Sunday, February 06, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus and Caesar"

“Jesus and Caesar”
Certain of Jesus: The Gospel of Luke
February 6, 2011
Luke 20:20-26

As you remember, we have gotten to the end of the book.  This is the last week of Jesus’ earthly life.

He has ridden into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey–clearly claiming to be the Messianic King of Israel. 

And He cried as He rode.  He wept over the rebellion of the city and the rejection that He knew was coming.

Then, He cleansed the temple which is a nice way of saying that He tossed people out on their ears.  He restored the temple to what it was supposed to be–a house of prayer, a place of evangelism, and the center of the holy life of God’s people–at least for a week.

And then every day this week, He began teaching at the temple–it was His pulpit.  He taught the people about the good news of the coming kingdom of God.

And the leaders of Israel have begun to counterattack.

There is showdown happening here.  A confrontation.  A battle.

Much bigger than the Steelers versus the Packers.

Tonight’s game will soon be forgotten but this face-off between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders has been talked about for almost 2000 years and will be talked about for ages and ages and ages.

The bad guys tried to take Jesus down last time.  At the beginning of the chapter, they asked Him where He got His authority.

But He was ready for them.  He asked them a question which put them between a rock and a hard place.  And they had to politically say that they didn’t know.

But the answer was obvious.  Jesus got His authority from God Himself.

He is the Son of God.

And Jesus told a story about a son who had the authority but was killed for it.

Jesus knew what was going to happen!

And at the end of the story, those who had killed the son would receive the just punishment for it.

Oh!  And the leaders didn’t like that. Not one bit.

They were stymied and they knew it.

But they didn’t give up.  That brings us up to today’s passage.  Luke 20:20.

“Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor.  So the spies questioned him: ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”

They think they’ve got Him!

They’ve found the perfect way to trap Jesus.

Last time, He put them between a rock and a hard place.

Now, they’re going to do it to Him.

Did you catch that?  V.1 again.
“Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies [fresh faces], who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor [Pilate].  So the spies questioned him: ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right [they tried to flatter Him], and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. [Zinger question:] Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”

They think they’ve got Him!

“Jesus and Caesar”

They think they’ve got Him between a rock and hard place.

What would happen if He said that it was wrong to pay taxes to Caesar?

Well, they could just run up to Governor Pilate and say, “You’ve got a rebel on your hands.  You’ve gotta do something about him.”

And off He’d go. And they wouldn’t have lost their power.

And what would happen if He said that they did have to pay taxes to Caesar?

Well, that would make Him unfavorable in the eyes of the people.

And that’s what they want. They hate His popularity.  They could do something about Him if He wasn’t so popular. 

So, they think they have Him.

But they never have Him.

“Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

What is the answer to that one?

What if we don’t like what Caesar does with our taxes?

This is tax season, isn’t it?

How many have been working on their taxes?

Anybody got their’s in yet?

Sending Uncle Sam his money.

“Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Well, Jesus sees right through them.

He knows that they are trying to flatter Him and butter Him up.

Jesus never goes for that.  Don’t try it with Him.  V.23

“He saw through their duplicity and said to them, ‘Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?’ ‘Caesar's,’ they replied. He said to them, ‘Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.’  They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.”

Jesus says, “Give me a coin.”

Interestingly, they have one.  Right?  They have already answered their question for themselves.  They carry around these coins.

These are Roman coins.

This is a picture of one.

This is one minted during the reign of Caesar Augustus.

During Jesus’ day, Tiberius was Caesar. And his coins said in Latin on them, “Tiberious Caesar, Augustus, son of divine Augustus.”

How do you think the Jews would have felt about coins like that?

But they had ‘em.  They used ‘em.

They paid their taxes with them.

This tax is specifically the poll tax.  It wasn’t the taxes that the tax-collectors picked up, these were just the “privilege to breath” taxes that went right to the Caesar.

“Privilege to Live” taxes.

And they normally cost one denarius.  Which is what Jesus now held in His hand.

And asks, “Whose portrait and inscription are on it.”

Literally, “Whose image” is on it?  Whose likeness?

They probably hated to spit out “Caesar.”

But Jesus has no problem saying one of the most profound sentences ever uttered:

“Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And that’s our outline.


Now, this does not mean that Caesar (or any government) owns all of the money and God does not.

Just because his face is on the coin, that doesn’t make him the owner of everything your face on.

Ultimately, we know that God owns everything.

But it does mean that Jesus thinks that the state is legitimate and has a legitimate claim on our submission.

We should pay our taxes.

Paul takes this idea and fleshes it out more clearly in Romans 13.

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”

Of course, that doesn’t answer all of the questions we have about relating to civil authorities, but it’s pretty clear in the main.

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

During this tax time, we, as Christians, should be making every effort to pay what we owe.

One “conscience-stricken taxpayer” wrote the IRS, “Dear Sir, My conscience bothered me. Here is the $175 which I owe in back taxes.  P.S.  If my conscience still bothers me, I’ll send the rest.”   [Hughes, pg. 268]

And, of course, it’s bigger than that.  We need to be submissive citizens to our government.

Not if the government asks us to worship it.

Only Jesus is Lord.

And not if the government asks us to sin.

We must obey God rather than man.

But even if the government is thoroughly wicked, we must submit to its just authority.

Pay your taxes, drive the speed-limit, obey the laws–even the ones you don’t like.

When Paul wrote what I just read to you, the Caesar was Nero.

He was thoroughly wicked.  He was Hitler-wicked.

But Paul urged the Christ-followers to be submissive to the government authorities whenever they could in good conscience.

Give to Caesar What Is Caesar’s.

That was a very unpopular thing for Jesus to say.

He was getting close to Hard Place, steering away from the Rock.

But He was unafraid of doing the right thing, of saying the right thing.

And that’s not all He said.

He didn’t just say “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” did He?

No, He was much more profound.

I think that second part of His statement is bigger and more important and deeper and more meaningful.


He’s talking about us.

This is a US 50 cent piece.

It’s John F. Kennedy’s face on it.  He was good at one liner’s, too.   “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask rather what you can do for your country.”

Turn in your 50 cent pieces on April 15th! 

Jesus asks, what IMAGE (that’s an important biblical word, what IMAGE) is stamped on YOU?

The image of God, right?

Genesis chapter 1.

“So God made man in His own image.”

We are the image of God.

Is that image lost with the Fall?

No.  It’s cracked.  Like a throwing a rock into a mirror.

It’s not what it’s supposed to be.  But through Christ it’s being restored.  It’s still there.

What image is stamped on you?

So what does God want?  He wants you and me.

Give to God what is God’s.

And I think that’s what astonished the crowd when Jesus answered like this.

Not only did He give a straight, unpopular answer to the question, but He took the answer in a direction that forced people to consider whether or not they were giving themselves to God as He deserved.

Do you think of yourself as devoted to God?  Belonging to God?  God’s rightful possession?

I think that one of the major mistakes in our thinking, especially as Americans, is that we often think of ourselves as own possession.

“It’s my body.”
“It’s my bank account.”
“It’s my bonus.”
“It’s my car.”
“It’s my computer.”
“It’s my thought-life.”
“It’s my relationship.”
“It’s my life.”
“It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”

But that’s not true.  All humans (even nonChristians) are stamped with the image of God.  “Give to God what is God’s.”

What are you holding back from God?

If you had to write it down. Maybe it’s just one thing.

Maybe there is a list.

What are holding back from God in yourself?

Give to God what is God’s.

You’ve got His image.

He wants you.

He wants a love relationship with you.

Don’t worry, that’s not a romantic thing.

It means that He wants you to know that He loves you like a great big Heavenly Daddy.  And you’re His child.

And He wants you to love Him back.  To trust Him and obey Him and want His glory to be magnfied.

He wants YOU.

And you owe Him.

Because you, if you are a Christian, are double-stamped.

Not just stamped at creation with the image of God, but stamped with redemption.

Because Jesus bought you back.


And it wasn’t just a little denarius tax.

It was the whole enchilada.

It was all of your sin and all of my sin and our shame heaped upon Jesus.

And He paid the penalty.

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Give to God what is God’s by ownership and by redemption.

Give yourself to God.

And give thanks that Jesus gave Himself for you.

Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Jesus and the Judgment to Come
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom
Jesus and Jerusalem
Jesus at the Party
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus and the Lost: Part One
Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money
Sneering at Jesus
Jesus and the Great Chasm
Jesus Said to His Disciples...
Thanking Jesus
Jesus and the Coming Kingdom
Jesus Says, "Keep Praying"
The Proud, the Humble, and Jesus
Jesus Does the Impossible
Why Did Jesus Come?
Investing for Jesus in 2011
King Jesus
Jesus and the Temple