Sermon: Jesus Stays on Course (Luke 20:19-26)

Luke 20.19-26 Click for audio

Jesus Stays On Course

Luke 20:19-26

Introduction

Jesus had just spoken the parable of the wicked tenants and the religious leaders knew that He was speaking against them.  They knew that they were the ones entrusted with the vineyard and that they were the ones killing the prophets and the ones about to kill the Beloved Son.  Yet their hearts were hard and because of their hard hearts they were about to commit the most wicked murder the world has ever seen.

We know the murder of Jesus was within God’s perfect plan, providing salvation for His people and yet those who commit the crime are in no way excused of their actions.  Why were they so antagonistic against Jesus?  Mainly, they were out for fame and fortune and they were much closer to achieving their goals without Jesus than they would be with Him.  Their purpose now is to remove Jesus from the picture.

These wicked rulers understand that they cannot capture Jesus using a frontal assault.  They know that the people love Jesus and to seize Him in public would turn the people against them.  So, they continue their game of scheming and plotting.   Their plan is to place spies in the midst of Jesus, posing as His followers.  These spies begin to ask Jesus loaded questions hoping to catch Him in an answer that would either be heresy, blasphemy, or an answer in which Rome would take offense.

Jesus takes their question and answers it in such a way as to silence those spies and teach His true followers.  His answer is so remarkable and simple, all His accusers fall silent and again His authority is seen.

Notice in the text… 

Primary Claim

Jesus would not be sidetracked into debating political opinions but stayed on course in His mission to extend salvation to sinners.

Human Condition

Often times we may be tempted by our world to get off track and be diverted toward trivial pursuits.  Usually, it’s not a choice between good and evil but good and best.

Another area we may get off base and emphasize too much is politics.   We must not get sidetracked in politics but remain fixed on Christ and the Gospel.  Then in light of these issues, how are we to live in America, under a government that sometimes opposes the very beliefs we, as Christians, hold dear?

Please hear God’s Word…

Luke 20:19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.

20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.

21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God.

22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”

23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them,

24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”

25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.

1.  The Trap is Set (Luke 20:19-22)

Luke 20:19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.

20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.

21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God.

22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”

A. Their Sinful Motives

I want us to take a moment and examine the utter hypocrisy of Jesus’ accusers.  These Scribes and Chief Priests represented God to the people.  They were to be the ones who cared about the Law of God.  They were to help others to obey the Law of God by being a good example of righteousness and to be the teachers of others.

Verse 19 tells us very plainly that they didn’t do what they wanted to do which was to kill Jesus because they were afraid of the people.

They were afraid of the people and they try to flatter Jesus by using empty words of praise in order to head off any threats from the crowds who were for Jesus.

The empty flattery is not effective with our Lord.

You speak the truth

You teach the Truth

You are not swayed by men

You teach the way of God…yet they would not follow.

You are not swayed by people.  Literally, You are not swayed by their facial expressions.   So, if they really believe Jesus is from God and teaches rightly and is not swayed by the people, should they not be concerned that they are swayed by the people?

19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.

Another point of hypocrisy that we should see is that they are plainly lying and deceiving.  Should a religious leader of the people ever resort to lying and deception?  Should anyone for that matter?  Their actions very clearly point to a heart that does not love God but loves their own system and status.  If they are lying and deceiving does this not show the condition heart?  Jesus, You teach rightly but we’re posing as followers so we can trap You.  We are pretending to be true believers, which we’re not, in order to trick You.  Do you see how their tactics show their lost condition?

Finally, their empty words of flattery are shown to be nothing but words they themselves do not believe.   Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God…

If this was truly what they thought don’t you think they should have been followers of Jesus?  Why would they not follow Him and be one of His disciples.  Jesus you teach truth and are from God but we are out to silence You.

This reminds me so much of people today who want to say, Jesus was a good Teacher.  Do you recall C S Lewis’ argument in Mere Christianity?

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.[1]

These Scribes and Priests were living out what they believed.  Regardless of what they said, their lives shouted that they didn’t believe Jesus and that, according to them, He was not who He said He was.  They loved their way of life and their power over the people more than they loved the God they claimed to be serving.

We must consider how our behavior shows the condition of our hearts.  A person can claim to be a Christian all day long.  One could perhaps even point back to a day they had an emotional experience in a worship service.  They may have been baptized and even a member of a local church.  However, if their actions are not glorifying the Lord, if their deeds are worldly then they have no assurance that their salvation is genuine.

What do your actions say about your heart?  These people claimed to be servants of God while at the same time planning the death of God’s beloved Son.  Their actions showed who they really were.  They were deceivers and liars, sons of Satan.

Listen to what Jesus said to these deceivers on another occasion:

John 8:39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did,

40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.

41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father–even God.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.

43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?

47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Jesus speaks the truth and He is from God the Father of truth

The Jewish leaders speak lies and they are from their father the devil because he speaks lies.

I pray we deal justly and honestly and speak the truth in love just as God does.  We must never consider what will happen by telling the truth.  A lie may in fact get us out of certain consequences for the time but lies will always come back to get you and you are speaking as the devil does.  Instead, consider what the right thing to do is and do not concern yourself with the outcome…that’s up to God anyway.

B. Their Deceptive Question

22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”

Their question posed to Jesus has to do with Roman taxes.  The Tribute Tax paid to Rome was another reminder of Rome’s occupation and authority over the people in Jerusalem.  Paying this tax was mandatory.

It was known historically that there had been some resistance over the years to this and other Roman imposed laws.   About 15 years before this, there was a small rebellion against Rome by those called the Zealots.  In fact, one of Jesus’ followers was known as Simon the Zealot, not Peter.  The Zealots were extreme Jewish nationalists who resisted Rome’s domination.

It was in light of these events that tensions often were at an elevated level between Jews and Romans.  It was in these volatile circumstances the Jewish leadership found an opportunity to trap Jesus.

If Jesus answered the Tribute Tax was not lawful, then they would have grounds to arrest Him as someone opposing Rome.  If Jesus answers yes, then they can use this to stir up those opposed to Rome against Jesus.  However, our Lord turns the tables and reveals the hearts of those confronting Him.

PC-Jesus would not be sidetracked into debating political opinions but stayed on course in His mission to extend salvation to sinners.

2.  The Trap is Exposed (Luke 20:23-26)

23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them,

24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”

25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.

It’s very clear in verse 23 that Jesus knew that they were spies and He also knew what they were doing.

Another important fact is that it was the Jewish leadership who collected the Tribute Tax paid to Caesar.  24 “Show me a denarius. It was the elders, chief priests and scribe who made up the Sanhedrin.  It was the Sanhedrin who collected this tax from the people for Rome.   This Tribute Tax had to be paid for with the silver denarius.

Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus

The tax was over and above their other tax responsibilities.  It was paid with one silver denarius per male.

When Jesus asks them for a denarius, He was exposing the hypocrisy of their question.  It stands to reason, those who possess the denarius also possess the answer to their own question.  They were, in fact, saying it is lawful to pay the Tribute Tax to Caesar because they’re the ones with pockets full of the coins.  Rome views Augustus Caesar as divine and Tiberius, his son also as divine.  Because the Jewish leaders collect the Tribute Tax, which was a tax paid in honor of the divine Caesar, they were money collectors for a false deity and they were not caring for the things of God.

What is more, in the discourse that immediately follows, Jesus in essence charges them, together with the Sanhedrin, with being about the business of Rome rather than about the business of God.[2]

25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Literally, give to Caesar the things that are his and give to God the things that are His.

Jesus shows that there are two kingdoms.  There is the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God.  These leaders, by their actions, show that they have sided with Rome.  Their pockets are full of money and they’re out to kill the Son of God.

They have become proof of what Jesus taught…

Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.

15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

So we read, the final verse of our passage this morning…

26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.

Primary claim refocused

Jesus would not be sidetracked into debating political opinions but stayed on course in His mission to extend salvation to sinners.

It’s important for us to see that in this confrontation, Jesus eludes the trap set by the Jewish leaders and teaches His disciples.  First, He’s not going to get sidetracked and be lured into a political debate over where a Jewish citizen has any responsibilities when it comes to the Roman occupation.  He instead turns the attention of everyone to whether or not they are living out their responsibilities that they had toward God.

Human condition changed or Human need met

We have a wonderful example of how not to be sidetracked by political issues.  Jesus stays the course and focuses on God’s Kingdom not the kingdom of men.

I don’t know how it is at your house, but my phone has been working overtime as people call doing political polls.  With the 2012 election coming around the corner, where should my focus be as a Christian?

First, I must realize that I do have responsibilities as a citizen to uphold the laws of the land, to live peacefully, and to pay my fair share of taxes.  As a citizen of the United States, I have the responsibility to vote.  These and other things fall on me as a citizen.  However, I must not get sidetracked on political issues.

Second, I hate to break the news to you, but our society is not Christian.  America is not a Christian nation.  Those who make important decisions in our country for the most part are not Christians, nor are the decisions coming from a Christian worldview.

So, how am I to live in a society that is non-Christian and sometimes even anti-Christian?

I render unto Caesar (or my country) the things that are Caesar’s and render unto God the things that are God’s.  When these two kingdoms are in conflict, I obey God rather than men.

Acts 5:27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them,

28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.    

Exhortation in godly living

The key to living in a society that is non-Christian and even at times anti-Christian is to not fear man.  The religious leaders were caught up in worrying what people thought.  What’s popular must never drive or thinking or behavior.  Fear God and not man.

Obey the Lord even if the whole world goes a different direction.  Render unto God the things that are God’s…our loyalty, obedience, trust and love.

 


[1] Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, London: Collins, 1952, p54-56.

 

[2] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke pg. 715

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