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69 Luke 20.20-26

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The Christian’s Crucible

Luke 20:20-26


v    Scipio, a roman consul in the 3rd century AD is given credit for the coining the phrase…

Ø     “Politics makes strange bedfellows”

§        It means that Political interests can bring together people who otherwise have little in common

·        And that is no more true than in the text we come to today


READ v. 20


Ø     “They”, according to Mark’s parallel account in Mk 12:13, are the Pharisees and the Herodians

§        Two political groups that could not be further apart in their interests and beliefs

·        The Pharisees were the ruling religious party

·        The Herodians were the ruling political party

·        Pharisees were extremely nationalistic

¨     Believed in the Messianic Kingdom and the overthrow of the Romans

·        Herodians had sold themselves out to the Romans

¨     They were the “puppet” Jewish rulers of Judea

·        Pharisees represented conservative Judaism

¨     The “right-wingers” if you will

·        Herodians were liberal and syncretistic

¨     The “left-wingers”

·        The Pharisees believed in cautious resistance to the Romans

·        The Herodians practiced wholesale accommodation

¨     However, they were brought together on this day by their mutual hatred of Jesus

v    Thus the day of testing continues

Ø     The Teacher, Chief priests and Elders questioned where Jesus’ authority came from…

§        Now, the Pharisees and the Herodians approach Jesus with a question designed to get at one thing…

·        Who has ultimate authority over a person’s life (Big Idea)

v    However, they take a different approach then the teachers, priests and elders…


READ v. 21-22

A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree.  The fox wanted that piece of cheese and so he walked up to the foot of the tree and said, "Good-day, Mistress Crow. How well you are looking to-day, how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye.  I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does. Let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds." 

The Crow lifted up her head and began to sing her best, but the moment she opened her mouth the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by the Fox.  "That will do," he said as he ate the cheese

Moral: Flattery is not a proof of admiration

v    And Jesus knew this well

Ø     He heard the flattering words of the Pharisees and Herodians

§        But he also knew the words of Prov 5:3

·        For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil

§        He remembered the words of Prov 26:28

·        A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin

§        And he knew the trap of Prov 29:5

·        Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet

v    And that is exactly what the Pharisees and the Herodians were doing when they approached him

Ø     Spreading a snaring of flattery

Ø     Hoping that their feigned admiration would trick him into siding with them

§        For if Jesus sided with them and said it was not right to pay taxes to Caesar…

·        Then the Romans would have arrested and killed him for insurrection

§        However, if Jesus had said it was right to pay the hated poll tax…

·        Then he would have alienated himself from the people

¨     It was again a win-win situation for them!

v    And flattery was their tool of deceit

Ø     And we would do well to remember that

§        Many times the world and its trappings comes to us in an ingratiating way

Ø     Jesus warned us…

§        In this world you will have trouble… (Jn 16:33)

·        But trouble does not always present itself as trouble

¨     Many times it presents itself as flattery, praise, and sweet talk

Ø     Ps 27:21~ (The Living Translation)

§        Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by flattery

v    Q: But how is a person tested by flattery?

Ø     I think the greatest form of flattery that we all deal with in one form or another is…

§        Acceptance

·        Acceptance by the world, our peers, our company, our crowd

¨     And as Christians we are tested when the way of the world and the way of the Lord part

Ø     That is the crucible for the Christian

§        The world or the Word (Jesus Christ)

§        For Christian teenagers it is the flattery of acceptance by their peers

·        Do they go along with what the crowd is doing to be popular and accepted

·        Do they begin to swear because it is cool

·        Do they smoke because everyone is doing it

·        Do they drink or do drugs because not doing it would mean being ostracized

¨     Or do they choose not to and go against the crowd…

Ø     Choose the way of The Word

§        Adults face the flattery of acceptance as well

·        Do we laugh at the dirty jokes

¨     Or risk standing out if we do not

·        Do we badmouth our wives or husbands for a cheap laugh

¨     As is the custom of the world

Ø     Or do we praise our partners

·        Do we participate in gossip

¨     For gossip is just the reverse image of this type of flattery

Ø     Gossip is saying something behind their back that you would never say to their face

Ø     Flattery is saying something to their face that you would never say behind their back

§        And succumbing to flattery is as easy as succumbing to gossip

§        These are all the pressures of acceptance

·        Flattery can be a real crucible for Christians

Ø     Illustration: Taco Bell

§        The flattery, praise…the affirmation of the world drew me away from prioritizing the Lord

·        Drew me away from my loyalty to Christ

¨     I failed the world or The Word test

v    But that is the test that they place in front of Jesus

Ø     Which is it, Jesus?

Ø     Where do you loyalties lie?

Ø     Who has the authority?

§        The world or the Word

READ v. 23-25

v    Jesus’ answer surprised everybody

Ø     They asked an “either/or” question

§        Pay taxes…acknowledge that Rome has authority

§        Withhold taxes…acknowledge that God has authority

·        But he answered…both/and!

¨     Jesus is saying that both have authority in your life

Ø     Government and God

v    He says…

Ø     “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”

§        In other words…

·        Don’t disobey the government

Ø     Implicit in this statement is that the government holds authority

§        And we, as Christians, are to obey it

·        For that is the inescapable teaching of Scripture

¨     1 Pet 2:13-14

Ø     Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: 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

¨     Paul tells Titus to…

Ø     Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities (Titus 3:1)


v    But the question always comes…

Ø     What about bad governments?

§        You have to remember that Paul & Peter are speaking these very words at a time when one of the most immoral governments that has ever existed reigned on earth…Rome

·        Richard Halverson, past Chaplin of the US Senate

To be sure, men will abuse and misuse the institution of the State just as men because of sin have abused and misused every other institution in history including the Church of Jesus Christ; but this does not mean that the institution is bad or that it should be forsaken.  It simply means that men are sinners and rebels in God’s world, and this is the way they behave with good institutions. 

As a matter of fact, it is because of this very sin that there must be human government to maintain order in history until the final and ultimate rule of Jesus Christ is established. Human government is better than anarchy, and the Christian must recognize the “divine right” of the State.


Ø     Prov 8:15-16

§        By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; by me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth

Ø     Rom 13:1

§        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.

·        Scriptures inform us that Governments are instituted by God

¨     And we must live the boundaries of their laws

v    But, having said that…

Ø     We cannot forget the second half of what Jesus says…

§        “Give to God, what is God’s”

v    Here is the great statement of Christian equilibrium

Ø     And to truly understand this you have to look very closely at the question Jesus asks

§        V. 24

·        Jesus asks…

¨     “Whose likeness on it?

Ø     GK word used = Eikon = Image

Ø     Jesus then says…

§        Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s

·        In other words…

¨     Give to Caesar what has his likeness stamped on it and give to God that which has his likeness stamped on it

Ø     Do you remember what Gen 1:26-27 says…

§        Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likenessSo God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them

·        We are made in the image of God!

Ø     Thus Jesus is saying in one fell swoop

§        Give the government back what is stamped with their image

·        But give back to God that which is stamped with his image!

¨     US!

Ø     Adolph Deissmann

§        That pregnant sentence does not present us with two equal magnitudes, Caesar and God; The second is clearly superior to the first

v    In other words…

Ø     The ultimate authority in your life is God

§        And the crucible for the Christian is to be able to navigate this difficult path

·        When does God’s authority usurp that of the government’s

·        When are we to resist

·        When do we stand up and say no

¨     I’d like to take you to three sections of Scripture to answer that

Ø     Turn with me to Acts 5 (p. 1699)

§        Apostles jailed for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ

·        Angel sets them free

¨     Return to temple court and preach once again

Ø     Sanhedrin brings them before them

§        READ Acts 5:28-29

§        Resist when asked to violate a command of God

·        God has ultimate authority over a Christian’s life

¨     Regardless of what the state demands

Ø     And it might have dire circumstances for the Christian

§        Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego & Prayer ~ Daniel 3

§        This principle has produced many of the Martyrs of the faith

Ø     Turn with me to Gen 39 (p. 64)

§        Joseph and Potiphars wife

·        Gen 39:7-12

§        Resist when asked to commit an immoral or unethical act

·        This comes in many form to us today

¨     Business:

Ø     Asked to fudge on company books (Tyco scandal)

Ø     Asked to say more about a product than is true

Ø     Turn with me to Rom 14 (p. 1765)

§        Here we find the Great principle of the Conscience

·        The “Lord” of the Gray areas in our life

¨     Here Paul is talking about eating or abstaining from meat

§        Rom 14:5

·        One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

§        Resist when it goes against your conscience

·        Acts 24:16

¨     So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man

Ø     Your conscience led by the Holy Spirit guides Christians when Scripture is silent or ambiguous

Since 9/11 airport security has been beefed up. There are more checkpoints, better security and more sensitive metal detectors. When we pass through these devices, we think we are so advanced…detecting hidden metal objects!

Interestingly enough, centuries ago, one of the palaces of Chang-an, the ancient capital of what is now known as Thailand, had a similar device.  Its gates were made of Lodestone – a natural magnet.  If a would-be assassin came in through the gate with a concealed dagger, the Lodestone would pull at the hidden weapon like an invisible hand.  Startled, the individual would involuntarily reach for the weapon.  Trained guards, watching every movement, would then grab him.

A healthy conscience acts in much the same way…it tugs at us in this direction or that, guiding us through the gray areas of life

v    Your conscience helps you when you are faced with questions like…

Ø     Should you hang out with a certain person

Ø     Should you watch this movie

Ø     Should you participate in war

§        Let you conscience guide you in these areas

v    So…

Ø     Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s

§        The great Christian Crucible

·        The great tightrope act that we as Christians must walk this side of Glory

v    There is a little known British hymn that was written in 1918 after WWI

Ø     It was sung at Princess Diana wedding and funeral

§        And I believe it sums up how we as Christians can navigate this difficult path

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,

Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;

The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,

That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;

The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,

The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,

Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;

We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;

Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;

And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,

And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

v    They wanted to trap Jesus into stripping Rome of its authority over an individual

Ø     But Jesus implicitly says…

§        The state is a valid institution, even when it is

v    Jesus coined one of the most prolific terms ever used

Ø     It asks us in no uncertain terms…

§        Whose the authority in your life?

Ø     Praise, affirmation in job can slowly woo you away from God

Ø     And that can woo us away from seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness

·        My challenge for you today is…

¨     How has the world wooed you away from the Lord

Ø     Jn 15:19

§        As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.

·        Jesus prepared us for the trouble to come


Ø     And can entice us away from keeping our priorities straight

v    Matt 6:33

Ø     But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well

READ 20:20-26

v    Implications:

§        They sought an either/or

·        But Jesus replied both/and

§        We should not compartmentalize our life

Ø     The voice of the conscience is louder than the voice of the state

§        Honor the King but fear God!

v    Notes:

An owl was sitting in a hollow tree, dozing away a summer's afternoon, was suddenly disturbed by a Grasshopper singing in the grass beneath. The owl asked the grasshopper to keeping quiet, but the grasshopper did not even acknowledge the owl.  The owl then asked the grasshopper to, but the Grasshopper sang all the more

The Owl waited in silence for a time, and then artfully addressed the Grasshopper and said,

“Well, if I cannot be allowed to sleep, it is better to be kept awake by such a pleasant voice. Please keep singing. And now that I think of it, I have a bottle of delicious nectar. If you will come up, I will give you a drop.”

The Grasshopper came hopping up to the owl, who at once caught and killed him, and finished her nap in comfort.

¨     In fact…

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