Mark 12:16
So they brought it, and He asked them, "Whose likeness is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they answered.
Sermons
Question of the Tribute MoneyJ.J. Given Mark 12:13-17
The Dialectic of JesusE. Johnson Mark 12:13-17
The Politics of ChristianityA.F. Muir Mark 12:13-17
The Tribute MoneyR. Green Mark 12:13-17


I. CHRIST WILL HAVE ACCOUNT OF THE SMALLEST THINGS. The denarius was a small coin in common use. The spirit of Christ, sun-like, discovers even the "motes." In all things there is duty. Christ's attitude to the Law not only general but particular. "Not one jot or tittle" was to pass away unfulfilled because of the influence of Christianity. "Ye are my disciples, if ye do whatsoever I have commanded you." We shall have to give account of smallest things at last - idle words, false shame, "the cup of cold water," etc. The parable of the pounds has for its moral, "He that is faithful in that which is least," etc. There is no slurring over of little things because of a general disposition and amiable intention.

II. SMALL THINGS OFTEN REPRESENT GREAT PRINCIPLES, AND BECOME THE VEHICLES OF GREAT DUTIES. Coins are often of value, apart from their intrinsic worth, in witnessing to conquests, political influences, the progress of civilization, etc.; and numismatists have made many important contributions to history through their testimony. In this case the witness was even more pregnant and precious. It proved what actually existed, and represented the claim of earthly powers. The duty to God was shown thereby to be something quite distinct, and the general relation of the human and the Divine in human obligations was thereby permanently settled and set forth. It is equally so in regard to other things. "A straw will show which way the wind blows, or the water flows." Illustrated in such instances as the Massacre of St. Bartholomew; watchwords and flag of truce in time of war; the potty dealings of common life; the "minor moralities" of the Christian, etc.

III. WE ARE ENCOURAGED AND COMMANDED TO BRING SMALL THINGS TO CHRIST Do not say he has no interest in them. See how he looks at that widow with her two mites. Hear how he calls the little children. We need a more thorough Christianity, and if we follow this rule of bringing our daily concerns, our griefs, our moral difficulties, our sins, to the throne of grace, we shall become "Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile." He will interpret the minutest uncertainty or perplexity, and show us the great in the little. Erasmus Darwin wrote (April 13, 1789): "I have just heard that there are muzzles or gags made at Birmingham for the slaves in our islands. If this be true, and such an instrument could be exhibited by a speaker in the House of Commons, it might have a great effect. Could not one of their long whips or wire-tails be also procured and exhibited? But an instrument of torture of our own manufacture would have a greater effect, I dare say" ('Life,' p. 46). - M.







But He knowing their hypocrisy.
Clerical Anecdotes.
Sir John Trevor, who had for some misdemeanours been expelled from Parliament, one day meeting Archbishop Tillotson, cried out, "I hate to see an Atheist in the shape of a Churchman." "And I," replied the good Bishop, "hate to see a knave in any shape."

(Clerical Anecdotes.)

The sincerity of his (the Emperor Alexius) moral and religious virtues was suspected by the persons who had passed their lives in his familiar confidence. In the last hours, when he was pressed by his wife Irene to alter the succession, he raised his head and breathed a pious ejaculation on the vanity of this world. The indignant reply of the Empress may be inscribed as an epitaph on his tomb: "You die as you have lived — a hypocrite."

( Gibbon.)

Bring Me a penny
We may learn and be put in mind of good and Christian duties by the smallest things that are in common use amongst us; e.g., the very stamp of the coin or money which is in common circulation may put us in mind of our duty of subjection and obedience to the prince and to all lawful magistrates. So also the matter of the coin, whereof it is made, being silver or gold, may remind us of God's goodness and bounty towards us, in affording us such precious metals for our use and trading one with another. The meanest garment we wear may cause us to think of our sins and be humbled for them, sin being the first cause of nakedness appearing shameful. Every bit of meat or bread which we eat may teach us the frailty of our bodies, which cannot be sustained without such food. Every blade of grass in the field, and every flower in our garden may put us in mind of our mortality, and stir us up to prepare for death and judgment. Hence, also, it is that the Scriptures send us sometimes to brute beasts to learn our duties, as to the ox and the ass, and to the birds of the air, yea to such tiny creatures as the ant. This leaves us without excuse if, having so many masters at hand and near about us continually to teach us and stir us up to our duties, we yet do not learn, or make conscience of what is required of us.

(G. Petter.)

The silver penny was a coin a little larger than a sixpence, but probably equal to 4s. or 5s. in purchasing power. In this coin the poll tax — so much for each man — was paid. Until very lately the Jews had had a Hebrew coinage, on which no head was permitted (in deference to the second commandment), but which carried the names of their ruler and their high priest. Even now the Herods issued money of their own coinage. But since Judaea had been reduced to a province, the Roman penny had been introduced, and was the coin legally demanded for payment of taxes. Its use proclaimed who was master, as the head of Victoria on an Indian rupee proclaims her ruler of India. Indeed, already it had become a maxim that he is ruler whose coin is current in a land. It was not, therefore, an unsettled question whether they would have the Romans for their rulers or not; but they being rulers — and any government being better than anarchy — were they at liberty to withhold the amount needed for its fair support?

(R. Glover.)

I. They take counsel. He is thoroughly armed.

II. They would entangle Him. He seeks to deliver them out of their own snare.

III. They praise Him in order to His destruction. He rebukes them, for their awakening and salvation.

(J. P. Lange, D. D.)

A penny has two sides. As I hold it up I see one and you the other. If I were to ask you what is represented on the coin, you would say, A portrait of the Queen and some Latin. If I say what I see it is something very different, it is a representation of Britannia and some English. You say one thing and I say another. Now, suppose we were to wrangle about it, and I were to contradict you, and say, "It is a falsehood; I can see no likeness of the Queen;" and you were to say, "You must be out of your senses; I am sure there is one;" that would be very foolish. Yet that is about the way with one half of the disputes amongst people. It is so with many religious controversies. And with party feeling in politics. And with those quarrels that take place in the family or amongst friends. People cannot see both sides of the penny at once. Two persons may have very different opinions on the same subject, and yet both be right. Try and remember that when you look on a penny. Look at these two sides. On the one is a portrait of the Queen. It has two inscriptions. Victoria D.G. that means by Divine grace. It is well to acknowledge that every blessing we have is through the grace of God. Then we read, Britt. Reg. F.D. that means Queen of the Britains, or the British Islands, and Defender of the Faith. The double T shows the plural, which in Latin is by doubling the last letter rather than adding S, as in English. There is a beautiful story told of our Queen. When she was a little girl, about twelve years of age, her tutors thought the time had come when she ought to know that she might some day become Queen of this great and glorious nation. Into one of her lesson books was put a paper which showed to her that it might be so. On looking at it, she said, "I see I am nearer the throne than I thought." "So it is, madam," said her governess. After some moments' thought the Princess said, "Now, many a child would boast, but they don't know the difficulty. There is much splendour, but there is more responsibility." Then she gave the lady her hand, and said, "I will be good." That was a noble resolve. None of you can hope to gain an earthly crown, but you may each resolve, and solemnly say, "I will be good." Better be good than great, better be good than rich, better be good than powerful, better be good than to sit on a throne. Best of all to have the true goodness — that which comes from the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the penny the crown is a crown of leaves. It is a fading crown. Jesus Christ has promised to all who trust Him a crown of glory that fadeth not away. You cannot be kings and queens here, but if you are amongst the followers of Christ you will be grander in heaven than kings and queens. Of all things it is best to be a Christian. The Lord said, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Try and remember that when you look upon a penny. Look to the other side, and consider the representation of Britannia. It is full of beautiful suggestions of what our nation should be. Let us consider the emblem, and we shall find it quite a treasury of good ideas. Our country would be indeed great and glorious if every British young person acted up to them.

1. She appears very calm, holding firm the shield of faith in her right hand. On the shield are three crosses — the cross of St. George of England, the cross of St. Andrew of Scotland, and the cross of St. Patrick of Ireland. The true Christian, however, only lays hold of the one true cross — that of Jesus Christ — and finds, resting upon that, a peace that passeth all understanding.

2. She is clad from head to foot with a robe. This reminds us that by faith in the Lord Christ the Christian has the robe of righteousness, which covers every defect. It is pure and white, and the wedding garment of the marriage supper of the Lamb. The saints in glory are represented as having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

3. She holds her head erect, having on the helmet. The Apostle speaks of the helmet of hope. Nothing can more enable us to lift up our heads and look out brightly than the hope of heaven.

4. She is prepared for attack. She holds the very ancient weapon called the trident. The Christian is surrounded by danger, and always liable to the attacks of sin and Satan, and should ever be on the guard, and the old weapon of the Word of God is the best after all. Whilst resting on faith, wearing the robe of righteousness, and lifting up the head with hope, there must be the preparation for conflict: Jesus Christ bid all His followers "Watch." There are two other beautiful emblems of the Christian hero. One is a lighthouse. This is a tall column placed in a dangerous part of the ocean, in which there is a powerful light. That shines out into the darkness and so guides vessels safely into the harbour. Thus the Christian is to show the light of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and help souls to avoid dangerous rocks and to find the way to heaven. On another part of the coin is a ship in full sail. That, too, is an emblem of the Christian. He leaves the port of this world; he takes Christ for his captain; he sails through perils and dangers, through sunshine and storm, but reaches at last the desired haven. Try and remember these truths when you look upon a penny. Thus I have endeavoured to give you some of the important lessons which Jesus taught, and to illustrate them by a penny, so that when you look at a penny you may remember some of these truths you ought ever to have in mind. There are many others which might be considered if time permitted, and which you may well discover for yourselves. I conclude by giving you a very beautiful old Rabbinical legend taken from the Talmud: —

"From the mint two bright, new pennies came,

The value and beauty of both the same;

One slipt from the hand, and fell to the ground,

Then rolled out of sight and could not be found.

The other was passed by many a hand,

Through many a change in many a land;

For temple dues paid, now used in the mart,

Now bestowed on the poor by a pitying heart.

At length it so happened, as years went round,

That the long-lost, unused coin was found.

Filthy and black, its inscription destroyed

Through rusting peacefully unemployed;

Whilst the well-worked coin was bright and clear

Through active service year after year;

For the brightest are those who live for duty —

Rust more than rubbing will tarnish beauty." (J. H. Cooke.)

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