Chapter 52


“Knowing Their Hypocrisy”


“And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” (Mark 12:13-17)


            Our Savior declared, in Psalm 35:16, “With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth.” Here we see those prophetic words fulfilled. The Scriptures declare that we who follow Christ are and must be crucified unto the world. That man or woman who believes on the Son of God is and must be dead to the world.


“‘How is the believer dead to the world when he lives in the world, works a regular job, raises a family, and owns property in the world?’ A young student asked his Bible teacher. The teacher sent him out to the gravesite of a friend with instructions to criticize the dead friend, harass him, and find fault, and then praise him with glowing terms and brag on him to excess. Upon his return, the teacher asked, ‘What did your friend say when you criticized him?’ ‘Nothing.’ ‘How did he react when you praised him?’ ‘It made no difference to him; he is dead!’ ‘That is what it means to be dead to this world,’ said the teacher. Its applause means nothing and its hatred means nothing. We neither admire the people of this world nor do we fear them. The riches of this world are but the fancy of fools, and the honors of this world mean little or nothing; for to be a child of God is the highest calling. The religious traditions and ceremonies of the world have no attraction nor meaning when Christ is all! That which was once important to us we now consider loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, our Lord. This spiritual life in Christ cannot be explained; it must be experienced.”

(Henry Mahan)


            No one so thoroughly and constantly exemplified this deadness to as he who came to do the will of God and always did the Father’s will perfectly. Our Lord Jesus Christ was dead to both the flatteries and the abuses of the world; and if we would follow him and do his will we must be as well. We see a clear example of the Savior’s deadness to the world in his dealings with the Pharisees and the Herodians in this passage.


Truth from Lying Lips


The very first thing that strikes me, as I read this passage is the fact the God often causes the truth to be spoken from lying lips. In his great sovereignty, our God often causes the enemies of the gospel to proclaim the truth, though they despise it. These hypocritical religious leaders came to our Redeemer for the purpose of laying a snare before him, to catch him in his words. When they did, they declared as clearly as any prophet or apostle three great truths about his character, both as God and as the God-man, our Mediator. In verse 14 they said…

  1. Thou art true.”
  2. Thou carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men.”
  3. Thou teachest the way of God in truth.”


In John 11, God the Holy Spirit forced a false prophet, Caiaphas the high priest, to declare the gospel of our Redeemer’s substitutionary death in the room of his elect as clearly as the Apostle Paul declared it in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. Speaking by the Spirit of God, Caiaphas said, “It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, that the whole nation perish not” (John 11:50-51).


            In fact, in the case of the dying thief (Luke 23:39-43), it appears that the Lord God used the truth spoken by unbelieving men as the means by which he gave faith to the chosen object of his grace. My reason for stating this is to show that the means of grace is not always obvious. We know that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). We know that sinners are “born-again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever… And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:23-25). But many point to the dying thief and say, “That man was saved without hearing the gospel.” Was he? No. Let me remind you of the things he heard, as he hung upon the cross. I do not know what he heard, or did not hear beforehand. But as he hung by his dying Savior, he heard and saw the gospel as clearly as anyone ever could. He heard the crucified Christ hailed as “the King of Israel” (Matthew 27:42). He heard that the man hanging beside him had claimed to be the Son of God. — “He said, I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:43). He heard the chief priests and scribes say, “He saved others; himself he cannot save” (Mark 15:31). He read Pilate’s testimony, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38; John 19:19). And he saw the Lamb of God dying as a Substitute in the place of a guilty man (Barabbas), who was released from death because he died in his place.


Mutual Enemies Unite


The next thing we see in these verses is the fact that lost men and women who are mutual enemies, people who utterly despise one another, will unite in opposition to Christ and his gospel. The Pharisees were religious fundamentalists, superstitious ceremonialists and self-righteous moralists. Religion was their life. They lived to go to church and do religious stuff. The Herodians were mere worldlings. They had absolutely no use for religion. They cared no more for the honor of God (his name, his will, his glory) than for the life of a maggot.


            Yet, when the Lord Jesus Christ came preaching the gospel, the Pharisees and the Herodians were united like blood kin in the common cause of opposing him. Both the religious crowd and the worldly crowd despised the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ, as Christ himself preached it and personified it.


            That is the way it has always been. That is the way it is now. And that is the way it will always be, as long as the world stands, until Christ makes all things new. The cross of Christ is an offense to unregenerate men, both religious and irreligious (Galatians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 1:17-24).


            All lost men hate God and the gospel of Christ. All despise those things revealed in the gospel. There are no exceptions. God’s sovereignty offends man’s pride and sense of self-determination. Fallen man desperately wants some credit for the salvation of his soul. Man is repulsed by the Bible doctrine of election because he thinks it is unfair for God to be gracious to whom he will be gracious. The teaching of Holy Scripture that man is totally depraved offends man’s sense of self-worth and his love of his own imaginary righteousness. The Bible’s teaching about Christ’s limited, the effectual redemption of God’s elect by the death of Christ, enrages men who think God owes sinners salvation, that he owes men a “chance” to be saved. The fact that salvation comes by the revelation of God the Holy Spirit in irresistible grace offends man’s love of wisdom. When faced with the plain declaration of the gospel, men who despise one another, always unite in opposition to it.


Bold Hypocrisy


These Pharisees and Herodians stand before us as glaring examples of the brazen boldness of hypocrisy. No one is more confident, bold, or arrogant than the hypocrite. He never openly shows his true colors. In order to cover his hypocrisy he has a bold, brazen, outward pretense of sincerity. Do you see that in verses 13 and 14?


“And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”


            When they could not find anything in his own doctrine or conduct for which to kill him, these proud hypocrites thought they could out smart the Son of God and trick him into saying something with which to accuse him. They began by flattering him as a man who was true, sincere, faithful and honest, unmoved, unimpressed and uninfluenced by men, and beyond the reach of bribery and intimidation. None are more subtle and deceiving than religious people who hate God.


            But the Lord Jesus was much more than a mere man. He was and is the omniscient God, before whom all things are naked and open. He knew their hypocrisy and caught them in their own trap.


“And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves” (vv. 15-17).


Political Controversies


There is no greater, more effective snare, by which both God’s people and his servants are apt to be ensnared than overmuch concern about the cares and controversies of civil government. As I write this, the United States is in the middle of a presidential election. How sad it is to see so many who are citizens of another world embroiled in heated political controversy.


Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:1-5)


            Our Lord would not allow himself to be drawn into the trap of political wrangling and worldly strife. We cannot be too careful about these things. We must not allow ourselves to be overly concerned about the things of this world. I do not say that we are to have no concern about civil matters, or that we should not vote in political elections. Not at all. Believers should be the best of citizens; and good citizens act responsibly for the welfare of their nation. But the politics of this world, its pleasures, its treasures and its opinions should be of little concern to those who are crucified to the world.


            Yet, faith in Christ and obedience to him is never a justification for any of us neglecting our God given responsibilities in this world. Our Lord Jesus commands us to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. That simply means that it is the responsibility of all men to both worship God and to be responsible, productive citizens in this world. The fact is, those who truly do worship God are the very best, most responsible, dependable, productive citizens in every generation.


Marveling not Believing


Learn this too, marveling at Christ’s doctrine is not believing on the Son of God. Many marvel at Christ and his doctrine who never believe. The last sentence of verse 17 reads, “And they marveled at him.” The same thing often happens today. Frequently, men and women are impressed with a system of doctrine, the abilities of a preacher, a church, or a group of people. They attach themselves to preachers, churches, doctrines and causes, but not to Christ. They marvel for a while, but never come to trust the Son of God.


            Salvation is something more than being impressed with and marveling at Christ. Salvation is knowing him and trusting him. I am not interested in impressing you. I want you to know Christ. Without him, you are without life, without forgiveness, without righteousness, without God, without hope. Why will you perish? Why will you die? Come to Christ and live forever. God help you now to come to him. The Lord Jesus Christ himself bids you come and promises to receive you, save you, and keep you, if you come to him.




Don Fortner



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