The Book of Luke, The Authority of Christ, Part III - Lesson 211
We will be in Luke 20:17-19, today.
Our passage for today follows that great and foreboding parable that Jesus Christ told the chief priests, the scribes and the elders.
He told them this parable in answer to those who had questioned him as to what authority he had in doing the things he did upon his entrance into Jerusalem and what he did in riding the temple of the money changers, the merchants and the animals.
The parable of the vineyard owner and the vineyard keepers was so clear as to who played each part, we are told that the leaders in Jerusalem perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.
And of course they did not see themselves in any good light at all, and that same hour they sought to lay hands on him to do him no good.
But from verse 17 of chapter 20 we can see that Jesus Christ did not cower, or fear what they could do to him for he looked them straight in the eye and told them of what was to come with regard to them and to himself.
In spite of the fact that Jesus Christ knew full well that death lay ahead for him, he beheld them and gave them straight talk as to what his future and their future held.
Jesus Christ was fearless in the face of false religion even unto death.
He asked them to consider what was written in the scriptures, specifically Psalm 118:22, regarding the stone which the builders rejected.
The warning is that when you reject me it is not the end of the story.
For there is a day of reckoning that will come about, for that stone which is rejected by the builders, will be placed in the most prominent of places in the building, that place which is reserved for the cornerstone of the building.
Something marvelous was going to happen to the stone even though the stone was rejected.
This reminds us of the principle that says “he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”
Jesus would endure the humbling of the cross, but the Lord of the vineyard, the master builder, the Father, had exaltation in mind and would take the stone and place it in the most exalted position, that of the cornerstone.
The Son who is rejected and put to death is the Son of God who will rise from the dead, and who will someday return to the earth to establish His kingdom.
The Son, is on the one hand, a “stone of stumbling,” a cause of stumbling to the Jews.
This was what was taking place at that time for the Jews were stumbling over the Messiah.
Now that which you stumble over you despise, for it gets in your way, the way in which you want to go.
So Jesus Christ is pictured as a stumbling stone, a stone that is not moving, a stone which men who wish to go their own way stumble over.
Jesus was a stumbling block to men who refused to acknowledge their sin and their need of a Savior, in favor of going their own way.
But this unmoving “stone of stumbling,” whom they rejected, will also be an active agent in their destruction.
Jesus Christ is also viewed as a moving stone, a falling stone that crushes and grinds His enemies.
And you can look at this in another way for it seems there are two choices.
You can fall upon the stone or you can have the stone fall upon you.
18 Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
The choice is for all.
Fall in repentance upon the stone, who is Christ, which will evidence a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
With this choice the stone will be a comforting stone, a sheltering stone, a stone of strength.
It will be a sheltering rock in the time of storm.
However that same stone will be to the arrogant sinner, the unrepentant sinner, the prideful sinner, a rock of judgment.
A rock can be a shelter or a rock can be a destructive missile.
The day will come when that same rock, who is a shelter to many, will fall in judgment and grind many to powder.
Some folks think there are many choices, some folks think there is a middle choice, a neutral choice.
But if a man chooses to be neutral his choice will result in that stone falling upon him, for Christ put it simply in:
Matthew 12:30, 30He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
Remember that refrain from the hymn, What Will You Do With Jesus? By Albert Simpson
What will you do with
Will I find shelter in the rock now in this time of God’s grace, or will the rock grind me to powder at the judgment?
The neutral position is like the position of a drowning man who ignores a rope thrown to him.
He looks at the rope and says to himself, I’ll take a neutral position regarding that rope.
I’ll not take hold of the rope in order to be saved from drowning, I’ll not make a commitment toward that rope.
I’ll not receive that rope!
But that neutral position gives him no other option to be saved from drowning.
If he takes a neutral position toward the rope there is only one result and that result is to perish.
Neutrality toward Christ only results in perishing for there is no other result for all men and all women are drowning.
Jesus said it another way when he said in Luke 13:3, I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Two choices, repentance or perishing.
And again Paul emphasized the limited choices when he told us in the book of Acts:
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
This is one of the foundational truths of the Christian faith and cannot be compromised.
This truth is so hated by the world for it gives no room for other ropes of salvation especially the making of your own rope.
But the Bible tells us that all other ways to God are false.
Only the stone which the builders rejected will provide a place of refuge, only the stone which the builders rejected will fall on every one who rejects the stone.
This is given to us in another way in:
Phil. 2:10, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and fall on the stone and the stone will become a sheltering stone.
But if you do not, you will bow the knee and confess him as Lord at the judgment but the stone will not be a refuge, but instead will be a grinding stone.
Luke 20:19-26, And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them. 20And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. 21And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: 22Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? 23But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? 24Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s. 25And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. 26And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.
We are given here a view of the heart of the Jewish leaders with regard to how they thought and how they lived.
As we have seen on many occasions in past studies they were not interested in truth.
They have two fears, a fear of losing their place in Israel but they also fear the people and because of this they have to be very careful as to how they go about riding themselves of this threat to their place.
We are told by Luke that they sought to lay hands on Jesus Christ.
But it seems their attempt to arrest him was opposed by the people in such a way that they were forced to back off and to develop as strategy that would allow them to make an arrest without the interference of the people.
So again they plant spies, agents who worked for them, men who would pretend to be just and honorable men who would have the mission of finding fault in Jesus.
Their intent was to find fault in his response, sufficient to deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.
They intended to prove him a rebel against the power of Rome!
So the spies, who were pretending to be just men revealed themselves as unjust men by buttering up the Lord with truth but with truth that they themselves did not believe.
21And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly:
Jesus is being asked whether or not a law-abiding Jew, a Jew keeping the law of Moses, should pay taxes to Caesar.
God knows what that money will be used for and does it mean that if a person pays taxes that he endorses those uses?
Does the paying of tax to a foreign government in itself cause a Jew to break the law?
This was an issue that was very much alive in Jesus’ day, and interest in it has not lessened even to our day as evidenced by several cases in our own community where people have chosen to not pay taxes for various reasons.
And because of their choices they are now feeling the power of the government.
But it is ironic that in asking this question of the Lord they pretended to despise Roman rule, but it was to Roman rule that they turned in order to put Jesus Christ to death.
The question about taxes was meant to reveal rebellion in the heart of Jesus Christ against Roman rule but they fully looked to Roman rule to carry out their evil desires.
They reasoned, they could get this “self-acclaimed Messiah” to make statements against the power of Caesar, and therefore they would be able to press charges of treason against Him.
Now their question is not whether or not a person should pay taxes at all, but whether or not a Jew should pay taxes to a heathen, Gentile government.
The issue is posed as a problem of keeping the law while at the same time paying taxes to Rome.
The question is, “Is it permissible?,” and the standard on which the answer is based is the Law of Moses.
So here was the question: “Shall we pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
The spies challenged him to speak to this issue and when he did, the Roman rulers would be called upon to crucify Jesus as a traitor guilty of treason against Rome.
23But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? 24Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s.
First of all we should notice that Jesus’ crafted his answer in accordance with the deceitful motives and intentions of the questioners.
Had this question been asked by a sincere person wishing to know truth his answer would no doubt have be more fully developed.
In fact it is more fully developed in the Apostle Paul’s 13th chapter of his epistle to the Romans and from the Apostle Peter’s 2nd chapter in the epistle of 1 Peter where Christians are instructed to obey God by obeying government in every way that does not place him or her in disobedience to God.
In asking for a penny Jesus was asking for a Roman denarius which was the form of money used for paying taxes to Caesar.
Different kinds of money were used for different kinds of payments.
The temple tax was paid by the drachma or shekel.
In Matthew’s account Jesus asked to be shown the tribute money and he was shown a denarius, which was the exact money used to pay the Roman tax, for the denarius was a Roman coin.
Caesar’s name was inscribed on it, along with his likeness.
There was a reason for this and that reason was that Rome made and issued that coin.
Governments can issue money and governments can also require that money can be given back, especially in the form of taxes.
Now this particular coin pictures the then ruling emperor Tiberius on its front side, and on its reverse side he is shown sitting on a throne.
He is wearing a diadem, a crown of royalty, and is clothed as a high priest. The inscription on the front says Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus and on the reverse side it says Pontif Maxim which means Highest Priest.
Now you can imagine that this very coin was a thorn in every Jew’s flesh as they looked upon this coin depicting a man who claimed to be deity.
Now one thing we should also notice is that Jesus did not take this coin from the bag that Judas kept but instead asked his questioners for the coin.
I think we can assume that it was to establish the fact that his questioners were using the coin in spite of hating the image pressed into it.
They were benefiting from its use, and by benefiting from its use had shown that in some ways they were obligated to the government of the coin.
In other words because of the benefits that they realized from it’s government they had a responsibility to that government and that responsibility was carried out in paying one’s taxes.
So Jesus chose to teach by show and tell.
Show me a Roman coin. Let’s examine its face.
It was obvious whose face was on the coin, it was the face of Tiberius Caesar Augustus.
Now I’m sure that this trap that was set for the Lord Jesus, was carefully thought out.
I imagine there were seminars of scholars formed prior to this event where possible questions were discussed which would place this self-acclaimed Messiah in jeopardy and give ammunition which would be used to put him to death.
For the Jews wanted to get Him into a position whereby the Romans would do their dirty work.
No one expected him to say, as He at least implied, that the people of Israel should pay taxes to Rome.
Who would have ever dreamed that one claiming to be Israel’s Messiah would ever advocate paying taxes to a such a heathen and wicked government who claimed deity for their rulers?
So they thought this question was the unrivalled question, the question that guaranteed the trapping of Jesus into rebellion against Rome.
No one expected to hear words such as these.
Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.
So we see in the answer of Christ a statement that while
government and God are distinct, they are not necessarily in opposition to each other.
Each has a role and government is simply a minister of God.
So the answer of Christ was, Yes, pay the tax! Taxes are within Caesar’s sphere of authority.
You enjoy the benefits of government therefore you should do your part.
You get police protection, you get roads, you get courts to settle differences, you have its money with which to engage in commerce and even with which to engage in God’s work.
At this time the Roman empire had brought a measure of peace and tranquility to the people.
These things imply a responsibility.
Romans 13:1-6, Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
But by saying render unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s he was stating that the emperor should be paid only what was his due.
If the emperor claimed divinity that should not be accepted as his due for that was God’s due.
Jesus expected his listeners to think and to know God’s word in order to be discerning believers.
To know God’s word is to know what is due the king and what is due God.