Summary: How do we escape the traps of life, religion, etc? How do we get out, how do we keep out? In this message we discover the keys as we see some religious leaders try to trap Jesus.

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Mark 12:13-27


Pitch the hamster – feeling trapped. A hum-drum existence, punctuated by brief moments of excitement. Eat the food. Run on the wheel. Over and over again. Not able to be all a hamster could be. You could tell it was getting to her – more urgent climbing and chewing. Desperate for a break out. Well, it finally happened. More than a week ago, pitch escaped her trap.

Ever feel trapped? Not going anywhere? A treadmill? Frustrated by lack of accomplishment, purpose, meaning?

Trapped by a job? Relationship? Obligations? Life? Religion?

Some of us feel this way. Others don’t. Others of us need to know about traps – that they are out there. Pitch the hamster is free now, apparently running amok in our unfinished storage room. But what Pitch doesn’t know is that there are mouse traps in there…

If you’re not careful, you’ll get trapped.


How do we escape the traps of life, religion, etc? How do we get out, how do we keep out? Today we will discover the keys as we see some religious leaders try to trap Jesus.

Let’s watch the 1st trap get set as we read vv. 13-15a.

A. They try to trap Jesus with a question of allegiance

Pharisees & Herodians – strange allies: Republicans and Democrats. Broncos and Chiefs fans.

“Catch” = to trap an animal; they wanted to snare him.

Question carefully devised to discredit or imperil Jesus.

They tried to close off any path of evasion to this difficult and painful question.

Question surrounds the payment of the annual tax to Rome, started in 6 AD.

Highly emotional issue – people resented it greatly.

They wanted to force him into a compromising position:

“Yes” would discredit him in the eyes of the people

“No” would incur the retribution of Rome.

How will Jesus respond? Cornered, how will he react? Let’s see his answer as I read vv. 15b-16.

B. Jesus answers the question of allegiance

Jesus sees through them: “Why are you trying to trap me?”

Jesus calls for a denarius –Roman coin used to pay tax.

“Whose portrait?” – The emporer’s, Caesar Tiberius.

“Whose inscription?” – “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus on one side. “Pontifex Maximus” (chief priest) on the other…

These are a reflection of the “imperial cult” and were a claim to divine honors.

So what did Jesus say? Let’s read v. 17.

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

What is Caesar’s?

The coin, stamped with Caesar’s image.

Since the coin belonged to him, it was right to give it back to him – he had legal claim to it.

We have a moral obligation to obey authority (Ro. 13:1-7)

We must give proper allegiance to civil authorities.

Give to God what is God’s.

What is God’s?

Illus: 3 men who had their own way of deciding what belonged to God. Drew a circle: whatever landed inside was God’s; whatever landed outside was God’s; whatever stayed up in the air was God’s…

We’re not going to answer it that way.

What belongs to God?

If the coin, bearing Caesar’s image belongs to him,

What bears God’s image? We do!

We should completely give ourselves to God.

We should not give to man what is due only to God (as Caesar wanted)

We must give complete allegiance to God.

It turns out these guys were trapped because their allegiance was misplaced. One group worshiped the state; the other worshiped their religious system.

When you give your allegiance to something besides God, your are trapped!

Who are you pledging allegiance to?

• A belief system, worldview?

• A habit

• A pleasure – the Broncos? - worship

• A lifestyle, way of life - time

• A job –sense of worth. Your boss has the right to your effort, hard work, commitment, but not to your soul.

• A relationship - intimacy

We feel trapped because these things can’t deliver in accordance to what we put into them.

That’s what a trap is – something that looks good but doesn’t deliver; something that keeps us from everything God has for us.

This is our first step, our first safeguard to avoiding the religion trap. We will avoid the trap of religion if we


Give it all to God! Give God what belongs to him – all of you!

Experience the goodness that comes when you give it all to him.

Who or what wants from you what only God should get?

Transition: The end of v. 17 says they were amazed at him. They were amazed because he avoided the trap, and was not himself trapped by a mere religion. But his opponents weren’t done with him. Another party of leaders, represented on the Sanhedrin approaches Jesus with their own question, their own trap. Let’s look at it as I read vv. 18-23.

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