Matthew 22:15-33

Thursday Evening Bible Study

April 26, 2007


We are in the final week of Jesus’ life before the crucifixion. Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday, with the cheers and adulation of the crowd. It was His “Triumphal Entry”, we know it as “Palm Sunday”. Jesus immediately went to the Temple where He threw out the merchants that were ripping off the worshippers. Then Jesus began a pattern He would keep throughout the week – every evening He’d walk back across the Kidron Valley up to the Mount of Olives, where He and the disciples would spend the night as Galilean pilgrims. In the morning Jesus would get up and come back across the Kidron to the Temple where He would spend the day teaching the people. Though there are mentions of Jesus being in various parts of the Temple complex, it is thought He might have done most of His teaching on the southern steps – the entrance into the Temple that most common folks would use. These steps were called the “Steps of Teaching”, where most Rabbis taught their disciples.

The first full day in Jerusalem began with Jesus looking for breakfast, looking for fruit on a fig tree. When He didn’t find any fruit (and He should have found some), He cursed the fig tree and it withered. This would become a picture for the disciples of God coming to His people, Israel, and looking for fruit. Jesus would share a parable about a wealthy landowner coming to receive the fruit of his vineyard, and how the landowner would remove the tenant farmers when they refused to produce fruit. The last parable Jesus has taught was about a King inviting His subjects to His Son’s wedding feast, but the subjects would not come, resulting in the king destroying their city.

The issue of fruitlessness in Israel has brought some severe rebukes by Jesus, and the Jewish religious leaders haven’t been too happy with Jesus.

:15-22 Paying Taxes to Caesar

:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.

Pharisees – the Jewish religion had many different sub groups. The main groups that came against Jesus were the Pharisees and Sadducees, but there were other groups as well. In a way, as soon as a group of people began following the teachings of a specific Rabbi, they were a “sect”.

The Pharisees were one of the most strictly, conservative, orthodox groups. They believed in the inspiration of the Scriptures, including all of the Old Testament. They believed in the supernatural, they believed in angels, they believed in miracles, they lived very strictly controlled lives to make sure they did not in any way transgress the Scriptures.

In many ways, there is not much difference between them and us. Scary, ain’t it?

:16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.

Herodians – this is not a group based on religious ideas like the Pharisees, but a group based on political ideas. They were supportive of the Herod kings and that meant that they were in favor of Rome. The family of Herod maintained the title of Jewish “kings”, but their real power came from Rome, which ruled over the region.

The ironic thing here is that the Pharisees were generally opposed to the Roman rule. It seems that the question they are going to pose to Jesus is going to place Jesus in the middle of these two groups – kind of like asking them, “Which of us is correct?” No matter what you say, you’re going to offend someone.

It would be kind of like saying, “Which is the correct view on immigration, the Republican view or the Democrat view?”

nor do You care about anyone – They’re not saying that Jesus doesn’t care about people, they’re saying that Jesus doesn’t care what people think. They’re saying that Jesus teaches the truth regardless of what people think.

regard the person – the original Greek is “see the face”. Jesus doesn’t do partiality. He doesn’t say nice things to people He’s trying to kiss up to. Jesus treats all people the same.

Talk about flattery. It’s all true, but they don’t believe a word of this. They’re trying to butter Jesus up and catch Him off guard.

:17 "Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"

lawfulexesti – it is lawful. The issue isn’t about civil law, but the Law of Moses. Does the Law of Moses support paying Roman taxes?

taxes to Caesar – this was a poll tax that every Jew had to pay to Rome. The hated “tax collectors” were Jews who worked for the Romans by collecting the tax. The tax collectors were required to pay Rome a certain amount for each person they collected from, but they could collect as much as they could and keep the extra for themselves.

The Jews were living in an occupied nation and they didn’t like it. They didn’t like the idea that they were in their Promised Land and having to pay taxes to a foreign power.

If Jesus says they should pay their taxes, the Pharisees will be ticked and the crowd around Jesus will be upset.
If Jesus says they shouldn’t pay their taxes, then the Herodians would be upset, and Jesus could be arrested by the Romans,

:18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?

hypocriteshupokrites – an actor, in the Greek theater, the actors hid their faces behind masks.  They were pretending to be something they weren’t.

:19 "Show Me the tax money." So they brought Him a denarius.

denariusdenarion – “containing ten”; A Roman silver coin in NT time. The coin would have an image of Caesar.  One such coin has the inscription, Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the Divine Augustus”

:20 And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?"

:21 They said to Him, "Caesar's." And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."


Earthly responsibilities

You and I are obligated to pay our taxes.
(Rom 13:7 NKJV)  Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
There are goofy groups telling you that you don’t need to pay your taxes.  This is wrong.


Heavenly responsibilities

The coins weren’t the only thing in the audience that day with an “image” on it.
(Gen 1:26-27 NKJV)  Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." {27} So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
God made us in His own image.
We need to be just as sure to give God our lives as we do to pay our taxes.

:22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

marveledthaumazo – to wonder, marvel; to be wondered at, to be had in admiration

:23-33 Sadducee Resurrection Challenge

:23 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him,

The Sadducees were the liberal religious leaders. The priests tended to be Sadducees.

The Sadducees did not believe in the supernatural. They did not believe in a literal resurrection. They did not believe in angels. They only believed the first five books of the Old Testament were inspired.

They didn’t like Jesus either.

:24 saying: "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.

raise upanistemi – to cause to rise up, raise up; this is the root word for “resurrection” that is used in verse 23.

Could it be that there’s a slight poke at resurrection here by the Sadducees? Perhaps there’s a subtle hint that the only resurrection that’s going to happen in this story is the attempt to “raise up” offspring.

Moses said …

The Sadducees are referring to a passage of Scripture called the “Levirate Law”. The title comes from the Latin word for “husband’s brother”.

The Law is designed to do two things:
Stop the extinction of a family name.
Keep property within a family.
The law goes like this:
(Deu 25:5-10 NKJV) "If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband's brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. {6} "And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. {7} "But if the man does not want to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.' {8} "Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, 'I do not want to take her,' {9} "then his brother's wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, 'So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother's house.' {10} "And his name shall be called in Israel, 'The house of him who had his sandal removed.'

remove his sandal: This act signified that he had abandoned his duty. It was a kind of sign of degradation, as if the man was becoming poorer by having to go barefoot. The city officials would keep the sandal as evidence of the transaction.

spit in his face: that means … well you know what that means.

This law wasn’t new with Moses. It was an existing tradition put into law. We see it in existence with Judah’s sons (Gen. 38) where the first son was married to Tamar, and when he died, the next son took her, but he died, and then Judah was unwilling to give the youngest son to her. She ended up tricking Judah and Judah ended up getting her pregnant.
We will see the law in effect in the time of Ruth. Ruth’s husband dies, and she accompanies her mother-in-law back to the hometown of Bethlehem. The one who ends up marrying Ruth was Boaz, a “kinsman redeemer”, a near relative.
As a Jewish girl, you don’t just want to take the “eHarmony” compatibility test, you want to make sure you like the brothers as well.  You may end up married to them.

The Sadducees are going to take this law and use it to make a joke out of the resurrection.  Some of the funniest jokes have to do with heaven.  And just like the Sadducees’ joke, they all come from some twisted form of the truth. The subject of men, women, and the resurrection can make some pretty funny jokes.

Three men arrived at the Pearly Gates, only to have St. Peter tell them that there was only room for one in heaven... “Okay,” Saint Peter says, “Whoever had the most interesting and amazing death will get to come in.”
Saint Peter takes the first man into a room and says, “How did you die?” The first man says, “Well, I knew my wife was having an affair, so I came home early to catch her in the act. When I got home, I noticed a strange coat on the sofa and my wife looked like she was trying to hide something. Convinced that the other man must be hiding in our apartment, I searched the place. Finally, I look onto the balcony and notice a pair of hands! There he was...just hanging off of our Balcony. I started stomping on his hands until he fell. BUT, when he fell off the balcony, instead of plummeting 15 stories to his death, he landed on a canvas awning and simply rolled off gently onto the ground! So I got so mad that I ran back to the kitchen grabbed the refrigerator and hurled it over the balcony!” “Did you kill him?” asked Saint Peter. “I don’t know,” the first man replied, “I dropped dead of a heart attack from all the excitement.” “Well, that IS interesting,” Saint Peter said. “On your way out, please send in the next fellow.”
The second man comes in, and Saint Peter says, “Okay, how did YOU die?” The second man says, “Well, I was on my balcony standing on a stool watering my plants when, all of a sudden, I lost my balance and fell over my balcony! I grabbed onto the ledge of my downstairs neighbor’s balcony, and then I saw a man coming. I thought, ‘Phew! I’m saved,’ but before I could say anything, he started cursing and stomping on my hands until I fell off. I thought for sure I was dead, but then I landed on a canvas awning and gently rolled to the ground. I got up and dusted myself off. Then, BAM! A refrigerator fell on me, and here I am.” “Well, that is VERY interesting,” Saint Peter said. “Please send in the third fellow on your way out.”
The third man comes in and sits down. “Okay, what happened to you?” Saint Peter asked. The third man says, “Okay, picture this: I’m visiting my girlfriend when she tells me to run and hide inside this refrigerator ...”

So the Sadducees tell their little story …

:25 "Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother.

:26 "Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh.

:27 "Last of all the woman died also.

The question that the Sadducees ask is not the question I’d ask.  I’d ask, “What kind of a cook was she?”  Did CSI do any tests on the victims? Didn’t anybody find it suspicious that seven brothers all die while married to the same wife?  And why doesn’t the seventh brother opt out for the sandal-spit-in-your-face thing?

:28 "Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her."

This is quite humorous.  All seven brothers are standing there in heaven expecting to be married to this woman.  Or maybe not.  Maybe they were all there arguing over who was going to be stuck with her.

You have to admit, the Sadducees have cooked up a pretty funny, difficult, and awkward situation.

:29 Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.


Reasons for error

Not Knowing the Scriptures
I get the sense the most people like Jesus.  At least they like their concept of Jesus.

But when it comes to the Scriptures, people get quite picky.  They don’t like people who get too “literal” with the Scriptures.  They don’t like people who make a big deal over a word or phrase in the Bible.

Yet watch how Jesus will handle the Scriptures.  He will make the biggest point out of the most minute detail of the Scripture.

You and I need to know the Scriptures.

I’ve been studying this book for a long time and am finding out just how much I don’t know.  I’ve read through the Bible at least twenty times and am still finding things that I hadn’t seen before.  And I know I’m just scratching the surface.

(2 Tim 3:16-17 NKJV)  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, {17} that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Not knowing the power of God
This is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
We need the balance of the Scripture with the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

They are like the two wings of an airplane.  A plane can’t fly without both wings.

If you only have the Scriptures, you dry up.

If you have only the Holy Spirit, you blow up.

If you have both the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, you grow up.

Paul wrote,

(1 Th 1:5 NKJV)  For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.


Hundreds of years ago, the king of Siam was visited by the Dutch ambassador. The ambassador told the king about his country and how in cold weather the water became so hard that men walked on it and it would bear an elephant. The king replied, “Hitherto I have believed the strange things you told me, because I looked upon you as a sober fair man; but now I am sure you lie.”

The king of Siam had a hard time believing there were such a thing as ice because he had never experienced it. But is there such a thing as ice? Yes.

There are many folks in the church who question whether or not the Holy Spirit can truly work miracles or not.  But just because they haven’t tasted it yet, does that mean the Holy Spirit doesn’t work?

God wants us to learn to yield to the work of the Spirit.

(John 7:37-38 NKJV)  On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. {38} "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

How does this happen on a practical basis?

I think an important element in the work of the Spirit is learning to pray.  Learning to wait on the Lord.  Asking His help.

When we don’t maintain the balance of the Word and the Spirit, we too are going to be greatly mistaken.

:30 "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.

First, Jesus will deal with their lack of knowledge of the power of God.

like angels – they don’t become angels, but they are like the angels.  When humans go to heaven, they are still humans, but in relation to marriage, they are “like” or “as” the angels.

Angels are a different type of creature than man is.  They are specifically created beings.  They have been around since the beginning of the world.  They do not die.  They do not get married.

The power of God is displayed in that God will change us.  He will make our lives radically different, to be like the angels in heaven.

It’s interesting that Jesus mentions the angels because the Sadducees don’t believe in angels either.

:31 "But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,

:32 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."

Now Jesus deals with their lack of knowledge of the Scriptures.

There are lots of Old Testament Scriptures that speak of a resurrection from the dead. Job (Job 19:25-26), David (Ps. 16:10), Daniel (Dan. 12:2) and others (Is. 26:19; Hos. 13:14; Heb. 11:17-19) speak of a resurrection.

But the Sadducees didn’t accept any of these Scriptures as authoritative.  They only believed the first five books of Moses were inspired by God, and they were convinced that there was nothing about resurrection in these books.

And that’s what Jesus will quote from.  He will prove His point from the Scriptures that they accept.  He will quotes from Exodus 3:6 where God spoke to Moses from the burning bush.

How does this passage prove the point?

God didn’t say, “I WAS the God of thy father, the God of Abraham … etc”. God said, “, I AM the God of thy father, the God of Abraham”
The implication is that God is still the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, even though they physically died a long time ago. He is still their God because they are still alive.  They didn’t cease to exist when they died.  They were still alive.  There is life after death.

Note:   Jesus makes a point of doctrine based on something as minute as the “tense” of a verb.  And to be totally accurate, Jesus is pulling the lesson of the verb tense out of what is “understood”, not what is actually in the Hebrew text of Ex. 3:6.  The verb “to be” or the “I am” is not in the Hebrew text, but is clarified in the Greek translation of the text (the Septuagint)

We need to be careful that we don’t make “mountains out of molehills” and make up goofy doctrines out of some obscure passage.  But on the other hand, Jesus demonstrates the enormous depth and accuracy of the Scriptures to make this incredible point out of a verb tense.

Note:  Jesus’ teaching could be validated in other places by other Scriptures.  He didn’t make a BIG point that was only found in this little place.

:33 And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

I imagine that some eyes got quite wide at Jesus’ explanation.  I’m sure more than one person was thinking, “How come I’ve read that over and over and never realized the depth of truth in that passage?”