More Significant than Money: Matthew 22:15-22

Focus Passage: Matthew 22:15-22 (NCV)

15 Then the Pharisees left that place and made plans to trap Jesus in saying something wrong. 16 They sent some of their own followers and some people from the group called Herodians. They said, “Teacher, we know that you are an honest man and that you teach the truth about God’s way. You are not afraid of what other people think about you, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 So tell us what you think. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

18 But knowing that these leaders were trying to trick him, Jesus said, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me a coin used for paying the tax.” So the men showed him a coin. 20 Then Jesus asked, “Whose image and name are on the coin?”

21 The men answered, “Caesar’s.”

Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God the things that are God’s.”

22 When the men heard what Jesus said, they were amazed and left him and went away.

Read Matthew 22:15-22 in context and/or in other translations on!

The Pharisees were notorious for trying to trick and trap Jesus saying something wrong. However, every spiritual challenge they brought Jesus’ way was side-stepped, countered, or answered in a way they were not expecting.

After discussing and collaborating with one another, the Pharisees came up with the perfect no-win scenario, but in order to really back Jesus into a corner, they needed to temporarily team up with a group they hated. The gospel of Matthew describes what happened “Then the Pharisees left that place and made plans to trap Jesus in saying something wrong. They sent some of their own followers and some people from the group called Herodians.” (v. 15-16a)

The Herodians were Jews who had aligned themselves with Herod and the Roman government at that time. These Jews were the government supporters in a nation where most leaders disliked but tolerated the government. The Pharisees brought the Herodians with them so that they had both angles covered with enough witnesses to make a case against Jesus with whatever answer He gave.

After setting the question up by giving Jesus some insincere compliments, they get to their question, “So tell us what you think. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (v. 17)

Jesus knew exactly where this question was going, and He easily saw the trap that was in front of Him. If He said to not pay taxes, He would align Himself against the government that imposed taxes. But if He said to pay taxes, He would decrease God’s rule and sovereignty and place a human, oppressive system in its place. In essence, paying taxes off the top of one’s income is stealing the first money that should have been set apart as tithe to God.

Jesus saw the challenge, and He saw the insincerity in how they asked the question. But to really get the point across, Jesus needed to ask a counter question. He asks them to show Him a coin, and then asks, “Whose image and name are on the coin?” (v. 20)

The answer is obvious. There is a right answer, and it really isn’t a trick question. Instead, Jesus uses this obvious illustration to get a point across. There was no way around admitting that Caesar’s image and name are inscribed on each coin.

After they respond, Jesus gives His clear and unexpected response. He says, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God the things that are God’s.”” (v. 21)

In this response, Jesus both calls out the idea that we put our name on the things that are ours, but more importantly, He makes the statement that what belongs to God is so much more significant than money. Money is simply paper and coins — or in today’s era, it is simply a line item in a spreadsheet called a bank account. In contrast, our life, our breath, and our eternity belong to God.

Jesus’ response says that the government can have its money, but that we are to dedicate ourselves – the very essence of who we are – to God. Everyone of us has life because of God, and that makes us His.

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The Interruption: Mark 5:21-34

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While reading the gospels and especially the portion of an event we are looking at in this episode, I wonder if Jesus was ever actually busy or in a hurry. Perhaps this is something that is different in today’s culture than it was at the time Jesus walked the earth, but I imagine that with Jesus’ popularity as a miracle worker, a healer, and a counter-cultural teacher, He would have just as many demands on His time as someone living today. Jesus might have had more demands on His calendar than the busiest of us. Even though Jesus didn’t travel very far over the course of His life, by the later stages of His ministry, I doubt there was anyone living in Israel who didn’t know something about Him.

However, while my life gets busy pretty regularly, and it is easy to let the busyness sidetrack me from slowing down, when I read the gospels, I don’t even see a hint of Jesus acting busy or stressed out. Throughout the gospels, I instead see Jesus modeling a presence in every moment that is very unusual when compared with our highly distracted societies today, and it might have even been unusual in the first century as well.

One great example of Jesus living in each moment comes in our passage for this episode. We will be reading from the gospel of Mark, chapter 5, using the New Century Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 21, we learn that:

21 When Jesus went in the boat back to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him there. 22 A leader of the synagogue, named Jairus, came there, saw Jesus, and fell at his feet. 23 He begged Jesus, saying again and again, “My daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so she will be healed and will live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed Jesus and pushed very close around him. 25 Among them was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered very much from many doctors and had spent all the money she had, but instead of improving, she was getting worse. 27 When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his coat. 28 She thought, “If I can just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Instantly her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was healed from her disease.

30 At once Jesus felt power go out from him. So he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 His followers said, “Look at how many people are pushing against you! And you ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus continued looking around to see who had touched him. 33 The woman, knowing that she was healed, came and fell at Jesus’ feet. Shaking with fear, she told him the whole truth. 34 Jesus said to her, “Dear woman, you are made well because you believed. Go in peace; be healed of your disease.”

We’ll stop reading here because I want to draw out several things that stood out to me while reading this about Jesus.

The first thing that stood out in my mind is that while Jairus urgently wanted Jesus to come quickly because the situation with his daughter looked very bleak, Jesus was more interested in identifying and drawing out the secret miracle. If we think a little deeper about what happens, it’s likely the woman who was healed, Jairus, and most everyone else present would have preferred this woman’s miracle and story to remain hidden.

But Jesus knows that this story needed to be vocalized, and He wanted to highlight this woman’s faith. We learn that the woman who was healed had a powerful testimony, but an even stronger faith that said she would be healed. While we’ll focus on the woman’s faith later in this episode, Jesus was willing to put the urgent situation of a dying child on hold to focus on the faith of a shy, would-rather-not-be-acknowledged woman.

Whether Jesus wanted to validate the woman, her faith, and the healing that just happened, or whether He wanted to stall long enough that Jairus’ daughter would actually die (which sets up the next part of the story), we see Jesus intentionally being present in each moment, even if the situation would pressure Him to hurry forward.

The next thing that stood out in my mind is that we learn that Jairus is a synagogue leader. This is significant to me because while I get the impression from the gospels that virtually all the religious leaders were opposed to Jesus, I highly doubt that this majority included Jairus – especially after this event.

Looking from the opposite perspective is also fascinating. From Jesus’ perspective, even though the majority of the religious leaders opposed Jesus, Jesus didn’t let the stereotype distract Him from choosing to help someone who needed help. Jesus didn’t let the stereotype that all religious leaders opposed Him stop Him from answering the call for help from one religious leader, and Jesus didn’t let the societal view of women stop Him from focusing attention onto this woman’s story, her faith, and her healing.

The third thing that stood out to me in our passage is the simple equation that Faith + Jesus = a Miracle. We learn from the woman’s story that she had tried everything else without success. She had spent all her money with no improvement. These details are important because the woman had faith in the medical practice of her day – even if the medical standards and understanding was lacking compared to what we know today. This woman had faith, but faith alone didn’t result in healing when she focused her faith onto the medical community.

When the woman shifted her faith onto Jesus, she discovered that was all that was needed. She focused all her faith on simply touching part of Jesus’ clothing, and that would be enough. She probably believed her condition wasn’t as serious as other conditions Jesus had healed, and because of this, Jesus’ direct intervention wouldn’t even have been necessary. She might have also believed that since her condition was less visible than most, that she could get away with a healing that was less visible than most.

The woman’s faith, when focused on Jesus resulted in a miracle and a healing in her life. We can learn from this as well because while there are countless things we could place our faith in, the only One truly worthy of our faith is Jesus – and Jesus is the only place where our faith can result in miracles occurring.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will to leave you with:

Be sure to place your faith onto Jesus. Focus on Him and on growing closer to Him each and every day.

Also, be sure to intentionally pray and study the Bible for yourself because only through Bible study can you learn what Jesus is really like. While a pastor or podcaster can point you in the right direction, only through personal study can you grow a personal relationship with God!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year 4 – Episode 16: Discover how Jesus intentionally focused on each moment, regardless of the urgency of the situation. Learn truths we can apply today from how Jesus focuses our attention on a healing that would have remained hidden.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Choosing the Cross: Luke 23:32-43

Focus Passage: Luke 23:32-43 (NIV)

 32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

 43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Read Luke 23:32-43 in context and/or in other translations on!

While many people read Luke’s version of Jesus dying on the cross to draw out His promise to a thief about instant salvation (and deathbed confessionals being possible), in our journal entry for today, let’s look at Luke’s description of what happened from a slightly different angle.

In this journal entry, we have a pretty simple idea that has profound implications: Jesus didn’t get what He deserved, but He chose it so that we wouldn’t have to get what we deserve!

I want to point out that Jesus “chose” the cross. The whole salvation plan was developed in heaven before earth was created, and Jesus was within the planning process. Jesus was involved in the creation of the prophecies that were given in the Old Testament, and He could have easily changed things to have pointed towards a different type of death.

However, that is not the most profound way to view this idea.

There are two views I have seen floating through the internet (and books that were written before) that are completely inaccurate to this idea:

  • The first idea is that God (the Father) forced Jesus to come to earth to die for our sins. This idea is rooted in a “good cop, bad cop” idea regarding the Godhead. If that were really the case, Jesus had it completely within His freedom of choice to say “No”, or to die a different way. Jesus tells each of us that if we’ve seen Him, we’ve seen the Father. The two of them share the same character. Jesus was scared of the path of the cross, but He specifically chose it because He knew what it meant for each of us.
  • The second idea is that Judas caused Jesus’ death by betraying Him. This idea pulls the broad ideas in Jesus’ life out of their Biblical contexts and pictures Jesus as merely a “good man”. However, as we’ve looked at several times in our journal, Jesus repeatedly tells His disciples He is going to die, including details about how it will happen. Even the night before the arrest, we can read about Him trying to warn the disciples to not be fearful and to not fall into temptation. If Jesus wanted to, He could have avoided going to the garden, and completely avoided the angry crowd who wanted to arrest Him.

Both these views are false, and we can see this played out in the events leading up to the cross.

Jesus didn’t get what He deserved, but He chose it so that we wouldn’t have to get what we deserve!

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Framing Today: Luke 22:54-62

Focus Passage: Luke 22:54-62 (NASB)

When reading events in the gospels that all four writers choose to cover, certain words or phrases that one author chooses to use often will jump off the page at me. It is this way in how all four gospel writers include Peter’s huge failure on the night of Jesus’ arrest.

The gospel of John includes a brief summary of this event, while Matthew, Mark, and Luke go into greater detail about what happened. However, each of these three gospels shift the exact words of Jesus’ warning to Peter.

Matthew writes that Jesus said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” (Matt 26:75)

Mark includes an extra detail when he quotes Jesus as saying, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” (Mark 14:72) – Mark includes the detail where a rooster will crow twice rather than once.

But only Luke includes a detail that frames time. Luke quotes Jesus warning Peter by saying, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” (Luke 22:61)

Luke includes the word “today” in his quote. This prompts me to look at Luke’s writing differently.

If there was any question in your mind about how people in that time period calculated their days, Luke tells us that these days must have been calculated from sunset to sunset – or at least that is how he does it. This has strong implications as we read Luke’s writing, because not only did Luke write the gospel that bears his name, but also the book of Acts, which details the history of the early church.

When Luke frames Jesus’ words as saying that previous evening, after the sun has set, that “today”, Peter will deny Him, we get a picture that Luke firmly believes in a sunset-to-sunset way of framing a day, rather than our typical thought where days go from midnight-to-midnight or sunrise-to-sunrise.

This observation is one that prompts me to pay closer attention to the other places in the scripture where Luke is writing about days, evenings, and nights and it helps me understand exactly the time Luke meant when he was writing.

This also leads me to a big thought: Comparing how each gospel writer shares an event is just as important as comparing how a single writer uses a consistent idea throughout his writings. Had I not compared all four gospels, I may not have noticed Luke’s unique framing of time, and now that I see this detail, I can use it to understand all other areas where Luke references the passing of time.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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