark notes a scribe who is taking this all in and is impressed with Jesus and his answers. He very boldly steps up and asks Jesus about

III.   The Greatest Commandment (28-34)

exp.: in v28 it reads lit.: Which commandment is the first of all? That means the first in priority. Jesus actually gives him two – and in order: The Shema, in Deuteronomy 6.4; and Leviticus 19.8; If you think about it, these two commandments sum up the 10 commandments. The 1st 4 deal with loving God and putting him in his rightful place in your life and the next 6 deal with your parents and your neighbors. This man’s heart appears to be in the right place and his intentions non-threatening. He’s probably a good man. My guess is that he lives this teaching out in his own life. You see that in how he responds to the answer Jesus gives; rd v 32-33;

But Jesus isn’t impressed with this man’s encouraging words; rd v 34;

ill.: this story mirrors the story of the rich young ruler found in Mark 10.17-22; good – Jesus is making a point here that his goodness isn’t enough; and in our story this morning, Jesus tells the scribe that he’s close, Oh, so close – but close isn’t going to cut it. Being close doesn’t get you into heaven.

t.s.: that fact is illustrated in this last controversy story:

IV.  Is the Son of David David’s son? (35-37)

exp.: rd v35-37; Jesus is clarifying for them that the Messiah is not going to be like they’ve expected. He will be different. This is important because he isn’t going to be like the Pharisees, the Herodians, the Sadducees or the Scribes. In 38 and following he then warns everyone there not to be like them at all because the Messiah won’t be like them.

t.s.: in the sermon on the mount Jesus warns that if your righteousness doesn’t exceed that of the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven

Conclusion: his point is simply this: being good isn’t enough – you have to be perfect, and perfection isn’t something we can achieve on our own. You see, you and I are imperfect, filled with imperfections. The Bible calls this sin. Romans 3.10 says that there is none righteous, no not one. And it goes on to say in 3.23 that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. You see, the glory of God is his perfection. No sin, No blemish, No failure, No mistakes, No wrongs. Perfect.

A lot of folks think that getting in to heaven is possible by simply being good – like the rich young ruler or the scribe in our story today. If you ask them: if you were standing at Heaven’s Gate and God said to you why should I let you into my heaven. Their answer would probably be, “Because I’m a pretty good person.” “I’ve obeyed the 10 Commandments–all of these I have kept since I was young.”

However, scripture is very clear: for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Not a result of works, so that no one may boast. There are two parts to this I’d like to focus on: 1st, grace is something that is received – not achieved! You cannot work hard enough to gain it, you cannot achieve some position to gain it; you are absolutely powerless on your own to receive this salvation. However, the Bible says that this salvation is the free gift of God. It is something you receive – that’s Grace.

Faith is something you do. A lot of folks think that faith is simply mental assent– Meaning you simply Believe something in your mind. However, Faith requires action. Let me illustrate it this way: if you jumped out of an airplane wearing a parachute, just because you had that parachute strapped to your back, it doesn’t mean you would land safely. No, each parachute has a ripcord. And the parachute will not deploy unless you pulled that ripcord. That’s what faith is: it is when you act. When you surrender your heart to Christ.

Romans 10.9-10 illustrates this so beautifully: because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. There are two parts: internal and external.


  1. While on earth, we have a great responsibility to live within the rules established by our government. I think that is true as long as they don’t conflict with the rules and laws God has set for us. As for taxes and tithes… keep that in mind. This world belongs to them, but I have to live here. That is there road out there. If I want to drive on it, I’ve got to get a license, register my car, carry insurance, pay taxes to fix their road, etc. But as for the things of God – don’t get so wrapped up in this world that you don’t render unto God the things that are God’s.
  2. Scripture is our authority and guide. We can’t be like the Sadducees and limit our theology only to the parts that we understand or that we can live by. We must abide by the whole counsel of God. It is the standard for our faith.
  3. Don’t trust in your own goodness to save you. Put your faith in the work of Christ, who died on the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty for your and my sin.

If you’ve never committed your life to Christ, I want to give the chance to do that right now.


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