These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Mark 12:13-27 Inductive Bible Study
What was their motivation in asking Jesus this question? What answer were they looking for and how might they have used it against Jesus?
“We know that You are truthful and defer to know one… but teach the way of God in truth.” Why did they say this? Why did they think it would be effective in buttering up Jesus to give an answer?
What does it mean “is it lawful?”
How did Jesus reply?
What was a denarius?
What can we learn from Jesus’ reply?
Are there any principles here?
1 Peter 2:13-17 – Submit to human institutions.
Romans 13:1-7 – Pay to all what is owed them.
Luke 3:13 – Collect no more than you are authorized to do.
1. Herodians – We know who the Pharisees were. They were the conservative party, highly respected, but also highly legalistic. They greatly enjoyed their power and getting respect and recognition from people. The Herodians appear to be a Jewish political party who were favorable to the ruling Herods. They would have supported the various Herods who ruled and encouraged other Jews to do so as well. Perhaps they also viewed Jesus as a threat because of His popularity and the rumors going about that He wanted to be king. Remember that Herod the Great had all the male babies in Jerusalem killed years before in an attempt to prevent Jesus from taking his kingdom. The Herodians likely would have followed a similar policy by allying themselves against any possible rival to the throne.
2. Flattery – The Herodians and the Pharisees came together to try to trap Jesus in a public statement. But notice that they didn’t say, “We want to trick you.” That would have kind of defeated their purpose! Instead they approach Him through flattery. It is not surprising that they thought this method would be effective. After all, they themselves were very vain, greatly delighting in the praise of people. It follows that they thought appealing to Jesus’ vanity through flattery would also delight Him and that being so happy with their praise, He would let down His guard and answer their question without thinking through the consequences clearly. On flattery see: Proverbs 26:24-28, Job 32:21-22, Proverbs 27:6, and 28:23. How can we resist flattery? We should care more about pleasing God than pleasing people. Also, the person who flatters generally wants something in return. We can pray for discernment instead of allowing our vanity and ego to take over. Also, we should guard ourselves from using flattery. It can be very good to truthfully compliment somebody, but when we do it because of a secret motivation or falsely compliment them it becomes dishonest and deceitful.
3. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar or not? – Obviously they were not really seeking to learn. While they probably debated about this question extensively among themselves, they certainly weren’t interested in Jesus’ opinion since they considered Him to be just a blasphemous carpenter. No, it’s actually a very shrewd attempt to get Jesus to say something which they can use to condemn Him later on. Many Jews would have been against paying this tax. Surprise! Besides the fact that people are normally against taxes, they had even more reasons. After all, Rome was a foreign occupying force. Rome was also evil and pagan, a nation who worshipped a plethora of false gods. If they could just get Jesus to publicly state His opposition to paying taxes they would have strong reason to accuse Him before the Romans. They could label Jesus as a revolutionary, a rebel, who preached against the Romans. They could say He was stirring up trouble and leading the nation to cast off Roman authority. What’s more, there would have been hundreds of witnesses who could have verified it. This is the height of hypocrisy. These leaders sought any chance to accuse Jesus. I expect that many or even most of them privately were against paying taxes to Rome and were desperately seeking a chance to throw off Roman rule. Yet publicly they pretended to be pro-Roman and were about to accuse Jesus to death for the very things they themselves supported. You can just imagine them using every muscle in their body to try to keep calm and not reveal their plan to catch Jesus. Outwardly, they would have been sincere, eager to learn from the Master. Inwardly, their sneaky hearts were desperately hoping Jesus would slip up.
4. Jesus’ answer – Jesus wasn’t fooled. In fact, out of their many tests and tricks, He was never fooled. Helps to be omniscient, doesn’t it? Jesus knew they were hypocrites and quickly squelched their hopes by asking why they were testing Him. He then asked for a coin and we know the rest of the story. So what do we learn from Jesus’ reply?
A. Jesus thought before He spoke. He first sought to understand the motivation behind their question. He also understood the consequences of His words. Once He spoke, He could not take back His words. A flippant answer could prove deadly. While our words are not always scrutinized as closely as Jesus’ were, we still need to be careful what we say. Once you say it, you can not unsay it. Words can have a powerful and long-lasting impact. This means we have to be careful, to think before we speak. Do not be in a hurry to tell others your opinion, or to pronounce judgment on people. Take your time and make sure you give the right answer, not the quick answer.
B. Jesus valued spiritual things above earthly things. Was Jesus pro-Roman or anti-Roman? Interestingly, you can read through all of the gospels and find that Jesus never talked about it one way or the other unless He was first asked a question. While many Jews were preoccupied with this debate, Jesus avoided it. Jesus knew that spiritual things were far more important than these earthly questions. See Colossians 3:2. Sometimes Christians get preoccupied with questions like this as well. Who should we vote for? We debate current events. We get angry about policies that are made. There is nothing wrong per say about those things. Yet our focus should not be on them. The fact is neither Republicans nor Democrats are going to solve the problems we face. Communism nor capitalism will bring paradise. People are sinful. If we trust in them, we will be disappointed. Therefore while we are in the world and need to be a good testimony to those in it, we should not get too attached to earthly things.
C. God has established different authorities for different spheres. Family, church, country, all have different leaders. While we should put service to God first over all of those, we should not shirk our duties in those areas in order to serve God. An example would be not neglecting our children in order to go preach. Another example is not saying our allegiance to God is higher than to country and therefore declaring we don’t need to obey any of the laws in the country we live in. We should of course obey the government we live under unless it asks us to do something directly contrary to God’s law. Being good citizens is right and it will give us more opportunities to preach and share the Word than if we are labeled as revolutionaries.
D. Pay taxes – The leaders sought to get Jesus to make a public statement against paying taxes. He wouldn’t do it. While He doesn’t come right out and directly say, “pay your taxes” the implication is that if it doesn’t interfere with you serving God then you should do it. Certainly most people hate taxes. There are a lot of good reasons to be upset with how much taxes governments collect and also how they use the money they collect. But it is not up to us to say, “We don’t like the government. The taxes are unfair. And therefore we are not going to pay it.” In modern history all governments collect lots of taxes. But we cannot serve both God and money. Do not lower yourself to do what many do by lying in order to evade taxes. Sometimes there are legal ways to minimize taxes and there is nothing the matter with using those ways. But don’t lie about it.
E. They were amazed. Jesus’ answer astonished them. It was insightful and powerful. It pointed out their flawed thinking and also avoided the trap they set for Him.
Verses 18-27 Discussion Questions
What is the distinguishing mark of the Sadducees?
What does this tell us about them?
Would they be considered liberal or conservative? Why?
What did the Old Testament have to say about the resurrection? Why would the Sadducees not believe/accept it? How is that comparable to many groups today?
What Old Testament practice did they bring up?
Why did they mention this?
What point were they trying to prove?
How did Jesus answer them?
What was the answer to their question about whose wife would she be in heaven?
Is there anything we can learn about heaven from this?
How did Jesus prove the resurrection (hence life after death)?
On the resurrection:
Daniel 12:2 – Many will awake, some to eternal life and some to shame and contempt.
2 Samuel 12:23 – David would go to his son.
John 11:25 – I am the resurrection and the life…
1 Thessalonians 4:14 – God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 6:14 – God raised the Lord and will raise us up by His power.
John 14:19 – Because I live you also will live.
Acts 24:15 – There will be a resurrection of the just and unjust.
1. Sadducees – This is yet another group something akin to a political party. It seems the different groups took turns trying to test Jesus. They hated each other, but seemed to hate Jesus more, proving the idiom, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, seemingly meaning they didn’t believe in life after death. They were the liberals of their time, willing to re-interpret doctrines or passages to fit in with a more modern viewpoint. Is there any Old Testament evidence for the resurrection? What verse or verses? We can actually learn a lot from the Sadducees. They show us that this tendency to disregard God’s Word in favor of popular opinion or expediency is not a new trend. From the very beginning Satan tempted Eve with the phrase, “Did God really say?” Satan’s method during the time of Christ was the same and he is still in the business of undermining God’s Word today. In the modern church today you can find many pastors and congregations who say that homosexuality is not a sin. It’s OK. God accepts everybody and we should accept them too. But this is not just a modern problem. In the 1800s in the US many churches also followed the country’s practice of segregation. They excluded black people and were racist. Culture doesn’t believe in hell? Toss it out. People don’t like the word sin? Don’t use it. It is politically incorrect to say there is only one way to God? Ok, accept every religion. Evolution is popular? Ok, change Genesis to accommodate it. The list goes on and on and on. How can we stand on God’s Word against these waves of liberalism which undermines it? It’s simple actually. You only need to memorize one question. If you remember this question, you need never fall into Satan’s trap. You will not be swept by the waves of cultural force pushing against you. What do you think the question is? The question is, “What does the Bible say?” It’s really that simple. If you ask that question you can then solve every single controversy mentioned above and more. All of us should be equipped with that question. Do not ever be afraid to ask it. Ask it when you go to church as you are listening to the pastor. Ask it when you come to study and are listening to me. Ask it when you are reading John MacArthur’s or Piper’s latest book. Ask it when you listen to sermons online or read commentaries. This question can help you always turn back to the Bible and will lead you to dig in the Bible until you find the answer. Do not be shy to ask this question thinking you will offend someone. A good teacher of the Bible should always welcome it and if perhaps he taught his own opinion instead of the Bible should be happy to be reminded of this.
2. Levirate marriage question – The Sadducees attempt to disprove the resurrection by bringing up the issue of levirate marriage. What is levirate marriage? In reality their question does nothing to disprove the resurrection. Yet it seems they hope to baffle Jesus with this seeming unanswerable question, and thereby show the people that the resurrection makes no sense. This is likely their version of the modern day “Can God make a rock so big He can’t lift it question?” On the surface, it might appear unanswerable.
3. But like with this question, Jesus shows them that their assumptions are completely wrong. Their assumption is that people in heaven will be like on earth, that there will in fact be marriage in heaven. Jesus says that people will be something like angels in heaven. It doesn’t mean we will be exactly the same, but there will be similarities. In this passage those similarities are that there won’t be marriage in heaven like there is on earth and neither will there be procreation or reproduction. This doesn’t mean you won’t remember your spouse. It also doesn’t mean that your earthly relationship with your spouse will be forgotten or will lose all of its meaning. How meaningful it will be is unclear. But we should remember that believers are the bride of Christ. Our focus will be in Christ not on our spouse. Heaven is much different than they and we expect. It is impossible not to allow our experiences on earth to influence our ideas about heaven. But this is one among many passages that show us heaven will be completely out of our expectations, but in a good way.
4. Jesus proves the resurrection of the dead – How did Jesus prove the resurrection of the dead? He proved it by Scripture. He is answering the question mentioned above, “What does the Bible say?” Because God used the present tense in declaring that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob it meant that they were still alive, hence proving life after death.
What can you learn from Jesus’ reply?
What important principles can we see in this passage?
How can you apply what you have learned today?
What will you do in the coming week to apply a lesson from today’s passage?