Stand in Awe of Jesus: Matthew 22:15-33 (Sermon)

CHILDREN’S MESSAGE 

He has risen! [He has risen indeed] He has risen! [He has risen indeed] He has risen! [He has risen indeed] I would like all the kids ten and under to come up front for a children’s message. [Items in a bag.] This week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. What happened this week? [Easter] Right. When you hear the word Easter, what do you think of? [Candy, the Easter Bunny, Easter Eggs, family, Jesus?] This week is about Jesus rising from the dead. Right? Here is another question: How did he die? He died on the cross. And another question is: How did he get there? Don’t answer that. I have some things in this bag to help us answer that question. Will you help? 

  • [Mole trap] What is this? This is a mole trap. We use these to trap moles. 

  • [Rat Trap] What is this? This is a rat trap. It is used to trap rats. 

  • [Mouse trap] What is this? This is a mouse trap. We set it up like this. And then along comes a little critter where he or she shouldn’t be. They walk on this, and BAM! They are caught. 

In the same way, we have some people who didn’t like Jesus, and they set traps to stop and kill him. As I preach, listen carefully to hear what traps they laid for him and think about how Jesus wants us to treat him instead. He did die, but he chose to because he loves us. He loves you. And through his death, our sins are forgiven. He knew God would raise him from the dead. He did. He was the first that God resurrected from the dead. Through Jesus we are blessed by God. In my bag, I have these Easter snacks. You can each have one. They can remind us of the sweetness of our God. And parents don’t worry, they are fruit snacks. No peanuts, chocolate, or things that can get stuck in the carpet. You can go back to your seats. 

INTRODUCTION

If you are visiting, I am glad you are here. This morning, we will continue working through our study of the biography of Jesus, called Matthew. The title of the book came from the author’s name. We learn about him in chapter 9. He was a tax collector from the priestly class called Levi. He left his job to follow Jesus for three years. According to tradition, he died in Ethiopia for his faith. The theme of his book is to Follow the Promised King into his kingdom. Jesus was the king that God had promised. And we will talk about him this morning, as I told the kids. If you have your Bible, open up to chapter 22. We will be reading starting at verse 15. I am going to have D.S. read for us. Would you please stand with me in honor of God’s Word? 


Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.


The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” 


But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. (Matthew 22:15–33, ESV)


PRAYER

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for your Word and your Son. Thank you for conquering death and rising from the grave. You are amazing. Be with us now, in Jesus’s name, amen. You may be seated.

CONTEXT 

Jesus was back in the temple in the city of Jerusalem. It was Holy Week. He will die soon in the book of Matthew. However, in our text, the Pharisees have questioned his right to teach in the temple. He wouldn’t directly answer them. Instead, he told them three stories called parables. He finished the third, indirectly indicting them for their unbelief and identifying himself as God’s one and only Son whom they will kill. Jesus taught that justice will come for his opponents and eternal reward for those who repent and believe in him. 

STRUCTURE AND MAIN IDEA 

The passage that D. read for us is part of a more extensive section of Scripture. In verses 15 through 45, Jesus responded to three antagonistic groups of people, each with different traps. Today, we will look at two. In the first trap, the Herodians questioned Jesus about taxes, a political hot potato. They leave, and then the Sadducees come and ask him about the resurrection, a theological controversy. Here is a detailed outline: 

First Trap: The Pharisees and Herodians ask about Taxes 

15 Introduction 

16–17 Herodians compliment Jesus and trap him

18–21 Jesus sees and answers them 

22 They marvel at him and leave 

Second Trap: The Sadducees ask about the Resurrection 

23–28 Sadducees come to trap Jesus 

29–32 Jesus answers them

33 Those listening were amazed 

The main idea is to stand in awe of Jesus, for he is wiser than these leaders. 

Stand in awe of Jesus for he is wiser than these leaders.

Verse 15 

Here is why I think that is the main idea of the text. Look in your Bible to Matthew chapter 22, verse 15. 

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words” (Matthew 22:15, ESV).

The Pharisees wanted Jesus to say something that would get him in trouble and kill him. They demonized him and sought to preserve their power. But they were afraid of confrontation, so they sought to sabotage Jesus’s reputation and life indirectly. Jesus knew this and would choose the terms of his demise, not the Pharisees.  

Verse 16 and 17

Look at verse 16 and 17. 


And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:16–17, ESV)


Let’s begin by asking, “Who were the Herodians?” A scholar I rely on heavily writes: 


The name suggests supporters of the Herodian dynasty, hence perhaps the appropriateness of their involvement in this politically-angled approach. Herodians in Jerusalem … may still have hankered for the former rĂ©gime, and so resented the direct Roman government; we may therefore suppose that they were at least uneasy over the … tax. Most interpreters, however, take them to be pro-Roman establishment figures, since the Herodian dynasty owed its power to Rome. We simply do not know. (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 831–832)


We don’t know whether they were pro-Roman or not. I like that humble uncertainty concerning things not known. We do know, however, that the Herodians flattered Jesus. They said they knew Jesus was true and taught God the way truthfully. Yet, they didn’t believe that at all. Ironically, the Herodians didn’t speak the truth. The Pharisees cared so much about what people thought that they sent their disciples to join the Herodians in trapping him. They feared people’s reaction instead of arresting him and crucifying him on the spot. 

TRAP

Verse 17 sets the trap: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar.” Now, how was that a trap? In our day, if someone were to ask us the same question, almost everyone would say, “Yes, it is lawful. It would be illegal or sinful not to.” Yet, there is something about paying taxes to Caesar that seemed counter to the Bible. What was that? The Caesars considered themselves divine and worthy of worship. They even said so on their coinage. Or, maybe it was because they did evil things. R.T. France states: 


The question had a superficial innocence about it, since Jesus, as a Galilean under Herod’s jurisdiction, was not subject to this particular tax, and so was in a position to give an “objective” opinion without his personal political status being affected. But there is little doubt that a negative answer would have been used to denounce him to the Roman authorities (as Luke 20:20 says explicitly).... On the other hand, a positive answer would not have endeared Jesus to the Jerusalem crowd, whose patriotism and resentment of Roman rule made them naturally sympathetic to “Zealot” ideology. (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 829–830)


Zealots opposed the Roman occupation of Israel. They had led a revolt recently that got the nation in hot water with Rome. So, Jesus’s refusal to pay taxes could have been treasonous and a reason for him to be arrested and killed. On the other hand, Jesus’s saying that people had to pay taxes could have upset the masses, who didn’t appreciate the Romans. This question was a catch-22 question. How did Jesus respond? 

VERSE 18

Look at verses 18: 

“But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?’” (Matthew 22:18, ESV).  

He saw through their veiled lies. He knew what was going on. He called them out. 

VERSES 19 Through 21

Look at verse 19 through 21:  

“‘Show me the coin for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s’” (Matthew 22:19–21, ESV).  

The fact that they had a denarius meant they used it and were somewhat okay with it. That would explain why Jesus called them hypocrites. Here is a picture of such a coin. You see Caesar’s image on one side and his mother on the other. You also can see some writing around it, which consists of his name and claim of divinity. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiberius#/media/File:Emperor_Tiberius_Denarius_-_Tribute_Penny.jpg 



R.T. France states: 


Pious Jews objected to the “idolatrous” coin, which carried not only a human portrait … but also an inscription which described the Roman emperor as Divi Filius, son of a god (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 830)


The only Son of God was standing before the Herodians that day: Jesus. He alone was worthy of worship, not the emperor. So, how did Jesus get out of this trap? 

VERSE 21 b

Let’s finish verse 21: 

“Then he said to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’” (Matthew 22:21, ESV).  

Jesus was okay with paying taxes to a non-believing tyrant. If people used his currency, they could return it to him through taxes. 

GOD’S 

The second part of Jesus’s statement, “Give to God what is God’s,” meant God owns it all. Even Caesar was subject to God’s rule and reign. He couldn’t buy his way out of judgment. By saying this, Jesus put everyone in his or her place. All things belong to God. How did they react to Jesus’s correction? Go to verse 22. 

VERSE 22 

“When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away” (Matthew 22:22, ESV). 

They were shocked and amazed. And rightly so. We should be, too. Again and again, Jesus said and did the unpredictable. 

Stand in awe of Jesus for he is wiser than these leaders.

Today, we celebrate the fact that he rose three days after being buried in a grave. Let us marvel at Jesus. 

VERSE 23

That was the first trap. Let’s look at the second. Jump to verse 23. 

“The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question” (Matthew 22:23, ESV). 

Their goal was to make Jesus look bad in the eyes of the masses because of theological controversy like the Herodians. The Sadducees were not Pharisees but allied against their common enemy: Jesus. They were a wealthy minority that based their theology on the Bible's first five books. In so doing, they denied the resurrection and supernatural activity in life. Their focus was on people and their responsibility. 

VERSE 24 

Look at verse 24. 


Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her. (Matthew 22:24–28, ESV) 


A side note: the practice they were referring to came from the fifth book of the Bible, Deuteronomy. The law protected widows. Millennia ago, women couldn’t get jobs like they can today; they could not get an education or have the social safety nets we have in America. God established this practice for the widow’s protection. But this law made the concept of heaven and resurrection dicey. The Sadducees had a point. So, they asked Jesus whose wife she would be when God resurrected everyone. The answer of polyandry, a wife with multiple husbands, was not acceptable for Jesus or God’s people. Therefore, how did Jesus dodge this trap? 

VERSE 29

Look at verse 29: 

“You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:29, ESV). 

Jesus attacked those seeking to trap him. They were wrong. Additionally, he said that they didn’t even know their Bibles. These are the kind of people who made their living off the God’s Word. They should know their Torah.

POWER OF GOD 

Moreover, they didn’t know the power of God. Why did he say that? What did he mean? A Jewish historian at the time, Josephus, wrote that the Sadducees attributed “everything to human free will, and will have nothing to do with judgment and rewards or penalties after death” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 839). The Sadducees focused on the power of people rather than God’s power. Jesus answered their question by describing relationships with one another at the resurrection, like angels. 

ANGELS 

Another side note: the Bible never says we become angels after death. I have heard at funerals and countless times in the movies that when we die, we become angels; the Bible doesn’t teach that. God tells us that angels are different from humans. They pre-existed people and earth. They were and still are messengers. Some fell in rebellion against God and now serve Satan, while the rest serve God. The Bible describes different types. When describing the afterlife, it says we believers will judge them. So, what did Jesus mean? He was saying there is no marriage in the resurrection. We are like angels who don’t get married or live as married. 

LOSS 

That can be hard if we have had a good marriage. Do we throw away that relationship at death? No. God will reunite us with our loved ones who trusted in Christ as their Lord and Savior in heaven, and that will continue on the day of resurrection. We will retain our individuality. Our love will be stronger than our strongest affection in this life. Sin, sickness, sadness, or death won’t taint it. Selfishness, pride, lust, greed, worry, and all the things that make marriage hard will be gone. The Bible gives us a little information to understand the next life. And we know that it will be great for those who trust in Christ alone for their salvation. The Bible is clear: God will give us new bodies one day, and we will exist as individuals after this life. Jesus’s resurrection demonstrates this reality and is a foretaste of our hope. We are more than merely evolved protoplasm that was electrocuted millions of years ago and evolved into the state we are currently living in.  

RESURRECTION 

Where in the Old Testament do we see the concept of resurrection that the Sadducees missed? Here is one example from the prophet Daniel: 

 

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:2–3, ESV)


Everyone will go from a physical to the spiritual state of heaven or hell to a future reward or judgment, a new heaven and earth, or the lake of fire. The concept of an afterlife is in the Old Testament. Yet, the Sadducees didn’t believe all that. They believed only in Moses’s writings, the first five books of our Bibles. So Jesus quoted Moses to prove his point to them. Look at verse 31. 

“And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:31–32, ESV). 

Jesus was quoting from Exodus chapter 3, verse 6. He answered that God used the present tense to indicate that these three patriarchs were still alive, even though they had been dead for hundreds of years then. They existed as individuals before God, and there was an afterlife and resurrection. I don't think this argument changed the minds of the Sadducees, but it did the crowds. 

CONCLUSION 

Turn over to verse 33.

“And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching” (Matthew 22:33, ESV). 

Jesus did it again. He shocked those observing. That was the second trap he avoided.  

APPLICATION 

The question for us is will we,

Stand in awe of Jesus for he is wiser than these leaders.

Jesus is marvelous and astonishing. Not only can he pass any test put before him and avoid any trap set for him, but he rises from the dead after he willingly dies. 

RESURRECTION 

Paul wrote that if we deny the resurrection as Christians we are most to be pitied. If the resurrection didn’t happen, it won’t happen for us.

Stand in awe of Jesus for he is wiser than these leaders.

Do we know our Bibles and the power of God? Who alone can give and take away life? Only God. Not only that, all our time, money, and energy spent on God would be worthless. The empty tomb is proof that Jesus rose from the dead. They never found the body or an alternative grave. He appeared, according to witnesses, but he ascended to heaven with more than 500 observers, many of whom gave their lives for their conviction. Those closest to the source of inspiration believed it, and we, too, can thousands of years later. So, let us join the crowds and be filled with awe and wonder at Jesus. Let us give our lives to know him and make him known who is wiser than our wise, trustworthy, and our only hope in this life and the resurrection. 

UNBELIEVING 

If you haven’t believed or have been carrying the weight of guilt and sin, you can be forgiven and find hope in Jesus’s words and resurrection. He died so that we can be free from the power of death and the trap of sin. He loves you. Join us and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. He is marvelous. 


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