Summary: A good ambassador doesn’t hide out at the embassy and study the U.S. Constitution; he goes out into his assigned country and meets with its citizens. He delivers the message from his boss.
In our country we have hundreds of courts where thousands of lawyers are asking questions of witnesses. Most of them are pretty sharp characters. But in every one of these courts, there is a court reporter taking down everything being said. Because of that we have a record of some pretty funny questions that have actually been asked by lawyers. Here are some of my favorites.
One lawyer asked a witness: “The youngest son, the 20-year-old, how old is he?” Another lawyer asked, “Was it you or your younger brother who was killed in the war?” A lawyer showed a witness a photograph and said, “This is a picture of you?” Answer: “Yes.” Lawyer: “Were you present when your picture was taken?”
One lawyer asked, “Can you describe the individual?” The witness answered: “He was about medium height with a thick beard.” The lawyer asked: “Was this a male or female?”
Sometimes the answer is funnier than the question. One lawyer told the witness: “All your answers must be verbal. Where did you go to school?” The witness answered: “Verbal.”
My favorite exchange was between a lawyer and a Medical Examiner. The lawyer asked: “Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?” Answer: “No.”
Lawyer: “Did you check for blood pressure or breathing?” Answer: “No.” Lawyer: “So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?” Answer: “No.” Lawyer: “How can you be so sure, Doctor?” Answer: “Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.” Lawyer: “But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless?” Answer: “It is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere.”
Speaking of foolish questions, Jesus is the target of some interesting questions from the Jewish leaders. He is in Jerusalem for the final week before the cross. The religious leaders are looking for some way to make Him say something to allow them to arrest Him. So, there is an ongoing verbal boxing match going on and Jesus is winning every round with His knockout punches of wisdom. What these religious leaders don’t know is Jesus is going to go willingly to the cross.
In today’s round the Jewish leaders move in to try to throw another knockout punch at Jesus. You’ll notice they first try to fake Him out with flattery before they try to knock Him down.
Mark 12:13-17. “Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, ‘Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?’”
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.
What’s wrong with this picture? The Pharisees and Herodians were joining forces against Jesus. These two groups were on the opposite extremes of Jewish culture. The Herodians were a secular group who supported the Romans, and the Pharisees were a spiritual group who hated the Romans. It would be like A White Supremacist group cooperating with the NAACP. But the Pharisees and the Herodians shared one desire: They both wanted to get rid of Jesus. They demonstrated the old saying, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.”
They thought they had cleverly laid a trap for Jesus. If He said, “Don’t pay taxes,” He could have been arrested by the Romans. If said, “Pay taxes,” then all the common Jewish people would have considered Him a traitor. But Jesus outsmarted them. He said, “Show me the money!” Instead of being trapped, He shares an amazing life-principle. The best translation is, “Give back to Caesar what is his; and Give back to God what is His.” There is a double-truth in this principle that is still in effect. What is God trying to teach us from this passage?
I. THE GOVERNMENT HAS A LEGAL CLAIM ON YOUR LOYALTY
Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Why didn’t Jesus pull out a coin from his pocket? He didn’t have one. We sometimes forget that He lived a life of worldly poverty. He said, “Foxes have holes and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to lay His head.”
The coin someone produced was a Roman denarius. If it dated to the time of Jesus, it would have had the image of Tiberius Caesar on one side and on the other side it said he was the son of the Divine Augustus, the most high. It literally said Tiberius was the son of god because the Romans claimed Augustus was a god. How ironic that the true Son of God would be holding a coin with that inscription.