17 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:17–18, NKJV)
Jesus expected His apostles to understand His warning against the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, but they were only thinking about physical bread (Mark 8:14-16). He said their hearts were “still hardened” because they could not perceive (understand) the meaning of His warning. They needed to comprehend the corrupting influence of their error, immorality, and hypocrisy (Matt. 16:11-12; Luke 12:1). Here is a lesson on being distinctive hearers. It matters how we hear Christ’s word. Jesus said, “Therefore take heed how you hear” (Luke 8:18). The Pharisees disputed with Jesus and rejected His signs (Mark 8:11-12). Like their forefathers, they were “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears” (Acts 7:51-52). We must have open hearts to receive the gospel of Christ, lest the leaven of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians corrupt us. (Demanding preaching that scratches itching ears still happens, 2 Tim. 4:3-4.) When we resist the word of Christ, we are disputing with and testing Jesus just like the unbelieving Pharisees (Mark 8:11). May we humbly, reverently, and obediently accept the word of Christ. We understand Christ’s teachings when our will is to do the will of God (John 7:16-17; Eph. 3:3-4; Heb. 5:12-14). Open your heart to the gospel of Christ, and you will be blessed (Acts 17:11-12).
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him (Mark 12:32–34, NKJV).
The scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians continually tried to ensnare Jesus with His words (Luke 11:53-54). They utterly failed. After witnessing one such occasion, this scribe acknowledged the truth Jesus spoke and applied it to loving God and others. He was beginning to grasp the Savior’s teaching. Jesus said he was near the kingdom. Christians should guard against being like the scribes and others by seeking loopholes in Christ’s word. Our hearts should be noble and receptive toward God’s truth, not obstinate and combative (Luke 8:15). This text also teaches us we cannot excuse the ill-treatment of others with religious offerings and sacrifices. Deeds of spiritual piety do not conceal inward hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matt. 23:27-28). Jesus laid down His life because He loved the Father and every one of us. We are called to God and others as He has loved us (1 John 3:16; 4:10-11). Remember, “we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
1 And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. (Mark 3:1–2, NKJV)
Why do you look at Jesus? Mark tells us why the Pharisees and Herodians watched Jesus: to accuse Him (see Mark 3:6). They did not see in Jesus a teacher of good news, who showed heaven’s mercy by miraculously healing the afflicted, and who brought news of salvation from sin (Mark 3:3-5; 1:14-15). They did not see the Son of God. No, they saw a man who did not honor their Sabbath traditions (Mark 2:23-28). This, they could not abide. So, they watched Jesus closely, so they could bring charges against Him as a Sabbath-breaker and an evil man. Again, we ask, why do you look at Jesus? Do you look to Jesus as your Lord, who has authority over your words and deeds? Do you look at Jesus with humble submission, and do His will? Or, do you look at Jesus to find fault, or to rationalize away your sins? Why we look at Jesus is crucial in determining what we see when we look at Him. The Pharisees and Herodians saw a Sabbath-breaker. His apostles saw the “Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Who do you see?
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:15–21, NKJV)
In their vain attempt to ensnare Jesus, the Pharisees and Herodians assumed intrinsic conflict between the government of God and the government of men. Yet, the kingdom of God is spiritual; it is “not of this world” (Jno. 18:36). The kingdoms of men exist by the will of God, who is Sovereign over all (Acts 17:26; Dan. 4:25, 32). Therefore, there is no inherent conflict between God and “Caesar.” God commands us to pay our taxes and honor our rulers (Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17). Christians willingly submit to the ordinances of men unless doing so violates the revealed will of God (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-16; Acts 5:29). Christians are not anarchists, but patriots, who “honor the king” as they “fear God” (1 Pet. 2:17).