Mark 12:13-34

Daybreak for Students

Mark 12:13-34

Mark 12
And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. — Mark 12:13

As Christians, we may find ourselves in situations when questions from unbelievers will challenge our knowledge of the Word of God and cause us to search our hearts to give an appropriate answer. As a young convert, I went to a barber in a town I had recently moved to. Since I was a new customer, the barber began asking me questions. When he realized I was a Christian, the conversation took on a different tone as he began to question me concerning religion. The queries grew more challenging, and the barber started to question my spirituality and the doctrines and guidelines that I stood for. It soon became evident that he was attempting to trip me up and discredit my beliefs. Because I had not been saved very long, I felt inadequate and intimidated. I whispered a prayer to Jesus, asking Him to help me give the right response. He did help me that day, and soon the barber proceeded to cut my hair without any further comment.

In our text, the Jewish religious leaders asked Jesus questions that were meant to entrap Him. In response to their first question about whether the Jews should pay tribute to Caesar, Jesus told them that since the coin had Caesar’s inscription on it, he had authority to claim any portion of it as his own. By the same token, God had the authority to demand that they give Him their hearts. Jesus’ answers to all their questions astounded them and effectively stopped further questioning on their part.

Today, too, there are those who will try to question our beliefs or voice doubt as to whether the Word of God is accurate. There may be times when we come under fire for standing for the truth. Instead of entering into a futile discourse, we want to ask the Lord to help us give the right response, and pray that He will use the situation to speak to a soul.


The Pharisees were a religious group and the Herodians were a political faction that favored returning the Herodian Dynasty to Judea. Both groups disliked Jesus and considered him a threat, albeit for different reasons. The Pharisees hated Him because He unmasked their hypocrisy. The Herodians were concerned that He might cause more contention in the city, and Rome would never allow them to achieve their goal of replacing the Roman governors with a descendant of Herod. Typically, the groups did not have interaction with one another, but for these reasons they united in trying to trap Jesus.

The Pharisees and the Herodians hoped that they could ensnare Jesus with a tax question because either a yes or no answer could have been used against Him. If Jesus had answered yes, He would have been accused of supporting Rome, and the Jewish people would have turned against Him. The Jews opposed paying taxes to Rome because it implied their subjection and supported the lavish lifestyle of Rome’s upper class. If Jesus had answered no, He would have been accused of treason against Rome. After Jesus asked for a coin to be brought to Him, He answered the question very wisely, astonishing those who hoped to entrap Him. He said that Caesar’s inscription was on the coin, so that gave him authority over it. By telling the Pharisees and Herodians to also give to God the things that are God’s, He established the principle that their duty to God and their duty to Rome were not conflicting. They could live a life that was pleasing to God and still be good citizens of Rome.

After the Pharisees and Herodians failed to trap Jesus with their question, the Sadducees asked a question of their own. The Sadducees were a smaller group than the Pharisees, but were an aristocratic clan that was quite powerful through their leadership in the Temple. They rejected the doctrine of the resurrection as taught by the Pharisees, believing instead that life ended with the grave. The question they asked Jesus had to do with the Levitical Law and marriage. Under the Law, if a man died childless, the man’s brother was required to marry his widow and produce a son for the lineage of the man who died. The question the Sadducees asked Jesus was probably one that they had asked the Pharisees in their debates about the resurrection.

Jesus did not try to debate the issue with the Sadducees, but went straight to the point of their ignorance of the Scriptures and the power of God. The Sadducees were wrong in their denial of the resurrection, but the Pharisees were also wrong in their assumption that people would still be married after the resurrection. Jesus set them both straight when He stated that there would not be marriage in the resurrection, and that resurrected bodies would be equal to the angels. Responding to the Sadducees’ doubt about the resurrection, Jesus reminded them of God’s statement to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God spoke in the present tense because the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived on after they died.

One of the scribes who had listened to Jesus respond to these trick questions was impressed with how He had answered them. The scribe then asked an honest question about which was the greatest commandment. By this time in Jewish history, the religious leaders had amassed over six hundred laws. While some of the religious leaders tried to differentiate between major and minor laws, some taught that each law was as compulsory as any other. Jesus’ response to the scribe was that if he would love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love his neighbor as himself, there were no greater commandments than these. The scribe was pleased with this answer, and Jesus told him he was not far from the kingdom of God. All he needed to do was take that next step and profess faith in Jesus Christ.


(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
VI.   The presentation and rejection of the Son of God
       E.   The conflict with the nation by the Son of God
              2.   The conflict with the Pharisees and Herodians (12:13-17)
                     a.   The attack through governmental loyalty (12:13-14)
                     b.   His reply (12:15-17)
              3.   The conflict with the Sadducees (12:18-27)
                     a.   The attack through the doctrine of resurrection (12:18-23)
                     b.   His reply (12:24-27)
              4.   The conflict with a scribe (12:28-34)
                     a.   The attack through the commandments (12:28)
                     b.   His reply (12:29-31)
                     c.   The scribe’s addition (12:32-33)
                     d.   His statement (12:34)


  1. What was the motive of Jesus’ enemies in asking Him if it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?

  2. What do you think the scribe’s attitude was when he asked Jesus about the greatest commandment?

  3. What is the best approach to take if your beliefs are questioned or undermined? 


When we ask the Lord for His assistance and leading in situations where our Christianity and beliefs are challenged, we can be assured that He will help us give the right response.