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Giving Caesar What Is Caesar’s & God What Is God’s (Matt. 22:15-22)

October 16, 2011

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Proper 24                                                                                         
16 October 2011   


Matthew 22:15-22


Entrapment!  Setting a trap for Jesus!  Who would ever dare to do such a thing?  I mean … really!  Try to ensnare the Lord Jesus in His own words?  I wouldn’t ever recommend that!  You can’t win that game!  But when Jesus is a threat, when He would put an end to all your man-made religiosity and crush all your idols, I guess you will do anything!  And so the Pharisees go to work!  They plot.  They plan. To punk Jesus!  To trip Him up with a question!  A gotcha question!  In order to discredit Him!  Undermine Him!  Overthrow this troubler of Israel Jesus once and for all!  AND TO JUSTIFY THEMSELVES!  To justify their unrepentance!  To justify their worship of idols and not Jesus!    


So the Pharisees send their stooges.  First, oodles and oodles of flattery:  “Teacher Jesus!  We know you are a man of integrity! We know you teach God’s way truthfully!  You aren’t swayed by men because you pay attention to who they are.”   All of this is a load of …  They don’t believe any of it.  Just trying to butter up their bitter enemy in a dirty and dangerous little game of gotcha!    


Then comes the big gotcha question:  “Tell us man of integrity Jesus.  Tell us teacher of God in the way of the truth Jesus.  We have a tax question for you.  IS IT RIGHT TO PAY TAXES TO CAESAR OR NOT?”


If Jesus says, “No!  Absolutely no taxes to Caesar!” the Herodians, backers of Roman rule, will turn Jesus in to the Roman authorities for treason as quick as you can say, “Bob’s your uncle.”  And that, of course, will earn Jesus a quick trip to prison, then the death chamber, electric chair, lethal injection, or some other kind of capital punishment.  But if Jesus says, “Yes, we must pay taxes to Caesar!” the Pharisees will denounce Him as a traitor to Israel.  It’s a big time Catch 22!  The perfect trap!  And so they spring it.  “Is it right to pay taxes or not Jesus?  Well Jesus?  We’re waiting for your answer.  You’re such a great man of God!”


Jesus sees right through them.  “Hypocrites!  You evil hypocrites! You act like you’re so religious.  So pious!  Show me the coin that you use to pay your taxes.  Now I’m going to ask you some questions.  Tell me! Whose face is on the coin?  Whose writing is on it?” 


“Caesar’s,” they answer.


 “You hypocrites can at least read!  Now I want you to listen very carefully.  Here is my answer to your question:  Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”   


Jesus is not trapped.  Instead, He amazes them with the answer.  And they leave.  No wonder.  They won’t hear these words of Jesus!  They refuse to let His Word have its way with them:  “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”  They will do neither.  They can no longer justify themselves .  They will not repent.


Would you too try to entrap Jesus?  Are you ready to leave too?  Does the Lord’s answer scandalize you too?    I pray instead that it will lead you to repent!  Will you hear the Lord’s Word?  It’s time for all of us to repent.  Of all our hypocrisy!  Lives of self-justification!  Idolatry! 


It’s time for us to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.  Not because Caesar is God.  The president is not God!  The governor is not God!  Caesar is Caesar.  The president is president.  The governor is governor.  Governing authorities are God’s instruments, God’s servants, God’s hands, to do you good.  They are God’s instrument for keeping peace, punishing the criminal and terrorist, and protecting the innocent.  Kings, presidents, and governors:  the Lord would use them for your good in the world.  That’s Romans 13.    


And when they do their work faithfully and with integrity, they are blessing in the way the Lord intends.  God can even use a Persian king named Cyrus as we heard in Isaiah today to let Israel go back home from exile.


Since they are the Lord’s instruments, the governing authorities deserve your respect and honor.  And if you owe taxes or revenue, then pay it as St. Paul writes in Romans 13.  Peter puts it this way in 1 Peter 2:  “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among me:  whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”     


Such teaching from Paul and Peter confesses what the Lord Jesus says:  “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”  And if that’s taxes, then so be it.  If it is revenue, then so be it.  If it is honor, then so be it.  After all, the governing authorities are the Lord’s instruments in the world to do you worldly good.  Worldly good! 


Then Jesus says:  “And [give] to God what is God’s.”


What does God want from you?  Be careful how you answer that one!  What does God want from you?  It’s an “f” word!  God wants you to believe in His Son Jesus.  That’s FAITH!  THE HIGHEST WORSHIP OF JESUS IS FAITH!  Christians worship Jesus!  As God!  As Savior! 


Jesus gave His life into death for you. He answered for all your sin with the shedding of His divine blood on the cross.  He comes to you as gift! 


He gifted you with the benefits of His dying when He buried you into His Good Friday death at your Baptism.  Gave you new life!  Rebirth!  He gifts you with His indestructible Body and Blood with the bread and wine.  Forgiveness, life, and salvation!  It’s all for you.  What giving!  What gifts! 


You are to look to Jesus for all your good.  Receiving from Jesus the benefits of His dying and rising.  Hoping only in Him for the resurrection of the body on the Last Day and life everlasting.  This is worship in Spirit and in truth.  That’s giving to God what is God’s.


Absolutely amazing! Today, every Sunday, and all your lives you give to God what is God’s:  faith in Jesus, the highest worship, who died for you.  And throughout our lives you give to Caesar what is Caesar’s:  taxes, revenue, honor, respect.    


Such is the life of a Christian:  faith and love.


In the Name of Jesus.   


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