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Matthew 22:15-26 - Debating the King

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Not long after I became a Christian at university, the Christian Union held a Grill-a-Christian event in the college bar and I was on the panel!
People were invited to come and ask any questions they might have about the Christian faith and what they believe. As a pretty-much brand new Christian I was definitely out of my depth!
For most of us, It’s an uncomfortable experience to be bombarded with questions, especially about our faith. But not for Jesus!
At this point in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is in Jerusalem and facing down some pretty tough opponents. The Chief Priests and elders have tried to confront him, but he responded with three parables announcing their downfall. This only made them resolved to take action:
Matthew 21:46 NIV
They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
Now, it’s all about trying to incriminate Jesus, catch him out, get him to say something illegal, either by Jewish law or Roman law.
And so we have three rounds of Q&A, with disciples of the Pharisees/Herodians, the Sadducees and the Pharisees themselves all trying to have a go.
Each time Jesus responds they are silenced and stunned. By the end, no one wants to ask him any more questions!
But Jesus’ responses say something to all of us, and we are again challenged to accept things that we find hard to accept - we belong to God, we will live forever, we are made to love. Ultimately, we are challenged to accept that Jesus Christ is Lord.

You Belong To God

If you want to derail someone who’s in the public eye, ask them a question about a highly contentious issue.

Question 1

What is thy only comfort in life and death?

That I with body and soul, both in life and death,a am not my own,b but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ;c who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins,d and delivered me from all the power of the devil;e and so preserves mef that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head;g yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation,h and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,i and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.j

What is thy only comfort in life and death?

That I with body and soul, both in life and death,a am not my own,b but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ;

After flattering Jesus in an attempt to catch him off guard, they ask this stinger:
Matthew 22:17 NIV
Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
Matthew 22:17
This was most likely a hot topic of the time. A bit like asking if you voted Leave or Remain!
Matthew 22:15–17 NIV
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
The Pharisees had really thought about this, and chose what they thought was an unanswerable question. In other words, whatever Jesus answers will be wrong.
If he says “Yes, it’s right to pay taxes to Caesar,” then Jesus is seen to be in favour of the Roman occupation of Israel, or worse that he’s in collusion with them.
But if he says “No, it’s totally wrong to pay taxes to Caesar,” then they can report him to the Roman authorities as an insurrectionist.
Either way, they think, Jesus can’t win!
Matthew 22:18–21 NIV
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Matthew 22:18–21 NIV
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
It’s a brilliant answer! On one level, Jesus says that you don’t have to pit your obligation to worldly authorities against your obligation to God.
2:18-21
It’s a brilliant answer! On one level, Jesus says that you don’t have to pit your obligation to worldly authorities against your obligation to God.
On one level, Jesus says that you don’t have to pit your obligation to worldly authorities against your obligation to God.
But on the other hand, Jesus makes a profound point about who’s really in charge. He points out that the denarius coin bears the image of Caesar, so therefore it belongs to him anyway.
Whatever is due to Caesar must be paid. But at the same time, what is due to God must also be rendered.
We bear the image of God and so we belong to him, but not a certain portion like a tax - the whole of us belongs to God, so we must give him the whole.
It’s really a challenge to his questioners:
The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism [explain catechisms] goes like this:
Q1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism goes like this:
A1. That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

What is thy only comfort in life and death?

That I with body and soul, both in life and death,a am not my own,b but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ;

This is the most important thing about us. Not our nationality, or our language. Not our background or upbringing. Not our career or family situation. Not our possession or appearance. Not our allegiance to political parties or sports team. Not our self-given identity or sexual preference or ideas about gender.
No, the most important thing about every single human is that we belong to God. He made us. We are his. We are made in his image, his likeness, to know him and experience him and enjoy him.
So, fine, pay your taxes, enjoy your national identity, your career, your family, your sports etc - but do not forget to remind yourself daily of this vital fact:
“That I am not my own, but belong— body and soul, in life and in death— to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Actually the Heidelberg answers goes further:

That I with body and soul, both in life and death,a am not my own,b but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ;c who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins,d and delivered me from all the power of the devil;e and so preserves mef that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head;g yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation,h and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,i and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.j

A1. That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Matthew 22:22 NIV
When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
I know that I belong to Jesus Christ because he has bought my redemption and forgiveness with his blood. That is the most important thing about me.
Today. Everyday. Regardless of the circumstances. No matter how I’m feeling. I’m His! [Counter cultural - then and now].
You belong to God. The inland revenue has a claim on a certain portion of your earnings, but God has a claim on the whole of your life.
You belong to God. So honour him. Obey him. Live for him rather than this world.
That’s especially important because of the second thing we learn from this Q&A with Jesus:

You Will Live Forever

With the disciples of the Pharisees and Herodians defeated, the Sadducees have a go.
Matthew 22:23–28 NIV
23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
Matt 22:23
This isn’t a question about law but about doctrine. We’re told the Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection. That’s because the Sadducees got all their doctrine from the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Resurrection is a doctrine derived from later OT books and Jewish rabbinic literature.
So they’re trying to discredit Jesus as a theological leader by showing him up, making him look foolish on a point of doctrine.
If a woman has seven husbands who all die before she bears children, which one will be her husband in the resurrection. Their assumption is that there is no resurrection and that this scenario proves it.
But Jesus has his answer ready:
Matt 22:29-
Matthew 22:29 NIV
29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
Matthew 22:29–30 NIV
29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
They don’t know the Scriptures because they don’t recognise the entire OT as the Word of God. They don’t know the power of God because they deny that he can raise people from the dead!
On the point of marriage:
Matthew 22:30 NIV
30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
In other words, Jesus is saying that it’s foolish to assume that resurrection life will be identical to earthly life. It will be
In other words, Jesus is saying that it’s foolish to assume that resurrection life will be identical to earthly life. It will be quantitatively different in every conceivable way. Resurrection relationships will be an experience of union and love unlike anything we’ve known in this world.
Like angels, we will enjoy a shared delight of worshipping and obeying God (Sadducees also deny angels!).
In other words, Jesus is saying that it’s foolish to assume that resurrection life will be identical to earthly life. It will be
Matt 22:
All because there actually is a resurrection, and Jesus proves it from the Pentateuch!
Matthew 22:31–32 NIV
31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Taken from , when God first revealed himself to Moses. By that time the Patriarchs were long dead of this world, but the Lord spoke of them in the present tense! He has an ongoing relationship with them because they were made to live forever.
We are all eternal creatures. This life is not all there is. That we belong to God is not only our hope in life but also in death.
But we can only have hope in death if we believe in the resurrection! Trouble is, you might not want to believe.
My all-time favourite band is Queen! One of their hit songs asks the question “Who wants to live forever?”Behind the question is the idea that life will always be the way it is now.
But Jesus rose from the dead to give us a glimpse of resurrection life, that it won’t be at all like life as we know it now. And the apostle John was given an amazing vision of life in the new heavens and the new earth...
Revelation 21:3–5 NIV
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
You were made to live forever, and you were made to live forever with God, in perfect relationship as described here.
If that is what is awaiting those who hope in the risen Jesus then why would anyone choose to keep themselves from coming to him?
If eternity is real, if heaven and hell are real, then the most important thing we can attend to in this life is to be ready for death.
Are you ready? Have you repented (turned from sin) and believed in Jesus for forgiveness? If not, do it today. Because you do not know what will happen to you tomorrow.
The reason this is so urgent is because...

You Were Made To Love

The Sadducees were silenced, and so the Pharisees decided to get involved directly.
Matthew 22:35–36 NIV
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
It’s another hot topic debate that rabbis liked to ask each other. But it’s a bit like asking someone to choose one of their children as the favourite!
The question also betrays a concern for ethics - achieving favour with God through right living. But Jesus’ response puts the emphasis firmly on relationship.
Matthew 22:37–40 NIV
37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
:37-
If the whole Law and Prophets hang on these then we’re in trouble! Who has ever loved God with everything and without fail. And who has consistently loved their fellow humans as themselves?
We were made to love God and others, but we have tragically failed to do either.
So the greatest commandment points to our greatest problem (sin), which points to our greatest need (salvation), which points to our great Saviour!
And so we must all bow the knee and declare that...

Jesus Christ is Lord

Time for Jesus to pose a question of his own:
Matthew 22:41–46 NIV
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, 44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ 45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Matt 22:41-46
Every good Jew knew that the promised Messiah would be a descendant of King David. But that’s all they knew. They imagined him to be just another human king, albeit one who would restore the kingdom.
But Jesus is confronting that view by showing that in David called the Messiah (his son) “Lord.” It’s not enough to think of the Messiah as the Son of David. He is rightly to be called the Son of God.
Jesus isn’t just another human hero, nor is he merely an important historical figure. He is revealed as Lord.
He is the Lord who has come to save and redeem, rescue and restore. He is the Lord who came to give his life as a ransom for many.
He is the Lord to whom we belong, with whom we can live forever, in perfect loving relationship.
Is He your lord? Is he your Saviour?
Read . In what ways should we “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”? Are there any exceptions to this? How do we balance honouring earthly rulers with honouring God?
Read . What does Jesus’ words on marriage teach us about our ultimate purpose in this life?
Look at verse 29. How does knowing the Scriptures and the power of God go hand in hand in rightly knowing God and his purposes?
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