Sermon Text — Matthew 22:15-21
October 19, 2014 AD
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the 22nd chapter.
A. They Tried to Trap Jesus
Beloved in the Lord, how wicked are these scribes and Pharisees that today they send Herodians to test Jesus. What strange bedfellows these make. The scribes and Pharisees were opposed to Rome and the Herodians were quite comfortable. Yet at the same time, both were threatened by this Jesus of Nazareth. Why? Because Jesus has come to fulfill the Law in our stead, something the scribes and Pharisees refused to believe, because Jesus has come as a King and the Herodians have no king but Caesar. Jesus, you see, is a threat who must be dealt with. Thus those normally opposed to each other find a common enemy this morning. They plan a vain thing against the Lord and against His anointed (Ps. 2). “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. “Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” They try to trap Jesus, not that they may possess Him by faith in His Word, but that they may bring about His destruction, His death, His cross, thereby preserving, so they think, their own interests, their own god.
Their question, however, is a trick question. Many in Israel regard the paying of taxes to an oppressor as sinful. If Jesus says they are to pay taxes, the nation is turned against Him. They have Him. They’ve trapped Him. If Jesus says they ought not to pay taxes He’ll surely be arrested by Rome and her minions for sedition. They have Him. They’ve trapped Him. What lengths these wicked ones will go to preserve their idolatry! They would rather murder the Son of God, than repent and believe, than surrender to God what is rightfully His.
B. Will a Man Rob God of What is His? (Malachi 3:8)
Perceiving their wickedness, Jesus will not be so easily deceived. “Bring me a coin, Whose image and inscription is this?” “Caesar’s,” they say. “Then render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” How is one to respond to these words? Jesus cannot be trapped but instead the tables have now been turned upon these Herodians, and upon us. Compare yourself to this command. Have you rendered unto God what is God’s? Have you given everything to God? “The earth isthe LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1) says the psalmist.
WE have surely looked after ourselves haven’t we? We have taken for our own pleasure what belongs to our Creator. Don’t try to trick Him. Don’t try to trap Him with clever justifications and complicated ethical questions regarding your stewardship. He sees into our heart. He knows our shameful pride, our reluctant, strings-attached gifts, our half-truths and deliberate deceptions. He knows how selfish and unloving we can be . . . and often are.
In truth we are much like these who are plotting a vain thing. For we also attempt to protect our false gods, particularly our money and our possessions. We believe that they give us security. “Many a person thinks that he truly has God and everything in abundance when he has possessions and money. He trusts in them and boasts about them with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one. Such a person has a god by the name of “Mammon”, in other words “money and possessions” (Large Catechism Part I par. 5). Look at your life. Look at your tithe. “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me,” says the Lord. “‘but you say, “in what way have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings” How many of us have withheld from our offerings what is rightly His? How many of us have begrudgingly given 10% or more. How many us pride ourselves on our tithe? Yet the issue is not the amount of the tithe itself, that is a mere reflection of the heart albeit pious or not. The issue is the heart and where one’s trust is placed. The Herodians’ heart was with Rome, the scribes’ and Pharisees’ was with themselves. Where’s yours? How do you reflect that in your life? Render unto God what is God’s.
C. Repent and Believe
Thus, this morning, with scribes, Pharisees, and Herodians, you and I are called to repent of our idolatry. We too often live by the ways of men, the ways of loopholes, double-speak and political maneuverings. We too often try to outsmart God and trap Him with His own words in order to justify our behavior. But that is not the way of God. And Jesus will not allow Himself to be trapped into condoning sin or unbelief. Rather, He who shows no favoritism and does not regard the person of men, calls you and I to repentance and to faith. Instead of trusting in our money and possessions, He would have us trust Him. He would have us look to Him for our security in this life and beyond. He would have us gaze upon what He has already given on the tree of the cross, to trap Him there for ourselves, to have Him, and Him alone as our God, to possess Him forever and ever. For who among us could ever posses anything greater than what Jesus offers you from the cross? Can you find love at Sears? Can you find mercy at Home Depot? Can your health be restored for eternity in any hospital on the planet? Can your heart be filled with the Joy that surpasses all human understanding in front of your large screen television? Can your soul soar on wings of eagles with Delta or Northwest? Can your sins be forgiven by the “almighty dollar?” The answer is an obvious No! Only in Christ, given to us through faith in His death and resurrection, are we gifted with these eternal treasures.
B’. You are already Full and Rich in Christ! (1 Corinthians 4:8)
And so beloved, take heart and be of good cheer! Your money is not your god, rather Christ whose image and inscription you bear in your baptism has come and poured out His gifts upon you so that all that is offered is also delivered to you freely by grace. In Christ, you are already full!, says St. Paul. In Christ you are already Rich! By faith you possess the Son who seeks to possess you for all eternity. Possessing the fullness of God in Christ as well as His riches, why would you ever cleave to that which perishes, which moth and rust destroy?
It is no sin to have possessions. It is no sin to have money. But these are given you for a reason, for your good, and for the good of your neighbor. By tithing from your heart, joyfully returning to God what is rightly His, you enable the proclamation of the Word to continue in this place. This is good for you and for your neighbor! You also enable the physical needs of many who are less fortunate to be met. You share from the bounty of the Lord for the Lord’s work, the Lord’s people, and even those who do not know Him. Such an offering, when given in faith, when given joyfully, trusting in the providence of God, is a pleasant sacrifice a sweet smelling aroma before the Lord.
A’. Jesus Traps Us
Beloved in the Lord, the wicked try to trap Jesus in our text this morning. But He will not be trapped . . . except on the cross. The scribes, Pharisees and Herodians welcomed the cross . . . but refused the gift. They marveled at His Words . . . but did not believe. They were amazed at His wisdom . . . but went away, away from Jesus, away from salvation. They loved their gods to the very end.
However beloved, it is the cross that catches Jesus for us and for our salvation. There you are to find the treasures you need for this life and beyond. From the tree of the cross flow mercy and forgiveness that you cannot earn for yourself, nor can you find anywhere else. The cross traps Jesus for us that we may have Him, that we may possess Him.
But have we really trapped Jesus on the cross, or has Jesus trapped us with His Word? He has trapped us and all who believe. For we are His. We bear His image and His inscription. We are His chosen bride. By the blood we drink, by the Words that enter into our ears, by the watery death we died so long ago, by the power of a Promise from One who cannot lie, we are perfect, innocent, blessed, pure, chaste, undefiled, unblemished, debt-free. We are sanctified for we are His. We’ve been trapped by His Love, by His Gospel. And for that, by the Spirit’s power, we give Him but His own, what ere the gift may be. Thanks be to God! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!