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The relationship between church and state is one of the more heated topics in our society today, and it wasn't much different 2000 years ago. Todd challenges us to ask ourselves if we are being obedient to Christ's teaching and clearly explains Jesus' command to "render to God the things that are God's."
Habits and Huge Gifts: Two Things That Don't Always Please God
The Main Man, You, and the Main Thing
The Root of All Error and the Truth About Death
The Separation of Church and State
The 'Blessed Idiocy of Grace' and How We Must Respond
A Game God Won't Play
A Tree, A Temple, and A Timeless Truth: The Danger of Leaves Without Fruit
Not Your Typical Spring Cleaning - Jesus in The Temple
The Day the King Came and the Question His Followers Should Ask and be Able to Answer
Busting Out From the Crowd of Darkness: What You Want and What to Do When You Get It
What We All Want and How to Get It
Let's pray together and see if we can't be encouraged from the Word this morning.
Lord, thank you for today. Thank you for the things that you teach us in the small things. Sometimes things don't go like we anticipate they would, whether that be the climate of the room or the ability we have to project things the way we had planned to, but we're so grateful that you don't grade us on performance. What you always have been concerned about is where our hearts are at.
Again I say, right now, Lord, just help us to get our hearts right. We've asked you to open the eyes of hearts, and I now say in a spoken word what we just sang as a form of prayer. Wherever we're at, we want to know if you're there. Show us who you are. Reveal more to us. Deepen our conviction, and for some of us, break through the hardness that keeps us from acknowledging what is rightly yours. In Christ's name, amen.
One of the most famous snippets from the life of Christ, or at least one little quote that almost everybody has heard at one time or another, is where we are in Mark. If you have a Bible, turn to Mark, chapter 12. We're gong to start in verse 13, and we're going to read through this little section of Scripture.
Let me set some context for those of you guys who haven't been with us. We have been watching this person, Jesus. It's the last week of his life, and some of his conflict with those who are in control and in positions of authority is coming to a head. This is, historically, Wednesday of this, in effect, coming week. This last week of the life of Christ makes up about 20 to 30 percent of the stories in the Bible about Christ. They take almost a third of all that is recorded about Jesus, and they want you to know mostly about this week.
We've been walking through this week. We saw the very first thing Christ did to start out this week is walk right into the central place of worship. He turned over some tables, and he said, "This is a place that is no longer going to be necessary. The system of sacrifice which you all think is a means through which you are made right with God is about to be replaced."
We observed in here that this what not so much a temple cleansing, getting rid of the evil that was there, as replacing the system that, for years, anticipated and pointed toward a perfect sacrifice that would come. If you will, the sacrifice of bulls and goats, the innocent blood that was shed, these animals did no wrong, but the people who owned them and possessed them did. So God was showing them that offending him was something he took rather seriously. Innocent blood must be shed if they were going to somehow bypass the judgment that was due them.
Now that the substance was here, the shadow was no longer necessary. What do I mean by that? I mean that Jesus, when he first came on the scene, was identified as the Lamb of God who is going to come to take away the sins of the world. Now that the Lamb was here, the things which pointed to the Lamb are no longer going to be necessary. He was condemning the temple system, saying, "It served its purpose. It pointed to me, but I'm here."
This confounded the leaders. It confounded the people. They were astonished; they were amazed that anybody would walk into the one place that made the religion of Judaism unique in the world and say, "This system is no longer necessary." One of the things that offended them, we observed, was the fact that they had made it a very ethnocentric faith. God never intended this to be a faith just for Jewish people. He intended the Jewish people to be a light to the world, but they forbade anybody who wasn't a Jew from going near to God, and it made him angry.
"This is to be a house of prayer," he said, "for all nations." Then he said, worse than that, "This has become a den of robbers." We observed that a den of robbers is a place where robbers go to hide thinking they can escape the long arm of the law. God is saying, "The posse has come, and I know where you hang out.
You think that because you hide here in this cave of religiosity and this cave of formal sacrificial system, absent the heart, that God will not see you for who you are, which is a bunch of scoundrels who are hypocritical. You profess a belief in a holy God. You profess a need to deal with your sin, but you guys are committed to sin. You're committed to your system, which you have basically made a means of buying permission from God to do what you want. You see the sacrificial system not as a display of your faith but as the opportunity to indulge your flesh."
That amazed people, that this itinerant preacher, this Jesus from Nazareth, would come in there and say, "Hey gang, things are a-changin'." So the next day, when he goes back, the leaders said to him, "By what authority did you do what you did the other day that amazed all the people? In fact, if you haven't noticed it in the 'Jerusalem Times,' it was front-page news. People are still talking about it, so we want to talk to you. By what authority did you do that?"
Jesus takes them and says, "I'll tell you what. You answer me a question, I'll answer your question. By what authority did John the Baptist do his deal, perform his ministry, speak of me, call you to repentance?" They knew that they were caught, they were locked, and they couldn't respond because if they said, "John was from God," then John pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. The question then would become, "Why didn't you believe what John said?"
If they say, "John was not from God," they had a real a problem because the people acknowledged that John's message was pure, that John's ministry was right and authoritative and consistent with what God had said would come. So Jesus told them a story, and in that story, he laid out for them that there was a landowner who gave some people the privilege to be in positions of authority in this land. There was going to be a day when that landowner would return and expect his due.
These tenants were wicked, and they never sent the landowner his due, and, in fact, when the landowner sent representatives, they killed those representatives. Finally, the landowner sent his very own son, and they killed his son so that they might be the heirs. Jesus said to them, "What do you think that landowner would do to those wicked tenants? He's going to tear them to pieces, and, gang, you're rejecting me. God has sent me to you one last time to get you to get it right, and he's going to tear you to pieces."
This is a pretty honest conversation, and you can see why, if this is Wednesday, Thursday, they got him in the middle of the night, put him through a bunch of mock trials, and Friday, they nailed him to a cross. What you're seeing right here is a good way to get crucified by the time you're 33.
What you're seeing right here is a man who did not really concern himself with public popularity. He concerned himself with faithfulness to his task. What you're seeing here is a man who is a lamb who is led to slaughter, who will go without a whimper, who, though he could deliver himself, chooses not to but offers himself as the Lamb for the wicked. That's where we are.
They come to him again even though they should have learned their lesson, because every time they come to Christ… I'll make this observation. There's only one argument that Jesus loses in Scripture, and it's with a woman. You deduct what you want to from that, okay? From some Syrophoenician woman at the end of Mark 7, when she comes and says, "Heal my daughter."
Jesus says, "Hey, listen. We're not going to give what is holy to the dogs." The woman comes back at Jesus and says, "Well even the dogs are given what the kids won't eat." He says, "Woman, your daughter is made well. That's great faith." Only one argument that the Divine One lost, men. Be instructed by that, all right? Learn from him.
Here we have other men trying to show how smart they are, so they come back to him now. You're going to see that men who can't get along in any way can get along about one thing: they hate those who love Jesus. You have two guys. You have the Pharisees who were the Jew's Jew. They had a real problem with Rome.
In fact, when Jesus told the story about the landowner who had allowed some wicked men to have run of the land for a while, who never acknowledged who the land rightly belonged to, the Pharisees were amening Jesus because they thought Jesus, being a good revolutionary, was telling a story about Caesar, who had come and taken the land God had given to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants.
When Jesus was telling this story, they were going, "You know, I'll tell you what. That's exactly right. Preach on, baby, because when God brings us his Messiah, those Romans are going to get it." Jesus just did a reversal on them and said, "No, no, no. This is not about the Romans; it's about you.
God is the landowner, not you. You're the wicked tenants, not the Romans. The Romans are here because I sovereignly have put them here to send you a message. That is that you have turned from me and so no longer have my divine hedge of protection. Now you're about to get a whole lot more trouble. That's where we're at; are you with me?"
So they come to him again. You have these Pharisees who hate Rome and who agree with what the law said in Deuteronomy 17 that when you move into the land and you appoint for yourself a king, you should appoint for yourself a king who is from your own countrymen. You should not appoint a king or allow somebody who is not one of your countrymen to rule over you. So the good Jew felt like they should never acknowledge Rome's presence.
There were other Jews who were a little bit more expedient. They learned, not from Jesus of Galilee, but from one called Judas of Galilee, who in 6 BC, when Caesar took over the southern area where we are in Jerusalem in this text, rose up and said, "No tribute to anyone but God. No tribute to Caesar." So the Romans were very quick to take Judas of Galilee and deal with him, but his cry continued. There were a group of people who radical Jews constantly trying to subvert Rome. They were terrorists trying to scare off Roman rule.
There were others, though, who compromised with Herod. Herod was the ruler. He was from the long string of men from Edom. He was an Edomite who were enemies of God's people all the way through. They hated this guy being there. At the height of the Cold War, it would have been like Gorbachev becoming governor of Texas. We go, "No Russian. We have a hard time with somebody from the East Coast leading us. No Russian will govern us." They hated him.
There were others who said, "You know what? Those Russians have big tanks and sharp bayonets, so let's just align ourselves with them as best we can. We'll still do our own gig, but we'll just become Gorbachevians, all right?" Or, in this case, Herodians. These two couldn't get along about anything, but they could get along about one thing: Jesus was upsetting their applecart. He's about to upset yours this morning.
I want to just say this. In the same way these men conspired to rid themselves of Christ (they did it by nailing him to a tree), we today do it in all kinds of different ways, by suppressing what we know about him, by denying our amazement, by denying our astonishment at what Christ did, said, and accomplished. We nail him to a metaphorical cross just like they nailed him to a real one, if you don't acknowledge who he is.
They came to him, and they said, "Is it lawful to pay taxes?" There were three different major taxes. There was what's called a ground tax on one-tenth of all the grain you grew and on one-fifth of all the wine. The Romans weren't dumb; they took twice much wine as they did grain. Everything you grew, a tenth of it that was grain went to Caesar. A fifth of it that was on the vine went to Caesar. There was also an income tax: 10 percent of everything you earned. After you gave that and sold what was left, 10 percent of that went to Caesar.
Then there was this thing that really offended the Pharisees and the Jews. It was called a poll tax meaning, "Let's take a poll. Let's count the number of Jews who live there. It's a radical group of people. I have to put army folks there, and it costs me money to make sure they don't get too wild. So I'm going to charge them, per head, one man's salary for a day. If you're 14 to 65, you're a Jewish male, you have to give me a day's wage just to exist and live in this area."
This really made the Jews mad. This is the question they asked to Jesus: "Is it lawful? To pay or not to pay? That's the question." What you're going to find out is Jesus says, "Here's the deal. To pay or not to pay is not the question. To pay or not to pay is the test. You came setting for me a trap." In fact, the word they use there where it says, "they came to test him," is the word used of setting up a trap for a wild animal. That's exactly what they were doing. They were trying to capture this Jesus in his own words.
Look with me at Mark, chapter 12. "And they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him, in order to trap Him in a statement." I like what one Scripture says, in the NIV some of you have, it says, "…to catch him in his words." I want to make this observation. There are a lot of people who determine who you are based on what you say. There are folks who catch you in your words and determine that you are not of the divine family, that you are not a fair and good representative of God because your words are not true, pure, and right.
We all know what happens when you take the name of Christ. People observe you and hold you to a standard that is a right standard. In fact, the Bible says, "They're going to know you're mine by your fruits, not by what you say. They're going to watch what you do and what you say when you say you're mine. They'll determine from that if, in fact, you are rightly related to me."
In fact, he ups the stakes a little bit later in John and says, "They'll determine if Jesus is from God. if you take the name of Jesus and say Jesus has changed your heart but he hasn't changed your tongue, then people are going to catch you in a word. They're going to write off your faith, not just you, and say, 'You're a hypocrite." They're going to write off your God and say, 'He was a wannabe who can't change the hearts of people.'"
There's a whole lot made out there about this thing called speaking in tongues. Let me make this little side thought about speaking in tongues. The mark of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not that you speak in some ecstatic tongue. According to James 3, the mark of being a follower of Christ is that you control the tongue that you speak with.
What's your tone like? I am constantly on my face asking God to help me with my tone. What kinds of things come out of your mouth for laughs, for advancement? Do you build others up? Do you speak with salt, as it is, which makes people thirsty and wanting more? Or are your words cutting and biting, speaking with the Devil's tongue and not with the Divine One's?
These men expected to be able to make a decision about Christ by what came out of his mouth. Guess what. I speak not to my guests here. I speak to those of us who have taken the name of Christ. People make about a decision about our Lord based on what comes out of our mouths and what comes out of our hearts, with our hands, with our words.
They set a trap, and folks are setting a trap for you. They want to see if you're going to tell the jokes everybody else tells. They're going to see if you're going to compromise truth the way everybody else does, to see if the way you exaggerate your resume and things you have done in order to feel good about yourself just like they do, showing that you have not found the security and peace Christ said you would, so they don't have to believe in a Lord who causes them to come into account. "…in order to trap Him…"
Verse 14 says, "And they came and said to Him, 'Teacher, we know that You are truthful, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth.'" I want to tell you something. If I die and somebody wants to put something on my tombstone and they can put that on my tombstone, I'll take it right now. That is what I would call a tombstone verse. If they would just say, "Hey, friend, we know you don't show any partiality. We know that you teach the way of God in truth." Now that's not a bad way to die.
This is what the enemies of Christ were saying here. You're going find out what Christ thought about their compliment in a minute. They say, "Because you're this good man and we have a very tough problem here… We have the Herodians who have compromised with Rome. We have the Jews who are basically threatening the welfare of our people because they say we shouldn't pay taxes. Is it lawful to pay these taxes or not? Shall we pay or shall we not?"
"But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, 'Why are you testing me? Bring Me a denarius…'" That's a coin that represents a day's wage. "And they brought one," meaning they had one; Christ didn't. They handed him this coin, and he said, "Whose likeness and inscription is this? And they said to Him, 'Caesar's.'
And Jesus said to them,'Render[give]to Caesar[pay back to Caesar]the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's.'" **By this, you're limiting Caesar's right. It says the same thing that over 17 times in this gospel it says about this Jesus:"They were amazed[astonished]at Him,"** because they couldn't catch him, because everything he said was brilliant. It was almost as if the guy was divine.
What's amazing about this statement is that it gave the state a sacredness that it never had, but it also gave the state bounds it never acknowledged before in its entire existence. What this does is say, "Listen, Christians are not disloyal to the state." It does say that, ultimately, people who know who Christ is give worship and ultimate honor only to God alone.
Let me walk you through here… What I always want to do in texts like this is make this so applicable for you. I'll just tell you a little bit about why Jesus said what he said about that coinage. What Jesus is trying to unroll right here is simply this: there is an appropriate separation between church and state. You look back at history, and every time the church has had the state as its subject, the leaders of the church have become just as corrupt as the leaders of the state have been when they try and suppress the church.
There's a great statement that's long been quoted that says, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." That is why when you go back and look at the very beginning of the Scriptures, you see always a separation of prophet, priest, and king because no man can take ultimate and absolute authority and not be corrupted unless he is divine. Guess where the three offices of prophet, priest, and king are first, finally, and fully wed without corruption. It's Jesus.
Until then, this idea that Thomas Jefferson wrote that's not a part of the Declaration of Independence, that's not a part of our Constitution, but was in a letter to a friend, this idea of church and state separation is a good idea. It's a great idea. Jefferson was not saying that he was against the state allowing religion to exist in the public forum. In fact, during his lifetime, the state funded hundreds of thousands of dollars, which was millions by today's standards, in order to buy Bibles for missionaries to give to Indians who were unevangelized.
Whatever Jefferson meant by separation of church and state, he certainly did not mean that the state should not support and be for things which will ultimately make the state better. What he said very clearly, and what Jesus is saying here (and Jefferson knew it though he was not a follower of Christ), was simply this: the state should not be the church's muscle to force its belief on others, and the church should not be the state's puppet to justify its behavior.
Let me say that again. God never intended that the state would be the church's muscle to force people to believe. This is a failed experiment. See also Constantine who, in AD 318, about 300 years after Christ, said, "Christianity is an accepted religion." Then about 70 years later, Constantine's followers said, "You know what? It's not just acceptable; it's the law. If you don't believe in Jesus, you're going to get killed. Anybody who doesn't say what Christians say, they're going to suffer greatly." It was a failed experiment.
The state is never to be the church's muscle. You go back in history of the church in the last 2,000 years, and every time it happened, we have big, big trouble because men can't handle that kind of power. The purpose of the church is to strive to maintain a visible manifestation of the kingdom of God. The purpose of the state is to maintain order, peace.
Jesus is just laying it out right here and making it straight. He gave the state a sacredness it had never enjoyed, but he put boundaries on it that it never acknowledged. Now watch this. This is what's so great about our Lord. Do you know the number one thing that keeps people out of church, keeps people from following Christ? Hypocrisy. We hate it. Every single one of us hates it. When we see hypocrisy somewhere, we run from it as fast as we can.
I have good news for you. I just wrote this down in my little study this week as I was thinking about this. I wrote down, "If you're offended by hypocrites, you ought to be really encouraged by Jesus." One of the things we've said from the beginning we want to mark us as a group of followers of Christ is we want to be authentic in our faith.
That means that we acknowledge where we're struggling. We acknowledge that God doesn't love us and never could love us simply because we're better than other people, because we're not better than other people. We, by the grace of God, have had our hearts opened to truth and, by the grace of God, are being transformed week by week, day by day, through all the means of grace God gives us.
We don't ever look at somebody and say, "Of course God loves us more. We're better, brighter, and prettier." The fact is that we want this to be a safe place. You guys know on Monday nights we have an entire ministry set up to followers of Christ, people who love Jesus or people who want to know if Jesus can help them, who are desperately struggling with some of the deepest and darkest sins that meet our culture, whether it be homosexuality, whether it be addiction to pornography (and we have scores of that happening here), whether it be a heterosexual lust problem, whether it be an anger problem, whether it be an inability to rightly manage relationships that we become so emotionally dependent…
You need to know something. This is a church full of folks who are dealing with major issues, but we're going right to the one who wants to graciously deal with those issues. We're extending grace to each other as we say, "This is way wrong in my life, but there are times when, I'm telling you, a magnet doesn't do justice to it. I'm sucked to it like light to a black hole, and I find myself doing the very thing I don't want to do. Is there hope? Is there somebody who can deal with my hurt and the hurt I've caused others? Is there a way to change my habits?"
Monday nights, 6:30, totally anonymous. There's a place for you. You know what? That's not just for folks who are on the dark, dark end of stuff. That's for people who are saying, "I can't even be consistent in the way I control my emotions." In all our Community Groups and all our discipleship stuff, we're begging people to say, "Quit pretending that your marriage is working when it's not. Come to others and say, 'Can you help me with the things that working in your marriage? Would you help us be the people we want to be?'"
One of the things that a watermark is is a form of authenticity. The last thing God wants us to be that looks like we have our act together instead of looking like we found a Savior. If you hate hypocrites, you ought to really be encouraged by Christ. Look what it says right there in Mark 12:15. It says, "But He, knowing their hypocrisy…"
Proverbs 16 lays it out for us this way. It says, "All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives." These guys came to him, and they were flattering him. They were saying all the right things. "We know that you're truthful and defer to no man. We know that you teach the way of God in truth."
Do you know the difference between a flatterer and a slanderer? A flatterer is somebody who will not say behind your back what he'll say to your face. That's a flatterer. A flatterer is somebody who will bow before you. I think it's the Persians who have a proverb I love that says, "Beware of the man who bows at your feet. He might be reaching for the corner of the rug."
I know some of our high school students are in here. I know college students are. Our single friends need to hear this again. Hey, gals? Just because a guy bows at your feet and says, "I love you," he might be reaching for your bra strap. Those words, he knows, just melt you. You need to learn that when the wolf licks the lamb, he's also readying to wet his teeth with that lamb's blood. Flattery sounds a lot like a blessing the way a wolf looks like a dog.
A flatterer won't say behind your back what he'll say to your face. A slanderer won't say to your face what he'll say behind your back. God wants us to be neither one. He has some guys who are here, and I told you, I'd like this on my tombstone. But Jesus doesn't get a big head. He doesn't go, "Well, thank you, men! Doggone. You know, I have 12, but why not 20?"
He just comes right at them. In Matthew, chapter 23, Jesus just drills them. He says, "Woe, you hypocrites. Woe, you hypocrites. Woe, you hypocrites." He was not trying to win friends and influence people Norman Vincent Peale's way. He was trying to love them and speak the way of God in truth.
If you hate hypocrites, you ought to be encouraged by Christ. He's not looking for a bunch of people who are going to go through some motion and not have lives that are consistent with that motion. He just got through condemning the whole nation in the way they hid behind their religious system and missed the heart of it. Now these guys are coming to Christ, and I want to mark this right here: Christ is not impressed with men's words about him. Christ is impressed when men's words are manifestations of what is on their hearts.
Have you ever walked forward at some crusade? Were you baptized as a child? Are you, a little bit later today, going to make a decision with your mouth for Christ? That's wonderful that you say nice things. What Christ is looking for is something more than nice words. I say that a lot as an application; do you know why? Because it's all over this guy's life.
Let me give you another application from this, and this where we'll break this down a little bit. Look what it says specifically in verse 14. "They came to him and said, 'Teacher,'" watch, it's a nice title, "'we know…" In other words, these guys weren't saying, "We have an information problem." They were acknowledging, "We have a will problem." "We know that you're truthful, you defer to no one, you're not partial to any."
Well they had it right because that idea of not being partial to any really means that you don't look at the face of man. It was a Jewish idiom. When it says, "You're not partial," it was a way to say, "That guy doesn't look at the face of man." What kind of person do we have recorded in our Bible, or what individual in our Bible was somebody who did not look at the face of man? God.
In 1 Samuel, chapter 16, verse 7, there's a story of a guy named Samuel who God told to go to the house of Jesse and appoint a king. Samuel walked in and saw Jesse's oldest son. He was a stud; he was a man's man. Jesse goes, "Surely this is the king." God said to Samuel, "Not so fast." His exact words were, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
Fast forward about 800 years, and guess what you have. You have one who is acknowledged who doesn't look at the face of man. What kind of person in our Bible didn't do that? It wasn't a person at all; it was God himself. That's who here. Unlike us, who are so attracted to physical beauty, who are so attracted to power and status, Jesus says, "Uh-uh. Not me. You know it, and I'm about to show it to you."
What Jesus does do is say, "What you guys don't know about me is that I do defer to some people, and I don't teach the way of God in truth to everybody." Let me prove that to you. Here's an application for you: God does defer to some, unlike they said, and he does not teach everybody like they said he did. Let me roll this out for you very quickly.
Matthew, chapter 5, verse 3, says it just about as clearly as you can. It says, "Blessed are the poor…" Here's somebody who he defers to. "…for theirs is the kingdom of [God] . Blessed are those who mourn… Blessed are those who are [meek or] gentle…" These are three groups of folks who God said, "It's going to go very well for these people."
Contrary to going well for them are a group of people who Christ says, "I'm just not going to teach." Who are those people? It's like these guys who are here, who come to him posing like they have questions when they don't really have questions. They're trying to catch him in a trap. God doesn't teach and waste time with people (we spent a whole week on this) who act like they're really genuinely wanting information when all they really want is to create excuses and to throw out clouds of doubt.
To those people, Jesus says, in Matthew, chapter 7: "Don't waste your time with those folks. Don't teach the way of God in truth to those folks." "…do not throw your pearls before swine…" Let me make it clear again. Does God look at the outward appearance? No. Does he show partiality? Yes.
Psalm 51, verse 16 and 17: "God, I know you don't delight in sacrifice, otherwise I'd give it. I'd give you all that you wanted. You're not pleased with burnt offering, but you are pleased with this. Lord, you do show partiality to those with a broken heart, a contrite heart. God, you've never denied that kind of man."
Are you wanting to know how to curry God's favor this morning? Here's how you do it, man. You just get real with him, and you acknowledge that you are bankrupt before him. There are some things that by the grace of God are good, that maybe are moral in your life, but you say, "God, even those things are a gift from you. My very works are evidence of your grace in my life and not some resume I can put together to make you impressed with me." If you are bothered by hypocrites, you ought to be encouraged by Jesus.
You need to know that he shows partiality to a broken heart and contrite spirit. See also: "Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who are broken and mourn over their sin. Blessed, then, are the meek." By the way, that word meek, I love it. It's one of my favorite words in the Greek. It's a word that means a stallion that has been broken and all of his strength is saddled under a cowboy who rides him well. You take all your gifts, all your energies, all your passions, and you let God ride you. Blessed are you who do that because this is God's earth and he'll give it to you.
Let me lay this out for you. You see it right here. It says, "They were amazed at Christ," and who isn't? I want to walk you through, pretty quickly, 17 verses. They're all in Mark, and they're all going to come up one after another here. They'll all be on our website like all our notes always are. I want you to see this Jesus.
I'll make this observation as we start. Amazement does not equal acknowledgment. When you're amazed at somebody, that doesn't mean you're going to acknowledge their rightful place in your life. Here we go; watch this. In Mark, chapter 1, verse 22, it says, "They were amazed at his teaching; he taught as one having authority." They were amazed at his inherent authority.
In Mark, chapter 1, verse 27, it says, "They were amazed that he had command over even the unclean spirits and that the unclean spirits obeyed him." He had power. They were amazed that this guy had power over the circumstances which possessed somebody's soul. They were amazed in Mark, chapter 2, that he had power over the body. Here's a guy who couldn't walk, and he said, "Take up your pallet and walk," and he did. What would you do if that happened here this morning? You'd go, "Son of a gun, that's rather radical."
In Mark, chapter 5, it says, "There was a guy who was naked and living among the dead." He was out of his mind; he was crazy. Jesus went up to him and said, "Hey, let's get this right." A few moments with Jesus and this guy is clothed, and it says in the Scripture, "in his right mind." It says, "They were amazed."
Folks, if I had somebody who, week by week, ran through here when I'm teaching, naked and crazy, screaming stuff, asking for the things to get off his back that weren't there, and the next week he was here telling you about the power of his relationship with this individual who changed him, would you take note? I'd say you might be amazed.
He had the ability to transform man like nobody they had ever seen. In Mark, chapter 9, he had come down off the mountain and the glory of God was still on him. They looked at him and they were amazed at his presence, at his glory. In Mark, chapter 10, they were amazed at his standard. He said, "Let me tell you something. The rich don't go to heaven. People who do all of these things and present a resume, they don't go to heaven." They were amazed that God had a standard through this guy.
In Mark, chapter 10, again it says that he was going to go to a cross. He was walking ahead of them, and they were amazed at his commitment. You go a little further forward in Mark, chapter 12, and here's where we are today. They were amazed at his brilliance. They could not capture this guy.
They were going to show him to be a lousy Messiah, a lousy deliverer if he said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go ahead and pay Caesar." A good Jew would never ultimately say, "Let's just acknowledge it: God's never going to give us the land." They were also amazed that he didn't offend Caesar to such a point that he was going to be like Judas from Galilee who had his head cut off in AD 6. The guy was brilliant; they couldn't catch him.
In Mark 15, it says that when he standing before Pilate, and Pilate said, "Don't you know who I am? I have the power to deliver you," Jesus just stood there and was silent. He was content with his life's testimony. Pilate was amazed that Jesus said, "Pilate, you have more than enough info just like those bozos. I don't need to tell you anything." Pilate thought, "What kind of man is this who is comfortable with an unjust fate?" I'll tell you what kind of man he is. He's a man with a divine mission, a man of commitment who will walk right into a cross for you and for me.
In Mark, chapter 16, it says they were amazed when they saw his tomb was empty. The next verse says they were amazed when they found out he wasn't there. It says, "He's not here." They were amazed. Six different times, instead of using the word amazed, it uses the word astonished. They were astonished by his wisdom.
In Mark 6, it says they were astonished at his command of nature. In Mark, chapter 7, they were astonished that he had done all things well. They were astonished that this guy was perfect. He makes even the deaf to hear. He transforms and has power over people. In Mark, chapter 10, they were astonished that he called for holiness that they had never heard of before. In Mark, chapter 11, they were astonished that he said the temple sacrificial system wasn't going to cut it with God.
Let me give you a resume, people. What if I told you I knew somebody who could change anybody? What if I told you I had somebody who had inherent authority? He didn't claim some scholar like I do. He didn't go to some Bible like I do. He spoke Bible. What would you do if I told you I knew somebody who could, on a bad weather day, make it right? On a bad computer day, make it work? Not because he was a techie, but because he was God.
What would you do if I had somebody who could deal with every infirmity and disease? What would you do with somebody who I told you could fix the brokenness of a man's soul? What would you do with somebody who I told you that death couldn't rule him? That's the question. What are you going to do with that guy?
You cannot read the story of Christ and just go, "That's a unique individual, unique in history." Not Muhammad's tomb is empty, not Buddha's tomb is empty. There's one whose tomb is empty, and it ought to do more than just cause you to be amazed and astonished. It ought to make you bow at his feet, not reaching for the rug, but bow at his feet and acknowledge him as Lord and king. You get bankrupt in who you are before his holiness.
He says, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's." On the front of that coin, it said, "Tiberius Caesar, son of divine Augustus." On the back of that coin, it had a picture of a woman sitting on a throne with an upside-down spear in her right hand. In her left hand, she held a palm branch or an olive branch signifying peace, and it said, "Pontifex Maximus," which is to say, "high priest." It was a claim that Caesar made that he was high priest, that he was to be worshiped, that he was the son of Augustus.
Every place that your coinage was good, your rule was good. Jesus is going to say to these men, "Look, you have the coin of Caesar. You're acknowledging his authority." One of the ways kings knew their kingdom extended… The sway of a king could be figured out by how far his currency was good.
We use the expression, "Your money is not good here," when we're buying our buddy a golf game. It came from the day when I would come to you, you would give me some money, and I would go, "Your money is not good here. It has no authority here. It's not backed by an authority that we acknowledge and recognize."
Even today, there are certain currencies you can't pay with here in the United States, but the sway of this country can be seen by the extent to which its currency is accepted, even preferred. What Jesus is going to say right here is, "You render…" What he's telling these folks is, "Look, you already acknowledge Caesar's authority over you because you use his money. It has his name on it; it has his picture on it. If Caesar wants it, give it to him, but let me limit Caesar. You make sure that anything else which has a different image on it, you render to that one."
To render is to repent. There's your application. "You repent of this rebellious idea that the state is your enemy. More than that, you repent against this rebellious idea that you're not branded with another image, not on your currency but on your very soul. If I'm telling you that money is Caesar's because his image on it, guess what. It says that God made man in his image, so everything God has is his."
We're going to come across this in just another couple of weeks but look ahead at what God says you ought to render to the one whose image is on you. What's the greatest commandment? The response by Jesus is, "To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength."
Let me walk you through that. Do you have passions? You'd better render to him. Do you have a longing? Do you have in yourself a circumstance that you wonder who's sovereign over it? You'd better render it to him. Your thoughts, your energies with your mind, your focus, you ought to render it to him. Your efforts, your strength, and, naturally, the fruits and resources produced by those efforts… Your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength, you render that to him.
Let me wrap this thing up. Very quickly, I'll make the observation that the fact that we are citizens of heaven (and we are) ought to make us better citizens of earth generally, and I would say, of our country specifically because this is where we live. We ought to be the finest citizens on earth.
You know him because he makes you look up words, but Daniel Webster was a godly man. Daniel Webster said, "Whatever makes men good followers of Christ ought to make men good citizens of their country," and he's dead on. That is a very biblical idea. Jesus is saying, "Listen, you don't have to rebel against the state to follow God, but you'd better make sure that the state stays in its place. You render to God what is God's while you render to Caesar what is Caesar's."
Government ought to be an instrument for God. Here it comes: government ought to be an instrument for God, or it will be judged. I'll give you the biblical evidence for that. We ought to be available to God or we ought to prepare ourselves for judgment. Let me lay this out, a quick theology of church and state. Are you ready?
First, states are ordained by God. Romans 13:1-7 makes that as plain as day. It says that you ought to obey the state so that you don't get your head cut off. You ought to obey the state because your conscience needs to know it's the right thing to do, and your conscience tells you it's the right thing to do.
The state was ordained by God but it's also subject to God. In other words, it ought to make sure that what the state is for is biblical because it's going to have to answer to that. God is not going to let a state that is consistently rebellious against him endure for long. You can find it all throughout history, and this country is going to find it out one day unless there is a radical transformation. The truth is that its going to find out one day eventually, the Scripture says, because it's never going to get it right. No country is.
That doesn't mean that this generation can't buy some time when the state gets it right. The state is made up of people just like this church is made up of people. It's not the church; it's us. If we're right, the church is right. When we had problems with our president a couple of years back, the problem wasn't with our president. The problem was with the people who said, "What's the problem with our president?"
In this country, where we live in a democracy, to not vote, to not encourage some men as a call from God to engage in the public square is highly irresponsible and unbiblical. We should do what we should do and vote when we should vote, and then we just acknowledge and honor the state in appropriate ways. We don't have to agree with everything the state does, but while we're here enjoying some of the benefits of the state… I brought up here with me some of the things I enjoy about my country.
This Newsweek this week talks about the fact that there were eight men who recently died in that mission over in Afghanistan, trying to purge this world of terrorists. To read some of the comments by some of these men who, when they write letters when these special forces go into certain areas, they write an "in case of no return" letter that the government holds and then gives to their family in case they're killed on these special missions.
These letters are full of these men telling their wives, "You weep as you ought to weep when losing a husband, but don't weep for me because I died serving and fighting for freedom in a way that brought me great joy." There are still men who are dying so that I can worship here without great fear. There are thousands of men…
My next-door neighbor, an 80-plus-year-old guy… We just lost him a couple of months ago. He was part of the D-Day operation. I'd sit over there at his house sometimes with his little oxygen tank on, and I watched this guy, and I asked about impending death. He said, "Hey, I dealt with being ready for death a long time ago. See also: the beaches of Normandy."
I said, "Well, it's great that you're emotionally ready; are you, spiritually?" We had the conversation, but I looked at that man, and I thought, "I live pretty comfortably in Dallas, Texas, because lots of boys like him died for me." Not the way my Lord did, but in the way that I'm grateful for.
It's getting close to April 15; the IRS ought to write me a thank-you note for this message. Most of us cuss at the taxes we have to pay. There's an old movie where some guys do a skit in it. It's a movie about some people who lived during the time of Christ. They represent this group called the Judean People's Front. The Judean People's Front was angry at the Romans. It was set in biblical times.
They were in a room (it was British comedy), and they were trying to work the people up into a frenzy, and they said, "What have the Romans done for us? All they've done is oppress us and our fathers' fathers and our fathers' fathers' fathers." Somebody else goes, "And our fathers' fathers' fathers' fathers," and on and on until finally we go, "All right, we get the point."
"What have the Romans done for us except bring tyranny?" Somebody raises their hand, and they go, "Well, they have brought the aqueduct." So they kind of look around, and they go, "All right, other than the aqueduct, what have the Romans done for us?" "Well they have introduced a sanitation system." Somebody else says, "And the roads."
"Of course the roads! Everybody knows the roads."
"Well, medicine. They have made the seas safe. The roads are clear of bandits. There's general peace."
"All right, other than public order, a general better health system, education for our children, and prosperity for our families, I say to you again, what have the Romans done for us?"
They all kind of looked around. They went like this. They go, "All right, then! Insurrect!" And off they ran. I think sometimes, we can sit there and go, "What has our government done for us?" We sit there, and we just despise those jerks in Washington, and some of them ought to be despised for what they're doing and what they're propagating.
But let me tell you something: I don't ever get angry when my trash is picked up. I don't ever get frustrated when they make sure that our streets are generally safe, and men risk their lives for there to be general public order. I don't ever get upset that I can send my kids to a school and not pay a single extra dime. You say, "Well, Todd, you are paying for it." And rightly I should. Rightly I should.
The state is ordained by God, and I'll just make this comment: you cannot enjoy the benefits of the state and at the same time opt out of the responsibilities for the state. We ought to pay our taxes with a smile, we ought to vote for men who are going to have our state represent God like it never has, and we ought to render to God what is God's.
Here's my last point: state is limited before God, and so are you. You know, I had in my hand here, and I want to just say it. Also, just last week, in the Dallas Morning News, you need to know this; this stuff hits close to home. Jessica Ridout, somebody who worships with us regularly, just last Sunday was at a memorial service for a special forces brother. Juan Ridout died in a similar mission for us and for this world.
For the last five years, Juan has been separated from his sister for you and for me. When I pay taxes on April 15, I need to remember men like Juan who gave his life. When I vote, I need to remember the fact that I need to vote in such a way that my vote reflects the fact that I acknowledge that our government is sovereignly accountable to God. When I wake up tomorrow, I ought to render with my own life what sovereignly belongs to him.
This is a brilliant God who ought to amaze you. Next week, gang, I want to tell you what. Bring your family and your friends because we're going to celebrate the thing that amazes you the most and amazes me the most, and that is he is the God of the living and not of the dead. I ask you thing morning, if you're amazed at the brilliance of Jesus, the perfectness of Jesus, if you are amazed at the holiness of Jesus, if you are amazed at the love of Jesus, will you acknowledge him? Let's pray.
Lord, I know you don't want me just to say, "Lord." You don't want me to lick you with words of praise this morning. You want us to deal with what's going on rightly in our hearts. All of us, we struggle with kings because we all want to be in control ourselves. We do that in our own lives, spiritually. We struggle with you. We tell you that you're our king, and then we pursue our own ways. We want to render rightly this morning. We want to repent.
I pray for some friends who have been out there who have never rendered to you what is yours: their hearts, their souls, their minds, and their strength. I pray that they would. I pray for those of us who still have this perverted view of what giving is about when we render to you our strength, our efforts, and we resent this idea.
We're not giving you anything that's not already yours, Lord. We repent of the frustration we have in sharing your glory by furthering your work, by watching our lips and making our minds yours, by giving you our circumstances so our souls can be at peace, and by giving you our very hearts. I pray that this song Kyle is about to sing would be increasingly true of all of us. That you would be our treasure, and that we would render to you what has your name on it and what has your image, by your divine decree, on it.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. <strong></strong> This volume covers Mark 10:35 through Mark 12:44.