What does Mark 12:14 mean?
ESV: 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?”
NIV: They came to him and said, 'Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?
NASB: They came and *said to Him, 'Teacher, we know that You are truthful and do not care what anyone thinks; for You are not partial to anyone, but You teach the way of God in truth. Is it permissible to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?
CSB: When they came, they said to him, "Teacher, we know you are truthful and don't care what anyone thinks, nor do you show partiality but teach the way of God truthfully. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we? "
NLT: Teacher,' they said, 'we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us — is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
KJV: And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?
The chief priests and the scribes have sent Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus as spies, "who [pretend] to be sincere" (Luke 20:20). The Pharisees and Herodians dislike each other in every other context, but cooperate to oppose Jesus early on in His ministry (Mark 3:6). Jesus threatens the Pharisees because He rejects their devotion to manmade traditions over the Mosaic law (Mark 7:9–13). The Herodians don't like the thought that Jesus might start a revolution that would threaten their relationship with the Roman rulers.
The Pharisees and Herodians ironically flatter Jesus as being impartial. They know from experience that He will not overtly side with either group. But the description is valid. Because Jesus is from Galilee, not Judea, He doesn't have to pay the tax in question. Their statement is ironic because Jesus' answer serves neither of their intended outcomes—taking neither of the sides they wanted Him to claim.
The tax they are asking about is the kensos. It is an annual poll-tax, levied on men regardless of what property they own. Rome established it in AD 6, and the different sects of Judaism reacted to it in different ways. Around the time Jesus amazed the rabbis at the temple with His understanding of Scripture (Luke 2:41–52), some angry Jews revolted against the tax. The rebellion's leaders insisted that paying a tax to Rome undermined God's sovereignty over His chosen people. Now, about thirty years later, Jewish Zealots refuse to pay the tax. Pharisees do pay but wonder if it's "lawful" according to God. Herodians support the Roman government, anyway, and either don't see a conflict in interest or don't care.
The Pharisees and Herodians want to know if Jesus holds similar beliefs to the Zealots. Their preferred outcome of this confrontation would be for Jesus to reject the tax. Then, He can be arrested for rebellion against the Romans (Luke 20:20). The Pharisees would win either way, since if Jesus supports the tax, His popular image as the Messiah, come to rescue the Jews from Roman rule, would be in jeopardy.
Like the similar debate regarding divorce, Jesus goes back to the basics (Mark 10:1–12). It's not about politics or even religion; it's about knowing your place in God and living out of that (Mark 12:17). Centuries before, Jeremiah tried to convince the people of Judah to go into exile in Babylon peacefully—that foreign subjugation was God's will for them at that time (Jeremiah 27). Similarly, Jesus has not come to free the Jews from Rome, or its taxes, but to do the work so their hearts can return to God.
Mark 12:13–17 is clarified by insight into the Pharisees' complex attitudes. They have very strong religious beliefs, which go beyond God's inspired Scriptures. They hate that Israel is subjugated to Rome, but unlike the violence-minded Zealots, they aren't a political threat. In contrast to Pharisees, the Herodians support Rome's rule and all the benefits that go with it. These unlikely bedfellows join to trap Jesus with a question about taxes. If His answer supports the Pharisees, the Herodians can claim Jesus is rebelling against the emperor. If His answer supports the Herodians, the Pharisees can assert He doesn't support Israel. This account is also in Matthew 22:15–22 and Luke 20:20–26.
This chapter contains lessons taught by Jesus in various circumstances. He explains the eventual destruction of traditional Judaism, the relationship between secular and sacred obligations, the nature of the resurrection, and the most important of God's commandments. Jesus also expounds on Messianic statements in the Old Testament. Jesus also condemns the glory-seeking shallowness of the scribes, and extolls the virtues of sincere, faith-based giving.
Days before, Jesus has entered Jerusalem, hailed as a hero by the people (Mark 11:1–11). While teaching in the temple courtyard, Jesus shows superior understanding of Scripture over the chief priests, scribes, and elders (Mark 12:27–33), the Pharisees and Herodians (Mark 12:13), the Sadducees (Mark 12:18), and the scribes again (Mark 12:35, 38). Sadly, even in the instance where a scribe does understand Scripture, that is no guarantee he will follow it to its logical conclusion: Jesus (Mark 12:28–34). In contrast, a humble widow exemplifies the faithfulness and piety the leaders lack (Mark 12:41–44). Jesus leaves the temple for the last time to teach the disciples on the Mount of Olives (Mark 13). In Mark 14, He prepares for the crucifixion.
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
Accessed 3/1/2024 2:10:33 AM
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