Wave after wave of attacks
In 1972 on the southern coast of Oman eight Special Air Service soldiers had been secretly deployed to help the local troops counter the possibility of a Marxist inspired insurrection. These S.A.S. men with thirty local policemen were occupying a mud-walled fort when at 5.30, as dawn was breaking on July 18th, three hundred rebel tribesmen who had come across from the Yemen attacked the fort with all the fire power at their disposal. It was utterly unexpected. The man in command was 23 year-old Mike Kealy, and his small force had to leap out of their sleeping bags, dress, grab their rifles and defend themselves. Wave after wave of tribesmen advanced with rifles and machine guns up to fifty yards from the fort. They were beaten back but soon another wave of attacks began. For four hours Mike Kealy led his men in defending the fort, resisting all attacks and keeping up the morale of his men throughout the time. Only two of the members of the S.A.S. were lost while they killed eighty of the enemy who were forced to retreat to the Yemen. Mike Kealy was awarded a D.S.O. for his bravery in rescuing some of his wounded men; some people felt that he deserved a Victoria Cross.
In these chapters of Mark’s gospel we find wave after wave of men coming and attacking the Lord Jesus. It’s the last week before Jesus will be arrested and crucified. Yesterday we saw how the chief priests and lawyers came to Him (11:27-33). Today Pharisees and Herodians (supporters of Herod’s Roman occupation regime) come to trap him on paying taxes (12:13-17) and then Sadducees come in another wave to quiz Jesus about resurrection. Tomorrow the scribes will be back trying to get Jesus to incriminate himself. Our wonderful Lord fights back each wave of attack, amazing the inquisitors with his countering questions and answers.
The next wave of attack, after yesterdays, is from the collaborating Pharisees and Herodians. If Jesus affirms taxation, He will offend His followers who are under occupation. If he rejects it, He faces charges of treason.
A denarius was essentially a day’s wages – Jesus asks whose image is on the coin. The Denarius bears the image of the emperor, but humans bear the image of God. So give to Caesar what is Caesar’s (money), but to God what is His, our lives. Genius!
This is the first time the Sadducees are mentioned in Mark’s gospel. They were the establishment of those times, the elite group of aristocrats who owned a lot of land, men of wealth and rank. They were the power brokers in Israel’s supreme court, the Sanhedrin. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection (that made them “Sad You See”) and only accepted the first five books of the Scriptures, the Law, as God’s word. So they come to Jesus with “Teacher, Moses said…” because Moses is their authority. To the Sadducee, human beings only have this life here and now. That is what they believed; no judgement; at death the soul perishes with the body. They affirmed man’s free will. They were the captains of their own fate and the masters of their own souls. They had clearly been influenced by Greek philosophy more than they cared to acknowledge. So when Mark introduces them in verse eighteen as representatives of a kind of first century rationalism he says that they were “the Sadducees who say there is no resurrection.” They are not alone then or now. Billions have that kind of attitude to life. They live just for this life, rejecting the fact that the living God is a righteous and a sin-hating God, the judge of all mankind.
They come to Jesus with a mocking attitude and ridiculous scenario – kind of like when atheists ask silly questions to try and belittle Christianity. There’s a story of a Christian carpenter in New Jersey named Elmer Albright who in the shipyard where he worked witnessed to all the other men, and especially to a young atheist named Ernest Reisinger, but praying for him in secret more than he talked to Ernie openly. The other men would tease and rile Elmer: “Elmer, where did Adam’s son Cain get his wife?” they would quiz him. But Elmer gave as good as he got: “Aw, I’m a Christian; I don’t bother with other men’s wives,” he replied. Obviously, we know that Cain must have married one of his sisters.
So the Sadducees brought this old chestnut to Jesus to belittle the resurrection. Other men came sincerely to Christ and they were answered sincerely by him. Jesus counters their ridiculous scenario with quotes from parts of the Bible they don’t believe and the statement that they don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.
God is the God of the living. Jesus is alive and we will live forever more with Him! Hallelujah!