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Faithlife

Gotcha! Sunday, October 22, 2017 - 9 AM

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Time-Out !  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  22:58
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Gotcha! – Matthew 22:15-22 Bascomb / October 22, 2017 / 9 AM Focus: The Kingdom of God here on earth made possible because of Jesus. Function: To Remind believers that WE have the imprint of GOD on us – everything belongs to God. 5 Purpose Outcomes of the Church: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Evangelism, Service Matthew 22:15–22 Question about taxes 15 Then the Pharisees met together to find a way to trap Jesus in his words. 16 They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are genuine and that you teach God’s way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people’s opinions, because you don’t show favoritism. 17 So tell us what you think: Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 18 Knowing their evil motives, Jesus replied, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they brought him a denarion. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked. 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 22 When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed. Someone asked me this week if I was sure that anybody working for the IRS would be allowed in heaven? The new Congressional tax deal is in the news this week and a judge has also ruled that preachers may have lost their tax benefit for a housing allowance (so thank you for having a parsonage). Now, how are your deductions doing? Of course, I mean your children and even though they are a tax deduction, they are certainly taxing. One little boy wanted a $100 bike so he prayed hard for two weeks ….but nothing happened, so he decided to write God a letter asking for $100. The post office looked at the letter addressed to “To God, from: Tyler” and knew it was from a child, so they decided to send it to the President. The President was flattered and amused that the letter had been sent to him, so he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $5.00 bill, thinking this would be a lot of money to a little boy. The little boy received the $5.00 and wrote a thank-you note to God. “Dear Lord, thank you very much for sending me the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you had to send it through Washington, DC and as usual, those jerks deducted $95.” Hah! Gotcha! The definition of gotcha: an instance of publicly tricking someone or exposing them to ridicule, especially by means of an elaborate deception. Sarah Palin was interviewed by Katie Couric who asked a simple question: “What publications do you read?” I don’t think she was trying to throw Sarah Palin under a bus, but her inability to name one paper or magazine made the phrase “gotcha question” popular. The text today is a “gotcha question” for Jesus. He’s caught on the tightrope between religious expectations and political offense. All we know about the Herodians is that they represent the ruling government; supporters of Herod - who rules at the pleasure of Rome and benefits from the taxes collected. Now, they were the polar opposite of the Pharisees, who resented the Roman occupation. The interesting feature here is that the Herodians and the Pharisees, who hate each other, are making an alliance against Jesus. You know, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend,” or, “Politics make strange bed-fellows.” Let me paraphrase their “gotcha question:” - “Does it accord with Torah to pay tax to Caesar or not?” This legal nuance involves God’s ownership of the land of Israel: “The land must not be permanently sold because the land is mine.” (Lev. 25:23). Since Caesar is a usurper, is it not an act of disobedience to God to pay a tax to this pagan ruler? And the coin itself is another issue. They are standing in the court of the Temple. Remember the moneychangers? You couldn’t pay your tithe with filthy Roman coins. You had to exchange the coins for church money and the moneychangers took their cut! That’s what upset Jesus, so when he asked for a Roman coin inside the temple He asked, “Whose image is on the coin?” Most probably one side of the coin showed the head of “Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus,” the reigning emperor, and the flip-side was an inscription that identified him as “Pontifex Maximus,” that is, as high priest of the pagan Roman religion. Exodus prohibits “graven images” of any kind. Yet here, in the most holy space in the Holy Land, Jesus’ adversaries promptly produce a coin that violates the dictates of their religion! The hypocrisy is obvious. They are happy to do business with Caesar’s coins. Why then should they raise a religious question about giving Caesar his due? Remember right before Jesus was born there was a census. Property taxes were collected through census, or registration (Luke 2:1–5; Acts 5:37), and probably amounted to one denarius a year. Although Jewish authorities (including the Sanhedrin) helped collect the tax, many Jews resented it and objected on religious grounds. Indeed, although Roman taxation had been a reality since 63 B.C., the census of A.D. 6 or 7 (yes, they got the actual year of Jesus’ birth wrong), when Judea came under direct Roman control, encouraged a revolt; and resentment of Roman taxation contributed to the unrest that culminated in the later revolt against Rome in A.D. 70. Thus, the question of our verse: “Does it accord with Torah to pay tax to Caesar ……..or not?” We can all quote Jesus here: “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God, the things that are God’s. I do want to caution you against thinking that Jesus is demarcating life into secular and sacred like Martin Luther tried to do: if life did have two spheres, the sacred and the secular, each with its own demands, the two spheres could hardly be kept apart. Jewish tradition viewed governments as divinely placed and Paul followed that same thinking in the NT. But when Jesus says, “render to God” he outweighs “render to Caesar.” There is no precise theory of governmental authority here. wilberforce-quote.jpg H. Richard Niebuhr wrote about Christ and Culture and offers 3 models to explore: #1 Christ Against Culture (circle the wagons and shoot everyone else like Westboro Baptist Church), #2 Christ Of Culture (Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority: the church IS now Christ and WE will change the world - or at least America), and Niebuhr’s choice: #3 Christ Above Culture where we: A - convert culture where we can, B - oppose culture when we must AND C - always wait in expectation for Jesus to return and complete the redemption of all things. Jesus has ascended and this time is in tension between “this age” and “the age to come.” The church is lodged between these two ages and it must live there until Jesus returns. Time, for us, is a spiral and we must wait for the full restoration at the end of the age. We hope and act in the present not to save the world or build the kingdom of God, but because: “…we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken” Hebrews 12:28 (CEB). Proclaiming the Word, administering baptism and communion, caring for the spiritual and physical well-being of the saints, and bringing in the lost are kingdom work. Building bridges, delivering medical supplies to hospitals, installing water heaters, defending clients in court, holding public office, and having friends over for dinner are “creation work.” In this work, Christians serve beside non-Christians. When Christ returns in glory the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. Until then, where we experience a “common grace” field of endeavor - the New Testament does not command us to Christianize things like politics, the arts and sciences, or education. HOWEVER, When William Wilberforce came to John Newton (Amazing Grace) for advice on whether he should enter the ministry, Newton encouraged his friend to pursue politics instead. It was as a member of parliament that Wilberforce stopped legal slavery in England. He loved and served his neighbor there while benefiting from the “ordinary means of grace” that Newton ministered to him in the church. The church preaches God’s transcendent law and gospel, and her children engage the culture in their secular vocations. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (6:24). Here he is saying, in effect: If Tiberius wants a few denarii, give them gladly, because giving them up will remind you that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his or her possessions (see Luke 12:15). What counts above all else is living in accordance with the Father’s will. If coins with Caesar’s image and inscription belong to Caesar, then human beings created in God’s image belong to God. Jesus not offering parallel responsibilities, but a radical understanding that what is rendered to God is whatever bears the divine image. So God says to us….gotcha! But God’s interest has nothing to do with power. Isaiah describes our God! Listen and grasp the full magnitude of God’s care: Can a woman forget her nursing child, fail to pity the child of her womb? Even these may forget, but I won’t forget you. Look, on my palms I’ve inscribed you; Isaiah 49:15–16 (CEB) We bear God’s image—as the palm of God’s hand bears ours. I know it is much easier to see Caesar’s world: you are what you look like, what you have, what you wear, what you do, the company you keep. Look deeper! Underneath all those inscriptions is a much deeper mark: the light of God’s image in our eyes – and we bear the watery sign of a cross on our foreheads – an invisible tattoo. All these faces are a part of your face when you begin to see the image that God sees, the image engraved in the palm of God’s hand. We have that image in Jesus, who stands with us – Jesus is the coin of our realm - God’s full faith and credit. Let us pray: Almighty God, you are the Sovereign of Heaven and Earth. We don’t want to get mixed up in the agendas of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the Herodians and the Caesars of our time. Grant us the discernment to see through those thinly veiled plays for power and control. Reveal to us the alternative reality of the Kingdom of your making, the one whose authority is as absolute as it is accessible to all. We want to be part of the generation whose hope is squarely and securely and solely placed in you, whose only confession is, “Jesus is Lord,” and whose only prayer is, “Thy Kingdom Come!” Come Holy Spirit! We pray in Jesus name, Amen. BENEDICTION: From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8–9 (CEB) Page 6 of 6
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