WindCity was fortunate to hear from my friend Steve Gunderson last Sunday. Enjoy the below devotional thought from him as we get a bit of a preview into this Sunday’s text!
The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is not very detailed in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 1.12-13) as it is in Matthew and Luke. There is nothing in Mark about turning stones into bread or seeing the kingdoms of the world or jumping off of towers. This is because in a certain sense most of Mark is about Jesus being ‘in the wilderness’ being opposed by Satan. Chapters 10-12 show Jesus in the ‘spiritual’ wilderness being opposed by religious and secular leaders seeking to ‘tempt’ him and this continues in Mark 12.13-17 (http://www.esvbible.org/Mark%2012%3A13-17/) . It is the Pharisees (the religious conservatives) and the Herodians (the political elite) who are questioning Jesus. They were completely opposing parties with The Pharisees standing against Rome and the Herodians supporting the Roman government as their name implies (followers of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee supported by Rome) .This is their attempt to destroy Jesus together as indicated in Mark 3.6.
Paying taxes to pagan Rome was considered by many Jews as an outrage and an act of betrayal since it was God who was the real king of Israel and not the petty tyrants ruling Rome (The ‘tax’ being spoken of here was probably the census tax which went directly to the emperor). The Herodians, however, supported the tax because Rome would keep puppet kings such as Antipas in power. It was a clever trap because if Jesus said it was wrong to pay tax to Caesar, then the Herodians would have evidence against him. If, however, he said that one should pay the tax to Caesar, then he would be declared a traitor to the Jews.
There is clear evidence that Mark writes, in part, to a Roman audience. The picture of the Messiah in Mark is not of a revolutionary bent on destroying Rome (as many Jews expected and hoped). Jesus is rather a ‘Messiah’ who serves and benefits others. Though he admits to being the Messiah in Mark 8.29-30, he wishes to keep this secret. He is not interested in inflaming others or creating stumbling blocks in people coming to him (even Romans). Jesus even submits to the Roman tax and acknowledges the benefits of the civil authority, though he doesn’t compromise any commitment to God. One lesson for us today is not to create stumbling blocks for people hearing the Gospel. We need, as Christians, to pray for much wisdom in this. There is a right time to speak about judgement and hell, but there is also a wrong time. There may be a time to bring in current political issues, but these can also be a stumbling block. Denominational loyalties, divisions over Bible translations or ‘proper’ Christian music, etc., can easily become means of turning people off. At the end of this encounter it states in v.17 that his hearers ‘marveled’ at Jesus and his answers. In all our encounters with people this should be our goal. We don’t want to put stumbling blocks in front of them nor draw attention to ourselves, but rather that they marvel at our savior through our witness and gracious and wise words.