Jesus silences all challenges to His supremacy
Knowing Jesus is the greatest of all delights! I pray that our worship together continues to fuel and deepen this conviction for every one of our souls this morning.
Let’s continue our worship now by opening God’s Word to Matthew chapter 22. If you do not have a Bible with you, simply raise your hand to receive a Bible this morning.
We are going to take the next two weeks to study Matthew 22 verses 15-46, where Jesus silences all of His religious opponents one final time before the cross.
Since there’s a whole lot for us to consider in these 31 verses, I want to introduce you to the, structure of this passage before we read it together.
This last half of Matthew 22 is like an verbal sparring contest between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. In the first three rounds the religious leaders challenge Jesus with questions intended to discredit him in front of the infatuated crowds. However every time Jesus’ answer leaves them speechless.
Round 4 is the knock-out round, where Jesus Himself goes on the offense and asks the religious leaders a question they cannot answer, thereby cementing His supremacy over the religious leaders and proving for the final time before His death that He indeed is the Son of God, the Christ, who alone is deserving of our worship.
1 Exodus 12:3; c.f. John 1:29
After all, remember where we are in Matthew’s gospel:
In chapter 21 Jesus entered Jerusalem on Lamb- selection day,1 receiving the hosannas and praises from all the Passover pilgrims. Then Jesus cleansed the Temple, completely disrupting the lucrative system of temple commerce the Jewish leaders had placed within God’s house.
Of course these leaders challenged Jesus’ authority, but only to have Jesus respond with three judgment parables: the parable of the two sons, the parable of the wicked tenants, and the parable of the wedding feast, that all previewed God’s judgment against these unbelieving Jewish leaders who refused to recognize Jesus as their long-promised Messiah.
So as we read our passage now, please understand, it’s still Tuesday of Passover week. It’s just three days before these same leaders will turn Jesus over to the Romans to be crucified.
And these Jewish leaders are now nursing their wounds, their pride is still stinging after Jesus just applied three judgment parables to them.2 And so now, they make one last ditch effort to recover themselves in front of the crowds. This is one last ditch attempt to regain any leverage over Jesus.
But of course, Jesus is God. And so Jesus always silences all challenges to His supremacy.
So please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word,
as I now read this fascinating 4-part debate from Matthew 22, verse 15, in the English Standard Version:
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 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 anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 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.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and
having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” 29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lordyour God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these twocommandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet” ’? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
This is the reading of God’s Word. Let’s Pray Together.
What competition does Jesus have in your life? What voices or values challenge the Lordship of Jesus over you? What are you most tempted to obey or serve rather than our Glorious Christ?
Matthew 22 reveals that, Jesus silences all challenges to His supremacy, for God has given His Son first place in every expression of reality.
And yet, when we’re honest, we admit that we often challenge Jesus’ supremacy over us. Our devotion to God often gets strong competition from our devotion to our own self, or our devotion to our family, or even our devotion to our nation.
And so what we need to learn from this two-week study is that Jesus deserves and demands our highest devotion that far exceeds all other devotions we may have to our country, our family, or even our own self.
Before we dive into Round 1 of this debate, let’s first
Colossians 1:15-20, especially verse 18.
properly introduce our challengers:
The Pharisees were the Jewish orthodox legalists. Pharisees believed God’s Word but then added layers and layers of man-made tradition onto God’s Word in the name of holiness. There were many Pharisees, and socially they were common people. Of all the Jews, the Pharisees were the most outwardly religious. Politically they despised Rome as they did not believe God’s people should ever submit to a Gentile power.
The Pharisees’ disciples were of course those training to become Pharisees. Just like we have Elders-in- Development and Deacons-in-Development at New Castle Bible Church, the disciples of the Pharisees were the PiDs in Jesus’ day.
The lawyers or scribes were those Pharisees with the greatest expertise in Jewish religion. So when you see the word lawyer in verse 35, don’t think prosecuting attorney or criminal defense. Instead, think seminary professor. The lawyers were the most highly regarded scholarly experts of the Pharisees.
History doesn’t tell us too much about the Herodians, other than this was a group of Jews who were Pro-Herod, hence the name. A Jewish Herodian was considered a traitor, a political sell-out, because the Herodians received political favors and high-ranking positions in Israel’s government as payback for their support for Herod Antipas.
The Pharisees hated the Herodians for selling their soul for the sake of political expediency. But the Pharisees also hated the Sadducees since the Sadducees were the secular liberals who controlled the Sanhedrin, the high priesthood, and all Temple worship. The Sadducees, although fewest in number, therefore had the greatest influence on Israel’s worship. Socially, they were very wealthy from their temple commerce. And politically, they supported Rome since Rome promised financial support as long as they kept the Jews peaceable. Spiritually, the Sadducees rejected all things supernatural, and therefore did not believe in angels nor the afterlife.
Now obviously, the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees were odd bedfellows. Normally, these Jewish sects would have very little to do with one another. But on this Tuesday before Passover, they united to challenge their common enemy, Jesus.
So with that background, let’s consider Round 1 where the Pharisees send their disciples along with the Herodians to try to trap Jesus with,
4 C.f. Acts 23:6-8 P
The challenge of a competing allegiance.
Verse 15 makes it clear that the Pharisees were trying to get Jesus to condemn Himself either religiously or politically.
In order for this trap to work, the Pharisees enlist some of their own disciples who would not be as well known and suspicious to Jesus, along with the Herodians who have a credibility with Rome the Pharisees don’t have.
And the trap begins with flattery in verse 16, calling Jesus a respected Teacher, saying, We know that you always tell the truth, and you’re not afraid of telling the truth no matter who is listening...
But then here comes the trap in verse 17:
Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?
The Pharisees are confident that this question will condemn Jesus with either the Jews or the Romans.
After all, they wrongly believe this question will force Jesus to publicly choose, Either Rome or the Jews.
After all, if Jesus says Jews must pay taxes to Rome, then he’ll lose credibility with the Jewish people who believe the Messiah is coming to deliver God’s people from the Romans. But if Jesus maintains his Jewish allegiance by telling people not to pay the Roman tax, the Herodians can report Jesus as an insurrectionist, and Rome will then take care of Jesus.
No matter how Jesus answers, the Pharisees are confident they can get Jesus in trouble with this question.
But in verse 18, Jesus shows His divine wisdom. He sees right through their flattery, malice, and hypocrisy. And to prove His supremacy, He engages their question to show they have presented him with a false dichotomy, or a false choice. Their riddle is self-defeating the moment it is asked.
For God’s kingdom is never about competing allegiances on earth. Jesus’ followers are never more devoted to one earthly kingdom over another. God’s kingdom is about a supreme vertical devotion that transcends, informs, and makes possible all horizontal loyalties on earth.
So Jesus asks someone for a denarius. This was the small silver coin minted specifically by the Roman emperor, worth one day’s wage.
On the one side of this coin, the emperor would engrave his own image. On the other side was an inscription, often identifying the emperor as god.
Then in verse 20, Jesus asks a question so obvious that even a child could answer correctly:
Whose likeness and inscription is on this coin?
“Caesar’s.” So Jesus concludes,
Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
Render means to pay back, or to return, or to give back what already belongs to someone.
Jesus says, Give back to the world what it owns and give back to God what He owns.
Caesar made a coin and put his likeness on it, and then asks for you to give it back to him, so give it back to him. After all, the coin is his currency, right?
But don’t miss the genius last part of verse 21, ... but give back to God the things that are God’s.
And what does God own? What did God stamp His image upon?
The human soul, right? According to Genesis, God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.5
So give all your soul’s worship back to God, but if some earthly king wants his money back, give him back his temporary currency.
5 Genesis 1:26-27, c.f. 5:1
6 Acts 5:29; c.f. Daniel 3:18, 28
In other words, pay your taxes, but only worship God.
Jesus’ followers are first devoted to God’s kingdom before we pledge allegiance to any earthly kingdom. We show that we are worshipping God and trusting Him for all our needs by obeying our earthly emperors and governments – even while they are evil – and giving them whatever they ask, as long as they are not asking for the worship of our soul. For since only God owns the human soul, only God deserves our worship.
So our allegiance to any human government is always secondary to our worship of God. And in fact, it is our worship of God that enables us to be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the [evil] emperor as supreme, or to governors who are sent by him...7 Romans 13 clearly teaches that Christ’s followers eagerly pay whatever our earthly authorities ask us to give them because we recognize that our submission to earthly leaders ultimately demonstrates our submission to God.
1 Peter 2:13
Church – don’t miss the practical application for us today. Currency minted by human governments won’t go with us into eternity. It is our vertical allegiance to God that empowers our ability to give back to our earthly government whatever they ask... no matter how wicked their intent.
Therefore, Devotion to Jesus makes all other human allegiances better, not worse. After all, our identity comes from God, not government.9 So Christian nationalism has no place in God’s kingdom.10 Racism or ethnic discrimination has no place in God’s kingdom.11 Cultural or tribal superiority has no place in God’s kingdom.12
Jesus’ answer is clear: following Christ is never a choice between any two earthly forms of government. Our choice is never even between the church or the state...but between the worship of God or the worship of this world. God’s kingdom is about giving all of
Philippians 3:20; c.f. 1 Peter 2:11
10 https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-much-patriotism-is-too- much-patriotism ourselves back to God in worship. And it is our worship of God that shrinks our earthly obligations and allegiances to be as small as they truly are.
This vertical reframing of their question silenced these challengers, giving the victory in Round 1 to Jesus.Verse 22 records the Pharisee’s disciples and the Herodians marveled, left him, and went away.
Now, let’s consider, the Sadducees’ challenge from an earthly perspective.
Verse 23 reminds us that these secular liberals refused to believe anything that their science, or their learning, or their personal experience couldn’t explain. Their perspective on life and religion was entirely earthly, or natural. The Sadducees were only religious since religion was a means to their best life now!
So Round 2 is a challenge from liberal skepticism...as
James 2:1-7; c.f. Numbers 12:1 12 Colossians 3:11
these leaders try to trap Jesus in a theological debate about the afterlife.
This exchange between Jesus and the Sadducees will follow a similar format to Round 1 we just considered. The religious leaders will flatter Jesus by honoring Him as a Teacher, then present a false dichotomy, which Jesus will masterfully turn on its head and use to silence his opponents.
Keep in mind the Sadducees believed that only the first 5 books of Moses were authoritative Scripture. So in verse 24, they quote from Deuteronomy 25 where God commanded levirate marriage, where a living brother was obligated to raise offspring for his deceased brother, so that no tribe would be blotted out of Israel’s inheritance.13
Then they give a hypothetical scenario where one woman is sequentially married to seven different brothers before dying childless. And their loaded question is found in verse 28,
In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.
Now again, these Sadducees think they have Jesus over a barrel here. For they wrongly believe their question forces Jesus to,
Either break Moses’ law (by supporting polygamy and saying that this woman will have 7 husbands in the resurrection) or Jesus will have to deny resurrection!
But in verse 29, Jesus exposes just how wrong earth- bound thinking is. Jesus condemns these secular liberals on two charges:
You don’t know the Scriptures, nor do you know the power of God!
Then in reverse order, starting with the power of God, Jesus explains the foolishness of their perspective.
Look at verse 30,
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in
marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
In other words, Jesus teaches that, The resurrection changes our nature and our relationships.
God’s resurrection power is so strong that it changes our very nature...so that Jesus’ resurrection body still had flesh and blood that could be touched,14 but could also go through locked doors as a spirit!
God is so powerful, that when He raises us from the dead, He is able to transform what is earthly into what is heavenly. By the power of God, our natural bodies will be transformed into spiritual bodies in the resurrection,16and we will be like angels.
Notice Jesus doesn’t say that we will become angels in the afterlife. That’s not biblical. But He says we will belike the angels... in other words, we will be glorified.
Then in verse 31 Jesus exposes the Sadducees’ biblical ignorance. Knowing their preference for the first 5 books of the Bible He asks,
Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:39-43; John 20:17, 20; 15 Luke 24:31, 36-27; John 20:19
Have you not read Exodus 3:6? Where God reveals the resurrection doctrine to Moses, declaring,
I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
Where were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when Moses wrote Exodus 3? They were long dead and gone, right? So then why didn’t God say, I was the God of each of these patriarchs?
Notice, God said I am... present tense, ongoing action... still today... I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These men still have an ongoing relationship with me as their God, which proves the resurrection!
God is not a God of the dead, but of the living.
And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at Jesus’ teaching, verses 33 concludes.
1 Corinthians 15:44
So why does Jesus make this point that resurrection changes our nature and our relationships?
Remember, the Sadducees believed this material world is the best it’s ever going to be...so get your best life now, because there’s no existence beyond the grave.
But Jesus’ kingdom is far better! This world now is simply preparing us for an eternity in God’s presence forever! Our resurrection life will be far superior to life on earth... so then stop living as if your highest devotion is to this earth, and your earthly relationships!
Instead, Live in the present, in view of who you will be in Christ in the future. Let an eternal perspective of your future resurrection govern your priorities for your present affections!
Jesus applies this to marriage in a way that can be startling. Verse 30 clearly teaches souls will not be married in heaven.
But loved ones... this makes sense when you understand why God created marriage in Genesis.17 Remember how Ephesians 5:32 teaches the ultimate purpose for marriage refers to Christ and the church?
Marriage is never ultimately about the bride and the groom. Marriage is not ultimately about having children. God says marriage is about picturing the Gospel oneness between Jesus and His redeemed Bride! Marriage is created by God to be a living picture of Jesus in covenant-faithful oneness with sinners!
Suppose I showed you my wedding picture:
Wouldn’t it quickly become inappropriate if I lived my entire life obsessed with this picture, talking about and focusing on this picture so much that I actually neglected my real wife living with me? That would be weird, if I loved the photo more than the actual relationship the photo conveyed, right?
Ok. So God created marriage as an imperfect picture of Jesus’ covenant relationship with His church. Right now you and I are separated from the presence of God, and so God creates marriages as constant reminders of what it means for Jesus to be in covenant-faithful oneness with sinners like us.
But once we are all in the presence of God, we won’t need the picture of imperfect and earthly human marriage anymore. For we will all be part of the everlasting Bride of Christ, participants in the perfect and heavenly marriage with Christ Himself as our husband.
So can you understand why there’s no marriages in heaven? And while this is perhaps blunt, we need to hear that there’s no sex in heaven either!
Because God’s good gifts of marriage and the marriage bed are simply imperfect earthly pictures of the perfect and everlasting intimacy that we will all experience with God in the resurrection!
The pleasures and eternal joys of our future resurrection state ... when we are set free from our mortal bodies and the sin which clings to us...and we are glorified together as the radiant Bride of Christ,18 all make living for this present world look extremely foolish and short-sighted.
Loved ones, submitting your life to the supremacy of Jesus makes all other human loves better, not worse.
So overcome all earthly competition for the devotion of your soul by focusing on your future resurrection in Christ, which empowers our suffering and sacrifice in the present for the glories which shall soon be revealed!
Jesus exposed the Sadducees as foolish liberals who were missing out on God’s best simply in their refusal to believe God’s Word and trust in His resurrection power.
We’re only half-way through this verbal sparring contest, and Jesus silences all challenges to His supremacy. No earthly allegiance or no human relationship here in this life can compare to the glories of living forever with God as our King!
So today, we have a special opportunity now to respond, by celebrating our resurrection hope by taking communion together.
If you didn’t already get a cup and cracker as you entered, please raise your hands as ushers will come by in a few moments to serve you.
Our elders recently decided that it would serve God’s glory among us if we increased our frequency of celebrating the Lord’s supper together on the first Sunday of every other month, rather than merely just once per quarter. So today is the first time we are benefiting from this new schedule, and of course it is quite fitting for us to celebrate in this meal of remembrance together after just considering Jesus’ teaching about marriage and the resurrection.
After all, when we eat and drink together we remember how Jesus shed His blood, and had His body broken, in our place, to make us His eternal bride. But we also partake with eager expectation...knowing that the day will soon come when we will all feast together in His presence – in our glorified nature of resurrected joy!
1 Peter 1:3-9
So then, if you are not yet engaged in marriage to Jesus by faith, and your heart has not yet been awakened by God’s Spirit to love Him, please just simply observe us as we participate in this ceremony of all that Christ means to us. There’s nothing spiritual about this juice or these crackers. They simply remind us of Christ’s blood and body. There’s no advantage of participating together in the symbol if you haven’t first been united with Jesus’ resurrection through personal faith and repentance.
But for those who are thankful that Jesus’ body was broken so that our sins could be forgiven, please peel back the very top layer of the juice cup to expose the communion cracker.
The cracker or bread symbolizes Christ’s broken body – to remind us that Jesus died so that we could live.
For the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it,and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Now before we take the cup and celebrate Jesus’ promise to remove all the results of our sin and make all things new in the resurrection, we are going to sing about this Wondrous Mystery we call the Gospel.
And as we sing, let’s confess any way that we’ve allowed our love for our country, or our love for our earthly family, or our love for any other earth-bound pleasure to somehow become greater than our love for Jesus Himself. As we sing together, let’s glory in our forgiveness that has been secured through the death and resurrection of Jesus our Lord! Let’s celebrate all that Jesus has done for us – He is the supreme victor who alone deserves our worship and love!
Amen and amen. Now please go ahead and peel back the second layer to expose the juice in the cup.
In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Dothis, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
O Church – let’s celebrate our joyful union with Christ as we long for our resurrection to come soon!
Praise God that His kingdom is so much better than what we tend to think is all-important to us here on earth.
Let’s pray our benediction together as we dismiss and go out into our week of living as God’s kingdomambassadors together in this world.