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Making Sense of God and Government

We're called to respect our government, but only God deserves our ultimate allegiance.


Today I will be looking at Mark 12:13-17:

And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 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?" But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." And they brought one. And he said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to him, "Caesar's." 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.

This is the third confrontation that Jesus has had with the Sanhedrin in and around the temple in Jerusalem. It is also the second time they have laid a trap for Jesus. If you look at the end of chapter 11, you see the chief priests, scribes, and elders come to Jesus and confront him about his authority. They ask, What gives you the right to flip over tables in the temple and drive people out with a whip of cords? He answers their question by poising another question concerning the baptism of John. He springs their trap and tells them a parable about tenants in a vineyard. It is clear they understand they are the wicked tenants who have killed the prophets and will kill the beloved son, and this infuriates them. So they seek all the more to arrest Jesus.

Mark 12:13-17 records the third conflict, the second the Sanhedrin initiated. They send some Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus, and they want to ask him about politics and religion—a controversy, to be sure.

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Kevin DeYoung is pastor of University Reformed Church, East Lansing, Michigan, and author of Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Creed.

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Audio Sample:

Sermon Outline:


I. Be good citizens.

II. Respect the government's authority.

III. We can honor God and the government.

IV. There are distinct but overlapping roles.

V. God's people aren't tied to one nation.

VI. The state is not God.

VII. We owe our ultimate allegiance to God.