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Mark’s first-century biography – page 35

And they (the Jerusalem authorities, c. AD 30) sent out to him (Jesus of Nazareth) some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, so that they might entrap him in word. 

There are the final few days before Jesus’ execution on the cross. He has come to Jerusalem so that this will take place. His purpose is now to bring into the light the truth about the religious and political authorities there, knowing that this will provoke them to kill him.

He has just made clear to them – admittedly using a parallel story - that they are fulfilling their own Scriptures by having decided already to kill him. So, temporarily defeated but unwilling to capitulate they attempt entrapment.

And, coming to him, they stated, “Teacher, we have perceived that you are true and it is not any concern of yours about anyone else. For you do not look at the face of human beings but teach in truth the way of God. Is it permitted to give a poll tax to Caesar, or not? Should we give, or should we not give?” 
 
The Pharisees were known to be strong on religious observance and Jewish nationalism. The Herodians were supporters of King Herod, the puppet of Rome (Jerusalem and the whole area was part of the Roman Empire) who, although an Idumean, obtained the majority support of the Jewish people.

These men at heart were anti-Rome. Could they entrap Jesus into a public statement against Rome which would bring about his arrest for insurgency?

 
They try hard. 'You are true and don’t hold back because of others. You don’t hold back because of others but speak truth.'
‘Flattery is praise insincerely given for an interested purpose.’ (Henry Ward Beecher, preacher and social reformer, 1813-1887) 
To give or not to give (to Rome, to Caesar) – that is the question. It is an earthly question and seemingly has no bearing on the eternal things about which Jesus came.

But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius so that I may perceive.” 

“Hypocrisy”? Play-acting. Pretence. Note that these men said that they had "perceived" things about Jesus. Then Jesus says that he "may perceive" something from this silver coin with an intrinsic value of approximately £100 today.

But, when they themselves bring it, he states to them, “Whose picture and whose written name?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 

The Roman poll tax would be paid in silver which carried Caesar’s portrait and Caesar’s name. 

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” 

The answer to the earthly question had suddenly become extremely plain. 

But there was another earthly question to be answered which would have eternal consequences in as well. What about their vertical relationship?

And they were utterly amazed by him. 

"Utterly amazed"? The verb used by Mark is ekthaumazo. At first blush it looks 'over the top'. What was so utterly amazing about Jesus in this incident?

One thing to note is that Mark records that “they” were utterly amazed. The “they” must, in context, be these Pharisees and Herodians. 

 
Were they gob-smacked because Jesus had continued to be what they had claimed to have perceived about him? 'You are true and don’t hold back because of others. You don’t hold back because of others but speak truth.'

‘Most of us do not like to look inside ourselves for the same reason we don’t like to open a letter that contains bad news.’ (Fulton J Sheen, tv and radio preacher, 1895-1979)
Were they gob-smacked because, in doing that he had revealed to “them” their devastating failure to have – personally – peace with God? Did they perceive that?
 
Sinner Syvret

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