“Render to Caesar…”
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“Render to Caesar…”

Mark 12:13–17  (ID: 2841)

Under Roman occupation, the Jews were divided about whether it was ethical to pay taxes to Caesar—and to trap Jesus, they asked Him to solve the dilemma. Jesus reminded them that each life bears the image of someone with more authority than Caesar and that their deepest debt was a responsibility to God. Considering Jesus’ words, Alistair Begg explains how political issues of the age can distract us from the primary issue of the rule of Christ in our hearts and minds.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Mark, Volume 6

Jesus vs. the Religious Leaders Mark 11:12–12:44 Series ID: 14106

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to Mark and to chapter 12. Mark chapter 12, and we’re going to read from verse 13:

“And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you[’re] not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.’ And they brought one. And he said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said to him, ‘Caesar’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at him.”


We pray together:

Father, I pray that you will help me to speak clearly, that you will help us to think properly, that you help us to believe with a grace-engendered belief. For your Son’s sake. Amen.

I haven’t been watching any of the political debates. I know that many of you do, because you mention it to me. I like debates; unfortunately, I don’t regard these things as debates, and so it infuriates me to try and watch them. But I did, the other day, catch a glimpse of one of them—actually, on the internet—when one of the candidates, in responding to his questioner, said to the questioner, “I am not interested in answering your gotcha questions.” “Your gotcha questions.” I’m not sure I’d ever heard the phrase “gotcha question” before, but I instantaneously knew what he meant, and partly because I was studying this little section of Mark chapter 12 and recognized in that phrase that that is exactly the kind of question that was being posed here by these individuals who came to test Jesus. And this morning, as we look at what is for some a familiar section, I want to trace a line though it by noticing, first of all, the approach of these individuals, then considering the question that they asked, then considering the teacher’s reaction, and then, finally, thinking about their response, and ours, to this instruction.

The Approach

First of all, then, Mark tells us of how they set this up. They had been coming to Jesus—we’ve seen that already—seeking to challenge his authority. At the end of chapter 11, they’d gone away somewhat dispirited, one would think, at their inability to actually catch Jesus out. But they had regrouped, and they were back—not in the same configuration, but they were back as representatives of the previous group.

And what we’re told in verse 13 is that there is an unholy alliance here of both Pharisees and Herodians. You will notice that it says, “And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians.” The “they” presumably are those mentioned in verse 12, where we’re told by Mark that “they” were annoyed, seeking to arrest Jesus, because they recognized “that he had told the parable against them.” And so they then said, “Well, let’s send another little group and see if we can’t do a better job than we’ve done before.” And so this unholy group are then dispatched in the forlorn hope of trapping Jesus, of somehow catching him out.

Those of us who are familiar with our Bibles and have been paying attention going through Mark will immediately say to ourselves, “Aha! This is not really unusual.” This group have been up to their tricks before. And, of course, if you go back to 3:6, you will find that on that occasion—which is a long time ago in our studies now—the occasion when Jesus had entered the synagogue, and there was a man who was disabled—he had a withered hand—and Jesus had healed him. And on that occasion—Mark 3:6—it says, “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

So here we have the resurgence of the commitment on the part of this group to finally silence Jesus. They are actually working out the prophetic statement of Psalm 2, which we considered two weeks ago, “The rulers take counsel together, against the Lord.”[1] And that is exactly what we find happening here. These strange bedfellows are united in their opposition to Jesus. The Herodians, from a kind of political base, and the Pharisees, from an ecclesiastical or a more theological base, are amalgamated in their desire to finally destroy Jesus Christ.

And we recognize that that perspective is not unique to the time of the New Testament. And when we read history and as we experience contemporary history, we find that this notion is emerging again and again—a combination of both politics and theology in order to silence Jesus Christ, in order to make sure that the story of someone dying for the sins of mankind is finally silenced once and for all. This notion that the name of Jesus is the only name under heaven among men by which someone might be saved[2]—we find ourselves reading our newspapers and watching as the story unfolds, as politics and theology combine to say, “We want to be done with that story, and we want to be done with that Jesus.”

That is exactly what is taking place here. And you will notice that Mark tells us that they were very specific insofar as they were hoping “to trap him in his talk.” “To trap him in his talk.” They would be so bold as to think that they could catch the teacher out. Now, that’s exactly what they’re hoping to do.

The kingdoms of this world are not the primary issue. It is the kingly rule of Christ.

Incidentally, you will notice that they address him there in verse 14 as “Teacher” or as “Rabbi,” because the one thing that they were unable to gainsay was the fact that he was a remarkable teacher. In fact, the people kept saying again and again, as we’ve read the Gospel, after he had finished, the sermon was over, they went out saying to one another, “This fellow is a remarkable teacher. He teaches with authority. We can understand what he’s saying.” And the disparagement that was represented in that vis-à-vis the Pharisees themselves was something that they couldn’t miss. And so they come, and they refer to him in that way. For those of you who are interested in stuff like this, the verb didasko, which is “to teach,” comes seventeen times in the Gospel of Mark, and on sixteen occasions it refers to Jesus. The noun comes eleven times, and on every occasion it refers to Jesus.

So they get the designation correct, don’t they: “Teacher” or” Rabbi”? But you will notice that their question wasn’t prompted by a desire for instruction. They weren’t good pupils. They weren’t the kind of pupil that you like to have in your chemistry class, who’s actually asking a question because they’re seeking to come to a sense of understanding. Unfortunately, many of you have had pupils like me in your class, who is asking a question in order to delay the proceedings as long as possible so that we can get out as quickly as possible. That kind of pupil is represented here in these characters who come to him.

Now, you will notice that they set him up for an answer in a very obsequious way. Their approach is one of flattery: “We know, Teacher, that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you’re not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God.” This is a wonderful example of how to say the best of things from the worst of motives. What they say is true. What they say is accurate. It is well said. But the thing that gives the lie to it is their motivation. They are saying these things, but if they really believed them, they would’ve become the follower of Jesus. If he truly was true and taught the way of God and they were committed to the way of God, then they would’ve said, “You teach the way of God, we want the way of God; therefore, we will become your followers.” But no! They knew that he taught the way of God. They paid lip service to the way of God. But when it came to the crunch, they didn’t want to do the will of God.

That’s not an unusual perspective, incidentally. I have people tell me all the time, “Oh, I’m very committed to the way of God.” And then you point out the specific instance for what it will mean to be obedient to God, and they say, “Oh no, no, I don’t want to do that. I’m just sort of generically interested in the way of God, but not specifically interested in the way of God right now—for my marriage, or for my morals,” or for whatever it might be. So the approach is sort of Augustinian: “Lord, make me pure, but not tonight.”[3] “I’m interested in the way of God, but not as it relates to anything specific in my life.” Then you’re not interested in the way of God. “Teacher, we know that you are this, we know that you’re not that, we know that you’re the next thing, and here we are.”

Well, they were right to point out that he wasn’t swayed by appearances, because he certainly wasn’t swayed by their appearances, was he? There’s an irony in that “for you’re not swayed by appearances.” Jesus is saying under his breath, “You got that one right. You think you can come here and con me, you rascals? Do you think you’re gonna come with all of that kind of flowery language and unsettle me?”

And they were right to acknowledge that he had told the truth without fear or favor. What they’re saying to him when they say, “We know you don’t care about anyone’s opinion,” is not, “We know that you’re dismissive and haven’t got any interest in what anyone else has to say.” No. They’re saying, “We know that you are impartial. We know that you’re impartial. That you’re not like the politician who licks his finger, holds it up, finds out what way the wind is blowing, and then decides that that’s exactly the way in which he is going. No, Jesus, you’re impartial, you’re uninfluenced by these things. We know that.” That’s their approach.

The Question

Secondly, their question. “Get to it,” if you like. “Okay, thank you very much. Get to it.” Well, the question is there: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”

Well, this was a hot potato. This was a dilemma. The paying of taxes, I think, is historically a dilemma. Controversy regarding the payment of tax is apparently a perennial issue, and some have a great deal to say about it all the time. And so we find here in the first century that the same thing was going on: “Are we supposed to pay the tax, or are we not supposed to pay the tax?” Rome had levied a tax on Judea in AD 6, and as a result, it made it clear to the Jews, who were part of the Roman Empire by subjugation, that they were actually subservient to the Roman Empire. Because every time they had to pay their tax, it revealed the fact of their subjection. In fact, it was one of the ways in which they couldn’t fail to realize that they were under the thumb of Rome.

Some within the community were known as Zealots. Their party was, if you like, the party of turbulence. The party of no compromise. The party of saying, “Since the Roman Empire is something with which we disagree, we will therefore not pay taxes to the Roman Empire.” They were on the one side. The Herodians—politicos—and the Pharisees—theologues—had determined a way to compromise with this circumstance so as to be able to justify, at least in their own minds, how to pay the taxes to Rome without actually compromising their convictions. Interestingly—and to this we’ll return before we finish—at least one of the members of the discipleship band was actually a member of the Zealot party, at least in the past.

Now, what happens in this is not dissimilar to what happened before—except that, on the previous occasion, when they’d sought to challenge the authority of Jesus, he had put them on the horns of a dilemma by asking them—remember—“Is the baptism of John from heaven, or is it from earth?” And they realized, “We’re trapped, because there’s no way out of this one.” And so, remember, they said, “We don’t know.”[4] Pathetic response. And then they all went home.

They’re determined that they’re not going to do that this time, and so they’ve been far more specific. And they are determined to get from Jesus a yes or a no for an answer. In other words, they’re now going to put him on the horns of a dilemma. And you will notice the way in which the question is asked. And it’s well put here in the ESV: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Yes or no? “Should we pay them, or should we not?” Yes or no? It’s a bit like these questions that are flying all around in the political realm at the moment. And then you’ve got the dance that starts, because no one’s able to come up with a categorical answer.

Interestingly—and this is where motivation comes in—by the time these characters were accusing Jesus before Pilate, before his crucifixion, when they go before Pilate to accuse Jesus—and this is recorded in Luke 23:2—this is what they say: “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give [taxes] to Caesar.” That was a flat-out lie. He never did that at all. But you see, their motive was to destroy him. And as soon as that became foremost in their thinking, then there was no low to which they were unprepared to stoop in order to achieve their objective.

The Reaction

Okay? So their approach is insincere. Their question is a hot potato. Then, thirdly, notice the teacher’s response. The teacher’s response.

Jesus responds with two questions and a statement. First of all, a rhetorical question—you will notice it there: “Why put me to the test?” “Why put me to the test?” I guess I have political debates in my mind now, because I’m just hearing—was it Ronald Reagan? Was it Ronald Reagan who said, “There you go again”? Was that him? He said that… I can’t remember what he was going on… “There you go again!” Was it, “There you go again, mentioning my age”? I can’t remember what it was. About Social Security! Okay. “There you go again!” And so, what Jesus is saying here—“Why put me to the test?”—is essentially that: “There you go again. Here we go. We’re going back down the same old road.”

“Why do you say that?” Turn over one page in your Bible to 10:2: “And [Jesus] left there … [he] went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and [the] crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And [the] Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’”[5] “To test him,” they asked. You go back another page into 8:11: “[And] the Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.” “To test him.” All right?

So when Jesus says here in chapter 12, “Why do you put me to the test?” he’s essentially saying, “Are you just gonna keep doing this? Don’t you realize that I faced, if you like, the ultimate test?”—when, at the very outset of his ministry, he’s led into the wilderness, and he is tested, he is tempted, by the Evil One. And in the course of that dialogue, Jesus says to the devil, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”[6] And here they are. And the genesis of this is always with the Evil One. Their hypocrisy is an indication of that. Jesus had no time for religious hypocrisy. He confronted it again and again: “Woe to you, Pharisees,” he says, “hypocrites! You’re hypocrites!”[7] He condemned them outright for their insincerity. And the reason he did so was because he recognized that it had its foundation in the antagonism of the Evil One, who lies behind the plot to destroy the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, in this first rhetorical question—“Why put me to the test?”—I wonder if Jesus isn’t actually pointing out the futility of what they’re attempting: “Why do you even bother to put me to the test? You know I’m not going to fail this test. Why put me to the test?”

Then he follows it up with a practical question. A practical question. The Roman denarius was a small silver coin, similar to a quarter, both in terms of value and size—perhaps a little smaller. It was accepted as payment of taxes in Judea. “Why put me to the test? Has anyone got a coin? Has anyone got a denarius?” he says. Someone says, “Yeah, I got one.” They flip it to him, he takes it, he says, “Let me look at it.”

You can imagine the drama that is involved in this. They’ve all come together, dispatched by the rulers. They’re there with their beginning—nice, flattering beginning. They’ve built up to their question. They’ve stated it in categorical terms. And Jesus says, “I don’t know why you put me to the test. Anyone got a denarius?” He takes the denarius, and he looks at it. “They brought one,” and he said, “Hey, whose likeness is on this? And whose inscription is on this?”—turning it back and forth, presumably. And “they said to him, ‘Caesar’s.’” Actually, at this point in history, Tiberius Caesar Augustus. And on the denarius coin was this designation, with his face: “Son of the divine Augustus.” So in other words, this “god” with a small g that was represented on the coin was the son of further divinity. And on the back, there was a designation of him seated on a throne, wearing a diadem, and clothed as a high priest. And it actually said on the reverse of the coin, “The high priest.”

Okay. So far, so good. “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” What’s Jesus going to say? Picture the scene as he says, “Yes, pay the tax. Pay the tax.” “Well,” you say, “that’s not what he says.” It’s exactly what he says! It says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”[8] What have they asked him? “Are you supposed to pay the tax, or not? Should we pay it, or not?” Answer: “Yes, pay the tax.” Don’t allow the fact that you know the phrase “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”—you know, from watching it on the black-and-white TV—don’t let it obscure what he’s saying. They asked a question: “We supposed to pay the tax or not?” Says, “Yeah, pay the tax.”

Now, that must’ve absolutely excited them immediately. Jesus is saying, “I’m not going to give any place to the Zealots, who are gonna try and run a country within the country. I’m not gonna allow any of you guys to hang me with the notion that because you don’t like what’s going on in the Roman Empire, you’re not gonna pay the taxes anymore. There are privileges involved in being part of the Roman Empire. There are responsibilities involved in being part of the Roman Empire. Part of the responsibility’s in paying the tax. Therefore, pay the tax.”

But before the questioners have the opportunity to run out down the street shouting, “He said yes, he said yes, he said yes!” he immediately follows up: “…and to God the things that are God’s.” Now, what is he saying here? Well, this is what he’s saying: “On that coin that I asked for, you will find the image of Tiberius. He’s the one who minted these coins. He’s the one who put them into currency. He has a justifiable right to the tax that accrues. But on your lives there is another image, stamped as clearly or more clearly than the image of Tiberius on the denarius—and that is the image of God who made you. So, therefore, your commitment, within the framework of the culture, to the responsibilities that are represented in Caesar’s tax are within the context of your ultimate responsibility to the living God who made you in his image.”

Now, remember that from the very outset Jesus has explained to the people, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is near; repent and believe the good news.”[9] Jesus is saying, “I am the King, I am establishing my kingdom, and entry to my kingdom is by way of repentance and faith.” He’s not deviating from that here. The specific question about tax is answered within the wider concentric circle of the individual’s responsibility to bow beneath the kingly authority of Christ. If you like, we might say that Jesus is here putting politics in its place. Putting politics in its place. Putting an understanding of one’s responsibility to the state within the ultimate understanding of one’s responsibility to God.

And—you must think this out for yourselves—it seems clear to me that if Jesus is putting politics in its place, that place is secondary and not primary. Secondary and not primary. The issues of political freedom are not the ultimate issues of life. You need only to think about Somalia this morning, or Egypt, or northern India, or all the places in the world where our brothers and sisters have no prospect of political freedom. If political freedom was the be-all and end-all of what it was to live your out your existence, then theirs is one miserable existence. But political freedom is not the primary issue. The kingdoms of this world are not the primary issue. It is the kingly rule of Christ. And when an individual, myself included, becomes preoccupied with the kingdom, or the kingdoms, of this world—so as to divert me from evangelism, so as to preoccupy me, so as to send me to bed at night stinkin’ mad because everything has gone the wrong way as far as I’m concerned—what I reveal to myself is the fact that I have got these things reversed—that I have got what is secondary and I’ve made it primary, and I’ve got what is primary and I have made it secondary. You’re sensible people; you gotta think it out.

The Response

That brings me to my final point: their response, and our response. Their response is in one sentence: “And they marveled at him.” “And they marveled at him.” Remember, their response earlier was, they just “left him and went away.” That was in verse 12, wasn’t it? There, they just drift off. And here they go off down the street, saying, “It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? We thought we had him! We thought we had put the question together in the perfect way to make sure that he was trapped. Either he was gonna incur the displeasure of the people if he said yes, or if he said no, then he was going to raise the risk of the Roman authorities coming to get him as an insurrectionist. But look what he’s done to us.” And they marveled. They marveled.

Whatever my objectives, whatever my concerns, whatever my political designs, desires, whatever my economic theories, they have to be a distant second to my submission to the kingship of Christ.

I wonder, have you marveled at God? Do you come here like this unholy alliance? Is this how you read your Bible? Is this how you think about things? People tell me all the time it is. They write to me from the radio program, said, “I heard your funny voice on the radio, and it annoyed me. And then I started to listen to you, and it annoyed me even more when I heard what you were saying.” It makes me wonder why they’re now writing to me, and I read on, and they say, “And we continued to listen to you so that we could find out just how wrong you are, so that we could finally write and tell you how your head is full of whistles and how you’re full of nonsense.” And most of the time they write to say, “But somehow or another we discovered the very reverse to be true, and that the Bible began to penetrate the shell of our rebellious hearts, and we’ve actually come to believe this Jesus.” Well, that’s where we started from.

Is that where you’ve started from? You’re here to examine him intellectually? That’s fine. But understand this: he examines you spiritually. He examines you spiritually. And maybe that little question—the rhetorical question—is your question today. Jesus is saying to you, where you sit or within earshot of what I’m saying to you, “Why put me to the test? Why put me to the test?” In other words, “Why are you playing games with me? Why are you playing games with me?” See, he says—Jesus, “knowing their hypocrisy,” said—“[Hey,] you can’t hide your lyin’ eyes and your smile is a thin disguise.”[10] That’s what Jesus is saying: “You can’t come to me and play that game. Why put me to the test?”

Are you playing games with Christ?

The games people play,
Every night, every day,
Never thinking what they say,
Never saying what they mean,

Till you wile away the hours
In your intellectual ivory towers
And you find yourself covered up with flowers
In the back of a black limousine.[11]

Don’t play games with Jesus. Do not play games with Christ. He holds your life in his hands.

“Why do you put me to the test? Why’re you playing games with me?” It’s a good question, isn’t it? Needs to be addressed. Don’t try and trap him. There’s no refuge from him. There is refuge in him. This stone—if you do not take your stand upon it, this stone will crush you.[12]

Second observation—and I’ll hasten through them, although I may come back to this this evening; I think I’ve got a bit of a hot potato on my hands already—but secondly, political agendas take a distant second place when we become the disciples of Jesus. Political agendas take a distant second place when we become the disciples of Jesus.

You’re gonna have to do this for your homework, but I commend to you a quick glance at Luke 6:15. When you get to Luke 6:15, you will find that Luke is recording there the group of disciples who were the followers of Jesus at that point. And when you read through the list, you’ll find all these different names, and one of the names is, of course, Matthew. Those of you who know your Bible know that Matthew’s name was also Levi, and Levi was a tax collector—that Levi was working for the Roman authorities, that Levi was at the forefront of making sure that these taxes were paid properly and they were paid on time. He was the guy who was sending out those notices to check out the returns.

You go a couple of names further on, and who do you come up against? You come up against Simon. Simon, who’s referred to in Mark as “the Canaanite,”[13] is referred to as “Simon the Zealot” in the Luke version.[14] Simon the Zealot? You mean the guy that said, “There’s no way in the world that I’m paying taxes. Do you know how bad this place is? I hate this place. This has gone to pot. I’m not paying taxes!” So now we got big government in Matthew, we got no government in Simon—and where do you find them united? The only place you’ll ever find them united: in the kingdom of Christ. But as soon as either one of them makes their political agenda the issue of fellowship or friendship, then you’ve separated them once again.

That’s why I say to you that whatever my objectives, whatever my concerns, whatever my political designs, desires, whatever my economic theories, they have to be a distant second to my submission to the kingship of Christ. It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe what I believe, but it means that I will not exalt to a position my belief in these things so as to rob me of meaningful friendship and fellowship with those who have an entirely different perspective on the same subject.

Thirdly, the passage also teaches us that there are limits—there are limits—to the honor that is due to Caesar. There are limits to the honor that is due to Caesar.

Romans chapter 13, the opening verses are there to remind us of our responsibility to the state. Acts [4:19]: “Judge for yourselves whether it’s right for us to obey the authorities here or to obey God.[15] We’re going to obey God.” Acts chapter [4] is there to point out to us that there are limits to the jurisdiction of the state. So when Jesus takes the coin and he says, “Who’s here?” and they say, “Caesar,” he says, “Well, you should render to Caesar what is due Caesar.” What was due Caesar? Tax. What was not due Caesar? Worship. Worship. Caesar had his face on there as the pontif maxim, as the high priest. In rendering to Caesar what is justifiably his, I am not called upon to render to Caesar what is solely God’s.

And that is why, when you think about this being read in the first century, when the early believers were taking the Gospel of Mark and reading it through, they were not reading it from the vantage point of our twenty-first-century democracy. They were reading it from within the framework of a Roman Empire that said to them, “You must admit that Caesar is lord.” And they said, “No, he is not lord. Jesus is Lord.” They said, “You must admit that Caesar is Lord. Jesus can be a lord, but he is not the Lord.” “No,” they said, “Jesus is Lord. One day, at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess,”[16] and their voices die under the sound of the roar of the lion tearing them to pieces, because they are prepared to render to Caesar what is due Caesar, but they are unprepared to render to him what is due to God alone. And whenever the state seeks to take the place of almighty God, then that insurrection is not only understandable but is demanded. And history bears testimony to it.

And finally, the kingdom of Christ takes precedence over every other kingdom—over every other kingdom. No matter how much we love where we’re from, no matter how much we’re thankful for all these things—as we all are, all of us, every one without exception—ultimately, the issue is a kingdom in which Christ reigns, and it is made up of the nations of the world under his authority. And that’s why, when you read Revelation, John says, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”[17]

At a very base level, this helps me go to sleep at night. Because I am actually a political animal. I have to fight myself. I have to fight my tendency to join all the dots from my pulpit here. Those are my convictions. I’m not going to use my pulpit to try and influence you in that way, even if I could. But I still have to deal with everything that goes on in my head. And it is this that helps me get to sleep: “The kingdom of this world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” If history goes on for another two millennium—if we’re at the infancy of humanity, rather than at the end of humanity, as every self-centered generation always believes… The older you get to death, the more convinced you are about the return of Jesus Christ—you know, “Well, it’ll be the end anytime now. I mean, it’s… yeah, we’ll be wrapping the whole thing up; it’s over,” you know. No! We may be at the forefront of it. We may be at the knife edge of this.

Well then, what’s your courage? What’s your confidence? How do you go to bed? How do you think about your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren, your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren, in a world that you cannot even conceive? How do you go to sleep? “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” Okay, I’m going to sleep now. (You say, “Good for you. A number of us have been asleep for some time.”)

Let us pray together:

Father, help us to figure this stuff out. Save us from error. Save us from being unduly influenced by anything other than the truth of your Word and the glory of your Son. We really need your help. These are critical days in our country. The decisions that are being made at the highest level have ramifications in the realm of family, in the realm of faith, in the realm of human identity, in the realm of medical ethics.

So help us, then, Lord, to be wise—wise as serpents, harmless as doves.[18] Help us to take seriously our responsibilities in terms of all your Word says concerning the affairs of civil jurisdiction. And when the tide seems to go, from our perspective, most strongly against us, help us to keep our eyes on he who is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

And to him, “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings … [the] Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see,” to him and to him alone “be honor and eternal dominion,”[19] now and forevermore. Amen.

[1] Psalm 2:2 (ESV).

[2] See Acts 4:12.

[3] Augustine of Hippo, Confessions 8.7. Paraphrased.

[4] See Mark 11:29–33.

[5] Mark 10:1–2 (ESV).

[6] Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12 (ESV).

[7] See Matthew 23:13–36.

[8] Mark 12:17 (KJV).

[9] Mark 1:15 (paraphrased).

[10] Don Henley and Glenn Frey, “Lyin’ Eyes” (1975).

[11] Joe South, “Games People Play” (1968). Lyrics lightly altered.

[12] See Luke 20:18.

[13] Mark 3:18 (KJV).

[14] See Luke 6:15.

[15] Acts 4:19 (paraphrased).

[16] See Philippians 2:10–11.

[17] Revelation 11:15 (ESV).

[18] See Matthew 10:16.

[19] 1 Timothy 6:15–16 (ESV).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.