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Nov 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 6, 2011

And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent. Luke 20:26 (read 20:20-21:4)

INTRO: We are down to the final days of Jesus’ public ministry and they are filled with conflict – one confrontation after another

Luke makes it clear what Jesus’ opponents are trying to do: “in order to catch Him in some statement”
– their intention is either to accuse him to the (Roman) governor (20) or shame him in public (26)

We are used to reading about the skirmishes in this chapter and being amazed at Jesus’ wisdom
– but I think we usually miss something truly profound in his responses
– in a sense, Jesus is fighting for his life – his entire ministry is at stake, so he has to be quick
But he is not merely trying to save his neck – he has a deeper strategy
– with each confrontation he reinforces his main message: God has brought something new into the world
– now people must make a choice, “No servant can serve two masters” (Lk. 16:13)
– two realities compete for our devotion and Jesus reemphasizes that we must choose between them

Verses 20-26, A Political Trap: God or Caesar?

Scribes and chief priests have just been publically embarrassed
– so they switch their strategy to four new tactics:

  1. they used surveillance – “they watched Him”
  2. they used others while they hid in background – “spies”
  3. they flattered him – look how they buttered him up:
    “we know . . . speak and teach correctly” (expert)
    “not partial to any” (he would not compromise his message to please anyone)
    “teach the way of God in truth”
  4. they presented him with a challenge to get him in trouble

Take a close look at their question – notice what they do
they are trying to use his own game to trap him
– he had backed them into a corner with his question about the source of John’s authority
– he had given them only two options – from heaven or from humans?
– now they give him two options: Caesar or God?
– they’re convinced they have him trapped

Jesus handles this brilliantly

  • his first move is to have them produce a coin — that he doesn’t have one and they do is in itself revealing
  • his second move is to have them describe what’s on it
  • he demonstrates they already have the answer in their hands

He springs their trap and is unharmed
– but he also presses his message home to their hearts
– they asked whether they should hold out on Caesar, but he brings it back around by telling them not to hold out on God

The issue of taxes was a political hotbed
– political issues belong to this world’s systems
– Jesus presented an alternative way to live in which allegiance to God would dominate their lives

Verses 27-40, A Theological Riddle

This is the first time the Sadducees appear in Jesus’ presence
– belonged to aristocratic class – stayed near Jerusalem
– Luke inserts a note regarding their theology
The “liberals” (Pharisees were the conservatives or Fundamentalists)

Their question is introduced with exact words as the scribes and priests, “They questioned Him, saying, ‘Teacher'”
– the Sadducees did not bother to flatter him they cut to the chase
– “Moses wrote . . .” – the Law for them was the only biblical source for valid commandments
– the purpose of this law: keep alive the name of a deceased relative
– the primary way they thought of their own immortality was to live on through their descendants

The Sadducees were convinced that this riddle was unsolvable

There are two parts to Jesus’ answer:

  1. Insight into the new situation that the resurrection will brings us into
    – no need to attempt immortality through marriage
    – like the angels who never die, there will be no need for them to seek immortality through any other means
  2. He refers them back to their cherished source, Moses
    – the patriarchs had died (in the world), but not to God

If there would be no afterlife, then the Sadducees had reason to make most of this life
– to exploit their unfair advantages and accumulate all the wealth and power they could

Notice that Jesus points to a division between fundamental categories:
– “this age” and “that age”
– the “sons of this age” and “sons of the resurrection,” who are also “sons of God”
Again, like the division between what is Caesar’s and what is God’s, this is his message
– a choice must be made

The scribes congratulated Jesus for his answer to the Sadducees
– for a moment he’s their champion, because he’s defended their doctrine of resurrection
– but they won’t be pleased with Jesus for very long
– doctrinal agreement was not nearly as important to Jesus as the quality of their lives

Verses 41-44, Jesus Proposes A Riddle

To understand his point, it is helpful to think in terms of “greater than” (>) and less than (<)
– in Hebrew culture, the parent was always greater than the child and the ancestor greater than the descendant
– therefore, if the Messiah was a descendant of David, he could not be David’s Lord
– since David referred to the Messiah as his Lord (Ps. 110:1), the Messiah must not be his son
– Jesus doesn’t resolve the riddle for them, but leaves them hanging — we’ll return to it in a moment

Verses 45-47, Jesus Issues A Warning Regarding the Scribes

In this chapter we’ve encountered chief priests, elders, scribes, and Sadducees
– but it is the scribes that Jesus goes after

Since Ezra, the role of scribes had grown and become powerful
– but even before exile there were flaws in the scribal tradition

How can you say, “We are wise,
And the law of the LORD is with us”?
But behold, the lying pen of the scribes
Has made it into a lie.
The wise men are put to shame,
They are dismayed and caught;
Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD,
And what kind of wisdom do they have?

(Jeremiah 8:8-9, notice also the chiastic structure of these verses that sets them apart from the text surrounding them)

The scribes’ flaw in Jesus’ criticism was not that they modified the Scriptures but betrayed them by their actions
– they “liked” and “loved” living above others in every social environment: marketplace, synagogue, and banquets
– Jesus’ warning was not that the scribes were dangerous,
– he is telling the people do not  be like them

21:1-4, Jesus Is People-Watching

Luke has us follow the Lord’s eyes, “He looked up and saw” what?
– first, “the rich” and then “a poor widow” (notice how the mention of the widow connects this scene with the previous warning)
– her devotion to God is genuine, hidden (as opposed to “for appearance’s sake), and complete

CONC: Here’s what we take home:

  1. From the scribes we learn that the one who controls the interpretation shapes religion
    – there are some teachings that we accept uncritically as true
    – we need to be more cautious about what we have been handed (especially from dispensationalists)
  2. There are limits to what theology can do for us
    – God will always prove to be bigger than our ideas about him
    – it’s a big  mistake to ignore the development of Christian character
    – the question, “What do you believe?” is much less important than the question, “What kind of person are you?”
  3. The world’s values will always present a risk
    – the ego can manifest itself as much in a religious personality as non-religious
  4. At the heart of this passage is Jesus’ riddle – and it is the key to the chapter
    – all the tensions are resolved here: between heaven and earth, God and humankind, the kingdom of God and the Roman Empire, between David’s son and David’s Lord

We, the readers, learned the necessary information to solve the riddle from the beginning of the book
– we already know that Jesus is  both the Son of David and the Son of God (1:35)
– therefore, at the same time, he can be both David’s son and David’s Lord

Jesus presents himself to us as God’s solution to our riddles
– all the tensions found in this chapter resolve in him
– the life we hope to have with God, we have in Jesus
– giving ourselves entirely to Christ, we “render to God the things that are God’s,” become “children of the resurrection,” and leave behind the dangers of always trying to stay in the spotlight, finding contentment instead in quiet devotion to Jesus — who always watches, always knows, always cares, and always helps

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