Devotion in Motion
A lady once came to Billy Sunday and tried to rationalize her angry outbursts. “There’s nothing wrong with losing my temper,” she said. “I blow up, and then it’s all over.” “So does a shotgun,” Sunday replied, “and look at the damage it leaves behind!” Getting angry can sometimes be like leaping into a wonderfully responsive sports car, gunning the motor, taking off at high speed and then discovering the brakes are out of order. That’s how the scribes must have felt after Jesus had finished telling the parable of the vinedressers and the vineyard. They were so angry they couldn’t listen to the truth of his words.
Verse 12, “And they sought to lay hands on (Jesus) (this was not for prayer, but execution), but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away.” “Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians…” Both ends of the political spectrum. The Herodians were a political party that sided with King Herod. They were seen as Roman collaborators. In contrast, the Pharisees were the Jewish loyalists. These two groups normally hated each other. They were the day’s left-wingers and right-wingers – but their mutual hatred of Jesus created strange bedfellows. We’re told they came together “to catch Him in His words.
When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth.” This was just flattery. They didn’t honor Jesus. Like a piece of bread, they were buttering-Him-up before they stuck in the knife. Verse 14, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” Again, this was a carefully crafted trick question. If He said, “Pay taxes” they would accuse Him of sympathizing with Rome. They might even call Him an idolater… Since Rome viewed their emperor as a god, paying taxes to him could be viewed as tantamount to emperor worship. But if Jesus said, “Don’t pay the taxes” they could take Him to the Romans for treason. The Roman governor would have little choice but to punish Jesus.
Either way, the Jews thought they had Him trapped! “But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” A denarius was a small Roman coin – the size of a dime.“ Health, Wealth, and Prosperity” teachers would’ve called Jesus a failure. Foxes have holes, the birds have nests, but the Son of man had nowhere to lay His head (Luke 9:58). Jesus didn’t even have a penny to use as an illustration. He had to ask for one. “So they brought it. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.”
On one side of the coin was the bust of the Caesar, with the words, “Tiberias Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.” On the other side were the words, “Pontifex Maximus” – which is Latin for “High Priest”. This coin was dedicated to the Roman emperor. In Jesus’ day, the first thing a ruler did after conquering new territory would be to mint new coinage containing his image as a continual reminder to the conquered people that he was indeed their leader and that his authority extended as wide as his coins were circulated. Verse 17, “Jesus answered and 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.” In olden days, coins were the property of the One who’s image they bore. Jesus is saying, “If this coin belongs to Caesar, give it back to him. But give to God what belongs to God.”
And what bears God’s image? The answer is you and me! Genesis tells us God made mankind “in His image and likeness.” Jesus is saying, Give your coins to Caesar, but your life to God. I love what Kent Hughes writes about verse 17, “The statement of our Lord was not only astounding the instant it was uttered, but it is even today universally acclaimed to be the single most influential political statement ever made in the history of the world!” With amazing wisdom Jesus affirms both the validity of human government yet with limits. But God is supreme, the government has a place. It can issue a tax if needed, but God expects our very lives. What Jesus is claiming is the sovereignty of God over a person’s life.
Verse 18, “Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him;” The Pharisees were the conservatives. The Sadducees were the liberals. Sadducees denied the inspiration of Scripture, apart from the 1st 5 books of Moses. They denied angels existed – the afterlife – the resurrection of the dead… that’s why they were sad-you-see. They were anti-supernaturalists. “And they asked (Jesus), saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.” This was from Deuteronomy 25. In ancient Israel a widow’s prospects for remarriage were slim. Without a son she had no one to take care of her in her old age. So, it was the brother-in-law’s duty to take her in…Here’s the Sadducees question, “Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise. So the seven had her and left no offspring.”
This is a nonsensical story that sounds more like an episode of Jerry Springer. It reminds me of the gal who thought she could have 16 husbands. She told her friend, “Well, the preacher said, ‘Four better, four worse, four richer, four poorer.” Hear about the woman who had a dream in which the angel told her, “Prepare yourself for widowhood. Your husband is about to die a violent death.” She replied, “I have just one question – will I be acquitted?”
Well, here’s a woman who buried seven husbands. Jesus ends the story, “Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.” “Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?” Realize, all heresies rise out of a denial of God’s power, or an ignorance of the Bible… People deny the creation – or parting of the Red Sea – or the virgin birth – or the resurrection – or the Second Coming – because they deny God’s power. They do not believe in the Trinity – or the blood atonement – or salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone – because they’re ignorant of Scripture. All heresies spring from the denial of God’s power or the ignorance of God’s Word.
In verse 25 Jesus sheds a light on what happens in the afterlife, “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Apparently, marriage is a temporary arrangement. If you have a “good marriage” this might be bad news for you. If you have a “not-so-good marriage,” you can jump for joy. But one thing is certain, even if your marriage is “a marriage made in heaven” – it’s still intended only for earth. Earthly marriages exist for two primary reasons.
First, marriage is an illustration of our relationship with Christ. And second, it’s a means of procreation. In heaven we won’t need the illustration, we’ll have the real thing. And there won’t be a need for procreation. But what about closeness and intimacy in heaven? I’m certain we’ll be close to people in heaven. In fact, the most casual friendship in heaven, will probably be more heartfelt than the deepest marriage on earth. But the only marriage in heaven will be to the Master. Our love relationship with Jesus will be the dominant love story. It’ll make human marriages unnecessary. Jesus continues answering the Sadducees, “But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.” “You are therefore greatly mistaken.”
Remember the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead – and the inspiration of all the OT, except the first five books of Moses. Jesus could’ve gone anywhere in the OT to prove our resurrection, but He went to “the burning bush” – Exodus 3 and Moses… Long after their bodies had decomposed God said He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and since He is only the God of living people obviously must be alive. There is life after death. Jesus solved the riddle, and riddled them with the truth of resurrection! Amen
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