Jesus is the Son of Man
Who do you belong to?
All right! Let’s go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 20. Of course, as I often say, if you do not have a Bible, or do not own a Bible, please see me after the service and we will work to get one into your hands.
As we continue through Luke’s Gospel, we are getting close to the end, we are in the last week of Jesus life. And as we are closing in on the end, we are seeing that the battles, the challenges between Jesus and the spiritual, religious leaders of the day are getting more and more ferocious.
Just in chapter 20, so far, we have seen the scribes, elders, and pharisees question whether Jesus has any authority to be speaking in the temple, let alone doing and saying the things that he is. Jesus comes back at them and shows that they are cowards in their answers and tells them a parable about them. He tells them that they are terrible landlords of the Gods resources, that they are going to be evicted and destroyed and the kingdom will be given to others, namely, those who believe in faith.
In their conflicts, Jesus’ message and mission are clear. You have no inherent rights to the Kingdom of God. You are only a citizen of the Kingdom, only a child of God if He wills it. IT is only by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, his Son.
There is no gray area in this conflict. You are in or you are out. You are dead in your sin, or you are alive in Christ. Jesus has been clear that those who reject the Son, who reject what God has said, and who he has sent will not be a part of the Kingdom of God.
And that’s where we will pick up with todays passage. We will be reading Luke chapter 20, verses 19-26. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version though I encourage you to grab whichever is your preferred translation and follow along. For those who do not have their Bible, we will put the text up on the screen.
Luke 20:19-26, the Holy Spirit inspires Luke to record the following:
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,[d] 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.[e] 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.
May God Bless the Reading of His Holy Word.
So, we see in scripture that the Pharisees and them didn’t like that Jesus told them they were going to hell. Understandably, they were mad at that. The problem is how they reacted, where their focus was.
Instead of looking within themselves and looking at the criticism levied at them to see if there was any validity to what Jesus was saying, instead of doing that, they ignored it and wanted to violently, physically lash out and get back at Jesus. The only thing that was stopping them is what we also saw in the verses 1-8, and that was their fear of retribution from the people.
And we know that how we respond to criticism is important. IF someone criticizes you, there may be no validity to it. That’s certainly possible. They may just say those things because they don’t like you, are jealous of you, were hurt by you, there are so many reasons. But we have a personal responsibility, regardless of the motivation of why it was said, to search ourselves and see if there is any validity to what is said.
Now, the scribes, elders, the Pharisees and all the rest of the spiritual leaders, they knew that they couldn’t move against Jesus directly. They knew the people were watching. They knew that they held no authority to do what they wanted to do to Jesus.
But they also knew that they were in Jerusalem and there was a lot of Roman authority around. The Romans had the authority to deal with Jesus. But up to this point they had no reason to deal with Jesus. SO, Jesus’ enemies devised a plan.
They sent fake spies, people pretending to be sincere, pretending to be followers of Christ. And these spies were looking, waiting, searching for just the right opportunity. They were waiting, listening for Jesus to do or say something that they could use against him under Roman law.
One of the things we see here, is there is a big difference in listening with discernment, listening and searching scriptures, with the intent to make sure that what you are hearing is correct. There is a big difference in listening with discernment and listening with a critical spirit, with a critical heart. Trying to find wrong in something, whether it is there or not.
I know that I can be guilty of this in a specific way. When I listen to other pastors, specifically ones that I know are wrong on some things or have been wrong in the past, on specific things or issues, I can often listen with a critical spirit, and even if they are speaking about something completely different, I will, at times not give any benefit of the doubt and I can listen to hear what they get wrong instead of just not listening. If I know they are wrong on certain things, the better move would be to not listen at all. If I am going to listen, I need to listen with a discerning heart, but have to be careful not to listen with a critical heart.
Now, Jesus wasn’t giving these spies anything to work with, so they decide to take matters into their own hands, and they come at Jesus. They start with flowery flattery. Fake compliments. The other end of the spectrum, same sin as Gossip. They tell him things that are actually true, but they don’t mean them. You teach and preach rightly. You don’t play favorites. You know what you are talking about.
And then they ask him a question. This is intended to be a gotcha question. This was directly reminiscent of Jesus asking them if John’s baptism was of God or of Man? A wrong answer no matter what he answers.
Paraphrasing the question, So, Jesus, Is taxation theft? Are you loyal to God above Rome? Are you willing to speak against the Roman occupation?
Or are you a government stooge? Are you one who compromises your faith to be in the good graces of the government? Are you loyal to these unjust tyrants above your people, your family, your God?
That’s the gist of their question, the loaded meaning behind the seemingly simple, is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?
So, why was this such a divisive question? The Roman occupation of Israel was paid for, in part, by the taxes that were paid by Israel to Rome. This is why the tax collectors were so hated at that time. These taxes that Rome had levied against were a big point of contention for the Jewish people.
When Jesus was a young kid, there was a violent uprising because of taxes and the Roman military came down hard, crucifying people along the main road stretching for miles. Ultimately, this is what also led to tempers boiling over in 70 A.D. leading to Rome coming against Jerusalem, laying siege to the city and completely destroying the temple, not leaving one block on top of another. All events that Jesus prophesied about on numerous occasions.
And so, by trying to ask Jesus if he supports the taxes, they are trying to make it look like Jesus supports the Roman occupation. Remember part of what made Jesus so popular with the people is that many were expecting him to militarily liberate them from Rome. So, he would lose a lot of his popularity if he publicly sided with Rome.
On the other hand, if he comes out and says he doesn’t not support paying the taxes, then he is basically supporting insurrection and rebellion against Rome. And while they didn’t tend to get involved in religious dealings, they were very quick to squash those who would take action against Rome or lead others to take action against Rome. If Jesus supported insurrection, rebellion and whatnot, Rome would arrest him and punish him.
And so, it would seem that the scribes, elders, pharisees had Jesus caught between a rock and a hard place.
But verse 23 shows us that Jesus was way smarter than them and knew what they were trying to do. He perceived their craftiness. Yup, crafty, just like the serpent in the garden. That wording is not incidental. That’s a testament to which side these guys are on as they try to trick & catch Jesus.
So, Jesus says, show me a denarius. He was specific about what coin, partly because that was the specific coin that was to be used to pay the tax. Also, these guys who were trying to trick Jesus in regard to paying the taxes, now showed that they had one of those coins on them in order to pay the tax. Slightly awkward.
He holds up the coin and asks, whose image is one this coin? Who produced it? Who has the rights to it? Whose image is one this coin?
You can almost hear the hesitation in the answer, like they are thinking, where is he going with this? But they answer because its obvious.
So, Jesus says simply, it belongs to Caesar, give it to him…
And Give to God what is Gods…
Now, few things to note and some caveats and what not…
First, yes. Even all that belongs to Caesar ultimately belongs to God. Jesus isn’t trying to say otherwise, nor should we try to get technical and try to get out of following Jesus’ intent by dismissing Caesar because even he and his things belong to God. Jesus never intended for that to be a loophole we can use.
Scripture makes it clear in numerous places that Governments and their power and authority are legitimate. God gave Government its authority and its power and it is legitimate.
A couple of passages in scripture real quick.
Romans 13:1-7, Paul writes:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Next, Peter writes, 1 Peter 2:13-17:
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,[b] whether it be to the emperor[c] as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants[d] of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
And so, it is our God given responsibility to obey and submit to the government that God has placed us under. We saw back in the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 2 verse 1, that Joseph and Mary obey the government when traveling to Bethlehem for the census that was ordered by the Roman government for tax purposes.
And yes, the same Peter who wrote that it is for the LORDS sake that we submit top the government is the same Peter who, in Acts, tells us that we are to obey Gods laws above Mans laws. So yes, there are limits and exceptions. However, those limits and exceptions are not simply because we don’t like what they say. We don’t get to pick and chose which laws we obey. We don’t get to not pay taxes because we don’t like how they are used. That’s unbiblical and its sin.
Richard Halverson, a former chaplain of the United States Senate said this:
TO be sure, men will abuse and misuse the institution of the State just as men because of sin have abused and misused every other institution in history including the Church of Jesus Christ; but this does not mean that the institution is bad or that it should be forsaken. It simply means that men are sinners and rebels in Gods world, and this is the way they behave with good institutions. As a matter of fact, it is because of this very sin that there must be a human government to maintain order in history until the ultimate and final rule of Jesus Christ is established. Human government is better than anarchy and the Christian must recognize the ‘divine right” of the State.
And some of us don’t like to hear that. Some of us want to reject that out of hand. But the truth is that we can’t argue with scripture. Gods inerrant Word. We have to, for now, live in and submit to both worlds. And the truth is that rendering unto Caesar is one of the ways that we render unto God. Again, Peter passage I read a moment ago, it is for the LORDS sake that we submit to the government.
But even bigger than that, not instead of that, not in place of that, but bigger than that is Jesus main point. Whose image was in the coin? Caesars. So, it belongs to Caesar. Give it to him.
Give to God what belongs to God. What belongs to God. The passage Mike read earlier this morning, Genesis 1:26-31 shows that God created man, male and female, God created us in his image. His image is stamped on each and every one of us.
So, look in the mirror. Look at your spouse, look at your friends. Look at that person who interrupted you, that person who gossiped about you. Look at that person who yelled at you, who cheated you who sinned against you in any way. Look at those who have sinned against your friends or family. Look at your enemies, your hated ones. Look at the worst human you can think of. Look at some of the Caesars.
All created in Gods image. All are image bearers of God. All are stamped with His image.
When we think about that, when we remember that they are all made in Gods image, we need to remember to treat every person as an image bearer of God. This is different of course from being a child of God, which is only through Gods grace through faith in Christ.
But that’s an aside, not the main point of this specific passage that Jesus is making. You are an image bearer of God. You are made in his image. His face is stamped on you. You belong to Him.
Very much like a coin in our pockets will get dirt, lint and so on all over and obscure the image on the coin and can make it unrecognizable, so too can and will sin make Gods image on us dirty and obscured and, possibly sometimes unrecognizable. But his image will not wear off and cannot be removed.
And so, Gove to God what is Gods. Give him your life. Give him yourself. Give him everything and every part of you.
This passage ends with those who asked Jesus the Gotcha question unable to say Gotcha! Instead, they were stunned into silence. And we would like to think that some were probably thinking, Wow, he’s right! I never thought about it like that.
But realistically, we know that many were instead mad because he found a way out of their trap.
His ways are infinitely better than out own. His wisdom is infinitely greater than our own. He perceives our craftiness, and he knows the ins and outs of how we think, selfishly, & sinfully.
So, whose are you? The truth is that all who are born, all who are created, yourself included, belong to God. You are stamped in his image. If you give yourself to him, trust in his Son, believe on him, then you are sealed with the Holy Spirit and become a child of God, adopted into his family and a co heir with Christ to the heavenly Kingdom.
We give to this world what belongs to the world. We obey and submit to the leaders God has sovereignly put over us. We pray for those same leaders. We pray for the good of the city in which we are exiles. We are to live quiet, hard-working lives. We are to do good, pursue justice, love mercy. We are to earn our keep and to be fruitful. We are to flee immorality and to obey the laws of the land.
But in addition to that, we are to give to God what is Gods.
We are to repent and believe the Gospel. We are to trust in the Son, Jesus Christ. We are to worship, adore and praise only God. We are to flee immorality and to flee the devil. We are to be Holy as our Father in Heaven is Holy. We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. We are to live as strangers and aliens, as exiles in a land not our own. We are to pray without ceasing and to rejoice in all things. We are to look up at Him, trust in Him and his word and do it all for His Glory.
I’m going to leave you with a quote form RC Sproul regarding the principle that Christians have to deal with regarding obedience to authorities. He says:
The principal is very simple but applying it can be excruciatingly difficult. The principal is that we must always, in every circumstance, obey the civil magistrates unless they command us to do what God forbids or they forbid us to do what God commands.