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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

October 18, 2020 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Matthew 22:15–22:22

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 22:15-22
Date: October 18, 2020; Pentecost 20; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • The religious elite had enough. 
  • Jesus repeatedly challenged their authority and beliefs and convictions and they weren’t going to take it any more.  
  • It was Holy Week and Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem to fulfill His mission of saving the whole world from sin and death. He was on His way to the cross.
  • The Pharisees were plotting against Him, trying to find some fault in Him, trying to expose Him as a fraud.
  • They wanted Him silenced. They wanted Him dead.
  • They came up with a pretty solid plan. The Pharisees sent their disciples, along with the Herodians, to trap Jesus - or entangle Him as our Gospel reading put it.
  • The encounter begins with the Pharisees and Herodians “buttering-up” Jesus with some smooth words about Him being a man of integrity and truth. 
  • They figured that if they said some kind things about Jesus that maybe he would put His guard down a bit and their plan to trap Him would have a better chance of working.
  • They said, “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” (22:16).
  • While every word is absolutely true, they spoke them without conviction. It was just part of their plot, they were just acting.  
  • After their flattering words - they try to set the trap, “Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (22:17).
  • Is paying tax to Caesar according to God’s will or not? 
  • This was a clever question.
  • God’s people were under Roman rule at this time and they were being oppressed. 
  • So if Jesus answered, “Yes, pay your taxes to Caesar” - then His followers would think that He was siding with the Romans and they might turn on Him.
  • If Jesus answered, “No, don’t pay taxes to Caesar” - then He could be arrested for treason.
  • Either way it seemed that Jesus was in trouble and that His enemies had Him.
  • But Jesus, the very Son of God, knew very well the motives and the hearts of His enemies. 
  • He knew that they were trying to get Him to say something that would discredit Him and lead to His downfall.
  • Aware of their desire to hurt Him, He said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?” (22:18).
  • As His opponents themselves have already declared, Jesus is a teacher who teaches the way of God truthfully. 
  • And He does so with them: ‘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’(vv 19–21). 
  • Jesus calls for a denarius and shows them that since Caesar’s mark is on the coin, it is their duty to keep the Fourth Commandment, to honour the ruling authorities by paying taxes. 
  • But what really matters most here is when Jesus said, “[render] to God the things that are God’s” (22:21).
  • This last part of His answer goes beyond their question - they didn’t ask Jesus this at all.
  • But His final words stand over the entire interaction.
  • What do they mean? What does it mean to render to God the things that are God’s?
  • Well, to those who were trying to trap Jesus -  it means that they are to behold the man who stands in their midst and know that He is the Christ, the promised Messiah.
  • It means to give God what is His by repenting and following His Son in trusting and obedient discipleship. 
  • It is to see the Holy Spirit at work through the Gospel and to recognize that faith in Christ is the highest worship - faith is the ultimate “rendering to God.” 
  • It is to take the cup of salvation and to call on the name of the Lord (Psalm 116:13), receiving His grace in Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, the Lord’s Supper. 
  • It is to cling to Jesus as the One who paid every debt we owe by his suffering and death on the cross for you. 
  • It is hearing Him cry out on the cross, “It is finished,” knowing that the payment of His shed blood was complete and perfect because the grave was unable to hold Him down. 
  • He rose from the dead proving that our debt is truly and completely paid - and now the grave will not be able to hold us down.
  • This is what real rendering to God what is God’s looks like. Faith.
  • So, did Jesus’ opponents finally get this?
  • Is it possible that when they heard the Master Teacher they recognized Him as  more than just a skillful debater? 
  • Did they see in Him the One, the only One, who could really render unto God what God desires—a heart and a life of perfect love and obedience? 
  • Did they grasp that this man standing in their midst is the promised One who would render to God everything required for their salvation? 
  • Did they believe in Him and were they saved? 
  • St. Matthew does not say. He only narrates that they marvelled at Jesus’ words and departed from Him. 
  • So we don’t know.
  • But what we do know is that the Holy Spirit has given us the gift of faith that receives what Christ’s rendering to God earned for us - forgiveness, salvation, eternal life.
  • What a marvel! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

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