For an introduction to this series, click here.
April 2, 2007
The first question is a point-blank challenge: "Tell us by what authority you do this things, or who is it that gave you this authority?" (20:2) Jesus does not respond to their challenge. Instead He asks them another question: "Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?" (20:4) Of course they had no answer, since they reasoned that if they said from heaven, He would ask why didn't they believe him, and if they said of men, the crowd would turn against them. Jesus had no time for people who had no intention of believing on Him.
The next question is about paying taxes. They asked Him, "Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" (20:23) Of course, all of the Jews hated the fact that they were under Roman oppression. Many in the crowd doubtless thought Jesus would be the one to lead the glorious Jewish revolution against Rome. But Jesus was not going to be caught up in their political scheme. He says, "Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" Of course it had Caesar's name and picture, another fact which infuriated the Jews, since the second commandment strictly forbad graven images. "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." (20:25)
This is a good lesson for us today. In this church era, religion and politics are best kept as separate as possible. It is true that God gave the Jews specific governmental laws in the Old Testament, but those laws were designed for a theocracy, not for a multicultural, secular society. Christians throughout the past 2,000 years have attempted to combine human government with Christianity, and every attempt has been a miserable failure. Certainly there are principles from Scripture which can be applied to politics, but if a politician claims to speak for God, he or she just lost my vote.
Next, the Sadducees, who basically believed only Moses' writings and did not believe in the resurrection and other stuff they saw as superstition in the other OT books, asked Jesus about a woman whose husband died without fathering a child. In Moses' law, the dead man's brother was to father a child with his brother’s widow, and the child was to be viewed as the son of the dead man. And if the brother was not married, he was to take her as his wife. This woman married all seven brothers under this command. "In the resurrection, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife." (20:33) Jesus responded that the people in the resurrection do not marry "because they are equal to the angels (another being the Sadducees did not believe in)." (20:36) Then Jesus throws this in for good measure: "But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him." (20:37-38) No wonder they "no longer dared to ask him any question." (20:40, ESV)