Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
After the Lord Jesus had been examined by the chief priests and the elders of the people concerning the source of His authority, the disciples of the Pharisees with the Herodians questioned Him about giving tribute to Caesar (22:15-22). The Herodians were those who took sides with King Herod’s regime and took part with him in injecting Grecian and Roman manners of life into the Jewish culture. Normally they sided with the Sadducees, but were opposed to the Pharisees; here they united with the Pharisees to ensnare the Lord Jesus.
The Herodians opposed the Pharisees because the Pharisees were very conservative, whereas the Herodians were modern, standing with the Sadducees who also were modernistic in their thinking. However, on this occasion the Herodians and Pharisees conspired to trap the Lord Jesus. They expected Him to fall into their snare. In verse 17 they said to the Lord, “Tell us therefore, What do you think? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” This is really an ensnaring question. All the Jews opposed giving tribute to Caesar. If the Lord Jesus had said that it was lawful to do this, He would have offended all the Jews who followed the Pharisees. But if He said that it was not lawful, this would have given the Herodians, who stood with the Roman government, strong ground to accuse Him. The matter of paying tribute to Caesar was very unpleasant to the Jews; they hated it. The Pharisees were especially against it. However, the Herodians agreed with paying tax to the Roman government. Thus, one of the two parties opposed this matter, and the other favored it. According to their concept, no matter how the Lord answered their question, He would still fall into their snare.
The Lord Jesus, however, is wise and knows how to handle every person and every situation. In verse 19 He said, “Show Me the tribute money.” Then they brought to Him a denarius. The Lord did not show the Roman coin, but asked them to show one to Him. Since they possessed one of the Roman coins, they were caught. By having a Roman coin, they had lost the case already.
Verses 20 and 21 say, “And He says to them, Whose is this image and inscription? They say, Caesar’s. Then He says to them, Pay then what is Caesar’s to Caesar, and what is God’s to God.” To pay Caesar what is Caesar’s is to pay tribute to Caesar according to his governmental regulations. To pay to God what is God’s is to pay the half shekel to God according to Exodus 30:11-16, and to offer all the tithes to God according to the law of God. The Jews were under two authorities, the political authority of Rome and the spiritual authority of God. In Jerusalem there was not only the Roman government, but also the temple of God. For this reason, the Jewish people had to pay tax to both systems, to the Roman government and to God’s temple. Therefore, the Lord told them to pay to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. This answer shocked the Pharisees and the Herodians, and they were defeated.
In 22:23-33 we see the Lord’s test at the hands of the Sadducees. The Sadducees were ancient modernists who did not believe in angels or in resurrection (Acts 23:8). They were exactly like the modernists and higher critics of today who do not believe in the Scriptures, in angels, or in miracles. These ancient modernists came to the Lord with a question regarding the resurrection. It seemed that they were quite clever. They told the Lord of a woman who had married seven brothers and asked Him, “In the resurrection, therefore, of which of the seven will she be the wife? For they all had her” (v. 28). From the human point of view, this was a difficult question. No doubt the Pharisees, the ancient fundamentalists, would have found it hard to answer. The Lord Jesus, however, gave the Sadducees a strong answer.
Verse 29 says, “But Jesus answered and said to them, You are deceived, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Knowing the Scriptures is one thing, and knowing the power of God is another. We need to know both. The Scriptures here refer to the verses of the Old Testament concerning the matter of resurrection, and the power of God refers to the power of resurrection. In His answer to the Sadducees, the Lord did four things: firstly, He condemned them; secondly, He rebuked them; thirdly, He taught them; and fourthly, He muzzled them. He condemned them by telling them that they were deceived. Every modernist has been deceived. For this, they need to be condemned. Today’s modernists must be condemned for denying the resurrection, angels, and miracles. When I was young, such teachings were spreading in China. For example, the modernists said that the water of the Red Sea was not divided and that the people did not cross over on dry land. They claimed that the shallow water of the sea was blown apart by a strong wind and that this enabled the people to walk on land. What a demonic teaching! The ancient modernists, like those of today, thought they were so clever, but actually they were deceived. Therefore, the Lord rebuked them by saying that they did not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
After the Lord condemned and rebuked the Sadducees, He taught them. In verse 30 He said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as angels of God in heaven.” This means that in resurrection there will be no male or female. Hence, there will be no marriage. This will take place by the power of God. Those who deny the resurrection do not know the power of God.
In order to help the Sadducees know the depth of truth implied in the words of the Scriptures, the Lord said, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Since God is the God of the living and is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, these three who have died will be resurrected. This is the way the Lord Jesus handled the Scriptures—not only by the letter, but by the life and power implied within them.
I appreciate the Lord’s interpretation of the Bible. He said that God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If there were no resurrection to come, then God would have to be the God of the dead. The fact that God is the God of the living and that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob proves that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be resurrected. If they are not to be resurrected, then how could God be the God of the living? This is the genuine, honest, living, trustworthy exposition of the Bible. By giving the Sadducees such an answer, the Lord muzzled them.
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