Preached By Lynn Davis, Lay Servant at Centre UMC
Today, the Lord put it on my heart to expound on the New Testament reading of Matthew 22:15-22. The question the Pharisees tried to use to entrap Jesus…..the question about paying taxes.
The enemies of Christ (the Pharisee’s in this case) wanted to get rid of Jesus either by law or by force and up to this point neither was working. The law of the land in Jesus’ day was the Roman government and the force of the Jewish people ……came through the hands of its people.
The Romans didn’t concern themselves with the laws of the Jews – they had no respect for the people of Israel, no believe in the One True God or any interest in upholding Israel’s religious laws.
To deal with Jesus by force the Pharisees needed to bring the people of Israel to a place of hatred and contempt – they would be the force needed….the hands that would carry out the acts of violence – they were the ones who administered the beatings of those who rebelled against its religious leaders – they were the force that carried out the stoning deaths – but the problem for the Pharisee’s was that the people saw Jesus as a Prophet and they were unable raise the mob against him.
Up to this point in the gospel of Matthew mostly the chief priests and the elders – men in authority had tried to discredit and put an end to Jesus’ ministry. Now the Pharisees send out their disciples in hopes of tripping Jesus up. They were hoping to catch him with his guard down – they knew he would be suspicious if they themselves addressed him, so they come up with a plan to send their disciples – thinking perhaps… that the disciples would look more like students. Students asking a question with the intent to learn from the sincere teacher, the way of God in accordance with truth showing no deference or partiality – these is exactly how they greeted him and addressed him in verse 16.
Another important fact that should not go unnoticed is that along with the disciples the Pharisees send along the Herodians. The Herodians were a group among the Jews who supported whole heartedly and were in favor of the ruling power of the Roman Empire.
The question whether it was lawful to pay taxes voluntarily or whether they should insist upon the ancient liberty of their nation… they were the seed of Abraham after all ….God’s chosen people and therefore should not consent to be in bondage to any man or government …. that included the ruling Roman Empire.
The Pharisee’s plan was to entangle Jesus with his own words and it seemed to be well a though out plan – The question was one that caused great tension between the Jewish nation of Israel and the Roman government, one that brought with it anger, hatred and contempt.
They believed there would be no way Jesus could answer the question without exposing him to the anger and force of the Jews or be in contempt of the laws set by the Roman Empire – but he perceived their wickedness.
Why are you putting me to the test you hypocrites – Jesus instructs them to show him the coin – whose head is this, and whose title? The Emperor they respond – then give to the emperor the things that are the Emperor’s and give to God the things that are God’s.
The scripture tells us they were amazed at his answer – why, because no offense was given. Jesus choose not to Judge or bring division regarding the things of this world, why …..because his kingdom is not of this world.
Today the church is being tested more than ever and the enemy is out to trip us up, to entangle us in the things of this world. With all of the hurt, pain, anger, contempt and tension in our world, our nation, our state, our communities and yes even in our own families and in our own homes…the enemy is trying to ensnare us. The enemy wants to entrap us into thinking the problems of our day are too big for us to get involved. The enemy who is of this world wants us to think these problems are too big for the church and wants us to believe we cannot make a meaningful impact for the kingdom of God.
Brothers and sisters when we allow our minds to succumb to this way of thinking we are allowing the enemy to defeat and entrap us. We have taken our eyes off of Christ and we have lost sight of the Kingdom of God.
Some of us unwillingly or even willingly accept the lies from Satan that we are powerless to change or even impact the problems of this world. Some of us struggle with trying to figure out how we can make a difference, while the rest of us cry out to God and ask him to send revival.
Brothers and sisters we are the revival, we are God’s agents in this world, we are his hands and feet. How can we keep our eyes on Christ, how can we impact a hurting world for Christ….in Chapter 5 of Matthew, right after the sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches us to be Salt & Light.
You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father (Matt 5:13-16).
Jesus challenged the Chief Priests, the elders Israel, the Pharisees, the men of authority and yes the Church to be the Salt & Light of this earth. He taught his disciples and all those who believed what it meant to be the Light of the World – to not hide from fear and persecution but to set their eyes, their ears and their hearts on the Kingdom of God… not on the things of this world.
1. To not be ashamed to be a follower of Jesus Christ
2. To let go of the fear of being rejected or persecuted by friends, family, coworkers and even strangers because of our love for Jesus and our Father in Heaven who sent Him
3. To hold steadfast in our faith…not only in the good times but in times of trials and temptations
4. To love our enemies
5. To pray to our Father in heaven in sincerity and in love
6. To do for others – acts of love and mercy
7. To not worry about the things of this world but to build up a store house of heavenly treasure where moths and rust cannot destroy.
Yesterday I had the blessing of attending Mt. Zion’s Women’s Conference, the title and theme of the conference was “Reaching for Eternity.” I was reminded of the question posed to Jesus about paying taxes but more importantly I had a greater appreciation for his response…..give to Caesar the things that are Caesars and give to God the things that are Gods.
The things of this world (the things of Caesar) very often distract us from an abundant life with God. It stands in the way of the race set before us, the prize found in reaching for eternity…..Brothers and Sisters it is the giving to God the things that are Gods that allows us to reach for eternity.
Beloved let us be the Salt that preserves and keeps this world from rotting away, let us be the Salt that leads to a thirst for Living Water….Let us be the Light that illuminates and rids the world of darkness, let our good deeds shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise our heavenly Father.
Closing Prayer: Father we join with all of heaven this morning…Great is your name and worthy of our praise – let your people tremble, let the earth quake let all of creation worship your Holy name for you Lord God are Holy and worthy of all our praise! Teach us your ways of Lord so that we might reach for eternity, and win the race set before us and take hold of the price for which Christ Jesus died for us to have. Amen!
I would like to offer a small note of praise and thanksgiving for the resources available when studying and seeking God’s heart. I would especially like to acknowledge Matthew Henry’s Commentary made available online, through www.biblegateway.com; and Mt. Zion Church in Churchville MD for their Reaching for Eternity Women’s Conference – guest speaker, Tracy Tiernan who inspired some of the content for this sermon.