Perspective Problems - Mark 12:13-34

This is a sermon from the evening service on 12th June 2022.

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Mark 12 v 13-34 “Perspective Problems”

Intro: Staying at a distance gives a small view of God


         1) A small view of God’s claim on our lives? (v13-17)


“Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words.”


  • Pharisees far from God because they don’t need Jesus



  • Herodians far from God because they don’t want Jesus


  • Staying far from Jesus means a life of minimum requirement



“Give to God what is God’s.” We owe God everything;


  • Made in God’s image



  • Bought at a great price


Are you feeling broken up by Jesus’ challenge?  


        2) A small view of God’s goodness and power? (v18-27)


“Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.”

  • Sadducees know all the words in the scriptures


  • Sadducees have totally missed the God at the centre of the scriptures


Who is God?

  • “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”



  • The God of the living



  • The God of power and goodness


        3) The right view of God results in lives of loving worship (v28-34) 


“To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.””


How are we to respond to these verses of scripture tonight?


  • No more minimising his claim on our lives


  • No more being content with knowledge rather than relationship



  • No more settling for divided hearts, but run to Jesus and pray for lives of loving obedience

Mark 12 v 13-34 “Perspective Problems”


(Slide 1) Does anyone know what that is that is circled on the screen? …. Apparently that is a picture of Mount Everest. It doesn’t really seem very big does it? In fact, I could easily cover over it with my thumb on the computer screen when I was making that powerpoint. Not a particularly impressive sight, but then it wouldn’t be since that picture is taken from a huge distance away, from Space. (Slide 2) Now that is a bit more like it – the view of Everest from up close gives you a far better understanding of the sheer size, scale, and challenge of that Mountain. From a distance, even something as massive as Mount Everest can seem pretty small, but the closer you get the more accurate your view becomes.


(Slide 3) In Mark chapter 12 we have these same sort of perspective problems. A number of people reveal their great distance from Jesus’ Kingdom by their diminished and paltry view of God, his claim on their lives, his goodness and his power. They think that God is much smaller than he really is because there are things in their lives that are keeping them far away from Jesus. So this is a great passage of scripture for us to sit under tonight and to humbly and urgently act upon. We are not to stay far away from God and minimise his claim on our lives, instead we are to draw near, to be blown away by the view, to fall to our knees in worship and then to live lives of love and devotion to the one true God of the Universe.

                    1) A small view of God’s claim on our lives? (v13-17)


(Slide 4) In verses 13-17 we begin by dealing with the problem of having a small view of God’s claim on our lives. This is the Wednesday of Passion week – 1 day away from Jesus’ arrest and trial. At the end of last week’s passage the chief priests, teachers of the law and elders wanted to arrest Jesus but were too afraid of the crowd to do it. So if they can’t arrest him because of the crowd, perhaps they can discredit him in the eyes of the crowd. (Slide 5) V13 “Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words.” These sneaky tricksters trying to trap Jesus were well-respected men in their own communities. Respected they might be but they are far away from God’s Kingdom without even realising it;  


The Pharisees keep themselves far away from God’s kingdom because of their emphasis on their own keeping of the rules and protecting of their religious system. They are far from God because they don’t think they need Jesus.


The Herodians keep themselves far away from God’s kingdom because of their emphasis on philosophy and culture and learning. They are far from God because they just don’t want Jesus.  


(Slide 6) As a result of this distanced view of God, and so this very small view of his claim on their lives, both of these groups were living compartmentalised lives, lives where they act as if God is only concerned with certain areas or sections of their existence. The type of life where part of it is concerned with keeping God happy, part of it concerned with keeping the rulers happy, and the rest of it (most of it actually) concerned with keeping yourself happy. (Slide 7) A life defined by the Principle of minimum requirement – what is the minimum needed so that I can have a life mostly on my own terms?

The question they bring Jesus in v14&15 and the way they bring it sounds so rich and deep and concerned to do what is right but beneath the surface this couldn’t be further from the truth. They aren’t concerned at all about the moral and ethical use of money, after all Jesus has just had to clear the Temple the day before since it had become so full of people trading money for profit in the name of religion. And they aren’t really concerned with the theological quandary that this Roman tax levied on them should bring with it; after all, when Jesus asks them for a Roman coin they had one in their possession (the implication is they are using this foreign currency all the time).

(Slide 8) They are simply wanting Jesus to declare publicly one way or the other on the rightness of paying this tax – if he says they shouldn’t pay it then the Romans can arrest him and kill him as a rebel (like an earlier Galilean called Judas), if he says they should pay it, then the nationalistic Messiah-desiring crowd might turn against him and the danger Jesus brings to their way of life will be gone anyway.

But their sneaky sly question doesn’t fool Jesus, neither does their divided lives, he has no flowery politically correct language for them, instead; “Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked.” I love the way the hunters become the hunted at this point and Jesus even lets them know it. Should they pay the tax? (Slide 9) Since Caesar’s image and an inscription claiming his divinity is on the coin that the questioners are happy to use, then let Caesar have what belongs to him. Yes, pay the tax, it is small fry anyway compared to the real debt that every person listening to Jesus at that point and every person here right now owes.

“Give to God what is God’s.” If there is anything that bears God’s image and belongs to him then that in no way should be held back. (Gen 1 - Humans are made in the image of God and belong to God, the people of Israel belonging to God by Covenant). What do these men who claim the Jewish faith owe to God? They owe God their whole lives. Not just a small section, not just a comfortable compartment. What about us?

(Slide 10) Made in God’s image and bought at such a great price, our lives are not our own. As the Westminster Catechism puts it so well, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Our loyalty, our purpose, our whole being is to orbit around Him – that is what we have been made for, and anything else is a perversion and a rebellion. Commentator David Garland says this; “The Christian owes Caesar something but not everything … The demands of God are infinitely greater. We who bear God’s image and are inscribed with Jesus’ name owe God everything.”

(Slide 11) The Pharisees and Herodians thought their question would break Jesus, but look how this section ends; “And they were amazed at him.” Of course they couldn’t break Jesus – that would be like taking a glass hammer to a diamond. Jesus has full integrity, Jesus is absolutely pure and holy wheras it is these hypocrites who want to look good but live selfishly who are left smashed up by Jesus instead. What about you? Are you feeling broken up by Jesus’ challenge? I think many of us here should be feeling like that – “Give to God what is God’s.” Tonight, we are to draw near to Jesus, we are to view God as he really is, we are to see that he rightfully claims all of our lives. So let us be humbled and honest about the areas of our lives where we are living for ourselves, let us come to Jesus and offer him everything.  


                   2) A small view of God’s goodness and power? (v18-27)


(Slide 12) We are not to have a small view of God’s claim on our lives like the Herodians and Pharisees and neither are we to have a small view of God’s goodness and power like the Sadducees in v 18-27. Like a tag-team wrestling match, they are next in the ring; “Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.” And what a question it is about a poor woman whose husbands kept dying over and over again. These men had followed the Law in Leviticus and yet had still come to a sad end. Whose wife is this lady going to be when they all meet up in heaven?

What is important to understand again here is that it is not a genuine desire to learn that drives the Sadducees to ask this question but rather a scornful attempt to show how foolish it is to believe in resurrection life!  The Sadducees were a strict sect of Jews who claimed to care deeply for the Torah (the ‘Law’, the first 5 books of the Old Testament) and were extremely harsh on those who they judged were failing to live in obedience to it. There are many promises in those first 5 books of the Bible that looking back through the eyes of faith we can now see pointing towards fulfilment in Jesus through the cross and the empty tomb, but resurrection is not explicitly mentioned in the Torah and so the Sadducees didn’t accept that this future resurrection was a reality.


The Sadducees think they have this hammer blow question to crush Jesus with but Jesus immediately breaks them wide open with his authoritative response (Slide 13); “Are you not in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God?” What a charge to make to people who had probably memorised vast sections of Genesis to Deuteronomy. But the reality is that though they may know how lots of the words in those scriptures fit together, they have totally missed the God who is at the centre of them. They don’t know the scriptures because if they did they would know the God who gave them. They are far away from the Kingdom, their view of God’s power and goodness is way too small. The King is standing right in front of them, they don’t recognise him and they want to get rid of him.

Who is God? That is the most important question you can ever ask or try to find the answer to. The answer that God himself gives in those first 5 books of the bible is this (Slide 14); “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The one true God is full of power and goodness and as a result his chosen people are the most privileged people in the universe. He is the God of the living, the God who overcomes the death that sin brought, he is the God who triumphs despite our sin and failure. As Jesus answers these blind Sadducees, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not simply dead and gone, the God who choose them is far too powerful and good for that – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are in the one true God’s presence, enjoying the life the living God grants to his chosen people.

The Sadducees are “badly mistaken” – they are so full of pride in themselves and so taken up with the detailed knowledge of the law that they have accumulated for themselves that they have managed to miss the whole point of the scriptures they wanted to defend. They have missed seeing the hugeness and brilliance of God. And so they have missed bowing to him in humility and worship. We are not to make this catastrophic mistake. As we fix our eyes on Jesus, and as we hungrily chew over God’s word, we are to delight more and more in the God who has saved us, the God who gives life, the God is filled with goodness and power, power even over death itself. Beholding the Holy God properly actually helps us to deal with the reality of Jesus’ answer here – it seems to any of us who are married that a resurrection life without marriage will be a poorer one than the one we have right now. Especially if our spouse has already gone to be with the Lord.

But when we realise the goodness and power of God, then it is plain that to be in the very presence of God along with his saved people means we will lose nothing that was good in this life, we will only gain. God is a God of relationship, God is a God who has chosen and redeemed a people – Joey and I will be better off in heaven than we are now, somehow we will love each other, and the Riverside church family and the Network family and all of God’s redeemed people in a better way than we do now because we, his people, the church, the bride of Christ will be utterly fulfilled.    


                    3) The right view of God results in lives of loving worship (v28-34) 


(Slide 15) When we get our view of God right, and we do that by fixing our eyes on Jesus and drawing close to him, then the result is lives of loving worship (v28-34). One last question then for Jesus in this passage, this time from a teacher of the law, and this time perhaps a genuine question from a man willing to be taught; “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus goes straight back to the Torah for his answer; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” And then he gives a bonus answer because these commands go together; “The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” And the teacher of the law, standing in the Temple, the very centre of the sacrificial system, responds like this (Slide 16);

 “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Wow. Now there is an answer that shows a proper view of God. The words for love there are not romantic, wishy-washy words but words all about sacrifice. Words about a whole other-person centred attitude in life. Words that describe the love that sent Jesus to the cross and kept him on that cross until it was finished. What would a church look like filled with people consumed with love for God and so pouring out love for one another (Give examples). The man’s answer that shows something about the distance this man is viewing God from; “When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.””

How are we to respond to these verses of scripture tonight? These words of Jesus so close to the cross of Christ? We are to prayerfully come before God and honestly admit the state of our hearts. Where we are minimising his claim on our lives we are to repent and allow Jesus to be our King. Where we are contenting ourselves with knowledge about religion rather than relationship with God through Jesus, we are to confess our error and ask for new life from God. Where we see the divided state of our hearts - knowing that our love for God gets nowhere near the ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength, we are to cry out to the God of the cross to save us, to make us clean once more, to change our lives so they are full of loving obedience to the King of kings. Let us go our of this place determined to love the Lord our God by the power of the Lord our God.

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