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Home arrow Daniel arrow Luke 20:19-44: Smarter than Jesus?
Luke 20:19-44: Smarter than Jesus? Print E-mail
Sunday, 20 October 2013
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I want to begin this morning with an important theological truth: ĎI am not smarter than God.í  Why donít you say that with me?  It is one of those Ďduhí statements.  We all believe that it is true.  Yet, we donít always act like we believe.  Any time that we question Godís Word, then we are in one sense claiming to be smarter than God.  So then, when we think we can find more joy in disobedience than obedience, then we are trying to be smarter than God.  When we question are circumstances and refuse to believe that God can use them to make us more like Christ, then we are trying to be smarter than God.  When we order our lives or our families or our Churches in ways contrary to the Word, then we are trying to be smarter than God.  We can all admit this morning that we are not in fact smarter than God, but it can be a hard truth to remember.

The scribes and chief priests thought that they could outsmart Jesus.  They thought they could trick Him into saying something that would get Him in trouble.  Look at verses 19-20.  They do not want to attack Jesus outright because they fear the people, so they come up with a plot to catch Him saying something wrong that would lead to His arrest.  They figured that if He spoke against the Romans, then they could turn Him in and let them deal with Him, all without looking bad in front of the people.  So the plot was to ask Jesus some trick questions and get Him trouble.  Luke includes two of those questions in our passage this morning.  As we consider them, I want us to see both layers of what is happening.  First, we want to note the particular principle(s) that Jesus is teaching with His response to the question.  But second, we want to see the futility of trying to be smarter than Jesus.  So then, letís look at these questions together.

ĎShould we pay taxes to Caesar?í

During the time of Jesus, the people of Israel were under the control of the Romans.  Part of what this meant is that they were expected to pay taxes to Caesar.  Of course, the people hated paying these taxes.  They did not want to give money to the hated Romans.  The scribes and chief priests think this is a good subject to question Jesus about.  Look at their question in verses 21-22.  When you are trying trick someone with a question, it is apparently good to begin with some flattery.  The scribes begin by saying that Jesus teaches the way of God.  Of course, they did not believe that, but they figured a little flattery would help Him make a mistake.  The irony is that what they say is true and that it does not fool Jesus at all.  The question they ask is straightforward: Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?  The way they saw it, Jesus could not answer this question without getting into trouble.  If He says that they did have to pay this tax, then the people would turn on Him for siding with Rome.  If He says that they do not have to pay it, then they have grounds to turn Him over to the authorities.  Either way, they think they have Him.

But Jesus is not fooled.  Look at verse 23.  He knows what is going on.  So how does He answer the question?  Look at verses 24-25.  Jesus asks them for a denarius.  This was the coin that was to be used in paying the tax.  On the coin was stamped Caesarís image with a statement about his rule.  Jesus points this out and then makes one of His more famous statements: Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesarís, and to God the things that are Godís.  Jesus tells them that they are to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.  The money that they have in their pockets has Caesarís image on it.  He has the authority to demand that taxes be paid.  Jesus is telling them that they should pay this tax, a statement that will prevent Him from being in trouble with the authorities (at least until the leaders lie about it in 23:2).  But that is not all that He says.  He also says that we should give to God what belongs to Him.  So then, what belongs to God?  The only faithful answer we can give is that everything belongs to God.  All of our money, all of our time, all of our lives belong to God.  Even the rule of Caesar is underneath the Sovereign control of God.  In this sense, paying taxes to Caesar is part of obeying God and giving to Him what He deserves.  By answering in this way, Jesus did not offend the people who wanted to obey God.  Jesus was not tricked by the question.

What principle can we learn from Jesusí answer?  We are to obey the governing authorities that are placed over us in this life.  Being a citizen of the Kingdom of God does not mean that we are bad citizens in our respective governments.  We are to obey the King or the President or whoever it is that rules over us.  We are to pay our taxes and submit to the laws of the land.  Paul teaches us this in Romans 13, where he writes: Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed (v. 7).  Such submission has fallen on hard times, even among Christians.  We value rebels, those who Ďdonít listen to the man.í  Granted, there are times when we must disobey, but those are exceptions and not the rule.  We must give to Caesar what belongs to him and to God what belongs to Him. 

Luke ends the episode by showing us the futility of trying to be smarter than Jesus.  Look at verse 26.  They thought they had a sure-fire way to catch Him, but they were wrong.  They tried to trick Him, but Jesus was not fooled.

ĎWhose wife will the woman be?í

The next question is asked by the Sadducees.  Luke tells us that they did not believe in the resurrection.  They believed, like many people today, that once you die that is the end.  So they come to Jesus to ask Him a question about the resurrection.  Look at verses 27-33.  In order to understand their question, we have to understand the idea of levirate marriage, which is taught in Deuteronomy 25.  If a woman was widowed without a child, a brother was supposed to marry her and if they had a son, then that son would be considered the dead brotherís child so as to perpetuate his name in Israel.  In light of this practice, the Sadducees ask an absurd question: If this happens seven times and no child is born to any of the brothers, whose wife will she be?  What they thought is that the absurdity of the situation would prove that believing in the resurrection was ridiculous.  In light of this scenario, how could anyone believe in resurrection?

Jesus responds by pointing out two truths.  First, He tells them that they have misunderstood the age to come.  They think that it will be just like this age, but that is not true.  Look at verses 34-36.  There is a purpose for marriage in this age, namely to produce children since people continue to die.  Yet, in the age to come, we, like the angels, will no longer die.  Thus, marriage will no longer be necessary to produce more children.  The Sadducees assumed that the two ages would be similar in regards to marriage, but Jesus corrects this error.  The focus of that age will not be our relationships with one another as much as it will be our relationship to God.  We will be His sons and He will be our Father.  That is the relationship that will matter in the resurrection and only those who turn from their sins and trust in Jesusí death on the cross will be considered worthy to be Godís children in that age.

The second truth that Jesus teaches the Sadducees is that their own Scriptures teach that there is life after death.  Look at verses 37-38.  The Sadducees only followed the first five books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch).  So Jesus quotes to them from Exodus 3, where God tells Moses that He is the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.  These three men had died long before Moses was born, yet, God says that He is their God.  The are only two options for understanding this.  First, it could be that God is saying that He is the God of the dead.  Yet, as Jesus points out, such an assertion is absurd.  The only other option is that there is life after death.  God is still their God because they still live unto Him, even after their physical death.  Thus, Jesus shows the Sadducees that their denial of the resurrection is not in line with their own Scriptures.  They deny the resurrection and they are wrong.

The principle here for us is that Christians believe in life after death.  We believe in the resurrection of the dead.  We believe that the sons of God, those who are counted worthy through their faith in Jesus, will be raised to eternal life.  People continue to claim that there is no life after death, but they are wrong.  They are trying to be smarter than Jesus and it will never work.  Once again, Luke points out the futility of this.  Look at verses 39-40.  They have learned the lesson.  They now know that trying to trick Jesus is not going to work.  They will have to come up with another way to destroy him.  His wisdom has silenced them. 

As we said last week, Luke 20 deals with Jesusí interactions with the scribes and chief priests.  In the different stories, we see several errors that these men make.  They fear men more than they fear God.  They disrespect those that God has sent, including His Son.  And they think that they can be smarter than Jesus.  All of these errors are plain.  Yet, Jesus goes on to point out another.

Jesus shows them an error in their interpretation and belief about the Messiah.  Look at verses 41-44.  All believed that the Messiah would be the Son of David, born in Davidís line.  In those days and in that culture, a descendent was seen as less than the patriarch.  Thus, Davidís descendents would be less than him.  Yet, in Psalm 110, a Messianic psalm, David calls the future Messiah my Lord and notes that He will sit at the right hand of God.  If the Messiah is Davidís descendent, how can he call him Lord?  The scribes could not answer this question, but we can.  The truth is that the Messiah would come in the line of David.  Luke makes it clear that Jesus was a Son of David. 

Yet, He was not just another descendent, He is also the Son of God.  He is God in the flesh.  He is Davidís Lord.  And after His death and resurrection, He has sat down at the Fatherís side.  The scribes rejected the identity of Jesus.  They rejected Him as Savior and Lord.  This error contradicted their own Scriptures and it kept them from placing their faith in Jesus.  It only fed their unbelief.  And as we said last week, nothing is more dangerous than unbelief.  These men could not see that Jesus was the Promised One.  They were not willing to give their allegiance to Him as Lord (even though King David did).  What about you?  Will you make the same mistake?  Or will you turn from your sins and trust in His death and resurrection?  Donít try to be smarter than God, just trust in His plan for salvation.  Amen. 

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 January 2014 )

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