Mark 12:13-17 What Is Lawful?
Not liking the fact that Jesus likened them to wicked vinedressers, the apostate religious leadership sent some Pharisees and Herodians to test him (v. 13). These two groups were enemies in most things, except that they both accepted the Roman occupation. The enemy of their enemy became the Pharisees’ friends. As early as 3:6 these two parties had been plotting how they might destroy Jesus. Their words were nothing but empty flattery, and Jesus knowing their hypocrisy, asked them point blank why they were testing him (vv. 14-15). Paying taxes to Caesar came to the surface for anyone questioning the legitimacy of Roman rule. Jesus statement that one ought to render to Caesar what is his, and to God that which is his, apparently was not something they had expected, as they marveled at his answer (vv. 16-17). There were and are many who see a conflict between giving to Caesar and giving to God. However, Caesar stands for the political realm, and every society has its political masters, who themselves serve the Master whether they acknowledge this or not. Therefore, to render to them what is their due is something which God himself requires. However, this does not mean that the political leadership can extract that which is not theirs. They are due only that which God says they are due.