2010 Luke’s Gospel
He is the God of the Living
Key Verse: 20:38 "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive. "
In today’s passage Jesus encounters two questions from opponents, and then poses one of his own. The religious leaders Jesus’ opponent only want to catch Jesus in his words through questions. And yet Jesus answers their questions sincerely with truths from the Bible. Let us pray to go through these questions one by one deeply so that we may get some understanding of God’s words while we hear Jesus answer those questions.
Look at verses 20-22. “Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?””
In last week’s passage Jesus sent the teachers of the law and the chief priests away empty handed with a counter question and a parable of the tenants. Even though they looked for a way to arrest Jesus right away, they did not because they were afraid of the people (20:19). Meanwhile, they still kept a close eye on Jesus and tried to find an opportunity to catch Jesus in his words. This time they sent spies with another challenging question. According to other gospels those spies were the Pharisees’ disciples and Herodians, who politically supported Herod the Great the king of the Jews. Actually, they did not get along with each other. But this time with the same purpose of trapping Jesus in his words, they became the allied forces.
The spies flattered Jesus first. “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” Seemingly they used a tactic to loosen up one’s heart by flattery. If it would work, they would attack their target and eliminate it in a flash. Their goal is to get Jesus in trouble with the Romans, specifically the governor, Pontius Pilate, the only ruler in Jerusalem who has the authority to exercise the death penalty.
Then, what was their question? “It is right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” It’s about whether or not it is right to pay taxes to Caesar. The spies and the mastermind might make all efforts to come up with that question, which could be a perfect trap for Jesus. How come it was so? Let’s figure it out. If Jesus agrees that Roman taxation is right, then perhaps they can turn public opinion against Jesus with the same vehemence with which tax collectors are hated. This would be as dangerous as it sounds. But if, as they suspect, Jesus secretly despises the Romans' right to occupy Israel and place burdensome taxes on its citizens, perhaps they can get him to say something that can be construed as rebellion against Rome. Actually this could be what they expect. Perhaps they can paint Jesus as a Zealot, one who fights to free Israel from Roman domination. Indeed, it is a trick question.
Look at verses 23-25. “He saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?” “Caesar's,” they replied. “He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.” First of all, when Jesus heard their flattery and the trick question, Jesus knew that they were hypocrites and had evil intent. So he said in other gospels, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?” He clearly revealed their evil motive among the people because many people could not know what the spies were doing.
Now Jesus asked them to bring him a denarius, which the Romans required as an annual payment, a day's wage, per adult male. Then he answered their question with another question. “Whose portrait and inscription are on it?” The spies did not know why Jesus asked them that question whereas Jesus did about their question. So they simply replied, “Caesar’s.” That they have the coin indicates that they should have already known the answer. That they would even be holding such a coin was ironic, since it bore an inscription that the Jews considered blasphemous: "Tiberius Caesar, son of the deified Augustus, Augustus" and on the head an image of the emperor's mother Livia as an incarnation of the goddess Pax (peace), with the words "High Priest." Instead of getting trapped by simply saying it is right or not, or yes or no, Jesus knocked down the trap and proclaimed the truth. “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” His answer was marvelous in its balance. Then, what does it mean by that?
Jesus is saying that if the coinage bears Caesar's image, then it indicates that Caesar is the ruler who should be submitted to in paying taxes. Later Jesus' Apostles spell out the Christian's obligation to submit to earthly rulers. Romans 13:1-2 read, “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. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” And 1 Peter 13-14 say, “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.” By his answer Jesus indicates that this is no rebel. The implication is that we are to pay our taxes fairly and honestly, without any attempt to overturn the law. This is required of us as Jesus' disciples.
And Jesus continues, “And to God what is God's.” Perhaps there is the implied question, “Whose image do you bear?” The answer is the image of God. This is all Jews would acknowledge from Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This is also what we know. What Jesus is saying is that with our bodies, minds, and spirits, we ourselves, owe allegiance to God himself. We carry out our social obligation because we are afraid of being penalized for cheating. But our motives to serve God are more than that. Do we serve him because we fear displeasing him or because we love him? Whose coinage are you? Whose stamp and image do you bear in your soul? It is God's. Then you owe Him your full allegiance -- to love him with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength as in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Luke 10:27. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Here we learn two lessons: to submit willingly to the requirements of the civil government, but even more important, to give our all in tribute to God, for it is his image we bear in this world.
Look at verses 27-33. That same day (Matthew 22:23) the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. The question begins with a woman, who married and then widowed seven times, left with no children, finally dies. Then the question is, “Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” The basis for the Sadducees' trick question rests on the practice of husband’s brother marriage. The Sadducees are referring to the passage in Deuteronomy: “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her” (Deuteronomy 25:5). Perhaps that was their favorite question to make those who believe in the resurrection fall down.
How would Jesus respond? Look at verses 34-36. “Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection.” Jesus states that there are two ages or worlds. In the present age God has given marriage. God gave marriage so we may complete the task he has given us. As we live in this age, in marriage we grow in the knowledge and love of God. We learn sacrifice, service, respect and love. We are able to complete the task God has given us to be fruitful and increase in number. In this age, marriage is God's blessing and God's purpose. But Jesus talks about another age, the glorious age of the resurrection. As Jesus taught, he will return someday as Christ and Lord. In that day, all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out (Jn 5:28). It will not be like this current age. What will be different? There will no longer be a need for marriage, as we will be married to Jesus. We will love and be loved in the presence of God and our Lord Jesus. Jesus says in that age people will no longer die. We will have a glorious resurrection body that is imperishable. The resurrection is not just a continuation of this life. Rather, this life is the preparation for the life to come.
The Sadducees also made a wrong assumption that all people will take part in the age of the resurrection. Jesus says, "...those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and the resurrection from the dead..." Not everyone will be allowed to participate, only those who are worthy. Who are those considered worthy? Jesus tells us they are God's children. John 1:12 says, "Yet to all who receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." Jesus gave the right to become children of God through the gospel. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Those who believe that God raised Jesus from the dead will be saved (Ro 10:9). We have a living hope in the kingdom of God. The destination of our lives will be to live forever with Christ and his people. Let us hold on to the gospel and live with hope in the kingdom of God.
Look at verses 37-38. “But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Jesus argues simply that the idea of being the God of a dead person is foolish. In Mark 12:27 Jesus says to the Sadducees, “You are badly mistaken” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must either be alive or can confidently expect that God will raise them to life. God will raise the dead because he must keep his promises to them to be their God.
Our God is the God of the living. He is the living God, who called Abraham in his generation. He is the living God who heard Isaac's prayer in his generation, and who shepherded Jacob. He is the Lord who worked with Moses to deliver his people. Moses trembled before the living God. He knew God is the author of all life and the Creator. How are we to know the living God? He is holy, perfect, powerful and wonderful. In contrast, we are totally sinful. But God sent his one and only Son that we might know him. Through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, God proved that he loves sinners. And God raised Jesus from the dead, and opened a way to him for all who believe. He has sent his Holy Spirit. He is the living God of the patriarchs, and also he is our living God. Since God watches us and he is our living God, we can live in hope. We can give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, growing in his image and relationship with him and his people. Praise and thanks be to God in whom we have hope through the resurrection!
As Jesus was answering the Sadducees, the Pharisees and teachers of the law who believed in the resurrection, looked on approvingly in verses 39-40. “Well said, teacher!” For the moment, Jesus was on the same side of theology as the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. But not for long.
Look at verses 41-44. Now, instead of answering difficult questions, Jesus poses one himself. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David? David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” (Psalm 110:1) “David calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?”” The Pharisees used the term "Son of David" to refer to the Christ, the Messiah. David was looked at as Israel's greatest king and the Messiah was seen by the Jews as restoring David's kingdom to its original glory. But Jesus points out to them what David, the author of the Messianic Psalm 110, says:”The LORD (that is, God), says to my (i.e., David's) Lord ...” David is clearly referring to the Messiah as his superior, as his Lord. Here the Messiah is worthy of the allegiance of his own ancestor, David. Jesus asks the religious leaders, “How can he be his son?” Lest the Pharisees and scribes take too much glory from Jesus' defeat of the Sadducees, Jesus seems to be saying that they don't really understand the Messiah and the age to come any better themselves.
Having a poor view of the Messiah was not a light matter. Since they only viewed the Messiah as a human descendant of David, they didn't recognize the many miracles and signs that proved Jesus as the Messiah. If our view of the Christ is earthbound, we too can easily become distracted by human recognition, positions, clothing, and worldly honor. Instead of living in hope of the kingdom to come, and carrying out the will of our Lord, we can get caught up in our own plans, desires and religious duties like the religious leaders.
We should have a view of Christ as fully human, as the one who came to understand us, and also as fully divine, the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and the one worthy to be our Lord.
Look at verses 45-47. “While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” Lastly Jesus gives his disciples a warning of hypocrisy of the teachers of law, who did all the religious activities as a show for their honor and glory. However, Jesus whom the disciples followed didn't have flowing robes and wasn't greeted in the marketplaces and didn't have the best seats in synagogues. Rather, Jesus was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. He was a man of obedience to his Father. With an attitude of humility and compassion, Jesus lived as a shepherd of the people, deciding to serve, instead of to be served. This attitude of obedience led him to the cross, where he died to save us from our sins. We the children of God also must have the same attitude as Jesus, not taking advantage of Jesus’ grace and live as a good shepherd and Bible teacher. Let us pray to long more to be with Christ, than to enjoy the benefits of some temporary glory and prosperity on the earth. Let us pray to have an attitude of unworthiness on our part to serve God and his ministry.
Today we learned we are to submit ourselves to governmental authority and what’s more, we should love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength because we have the image of God in our souls. And also we learned that God whom we serve and love is the God of the living, meaning there is hope of resurrection in the kingdom of God for those who are worthy. Lastly we learned that we should have a view of Christ as fully human and full divine. In addition, we learned we should live as a humble shepherd like Jesus in obedience to God, not for a show as a religious person. Let us thank and praise Jesus who is our salvation and eternal life.
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