Skip to comments."Jesus Answers a Gotcha Question" (Sermon on Matthew 22:15-22)
Posted on 10/17/2020 6:56:36 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
Jesus Answers a Gotcha Question (Matthew 22:15-22)
If youve been following the news lately, and you watched the presidential debate, the vice-presidential debate, the Judiciary Committee hearings, or the dueling town halls, you heard a lot of gotcha questions. Im guessing most of you have heard that term before, a gotcha question. But in case you havent, let me explain. A gotcha question is one in which the questioner asks someone a question designed to trap or embarrass the person being questioned. Its designed to cast that person in a negative light, no matter how he might answer the question. The classic example of a gotcha question is this: Have you stopped beating your wife? A yes or no answer, please. You see, no matter how the guy answers, it sounds bad. If he says yes, it sounds like he was beating her before. If he says no, it sounds like he still is.
So you heard a bunch of gotcha questions over the past few weeks. The questions were constructed in such a way as to make the person look bad, no matter how he or she answered. When will you denounce white supremacy? As though he hasnt already. Why havent you denounced Q-Anon? As though he even knows what Q-Anon is. Judge, have you ever sexually assaulted anyone? As though she might be likely to have done that. These are examples of gotcha questions. Theyre designed to get the person in trouble, any way they answer.
But then this is nothing new. People have been asking people they dont like gotcha questions for many centuries. We see it in the Gospel reading for today from Matthew 22. There the enemies of Jesus, the Pharisees and the Herodians, try to come up with a question that will get Jesus in trouble, no matter how he answers. But today well see how he turns the tables on them, when Jesus Answers a Gotcha Question.
The enemies of Jesus have been trying to trap Jesus for several days now. Were in Jerusalem, during the days leading up to Passover. There are tons of people in the city, and the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Jesus enemies are trying to trap him with a series of gotcha questions. They tried asking him, By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority? But that didnt work.
So now theyre going to try another question. But first they try to flatter him, to butter him up, so as to catch him off guard, to get him to speak more freely. Our text says: 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 anyones opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.
Well, I have to say, this is the first time I have to agree with the Pharisees and the Herodians. For Jesus is indeed true, and he does teach the way of God truthfully. He does not care about anyones opinion, and he is not swayed by appearances. All of that is true, but they are only saying those things to get him to speak more loosely, so they can trap him in what he says.
Now here is their gotcha question: Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Now here I need to explain why this is such a brilliant gotcha question. Notice the two groups who are coming together to ask Jesus this trap question. Its the Pharisees and the Herodians. Now normally these two groups would not be getting together. On the one hand, you have the Pharisees, who were angry about the pagan Romans occupying their land and running the show. On the other hand, you have the Herodians, who were content to work with the occupying Roman Empire, if it would increase their own wealth and political power. Normally these two groups would be at odds with each other. But they found common cause in their hatred of Jesus. For he was upsetting the applecart. The Pharisees didnt like him, because he had been exposing their hypocrisy. And the Herodians didnt like him either, for he spoke of a kingdom much higher than Caesars. So the Pharisees and the Herodians came together on this occasion to try to trap Jesus and catch him in his words.
Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? That is their gotcha question. They figure, either way Jesus answers, his goose is cooked. If he answers, Yes, it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, then the Pharisees would accuse him of not being a loyal Jew, of subsidizing a godless pagan empire. And if he says, No, as proud Jews, we definitely should not pay taxes to that blasphemous Caesar, then the Herodians can report Jesus as being a rebellious insurrectionist. Whichever way he answers, Jesus will be in big trouble. They have laid the perfect trap. Or so they think.
But Jesus sees through what they are trying to do. He wont fall for it. Our text continues: 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. Jesus has something in mind. Hes going to turn the tables and put them on the spot. They bring Jesus a denarius, a common coin that the Romans used in their empire.
Very often, when someone asks Jesus a question, he answers them with a question of his own. As he does here. He holds up the denarius and asks them: Whose likeness and inscription is this? Now if you were to hold up one of these coins and look at it, you would see the image of the current Roman emperor, which at this time was Tiberius Caesar. And his name would be on there too as the inscription. So in response to Jesus question, they answer, correctly, Caesars. OK, pretty straightforward.
And now Jesus is going to answer their question. Remember, they had asked him, Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? And he has shown them Caesars image and inscription on the coin. So Jesus says: Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods.
Now where is Jesus going with this answer? For one thing, he is saying that its OK to pay taxes to the government. And we affirm that. Render unto Caesar. This is one of the passages that teaches us Christians to obey the government and pay our taxes, even if were not crazy about the current government. God has instituted civil government for our good. Romans 13 teaches likewise. Render unto Caesar. OK, weve got that.
But really that is the lesser point of this story. For Jesus answer concerns something much more important than rendering unto Caesar. Jesus goes on to say this: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods. Whoa! This is where Jesus turns the tables on his enemies. For they were not rendering unto God the things that are Gods!
How so? For standing right there in front of them is Gods own Son, who bears the image of God in his person and who has God written all over him. And they were not rendering faith and obedience unto God by believing in the one he sent, namely Jesus, and receiving him! Thats what they should have been doing, and they werent. In fact, they had rejected Jesus and were trying to trap him. They even were conspiring to kill him! How in the world is that rendering unto God the things that are Gods? It isnt. And thats the big issue, not this trick question about paying taxes to Caesar.
Dear friends, Jesus bears the image of God in his person and has God written all over him. Jesus Christ is the very Son of God, come down from heaven to reveal God to us and to win our salvation. Jesus has grace and truth written all over him, in his words of wisdom and his works of mercy. He is here for you! Christ is right here for you today! Listen to his voice! See him by faith in his presence among us. Jesus is speaking truth to you today. Do not reject him, like the Pharisees and the Herodians did. Instead, receive him as your dear Savior! Jesus lived and died and rose again for you! He bore your sins on the cross, so that now your sins are forgiven. Christ wipes away your debt of sin and gives you his righteousness in its place. Jesus suffers your death and gives you his life in its place. Freely. Nothing you have to do to earn it. Its a gift--forgiveness, and life, and eternal salvation in Jesus name!
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world--your sin! And then ask yourself this question: Whose likeness and inscription is this? In Christ Jesus we see what God is like: He is just and merciful, and he loves us so much. We see God inscribing our names into his book of life. Rejoice in this, brothers and sisters!
You want to hear a gotcha question? Here it is: Who has gotcha safe and secure in his loving hands? God does, my friends. And the proof is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In his likeness we see God for who he really is. And his inscription spells out life and salvation for you and me.
On my heart imprint Your image,
Blessed Jesus, King of grace,
That lifes riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may Your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hopes foundation,
And my glory and salvation!
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle [Jesus] 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 anyones 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, Caesars. Then he said to them, Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods. When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
Not quite right. I hate it when ministers get too cute by half.
The correct analysis of “render unto God that which is God’s” is not a made-up analogy. You can’t give Jesus to God.
The correct analysis comes directly from Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”
So if you are the image of God then you owe yourself to God for that reason.
And God’s inscription is in the heart, for example:
Jeremiah 31:33 “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Hebrews 10:16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;”
This was obvious to the hearers.
Ministers, get it right, for God’s sake.
This is purely to clear up some simple logic, not to make any point about Christian theology.
Where in the thread did anyone say give Jesus to God?
Isn’t ‘rendering faith and obedience unto God by believing in the one he sent’ a manifestation of what you are arguing, i.e., giving oneself to God?
And yes, it is obvious to the hearers that the ancient covenant was with the house of Israel and therefore with Jews only.
>Where in the thread did anyone say give Jesus to God?
It doesn’t and that is the problem because if the image in question is Jesus’ image, then what follows logically is to give Jesus to God as the coins with Caesar’s image are given to Caesar, which makes no sense. Having picked the wrong image, the narrative goes off the rails with no Biblical references. And if you told those present that Jesus was referring to his own image, or the Father’s in Him, the BEST reaction you could expect would be “Huh?”, not amazement.
The reference to the correct image, God’s in you, makes perfect sense because you can give yourself to God and relates to the verses cited.
There is no point in rescuing flawed theology you can’t go BAM! right to chapter and verse.
And yes, at the time, the only covenant was with the Jews.
Dear Reverend Henrickson, I am sorry you used a modern translation of Scripture, because it is wrong. The Authorised Version got it right:
“And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things *which* are Caesar’s; and unto God the things *that* are God’s.”
The two phrases are not parallel, and I have presumed to highlight the difference. The word “which” expresses contingency: this is so, but need not have been so. Indeed, had the Battle of Actium gone the other way, that image and superscription would have been Pharaoh’s. It is Caesar’s only because Providence made it so.
The word “that” expresses necessity: the things that are God’s are necessarily so, by virtue of the divine omnipotence and stewardship. And in the last analysis, as on the last day, all things in Heaven and Earth shall be God’s alone. Deo gratia.
Once again, reinforcing that words mean things.
The Lord's wisdom is no less manifest in the interrogation you mentioned before, and which deals with a profound question and is very revealing:
And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21:23-27)
"By what authority doest thou these things?" is a fundamental question. For the Lord Himself had affirmed "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not." (Matthew 23:1-3)
Likewise obedience to civil authorities is enjoined in Rm. 13:1-7, but we also see that all such proscriptions of obedience to man are conditional upon not being in conflict with what God ordained and requires (cf. Exodus 1:15-21; Acts 5:29). However, as occupying the magisterial seat over Israel then they had the right to require ministers be sanctioned under their authority and to challenge those who were not or who were heretical. And in this case they were dealing with not just one but two itinerant preachers who not only were not ordained under them but who reproved them by Scripture.
However, as so often seen in Scripture, God can raise up men from outside leadership in order to reprove it, and whose authority is established upon Scriptural substantiation in word and in power, being consistent with prior men and revelation of God. And thus the church was not built upon the foundation of the scribes and Pharisees (though not in rejection of magisterial authority, but in rejection of presumed ensured veracity) but upon those who dissented from it, being "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone," (Ephesians 2:20) all of whom those who sat in the seat of Moses rejected.
To whom was directed this reproof of their presumption of sanction due to historical lineage:
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (Matthew 3:7-9)
And in response to the question of where Jesus of Nazareth obtained His authority, the Lord asked them where John the baptizer obtained his. Which was a problem since "all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed." (Mark 11:32) Meaning that the common people - who heard Jesus gladly - (Mark 12:37) rightly discerned in this case who and what was of God but which their leadership did not.
The response therefore of these leaders was classic political: "And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things." (Mark 11:33)
Meaning that if they would not be honest and admit what is obvious, that John was of God regardless of their rejection by them, then they were unworthy to hear from the lips of Christ what was obvious, that His authority also manifestly came from God.
However, this again does not negate the validity of leadership with its magisterial oversight, but as seen in the history of the OT, it negates the novel and unScriptural premise of ensured perpetual magisterial infallibility. Meanwhile we have many wacko pseudo-prophets and preachers presume that they are a John the baptizer or an apostle, and who typically rail against any authority and who themselves presume some sort of ensured veracity, and stand in stark contrast to the apostles of Scripture. Who could testify,
But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, (2 Corinthians 6:4-7)
And I hate it when reprovers of ministers come up with absurd exegesis under the premise that since they can invoke a refernce then it
The correct analysis of “render unto God that which is God’s” is not a made-up analogy. You can’t give Jesus to God. The correct analysis comes directly from Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” So if you are the image of God then you owe yourself to God for that reason. And God’s inscription is in the heart, for example: Jeremiah 31:33 “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Hebrews 10:16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;” This was obvious to the hearers. Ministers, get it right, for God’s sake.
That is simply absurd. The question was whether taxes to the gov. was lawful or not, and not whether one owes themselves to God, which is a given that is not being contested. The image on the coin represented the earthly civil powers that are ordained of God (John 19:11) as being so, to whom conditional obedience is enjoined, (Rm. 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13,14) and reviling and cursing rulers is even forbidden of Israel. (Exodus 22:28)
And thus in the context of paying taxes the Lord affirms that the people are to give to the government that which belongs to it, and unto God that which is His. And who requires the former, but includes supporting God's spiritual ministers in the formal work of God. (Gal. 6:6; cf. Phil. 4:15,16; Heb. 13:16)
This was obvious to the hearers who marvelled and left him, and went their way, for they already supported giving to God, and the Pharisees and Herodians would have loved it if the Lord had in any way impugned paying taxes to Caesar. It is not complicated.
Where would ministers be without people nitpicking their sermons all the time?
If the justification for rendering to Caesar is an image and an inscription, then the justification of rendering to God in the second clause must also be an image and an inscription, or God is due nothing analogous to the first clause. The two clauses amplify each other. I am not saying that the people needed to be convinced to render to God with this argument. I am saying that the argument made for rendering to God amplifies the argument for rendering to Caesar and vice versa. The issue I took was only with the correct biblical image implied in the second clause.
What you are saying is that the second clause is a meaningless addendum and there was no real point to Christ saying it.
The justification for rendering to Caesar is not because the image itself is critical, for it could have just as well have been simply text since the point is that it represents the civil power that printed it. Meanwhile in the second case there is no image being pointed to, since the dispute was whether Caesar was owned tribute. And in answering Christ essentially affirmed that the authorities whom God appointed were owed taxes, as was tribute to the Creator, with the latter duty not being in dispute. Reading into this something about man being made in the image of God is not in the text or context.
Are you a Pharisee or just unbelieving scum?
“And yes, it is obvious to the hearers that the ancient covenant was with the house of Israel and therefore with Jews only.”
Israel had twelve sons. Each was a tribe in the House of Israel. All twelve are included in the covenant. Judah was merely one twelfth of the total.
Therefor I have to ask how you managed to reach your conclusion that the covenant is “with Jews only”?
Because today we use Jews and Hebrews interchangeably.
For standing right there in front of them is Gods own Son, who bears the image of God in his person and who has God written all over him. And they were not rendering faith and obedience unto God by believing in the one he sent, namely Jesus, and receiving him!
That's the point. They were not rendering to God faith in his Son, who bears the image of God, which is what they should have recognized and should have done.
Many passages in the NT about these things, e.g.:
"And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent." --John 5:37-38
"This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." --John 6:29
"He is the image of the invisible God." --Colossians 1:15
"Christ, who is the image of God." --2 Corinthians 4:4
The enemies of Jesus could recognize that the coin came from Caesar, but they would not acknowledge that Jesus came from God and thus receive him and believe in him. That was the issue.
Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τῷ θεῷ. "Give back, therefore, the things of Caesar to Caesar and the things of God to God."
τὰ Καίσαρος = "the things of Caesar," τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ = "the things of God." Same construction.
I never saw that analogy before with the coin episode.
The inscription and likeness on Jesus was the Father, and while they did recognize the coin, they did not recognize Him, God’s likeness all over Him.
IOW, they truly had no idea what God was like.
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