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Entries in Traps (2)

Tuesday
Sep082015

A Trial of Tricks and Traps II

Luke 20:27-40.  This sermon was preached on September 6, 2015 by Pastor Marty Bonner.

Last week we looked at a political trap that was laid for Jesus.  Essentially they wanted to make him look like a threat to Rome.  Today we will look at a different type of trap that is laid for Jesus, a religious or theological one.

It is common in every age to use whatever means possible to manipulate authorities against certain people and to manipulate the people against other people or even certain authorities.  These schemes that wicked people use may be effective in this world, and in such ways, they get what they want.  However, as a follower of Christ, we should be insulated from such manipulations because we do not look to the arguments of man to be foundational in our decision making process.  Rather, we look to the words and example of Jesus for our direction.  Though we do not do this perfectly, we should ever be vigilant to the schemes of manipulation that are being worked on us by wicked people.  We should also be vigilant over the fears and desires in our heart that provide the leverage for such manipulators.

The Theological Trap

The religious leaders were getting desperate in that last week leading up to the crucifixion.  They were not having any success manipulating Jesus.  Some of their attempts might appear quite weak to us, but part of that is because we are removed from the event in time and in culture.  Plus, a person can block 1,000 attacks, but it only takes one fatal blow to overcome such a defense.  So if they couldn’t get Jesus to offend the Romans, perhaps they could stir up trouble between Jesus and his followers.

The passage tells us that this particular attack comes from the group called the Sadducees.  Their name is a reference to a 3rd century BC rabbi named Sadoc.  This rabbi had begun to teach that humans did not have a spirit and there was no such thing as a spirit world (angels etc…).  They rejected any concept of a resurrection and an afterlife.  They only accepted the Books of the Law (The first 5 books of the Old Testament) and rejected the rest.  They tended to treat the Scriptures like life lessons rather than commands to be obeyed.  This is similar to what the Greeks did with their mythologies.  They see the stories as inspiring rather than inspired, something to incorporate into your life rather than something to be obeyed.  In that sense they were the religious liberals of their day (in contrast to the Pharisees who were very much religious conservatives).  In all respects they were moralizing naturalists.

These Sadducees present a hypothetical situation to Jesus and ask a question concerning it.  In this hypothetical situation they are referring to a teaching in the Law of Moses regarding a man who dies without having a son to inherit his property.  Israel was had twelve tribes who had very clear tribal boundaries.  Within these tribes were clans and families who had ancestral properties.  It was important for them to keep their property within the family and thus it was common for someone within the family to marry the widow in order to raise up a son to inherit for the dead man.  In this way, his name and his family property would not be lost to others.  Yes, God could have given them a different way to deal with this situation, but it was a very common practice in the middle east and was not adverse to the purposes of God.  We need to recognize that when God gave His law to Moses for Israel, He could have made it so perfect that no one would have even tried.  Instead, there are areas where God says, “You will not do this thing that your culture does.”  And in other areas He says, “You can still do this, but restrain yourself in these ways.”  Lastly, He sometimes does not make an issue out of things that He could have.  It is easy to judge the law that God gave Israel.  However, I would put before you that we should more humble in such judgments.  What will people 100 years from now think about your moral judgments and life?  Wouldn’t they be shocked at some of the things you did and called good?  How about 2,000 years from now?  I am not saying that God changes the definition of what is good.  But rather, the purpose of the Law was not to make a timeless statement of what a perfect society looks like.  Rather, it was to restrain the sin of Israel long enough so that God could do His work of redemption through them.  Also, it was to show them their guilt before God.  None are righteous, no not one.

So in this hypothetical situation we have a woman whose husband dies childless.  Thus the husband’s brother marries her to raise up an heir.  Yet, this guy also dies before having a child.  This happens 7 times until at last the woman dies without ever having a child and being married to 7 different men.  Now it seems quite obvious that no such situation existed, or ever had.  It is important to recognize in arguments that many hypothetical situations are so rare that they have little bearing on the issue.  Take time to analyze them and recognize the motives behind shaping the story in that way.  Now this story would be the same problem even if there was only two husbands.   Whose wife will she be after the resurrection?  We will get to the answer in a moment.

Why 7 times?  It is because the Sadducees in no way believe in a resurrection.  It is a ridiculous notion to them.  It is asked in this way to reduce the idea of a resurrection to an absurdity in the minds of those listening to Jesus.  They believe that any answer Jesus could give would make him look ridiculous.  Surely, he wouldn’t say that she will be a wife to all seven.  She could only be the wife of one man.  So who would it be, the first or the last?  And, under what justification would that be made?  In their minds they have given Jesus an impossible situation that will make him look ridiculous in the minds of those watching on.  Now let me remind you that we are being manipulated today.  Whether in politics or in everyday life on the job, things are not always as they seem.  Be careful how you judge things.  Sometimes you are being manipulated to walk away from a good leader.  Leaders can also be manipulated to use their authority against the wrong people.  Be slow to judge and quick to listen.  Be quick to pray for God’s wisdom to see through such manipulations.  We could spend more time on this.  However, simply receive this as a basic caution to quick judgments.

The Truth About The Resurrection

They get more than they bargained for on that day because Jesus doesn’t just answer the question.  He also gives new revelation regarding this resurrection spoken of by the prophets before him, which should be a reminder to us.  We know nothing about the resurrection except what God has revealed to us.  In fact this is also the reason we know anything about God and His purposes.  Thus throughout history God spoke to godly men and confirmed His word with fulfilled prophecy.  Yes, He would reveal the future in advance to substantiate what was being revealed about heavenly purposes.

Yet, there is a tendency within man to try and fill in the gaps between such truth with our own logic.  We create suppositions and hypotheses, prop them up with “biblical logic,” and call them doctrines.  Thus whole systems of theology are created that leave precious little to the humility of ignorance.  We are too proud to remain ignorant.  The truth is that God does not reveal to us most of what is to come.  He gives us enough to understand His intentions and to trust Him.  Why are we not okay with that?  The Sadducees had elevated their opinions to the level of Truth.  “There is no resurrection, period, and anyone who believes in it is a deceived idiot!”  Instead of humility before God’s Word, they were filled with their own wisdom and knowledge.

Jesus simply tells them that there is no marriage in the age following the Resurrection.  Thus the question is moot.  She will be the wife of no one and they will be the husbands of no one.  Why?  There are a couple of reasons given.

First, our bodies after the Resurrection will be immortal (never die).  Part of God’s purpose in marriage is procreation.  We are dying beings and thus we must replicate ourselves on the earth.  If we do not then mankind will cease to be.  After the Resurrection we will not need to replicate ourselves because none of us will die.  This revelation probably caught the questioners by surprise.

Second, marriage is intended to be a symbol of man’s union with God.  Thus Jesus says we will be equal to the angels (in that we don’t die) and will be Sons of God.  Although he doesn’t tie in the marriage analogy, he does insinuate that we will be in direct relationship with God like the angels are.  The work that is done to make a marriage work involves a man “laying his life down” for his wife.  Thus marriage is a picture of the work of salvation and redemption.  We were designed in such a way and given such an institution of marriage in order to remind us of God’s plan and purpose.  Thus we marry now as a prophetic picture of what is to be.  After the resurrection we will be eternally wed to God as a people.  Today we say, “’Till death do us part.”  But the union with God following the Resurrection is to never be separated by death.  We will not “wed” each other because we will be wed to God.  It is clear that Jesus is pointing out that life will be quite different in the age to come.  We are not just living this life over again, like some kind of reincarnation.  Our flesh will be very different from the flesh of today and so the way that we live will be quite different too.

This leads to some things we should think about.  The reason God hates adultery and divorce is because it causes hurt and pain, but also because it symbolizes a break up and failure of this eternal plan of God.  Part of the reason why God rejects same-sex sexuality and marriage is because of what it says about His eternal purposes.  It symbolizes humanity rejecting God and moving forward only with themselves.  It also symbolizes God rejecting mankind and moving on without us.  This will never happen.  God will not turn back from His plan.  Why does God reject pre-marital sex?  He does so because of what it does to the symbol of His great commitment to us.  When you see the other person only as a means of sex and fun until the next person comes along, then you diminish the powerful commitment that God has made to us and wants us to reciprocate.  Pre-marital sex trivializes the marriage and strengthens the very things that will get in the way of the greater relationship that can be.

In Matthew 22:29 and following, we see that Jesus made another statement before giving this answer.  He said, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.”  Now in verses 37-38 of Luke 20, Jesus is not pointing out the most powerful passages regarding resurrection in the Old Testament.  The most powerful passages are in Isaiah 26:19-21, Ezekiel 37:12-14, Daniel 12:1-3, and even Job 19:25-27.  But these were books that the Sadducees rejected.  Thus Jesus takes an example from the books that they did accept and mercifully shows them the logic of why there must be a resurrection.  Sometimes we are ignorant of God’s word because we don’t read it.  But other times we are ignorant because we have told ourselves it can’t be trusted.  Don’t make this mistake.  God knows what He is talking about.  We are the ones who have no clue.  Quit being so proud of your own intellect and logic, and rejecting the testimony of The One who created all things.

Jesus reminds them of God’s words in the burning bush passage.  God reveals Himself to Moses by saying, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  Jesus points out that God is not the God of the dead but of the living.  Two things must be said here.  First, God didn’t say I was the God of Abraham.  “I am!”  God was presently still the God of Abraham.  Now in the mindset of that culture it was unthinkable to say that God was the God of the dead.  This was a phrase that the pagan cultures used to speak of their false Gods.  The God of death was synonymous with the devil at this point.  Yet, in other places in the speaking of Jesus we see that he speaks about the living and the dead in a qualitative sense.  What I mean by this can be demonstrated by several simple statements of Jesus.  He spoke of those who though dead would still live and of those who though alive were still dead.  Living and dead are not statements of whether someone is breathing or not.  No matter how much you breath and animate yourself in this life, if you go on into eternity separated from God then you have always been dead, even while you “lived.”  But, if you are in relationship with God then you never really die.  O yes, you give up this flesh, but then the God of life brings you to Himself.  If He created us to be Flesh and Blood, will He not then plan to reunite us with new flesh?  Thus the prophets spoke of the resurrection that God had revealed to them.

Let me close by recognizing that we are most able to be manipulated when we reject that which God has given to us.  In fact we can become a tool of the enemy against the purposes of God when we refuse to hear the words of life.  Listen to His Word today! 

Tricks and Traps II audio

Monday
Sep072015

A Trial of Tricks and Traps

Luke 20:20-26.  This sermon was preached on August 30, 2015 by Pastor Marty Bonner.

In the last week leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, he was at the temple each day teaching the people.  Unable to challenge his authority successfully, the religious leaders resort to different tricks and traps in order to try and stop Jesus.  Their rebuff by Jesus only led to a more determined desire to get rid of Jesus.  Today we will be looking a a specific type of trap and that is a political one.

It is important as believers in a difficult situation to observe how our Lord deals with this trap and learn from him.

The Schemes of the Wicked

In verses 20-21 we are told that they were watching Jesus as he was teaching, both obviously and in a hidden way through spies.  They were looking for anything to use against Jesus.  As brothers it is good for us to look out and watch out for one another.  However, these were looking for anything they could use either to neutralize Jesus or to apprehend him.    It also says that they were hoping to find something that would legitimize handing him over to the Roman authorities.  This attempt to trap people in order to take them out is not a path of righteous people.  It is a hallmark of the wicked.

Thus they operated in pretense.  They only pretended to be righteous and concerned about righteous matters.  But in reality they are wicked.  They use pious questions and religious cover to keep their wickedness from being recognized by people.  Of course this didn’t trick Jesus.  But we need to recognize how the wicked operate.  Not everyone who speaks piously has pure motives.  We need to have the wisdom of Christ and not take everything at face value.

Notice how they set up their question in verse 21.  They approach Jesus with flattery.  Now everything they say is technically true of Jesus.  But their motivation of flattery is intended to mask their true motivation.  We must be careful of those who talk us up and give us high praise.  It is not wrong to praise people where it is due.  However, if you are receiving praise you need to be careful to keep pride in check.  Also, on the other side, if you are giving praise, you need to be careful that you are not trying to make yourself look better in the eyes of the person you praise.  Keep it short and sweet and move on.  Do not use praise to try to obtain power or influence on others.

Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar

In verse 22 we are given the question, which is a political trap.  “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  I believe the response of Jesus, “Why do you test me,” is intended to let them know that he sees through their ruse.  Yet, it is an important question.  Whether we are questioning others or being questioned, the motivation of the questioner is key.  Often a questioner has no desire to actually learn anything.  They ask the question as part of a greater agenda.  This is not a marker of a righteous person.  Thus Jesus prefaces his answer with a challenge to these men to think about why they are testing him.

This question has some history in Israel.  Since Judea had been taken over by the Roman governors, taxes had to be paid.  Several tax revolts had surfaced over the years with the understanding that to pay taxes to this wicked country was compromise.  They usually taught that God would help them if they “quit compromising” and fought the Romans.  Each of these uprising were crushed quickly by the Romans.  So the question is a legitimate one for that day and age.  However, it was also a very dangerous question to answer. 

If Jesus says it is not lawful, then the Romans will see him as a threat and at least imprison him.  If Jesus says it is lawful, then it will undermine his popularity with the people.  They believe he is the messiah.  He has essentially refused to publicly renounce this.  Thus it would be strange to the people to have the Messiah teaching that they should be paying taxes to Rome.  Surely the Messiah has come to deliver us from Rome.

Jesus tells them to bring him a coin called a denarius.  By this time much of the trade and commerce of Israel and the surrounding area was done in Roman currency.  Thus Jesus points out the reality that they are using Roman currency.  If you are using Roman currency then you have an obligation to the Roman government.  Rome had conquered Israel.  Now Israel had the authority to fight to the death to the end and never surrender.  But in the end they did surrender to Israel.  Such a surrender is a recognition that God had allowed the other country to conquer you.  Thus Jesus tells them to give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and to God the things that belong to God.

This reminds me of the prophet Jeremiah.  He had warned the king of Israel that God had given Israel into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.  Thus he counseled them to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, rather than fighting.  This was rejected by the leaders and things went worse for them.  Jesus here reminds them that it is lawful because God who gave the law had also given Rome authority over Israel.  They needed to submit to this and look to His timing for deliverance.

Yet, the master stroke of Jesus is to also remind them that they still have obligations to God as well.  “Give to God the things that are God’s.”  So what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God?  Caesar has much things under his authority, including Israel.  However, even Caesar belongs to God.  Tyrants and statists have often made demands on Christians throughout history.  Submit to us!  And, often Christians have submitted in many ways.  However, they have also stood up to them in other ways.  So what do we do?  Rebel against tyrants or submit to them?  The answer is determining when the tyrant or All-Powerful-State demands from us something that belongs only to God.  Yes we could abuse that by declaring that everything belongs to God and thus we should give nothing to such governments.  However, the Bible says that no power can rise up but what God allows it.  Israel can claim that all their money belonged to God, but that is a pious ruse that seeks to avoid the harsh reality that they were under judgment of God.  When we humbly admit and submit to our disciplines from God, then we will learn to wait upon Him for our day of deliverance.

We see this with the apostles.  When the Jewish authorities commanded them to stop teaching about Jesus, they answered that they had to obey God.  God had directed them to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Thus they would not comply with such an unlawful order.  Yet, these same apostles submitted to the repercussions of such a choice.  In other words, they rebelled against the unlawful order without becoming rebels themselves.  If we are rebels then we are rebels against the demands of the flesh.

So what about a democracy?  Christians should exercise the rights that they have to their fullest extent without becoming belligerent to the results.  If such a society deems it “good” to persecute Christians for obeying God, then we accept that.  Sure, there is a time to flee such persecution.  There is also a time to stand and be a prophetic witness to that persecution, even a martyr.  Yet, each must be led by the Truth of God and the Spirit of Christ, not our rebellious flesh.

Today there are groups that seek to trap Christians with the politics of the day.  Christians need to be careful that they know exactly who they are serving.  May God give us wisdom in these days to see through the political traps that seek to make us fear.  We are His.  We can fulfill our obligation to the USA as long as it doesn’t conflict with God’s commands to us.  Take this to heart because it will be critical in the days ahead.

Tricks and Traps audio