Testing Jesus

Posted: January 7, 2013 in Matthew

Matthew 22:15-33, “Testing Jesus”

Has anyone ever put you to the test?  If you’re a parent, no doubt you’ve experienced your child testing your boundaries every now and again.  Students in school are regularly tested to assess how much they’ve learned.  But what about a test that is meant for you to fail?  Have you ever been tested by someone who wanted to trip you up?  More than a test – it’s a trap.

That’s what Jesus experienced from Pharisees and Sadducees.  They came at Him with tests, each trying to outwit and discredit Jesus, but neither could succeed.  How so?  It’s impossible to outwit God.

Two tests – each different in their scope, but similar in their outline.  There is an adversary that sets up a theological dilemma.  They paint such a stark problem that there seems to be no way of resolving it.  Jesus does resolve it, wonderfully – and everyone is left amazed at His response.  Jesus would not be trapped by either the right wing or left wing of the religious culture.  Why?  Because the Almighty All-wise God cannot be trapped by human tests.  It simply cannot be done.  The only way God can be “caught” by men is if God allows Himself to be caught – which is basically what happened during Jesus’ arrest & crucifixion.  That was not an instance of Man overcoming God; but rather God allowing Himself to be placed into the hands of Men.  The cross was a willing sacrifice…Jesus did that out of His love for us & the glory of God.

Yet it is not yet time for the cross.  To be sure, it’s coming!  Chronologically speaking, Jesus’ arrest was mere days away at this point.  But Jesus could not (and would not) be arrested before the time.  He could not be trapped by the scheming of men.  The Pharisees and Sadducees tried to trap Jesus through their tests, but we are not invited to test Jesus.  We are invited to surrender to Jesus by faith.

Matthew 22:15–33
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, …

  1. From the outset we can see that what the Pharisees were about to ask is not an honest question.  They were not looking for information from Jesus, nor were they seeking to learn more about Him.  They specifically set out to trap Him.  This was a plot to “entangle Him in His talk.”  They had wanted to kill Jesus earlier (most recently when Jesus told the parable of the wicked vineyard servants), but they were restrained because they feared the response of the crowds. (Matt 21:46).  If they were going to kill Jesus, they needed the multitudes on their side, so they needed to find some way to get Jesus to say something that would make Him repulsive in the eyes of the crowds.  (And there’s hardly an easier avenue of doing that than turning the topic to politics and taxes!)
  2. Notice who the Pharisees partnered with in this: “the Herodians.”  We don’t know much about this group from historical writings, but from their name it seems apparent that these were people who supported the Roman client government of King Herod.  These would be people who favored the Roman oppression of Judea, as well as all of the accompanying taxes that went along with it.  Normally, the Pharisees would have had nothing to do with a group such as this.  As the saying goes, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”

…saying, “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.

  1. Quite a bit of flattery from people who have made no secret of their hatred of Jesus, and murderous desire.  Jesus had been tested repeatedly by the Pharisees (including the question on marriage & divorce – Mt 19), and it would have been obvious to all that they thought Jesus was a liar or a false prophet, despite the proof to the contrary.  To come out in public lauding Jesus as a “true” teacher was nothing but a bunch of obvious snake-oil.
  2. What the Pharisees meant insincerely is actually entirely accurate.
    1. Jesus is “true”: Beyond the content of Jesus’ teachings, this goes to the heart of Jesus’ character.  HE is true.  He is faithful & righteous & just in every respect.
    2. Jesus teaches “the way of God in truth.”  What Jesus teaches is completely true and accurate.  He does not mislead or otherwise teach falsely.  When Jesus teaches us something in the Scripture, we can be sure that He will not lead us astray. (Scripture is infallible…it is also inerrant.)
    3. nor do You care about anyone”: This isn’t to say that Jesus is uncaring or without compassion. (Quite to the contrary!)  Rather, Jesus does not care about pleasing the changing opinions of men.  Jesus cares nothing about being politically correct; He simply speaks the truth.  If someone does not like the truth, that doesn’t make the teaching any less true. … Along these same lines, Jesus doesn’t show partiality.  He doesn’t play favorites – He doesn’t change the truth to make His people look any better.
  3. All of this was true about Jesus, but the Pharisees did not really believe it.  They just wanted to butter Jesus up to trap Him in a no-win situation.  See vs. 17…

17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

  1. With this, they thought they had Jesus cornered.  They gave Him a simple yes/no question, but there was hardly anything simple about it.  This was a no-win scenario.  Here they were in public, with witnesses from the theological hard-liners of the Pharisees – people who held the nation of Israel in high regard, stoking the nationalistic zeal any time there was an opportunity.  At the same time there were witnesses from the Herodians – people who would report back to the Roman authorities anything that would possibly undermine the decidedly non-Jewish government of Herod & the Romans.  If Jesus would say that taxes were wrong, He’d win the approval of the people but make Himself an enemy of the Roman state.  If Jesus said that taxes were right & lawful (meaning upheld by Jewish law), then He would appear to be afraid of Roman retaliation and have little regard for what the Scriptures said about the Jewish nation.
  2. What Matthew doesn’t tell us (but rather assumes the reader already knows) is of the recent rebellion and war that took place over precisely this issue.  “In AD 6 Judas of Galilee led a revolt against the first procurator because he took a census for tax purposes (Jos. Antiq. XVIII, 3[i.1]).” (Carson)  He was actually mentioned by Gamiliel during the days of the early church as an example of a failed messianic leader (Acts 5:37).  The political party known as the Zealots had taken up the same cause, and were active at the time…one was even included among the numbers of the 12 apostles (Simon, called the Zealot – Lk 6:15).  All of this was fresh in the memories of the people who were present witnessing this exchange.  Would Jesus side with the Jewish nation or with the Romans?  With this, the Pharisees would have thought that Jesus was trapped, and that they had won.  They were wrong.  J

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?

  1. Notice that Jesus isn’t fooled in the slightest.  He knew exactly what was going on.  He knew that this was not an honest question from the Pharisees, but a “test.”  They were being totally insincere in their question, and it was plainly obvious.  God won’t be fooled by insincerity, either from the Pharisees or from us.  There are people who try to put God up to tests, claiming “I’ll believe in You, if You only do ___ in my life.”  Or, “If it wasn’t for ____ teaching, of course I’d believe in the Bible.”  Most of the time, these aren’t sincere reasons, but insincere excuses, and God isn’t fooled by it in the slightest.  There is nothing wrong when we go to God with a sincere question.  Jesus is true, and He will provide us true answers, when we humble ourselves before Him in faith.  But there is something wrong when we go with an agenda, looking for an excuse to shut God out of our lives.
  2. Beyond the sin of the test, the Pharisees had sinned in their hypocrisy.  Here they are, attempting to get Jesus to take a stand against the Herodians when here the Pharisees were WITH the Herodians partnering together in public. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

19 Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

  1. What seems to jump off the page here is that Jesus had to be given one of the coins.  Jesus didn’t even have the money on Him that the Pharisees were asking about.  They were the ones carting it around; not Jesus. … Obviously Jesus and His disciples did not lack for anything, but the New Testament never shows Him as being outwardly wealthy.  In contrast to what so many people attempt to proclaim about Jesus & the luxuries He supposedly enjoyed, Jesus actually lived the exact opposite of the “health & wealth” gospel. …
  2. BTW – pointing out the image & inscription gets to part of the problem with the money.  It was idolatrous.  Coins have been found with Caesar’s portrait on one side & an image of a goddess on the other side along with the inscription, “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the Divine Augustus.”  The money of the United States has the (much ignored) proclamation “In God we trust” – the Roman money had the proclamation that Caesar was god!  Paying taxes to the government ought to have been far less offensive to the Pharisees than carrying around the cash that compromised the 1st & 2nd Commandments. Why wouldn’t they want to get rid of that money as soon as possible?  Of course the only reason they had the money in the first place was because the nation had been disobedient to God.  Their true King was standing before them at the very moment, but they are rejecting Him, preferring the pagan Roman rule to the Messiah given by God.

21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

  1. The Pharisees gave Jesus a yes/no question, but He did not give them a simple yes/no answer.  The truth was bigger than that – yet Jesus still made it incredibly simple.  This is divine wisdom in action – the word of wisdom given by God.
  2. What did Jesus tell them?  If something belongs to Caesar, give it to Caesar.  If something belongs to God, give it to God.  Jesus neither gives an excuse to withhold the payment of taxes, nor does He imply anything less than full obedient submission to God.  The Pharisees had attempted to make this an either/or scenario, and Jesus showed that this wasn’t the case.  The people did not have to choose between either obeying the law of the land or the law of God – they could obey both, and whenever possible they should honor both if they were going to honor God.
  3. For the Jew, this would have been truly remarkable teaching.  For much of their history, they had lived in their own homeland, yet still occupied by a foreign government.  They were always looking for the restoration of the kingdom – and one of the expectations for their Messiah would be exactly that.  The Messiah would reestablish the kingdom of Israel, and His reign would spread all over the world.  For the Jew to recognize a different government over them would be a constant reminder that they did not have their own kingdom.  Things were not as they were supposed to be, and they held on to the promise that it would one day change.  What Jesus tells them here is basically this: the kingdom they were expecting was not coming according to their expectations.  Obviously the Messianic kingdom would come – but until it did, they had a responsibility as God’s people to live in a way that was honoring to God.  Even to the point of submitting to the foreign pagan leader that ruled their land.  This was a situation allowed by God, and the people needed to submit themselves to what God was doing.
    1. In a sense, this is not much different than what God told the people through Jeremiah & other prophets prior to the people being taken into the Babylonian captivity.  There was no doubt that the Lord would allow them to be taken captive & carted off to a land not their own.  But while they were there, they were to plant gardens & build houses (Jer 29:5).  IOW, they were going to be there a while & they needed to be good peaceful representatives of the Lord God wherever they were, no matter what the circumstances were around them.  They could still hold to the future promises of God for a restoration without dishonoring the people around them.  By submitting to the foreign peoples God had placed over them, they would be submitting to the will of God.
    2. Likewise for the Jews of Jesus’ day in Jerusalem.  They may not have liked the Roman government, but God had not given them the freedom to oppose the Roman government.  This was the system that had been allowed by God, and they were to trust God in the midst of it.  (And of course if they were trusting God, then they would be looking to Christ…who was standing right in front of them!)
  4. What this does for the NT Christian is establish the idea of dual citizenship.  Jesus in indeed our King, and through faith in Him we are given citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.  That is our home, and we look forward with great anticipation to the day that Jesus will take us there.  He’s given us a promise that He will come back for us, that where He is, we will be also (Jn 14:3).  We know that there is a promise of a physical earthly kingdom of the Lord Jesus, which will be initiated in its fullness the moment Jesus returns in His 2nd Coming.  Yet with all of this in mind, we know that these are all future promises.  That day is coming, but it’s not yet here.  We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven now, but we do not yet see the kingdom of heaven in all of its fullness.  So then the question becomes: what do we do in the meantime?  We live as both citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and citizens of the nations in which we now live.  As Jesus taught elsewhere, as Christians we are in the world, but not of the world (Jn 17:14).  Jesus’ own kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36), yet we still live here.  We are ambassadors of Jesus to this world (2 Cor 5:20) as we take His message of salvation and reconciliation with God all over the world in which we live. … What this all means is that like the ancient Jews, we still need to live as good representatives of our Lord Jesus in whatever earthly kingdom we currently find ourselves.  So we live as good citizens.  We exercise our duties.  We pay our taxes.  We honor our government leaders and pray for them.  When we submit to our government officials, then we are submitting to the order that God has allowed to be established…and thus we are ultimately submitting to God.
  5. Some people get the idea that when we become believers in Christ, we exempt ourselves from the laws of the nation in which we were born.  That’s simply not true.  What Jesus teaches here regarding giving to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar is picked up in the rest of the New Testament.  Paul tells the Romans to be subject to the governing authorities, and not to resist them. (Rom 13:1-2)  He specifically tells them to pay their taxes and to honor them (Rom 13:7).  Don’t miss that part.  Christians aren’t just to do the “minimum” by paying their taxes & staying out of jail.  We’re to go beyond that & honor the leaders God allows us to have – even praying for them.  1 Timothy 2:1–2, "(1) Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, (2) for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence."  […]  1 Peter 2:13–17, "(13) Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, (14) or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. (15) For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— (16) as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. (17) Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." [] If this was true as Christians suffered under the oppression of the murderous Roman Caesar, surely it’s true for Christians living in post-Christian secular America today.

22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

  1. It’s no wonder that “they marveled.”  Jesus’ answer would have astounded them all!  The ones who came to stump Jesus left themselves stumped, having no response to what Jesus told them.  It’s impossible to intellectually trap the All-Knowing Son of God!  Of course, that didn’t stop people from trying…

23 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him,

  1. Almost as if the Sadducees were waiting their turn in line, they come up to Jesus the very “same day” and attempt their own version of entanglement.  The Sadducees comprised most of the priestly class, and it was likely they were awaiting an opportunity such as this to discredit Jesus after Jesus had overturned the tables of money-changers earlier in the week.  They had been rebuffed earlier by Jesus when the people proclaimed Him to be the Messiah (the Son of David), and when they tried to show Jesus’ supposed lack of credentials, they found the tables turned on themselves when Jesus asked them about the authority of John the Baptist.  Now the priests had gone back to the rest of the Sadducees and came up with a plan to intellectually discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people.
  2. The footnote that Matthew includes regarding the Sadducee’s view of the resurrection is actually the key to the entire test.  Being that most Christians are Gentiles 2000 years removed from the days of Jesus in Judea, we sometimes miss out on the theological and political ideas of the day.  Just like the modern Christian church has both conservatives and liberals (right wing & left wing), so did the ancient Jews.  The Pharisees could be thought of as the conservatives.  To be sure, they had a myriad of problems – they were legalistic & hypocritical.  They added tradition after tradition of man onto the word of God, allowing God’s word to be compromised in order to uphold their own version of tradition.  But by and large, the Pharisees believed the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures, from the early words of Genesis through the last of the prophets.  Theologically speaking, they would have been far closer to Jesus & the disciples than any other Jewish group around.  (Which is perhaps one reason Jesus spent so much time addressing their hypocrisy!)  The Sadducees were the theological liberals.  They were the political elites & the priestly class with a minority of people in the land, but a majority of power within the nation.  In contrast to the Pharisees, the Sadducees rejected much of the Scripture.  They received only the first 5 books of Moses as truly authoritative, and even in that they dismissed much of the accounts of the supernatural.  In that, they are not all that different from the theological liberals in “mainline” Ivy League seminaries today.  They considered themselves more enlightened than the everyday “rubes” who believed the whole Bible, and one doctrine they specifically rejected was that of the resurrection.

24 saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.

  1. What they quote here is actually accurate.  They reference the idea of levirate marriage, which Moses describes in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
  2. Although the practice may seem rather bizarre to 21st century American evangelical Christians, the law was an extraordinary measure of compassion and grace given by God.  To the ancient middle-eastern culture this was given, women had previously been thought of as little more than property.  Typically a single woman had virtually no way of providing for herself, and would stay with family or face abject poverty.  So imagine the scenario in which a woman is left childless and a widow.  She has moved away from her father’s house, and now has no husband, nor any son that is being raised to help support her.  She would need help, and the family she married into was to provide that help.  This was compassion in action!  And beyond the act of compassion, there was another issue at work: inheritance.  Remember that the promised land of gift of God to the 12 tribes of Israel.  Each family received land that was irrevocably given to them, meant to be passed down from generation to generation.  When a male child received the inheritance, he was to pass it down to his son, and so forth.  Yet what would happen if the man died prior to seeing his children born – would his inheritance fade into nothingness?  No.  According to the law, his brothers would take up the levirate duty and see that his inheritance would continue, thus honoring the covenant promises of God.
  3. The Sadducees know all of this well – they just use the good & just law of God to pose a theological conundrum to Jesus.  (Which goes to show how little respect they had for the Scriptures!)

25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27 Last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”

  1. Obviously they are arguing the absurd.  This was certainly not a real scenario that they had encountered (or they would have brought along the widow with them).  Most likely, this was a riddle they had used to stump the Pharisees on past occasions, and they thought it would work on Jesus as well.
    1. This happens all too often with skeptics today.  They read a few puzzling passages of Scripture on the internet, along with what seems to be a fool-proof argument against Christianity, and they trot it out any time they want to mock a believer in Christ or attempt to tear down someone’s faith.  Generally they haven’t thought it through, or realized that the Church has had 2000 years to answer the objections thrown at it, and myriads of answers had already been provided.  It’s an example of dishonest skepticism – something that is completely agenda-driven without any expectation of a true conversation or discussion.
    2. How does the Christian deal with it?  Many times, there’s no need even to get involved.  We can provide every answer the Bible has, but if someone isn’t willing to listen, what’s the point?  Jesus tells us elsewhere not to “cast pearls before swine” – it just does no good.  What skeptics need is not a ton of tiny answers to all of the tiny objections they throw out – they need a life-changing encounter with the Living God.  (Which is exactly what the Sadducees are going to receive!)
  2. The actual question of the Sadducees is filled with as much hypocrisy as that of the Pharisees.  “Therefore, in the resurrection…”  They don’t even believe in the resurrection!  And of course, that’s why they’re asking the question.  They’re trying to point out that the resurrection is something absolutely ridiculous in which to believe, because there’s no way it could accommodate every single possible situation that would arise in life.

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.

  1. Here’s the real issue!  It wasn’t that they had a theological problem that needed solving; they simply didn’t believe what God had already told them in the Scripture.  They did not know the Bible, nor did they have any true understanding of the power of God. 
  2. The Bible makes the idea of the resurrection and eternal life absolutely plain.  There is no way to make myriads of promises of the Old Testament make sense without some form of eternal life.  How could David claim about his dead son that his son would not be able to come to him, but David would eventually go to him? (2 Sam 12:23)  What about the direct prophecy in the Psalms that God would not leave the Messiah to see physical corruption? (Ps 16:10)  Over and over again, the Old Testament (and NT, though this wasn’t in view) showed the promises of eternal life with God. 
    1. The problem with the Sadducees is that they simply refused to see these abundant promises in the Scripture.  Like “red-letter Christians” today (who might look only at the gospels but refuse the letters of Paul), they only acknowledge a small portion of the Bible to actually be the inspired word of God, and they restrict themselves from what God has graciously provided to them.  Words breathed out by the Holy Spirit carry as much validity if they were spoken by Jesus or if they were written by Malachi.  It is all God’s inspired word, and He gave ALL of it to us for our edification.
  3. Because the Sadducees did not believe the resurrection, they also showed themselves not to understand the power of God.  Can not the God who created the world by the power of His very word raise the dead?  Surely this is something that is not too hard for God!  To restrict God from the supernatural is to believe in God that is very different from the One told us in the Bible.  In the Bible, God consistently acts in the history of His people.  There are acts of power, words of instruction, guidance, the fulfillment of prophecy, and more.  ALL of these are acts of the supernatural, by definition (“super/above” + “nature”).  For the Sadducees to say that God does not/cannot do these things is for the Sadducees to betray their own lack of faith. By the way – even the few books of the Bible that the Sadducees did acknowledge show that God had the power to raise the dead.  This was Abraham’s hope regarding the test God gave him with Isaac.  Abraham went out to the mountain with only his beloved son to give the sacrifice God commanded, and yet he promised his servants awaiting him that both the lad and himself would return to them (Gen 22:5).  Abraham did not know how exactly God would provide Himself a sacrifice (vs. 8), but he knew that even if he had to go through with the awful sacrifice of Isaac, that God is capable of raising the dead.  (Which the author of Hebrews tells us was the explicit thought of Abraham – Hb 11:19)
    1. Even today, the idea of people being raised from the dead is a tough thing for some to believe.  They might like the thought of eternal life in general, but they have trouble with the idea of an actual physical resurrection (or corresponding rapture, where believers in Christ are physically caught up in the air to be with Jesus).  It sounds ridiculously impossible to them.  After all, what about all of the people who do not have physical graves?  What about the ones who were eaten by animals, or buried at sea?  What about physical bodies that long ago decomposed to dust after thousands of years?  What about cremation?  Wouldn’t all of these things make physical resurrection impossible?  No.  A thousand times, no. J  From a human point of view, certainly all of this is impossible.  Of course, we cannot even raise the dead – much less reassemble a totally decomposed body.  Yet we’re not talking about human, but the Omnipotent Creator God.  Jeremiah 32:27, "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?" []  No!  Nothing is too hard for God!  God knit our bodies together in our mothers’ wombs.  God pre-knew us individually before the foundations of the world.  For God to give us a physical body after death is surely no more difficult for Him to have given us a physical body in which to be born in the first place.  Of all the things we may wonder, we need not worry about whether or not God is capable of being true to His word in giving us a physical resurrection.  Nothing is too difficult for God!

30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.

  1. Jesus addresses the actual question of the Sadducees here, but treats it like the side-show issue that it was.  There was no need to get into the details of the levirate marriage law because there was no contradiction between the law and the truth of the resurrection.  Relationships will of course exist in heaven, but they will be fundamentally different.  There is only one marriage that the Scripture repeatedly prepares us for in eternity: the one between Christ and the Church.  That one marriage is the marriage to which all others look forward.  That’s not to say that earthly spouses will not know one another in heaven – surely we will know each other better in heaven than we were ever capable of knowing one another here on earth!  It simply means that things will be different.  Christianity is not like other false religions & cults that look for 72 virgins or multiple wives to be used in planet population.  Men and women will not be procreating in heaven – that time will be completed.  Instead, we will be “like angels of God” without any need for procreation.
  2. Please note that Jesus does not say humans “will become angels,” but rather says we will be “like angels of God.”  There is a rather big difference between the two!  Some people get the idea that when we die, we get wings & halos & become angels that float around on clouds in heaven.  (Actually, that doesn’t even describe the Biblical depiction of an angel!)  That’s not what Jesus teaches here.  Angels are angels, and humans remain human.  We simply become resurrected humans in glorified bodies that last for all eternity (like that of angels) and without the need for procreation (like angels).

31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

  1. Getting back to the real issue, Jesus shows them that the doctrine of the resurrection isn’t something new, or something that only the un-intellectual believes.  Resurrection is proclaimed by God Himself…even in one of the few books in which the Sadducees received: Exodus.  (Considering the Sadducees only viewed the five books of Moses as authoritative, it’s tough to find a writing in the Pentateuch more Mosaic than that of the encounter with God at the burning bush!)  God introduces Himself to Moses as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  This isn’t something God WAS, but something God IS.  “I am the God…” By this point, the patriarchs had been dead for a minimum of 400 years, and yet God still referred to them in the present tense.  They may have experienced physical death, but certainly God knew something about them that the rest of the world did not: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob still existed.  After all, “God is not God of the dead, but of the living.
  2. What comfort it is to know that we look forward to life beyond the grave!  Christians who die are not truly dead – they are fully alive in the presence of our Lord and Savior.  In fact, they are more alive than they have ever been before, enjoying the fullness of the glory of God.  Our sorrow comes in that not only do we miss them here, but that we are jealous that they are with Jesus without us!  Christians appropriately grieve when loved ones die, but as Paul writes, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Ths 4:13).  We have a glorious hope – a sure hope!  We will be reunited with our loved ones in Christ again either when we go to heaven ourselves through death, or we are wonderfully raptured together (and they will beat us there by a blink of an eye!).
    1. There is one caveat in all of this…the hope of the resurrection to heaven – the hope of eternal life with God all hinges on whether or not our sins have been forgiven by Jesus and we have received Him as Lord.  Those who are in Christ have the wonderful assured hope of eternity.  Those who are not have no such assurance.  Like the criminal who awaits sentencing, they have a date with the Judge in which they have already been found guilty, and will be sentenced to eternal death.  That’s not what God wants for you – and that’s not what any Christian wants for you.  One of the best gifts you could give your family is the assurance that you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  Families that have the certainty of their loved one in heaven are families that grieve, yet truly rejoice at funerals. …

33 And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

  1. As with the Pharisees, the people were amazed.  The interesting thing here is that with the Pharisees, we are not directly told if all of the peoples were listening in (though it’s certainly implied).  Here, there is no doubt that the multitudes heard what Jesus said to the Sadducees.  The theological elites just got smacked down by the Lord, and it was evident to all.  The wisdom of God was evident to the people, and it trumped the wisdom of men.

Conclusion:
Two tests – two failures by the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  Each attempted to trap Jesus with an unanswerable dilemma, only to find that they were talking to the God who had all of the answers.

To the legalistic Pharisees, Jesus showed that the people of God are awaiting the kingdom of God, but being a good citizen of the kingdom of God also means being a good citizen in the kingdoms in which we now live.  To the liberal Sadducees, Jesus showed that God has unlimited power and His Scriptures tell of His true authority.  To all, He showed Himself to have the wisdom of God because He IS God.

Jesus overcomes all tests.  No matter what people may throw at Him, Jesus overcomes them all.  There is no problem too difficult for Him to handle – there is no adversary that can outwit Him.  Jesus is true – Jesus teaches the truth – and Jesus is the true God.

For the Christian, this ought to give us immense assurance.  In a culture that assails the Christian faith as “backward” and supposedly “anti-science” and “anti-intellectual”, we need to be reminded that our faith is not in fantasy, but in truth.  We do not believe just for the sake of believing – we believe that Jesus is God because that is the plain truth.  The Son of God really did come to earth as a Man – He really did die on the cross as substitution for our sin – and He really did rise from the grave in victory and life.  These are not just article of faith, these are historical facts.  Our faith rests upon the truth, and Jesus will always show Himself to be true, no matter what the culture disintegrates into around us.

For the skeptic, this ought to give you pause.  There is no objection to Jesus that hasn’t already been raised and answered.  To try to come to God with an insincere excuse might make yourself sound intellectual in the ears of others – it might even make some Christians unable to answer – but it will not fool God.  God will not be mocked, and He will not be denied in eternity.  To know that you will one day stand before the Almighty God is a sobering thought…and it is meant to be so.  Know this: God wants you to be saved.  He loves you because He created you, and He sent His Son to die for you.  Jesus took the punishment that you deserved when He died upon the cross, and He rose from the grave giving you all the proof necessary to show He is God, and He had the right to do it.  Don’t be like the Pharisees and Sadducees who tried to mock & trap Jesus, only to turn away when confronted by Him.  Answer the call of Jesus today, and receive the salvation He offers.

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