Mark 12:13–17 (ESV)
Paying Taxes to Caesar
13 And they sent
to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach
the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought
one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
And they marveled at him.
The key word in today’s reading is found in verse 13: “trap”. They were trying to trap Jesus. The proper definition for today’s usage is “any
device, stratagem, trick, or the like for catching a person unawares.” The problem with trapping Jesus is that he is God. He is all knowing and is well aware of the trap. He is not fooled. Now I grew up trapping animals on our
ranch. Trapping raccoons and opossums was not overly challenging. Coyotes and bobcats proved to be way more challenging. You had to neutralize your scent and had to conceal the trap totally. I would use a flour sifter to sift dirt over
the trap so that it did not look disturbed. A trick I learned from a Texas State trapper for bobcats was to hang Christmas tree ornaments (round shiny balls) in the air above the trap. The bobcat would jump up and swat at the balls and land in
the trap. Well, this is kind of what they were doing to Jesus, but not with a mechanical trap. To get to the point, they want Jesus opinion as to whether they should pay taxes. If he says no, then the government (today’s IRS) would
get him. Jesus looks at the person on the coin and says “render (pay) unto Caesar the thing that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” He dodged the bullet by saying to pay both! Pay your taxes to the
government, but give to God what is God’s portion. Really, everything we have belongs to God, so we are giving back to him only a portion of what is already his.
I pray: O Lord, I must admit
that I do not like paying taxes, but I do pay them. Giving to you comes easier because I know the money is being put to Godly use. Help me to be a cheerful giver to both, since you have established the government too. Help me to make certain
that the government is being good stewards of the taxes as well. Amen.
Mark 12:1–12 (ESV)
The Parable of the Tenants
12 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant
to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another,
and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is
the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.
10 Have you not read this Scripture:
“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
Today’s reading is talking about
God’s relationship between his children, the Children of Israel. Throughout history, God has sent prophets. The prophets have been beaten and killed. Then God sends his own Son, Jesus. Well... they beat him and killed him too!
God has a plan of Salvation for you. His prophets were always trying to get his children to turn back to God. His message is so important that he sent his son to get the message out and to fulfill the plan of Salvation for you. John 3:16 states:
For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes
in him should not perish but have eternal life.
I pray: O Lord, help me and use me to get your message out to others. Help me to plant the seeds of faith and to wait patiently as you work
faith in others. When you are ready for the harvest, use me Lord to bring in the harvest. You are the one who creates faith and causes it to grow. Help me to stay in your Word. Amen.
Mark 11:27–33 (ESV)
The Authority of Jesus Challenged
27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do
them?” 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” 31 And they discussed it with one another, saying,
“If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 33 So they
answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
So far, Jesus has really frustrated the chief priests, scribes,
and the elders. He is healing people and casting out demons. People are also amazed at his teachings. Yet they are the keepers of the Old Testament, the Law, synagogues, and the Temple. Here comes Jesus and he is threatening their lifestyle.
In today’s reading, they ask a very valid question: “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” This is a good question... and valid. The point is, will they really listen to his
answer and believe. I think Jesus knows the answer to this, so he answers their question with a question. “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven
or from man? Answer me.” This statement takes me back to the movie “A Few Good Men” where Jack Nicholson is sitting on the witness stand and blares out “You can’t handle the truth!” Look at their response to
Jesus question. “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet.
33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” When it comes down to it, they didn’t care about the Truth!
I pray: Lord, you are the truth. Help me to not confuse my ways
with your ways, you are God and I just a man. I repent of my sins, especially when I act as if I am God instead of you. Shape me and mold me according to your will. Amen.
Mark 11:20–25 (ESV)
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.
23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask
in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
It is interesting that Jesus says “whenever you stand praying.” Standing is a proper prayer position. There are other prayer positions, but there is nothing wrong with standing. If someone says it is wrong,
show them this verse! But, did you notice that you need to pray with faith... “believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Unfortunately... I must add that it will be given to you if it is the Lord’s will.
Otherwise, we would all be billionaires. Now in a serious note, verse 25 gives us vital information and at the same time... a warning. We ARE to be a forgiving people. Forgiveness is what we are about. Do you have someone you are not
willing to forgive? Let’s re-read verse 25: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” This is an eye opener!
It also dovetails into the 5th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Luther adds: “We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or
deny our prayer because of them.
We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve
nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.”
I pray: O Heavenly Father, forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass
against me. Help me to pray in the faith you have given me and to trust in your provisions. Amen.
Mark 11:15–19 (ESV)
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
15 And they came
to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything
through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes
heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.
I wonder if Jesus ever did
dishes? I don’t know, but in today’s reading... he certainly cleaned house in the Temple. At the same time, he ticked off the chief priests and the scribes. The Lutheran Study Bible states: “As prophesied in Mal 3:1–5,
Jesus purifies the temple of those who use religion to line their pockets. He does so in the temple court, where genuine worship has been disrupted. Today, Jesus challenges us to eliminate all such barriers to God’s Word in our lives and in our congregations.
He is the proper focus of our prayers, the reason for our service; He hallows us as the temple of His Holy Spirit.”
I pray: O Lord, help me to never use your name for profit. I get tired
of some television evangelist selling tickets to come and hear them preach God’s Word. Help us to never create barriers that might block others from hearing your Word. Salvation is a free gift, I say free, but was bought and paid for with
Jesus blood. His life and death on the cross has set us free. Amen.