Good morning, as you can probably hear, I have this horrible cold so I apologise for my hoarse voice. Jesus is clever, when I read this title for the first time on the one hand I thought, that’s a really strange sermon title and on the other hand I just kind of thought, well of course he is! Of course Jesus is clever, He’s God! But if someone walked up to you and said name the most clever person who has ever walked the earth, I’m not sure I’d think to say Jesus. And on reflection, one of the reasons why Jesus’ intelligence doesn’t burst out through the pages, is because he was so kind and so humble in it.
It’s very easy to box up our understanding of who God is and miss important and exciting parts of his character. Because he didn’t just create church building, stain glass windows, dog collars and worship leaders, he’s not just applicable to religion, he made every single atom that all things are created from, by himself. The world, is trying to do a good job of separating the church and trying to make it look irrelevant and one of the ways the enemy has done this is through knowledge and intellect. How many people have you heard say “I don’t believe in religion, I believe in science”, “do you know how much sense that does not make?! I believe God created everything, God created knowledge, God created logic, God created reason, God created science. Because God really goes out of His way to make sure he isn’t separated from his creation, right?
This whole concept is something the enemy has been using against the church, trying to push it into the box of fairy tales or ‘aww thats good for you’, ‘whatever helps you get though the day’. And just think, I’m not just “getting through” I’m living life in all its fullness, just like Jesus promises. And it’s this concept that the Pharisees and Herodians are just not quite getting.
So just before the this passage, in Mark 11, the high priests and religion scholars and leaders are getting pretty fed up with Jesus. When they demand to see Jesus’ credentials, he presents them with an impossible question. So at the start of Mark 12:13 when it says “Later THEY sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words’ “they” are the same high priests, religion scholars and leaders who are feeling like there pride is hurt.
This obviously isn’t the first time Jesus has outsmarted there trap, so they thought they’d send someone else to have a go. In fact we see the teachers of the law begin there dislike of Jesus early on in chapter 2, they begin there plot to kill him in chapter 3! So many times throughout the gospel of Mark, do we see Pharisees, religious leaders etc come up and try to question Jesus, rebuke his teaching and catch him out. But every time Jesus corrects there thinking. And this passage is a prime example of that.
So in this passage, something that stood out to me when I first read through and I think it is particularly interesting is the way the Pharisees and Herodians approach Jesus with there questions, and it is so important that as the church we recognise what Satan is doing in them at this point, because it’s the same trick Satan uses all the time, everyday, even now, especially now!
He takes truth and twists it, just enough to make it sound convincing, In fact one of my fav preachers posted on instagram the other day, he said ‘a half truth is a whole lie’. So the Pharisees and Herodians say “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity”, sounds like a compliment doesn’t it. But it’s just the start of there attempt at manipulation “You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are” They’re setting up there trap, trying to make Jesus say he pays no attention to Caesars authority, which is basically treason. They say, “but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” So they want Jesus to say that not paying taxes is the way of God, that it is God’s truth, so then they can claim, Jesus is a heretic. It’s so patronising and sneaky. And then they drop the bomb, “Is it right to pay poll-tax to Caesar or not?” Should we pay or shouldn’t we? Jesus, can see right through them: “Why are you trying to trap me?”.. I think Jesus was probably just disappointed in them. Watching there vindictive minds working to make him stumble. We see a couple of time in Mark gospel, Jesus knows in his spirit what they are thinking, and this is no exception.
God isn’t confined to the limitations of this world. He doesn’t panic when ‘big, important people’ ask the tough questions. Because the Pharisees were partly right, Jesus isn’t swayed by the man given authority of others. Jesus doesn’t fear man, he fears God. He knows, ultimately, that his father in heaven is in control and so He doesn’t need to submit to there ultimatum. “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.”
The Pharisees and Herodians have forgotten that in scripture God made everything and that means all of it belongs to God. They have been fooled by the powers and authorities in the world that they have any standing next to God. They have been so sucked in to materialism, jealousy and pride that they’ve missed the point.
Jesus’ response — both acknowledge but really limits what is owed to Caesar. Jesus implies that this coin is the sum total of “the things that are Caesar’s.”. What is owed to God, however, is a very open question, which demands reflection and leaves them in amazement.Isn’t that clever. To be able to answer in a way that completely outmanoeuvres there intention. But also asks question “what is owed to God” leaves me unable to form words of what just I personally owe to God.
And of course, as we’ve talked about, God made everything, everything belongs to Him, including Caesar and his coins!
But God’s not interested in those coins, or the social standing of people. And God doesn’t use his “all knowing” intelligence to show off. He’s interested in the hearts of His creation, he interested in relationship with his creation. And so he takes some of the most difficult and complex teaching and speaks in parables so that everyone could easily understand.
I found this quote on the fathers house website, which sums up what I was thinking,“For some reason, when we think of Jesus, we often think of a really sweet guy who said and did some really nice things. But we often fail to realize exactly how smart and competent Jesus really is. We fail to acknowledge him as having great ability and skill in every major field of research and knowledge. We know Jesus is great at telling us stuff that makes us feel good, but he also has limitless knowledge of the most important and practical areas of life? Do we acknowledge Jesus as the maestro or genius in each of our various professions?”
Paul says in Colossians 2:3 says in “Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”, all of it, not just theology. No just anything, all of it.
Isn’t that amazing, that no matter what situation we walk into, no matter how much of and expert we are on something. God has gone before us. We can know that whatever happens, God knows and understands and has all the wisdom required to sort it out. Every aspect, every tiny detail of whatever we walk into. And as God’s people, he is for us and his spirit lives inside of us.
And that makes a difference. When we walk into difficult circumstances. When we walk into situations with big important people asking big important questions. When we walk into any and every situation, we carry the living God with us and we can invite Him to speak through us and use us.
Have you ever been in a situation where a friend has asked for advice or someone asks you to pray for them and you’re sat there thinking ‘I have nothing to say!’ And suddenly out of your mouth comes words of kindness and love and wisdom? And you just know ‘wow, that was NOT me!’ Lord, thank you for using me and letting me be apart of that moment.
There have been a number of times on my faith journey where Ive felt trapped and just didn’t know what to do, when you’re presented with ‘yes or no’, ‘right or wrong’,’ leave or remain’ type of crossroads, sometimes I do it to myself, I can convince myself I have only two options and they’re both bad. Often, these cross roads can make you feel like you are trapped, just like the Pharisees and Herodians trying to trap Jesus. In my experience, God isn’t limited to my mind, and so when I give Him the situation and ask Him to speak. He can come up with many more solutions.
When we have only left or right to turn, God parts the sea. He does that because he loves you, he wants the kind of relationship with where you can ask him that, because he’s your dad, he wants to help. Nothings to big or too small. The God of the universes desire is to be apart of your everyday. You know the Tim Hughes songs, God in my living, there in my breathing, in my waking, sleeping, resting, working, thinking, speaking, hoping, dream, watching, waiting, laughing, weeping, God in my hurting, healing. Be my everything. And that works both ways, you are his everything.
When you reach those points in you’re life where you don’t know where to turn. Just as Jesus reached this point, where he was given this ultimatum. He knew the weight and consequences of his response.
In those times, God says, Be still and know I am God. Be bold and ask God for a parting of the sea moment. For the clarity of mind by stepping back and going this is yours God. and also the physical act of providing a way when there is no way.
I am in no way saying this is an easy thing, that it’s not complicated or messy. But He is God and He will always be God and He is your father and he will always be your Father. Making a way, when there is no way, that’s what he’s good at. He makes a way that doesn’t just solve the problem, whatever that may look like, but it also leads us closer to him. Isn’t that beautiful.So shall we stand and praise our God for who he is <3.