Today we look at two encounters with religious leaders. First, Pharisees and Herodians unite to try to take Jesus down, then, when they fail, the Sadducees do their thing and fail. They couldn’t get the best of Jesus in a discussion. I’ve found the same thing about myself. Anytime I try to argue with Jesus, He wins. Enjoy the Bible study and let God speak to you.
13. And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.
The chief priests, the Sadducees, the Scribes all failed in their attempts to make Jesus trip up. So they sent in the next group: the Pharisees and the Herodians. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and putting the Pharisees and the Herodians together to attack Jesus would have made an impact on anyone who was there. The Pharisees were so strict in their beliefs that they would have nothing to do with outsiders. While they didn’t suggest assassination of leaders like Herod or the Romans, as the Iscarii did, they shunned them and anyone who had anything to do with them. The Herodians wanted to work with Herod. The Pharisees worked with the Herodians to attack Jesus. For those of us who walk with Christ, we know that Jesus can bring together people who once were enemies because they recognize that peace with brothers and sisters in Christ is more important than whatever kept them apart. Here we see these two groups joining together because they felt that bringing Jesus down in the eyes of the people to maintain their power was more important than their rivalry.
14. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? 15. Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. 16. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. 17. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.
And these two rival factions came up with an amazing quest that made it sound like they were both arguing for Jesus to support their beliefs, but do it in a way to set many people against Him: they questioned the issue of taxes. Some Jews had problems even handling the Roman coins that had a picture of the emperor on it. This seemed to be the perfect way to divide Jesus’ followers. And, they began their attack on Jesus with flattery. “Oh Jesus, we know that You do what’s right and don’t worry about what people say. We know that You speak the truth of God’s way. (Talk about setting someone up!) Then came the kicker: what do we do about taxes? (I should note that according to some, this was a special tax the Romans put on non-citizens of Rome.) Should we knuckle under to Rome and pay them or should we be proud Jews and refuse?
Jesus called them out. He recognized their hypocrisy in joining together to ask this question. Jesus knew that it was a trap and He let them know that He knew what they were doing. So He asked them to bring Him a coin – a Roman coin. When they brought Him the coin, He held it up and showed both sides, I imagine, and instead of answering, He asked them a question: “whose picture and whose words are on the coin?” Jesus turned the trap back on them, but they still didn’t know it. I think if they had recognized what Jesus was doing they might have answered with another question: “does it matter?” Instead, they gave the obvious answer. Caesar’s picture was on the coin. Then Jesus responded by letting them know that they should give to the government what belongs to the government and give to God the things that are God’s.
Most of us who are followers of Christ get a good laugh at the expense of the Pharisees and Herodians, unless we see this passage while we’re working on our taxes. Without getting into an argument about how much we should pay in taxes, Jesus would remind us that we should give to the government what belongs to the government and, here’s the kicker, give to God what belongs to God. Most of us take care of the first concern, albeit begrudgingly. I wonder how many of us are as responsive to giving God the things that are God’s. Things like recognizing that all that we have, all that we can do, all of our time belongs to God. We settle for giving God a small percentage of our wealth, while thinking that since God has His portion, we can do what we want with the rest. We give God a little bit of time on Sunday and think that takes care of our obligation to spend time with God. We ask God to help us in what we do, but we take credit for the end product. These stories, while setting the religious leaders on their heels, still remind us today that we’re in the same situation as they are – except we have a greater understanding of who Jesus is and we still don’t pay full allegiance to Him. I can’t help but think that the last statement “they marvelled at Him” had more to do with thinking “How are we ever going to trap this guy?” than them thinking, “Wow! He’s right! He’s amazing!”
18. Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, 19. Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 20. Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. 21. And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. 22. And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. 23. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.
Next up on the firing line were the Sadducees. We’re reminded that they didn’t believe in the resurrection, and they used their belief and Scripture to try to trap Jesus. In Deuteronomy 25, God commands that if two brothers are living together and one dies without leaving any heirs to carry on, the brother shall marry his brother’s widow and have children so that the first son can carry on the dead brother’s name. After that, any kids would be his. The Sadducees got extreme in their description, with the total number of brothers being seven. And, while they only mention one woman, what if the other brothers were married too? What a burden on the last brother! The Sadducees used this ludicrous scenario to attack Jesus on the issue of resurrection – especially the resurrection in the end time when all would be resurrected. Their point was that if people are resurrected, something like this could introduce chaos into the whole life after death scenario.
24. And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? 25. For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. 26. And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27. He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.
I’m going to be honest with you – this answer troubles me. How often do we talk about our loved ones in heaven as if we’ll be living like we did on earth, but in a perfect way. I love my wife and, could only imagine what married life in heaven with her would be like. Jesus let the Sadducees know that their understanding of what resurrection was, which is why they didn’t believe in it, was flawed and, one of the flaws is this understanding of marriage in heaven. It doesn’t exist. In this respect, we will be like the angels who aren’t married in heaven. While on earth, one of my most important obligations is my obligation to my wife. It’s a joyous obligation, and we help bring each other closer to God, but our focus is not on God when we’re focusing on each other. In heaven, the angels have complete focus on God and worship Him day and night. I can’t tell you exactly what heaven will be like, but in this story, Jesus seems to say that when we rise from the dead, all other obligations will have fallen away and we’ll have our full focus on God.
Then, Jesus brought the Scriptures into the argument by noting that when God speaks, He uses the words, “I am the God of Abraham. I am the God of Jacob.” He doesn’t put it in the past tense, but the present tense. God isn’t a God of the dead, He’s the Lord of the living, so when He says “I am the God of…” then that person is alive, whether on earth now or in their resurrected body. Jesus, not being acquainted with the teaching method that involves never telling a child that they’re wrong, but encouraging them with a hint toward the right answer put it bluntly: You are WRONG! I can’t help but think that when we get to heaven, we’ll see that almost all, if not all, of our preconceptions of heaven were wrong, but, God’s plan will be so much greater than we ever imagined, we’ll be so busy rejoicing that we won’t worry about being wrong.