Summary: We may be citizens of a certian country or state, but our membership of the Kingdom of God is more important, and should take priority over all our other allegiances.
The two kingdoms - Matthew 22:15-22
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father
and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Do you remember the Frank Sinatra song: ‘Strangers in the night’.
I can’t remember how the words go,
but it is about two people who pass each other and no longer relate to each other.
Christians are a bit like ‘strangers in the night’ with people around us;
in fact, we should be ‘strangers in the day’ also;
because on the basis of Jesus’ teaching about the coin,
while we are in the world, we are not of it;
physically we are here, but spiritually we belong somewhere else.
This is why we find so many things around us hard to put up with,
and why some people who know us, find US hard to put up with.
To put it bluntly, we are children of the Light,
and those who are not Christians are children of Darkness.
It is not me who is saying this, but Jesus in John’s Gospel chapter 3
and St Paul in Romans chapter 2 said the same.
This might sound arrogant,
but we are only in ‘the Light’ because we have accepted God’s invitation to come into it,
while those who are ‘in Darkness’ have decided that that is where they want to be.
The Gospel lesson is about the Pharisees plotting to entrap Jesus.
There was nothing new in this.
In Matthew’s Gospel we can see that there has been an ongoing battle
between the religious leaders of Israel and Jesus,
for example concerning Jesus’ authority
versus that of the appointed leaders of the Temple.
The Pharisees were really worried about the number of people who were following Jesus, and so they wanted to discredit Him before the people
in order to maintain their own status and power.
What is strange about this particular text,
is the fact that the Pharisees, who were supposed to be deeply pious and religious purists, were willing to team up with the Herodians,
who were partisans of the ruling Roman family.
They were a group of Jews who had compromised their faith and piety,
in order to win favours from the governing forces.
The Pharisees and the Herodians made strange partners
in their attempt to discredit Jesus, because they really despised each other,
but there is an unwritten law ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’
which means the enemies of Jesus were willing to work together
to put Jesus down.
They tried to trick Jesus through some sweet talking flattery,
then asked the question. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
This was a Catch 22 way of trying to get Jesus to say something that would incriminate himself.
If Jesus answered “No,” the Herodians, who enjoyed the benefits of Roman rule,
would report him to the authorities as a traitor or seditionist.
If Jesus answered “Yes,” the Pharisees would be able to discredit him among the people as a Roman sympathizer, a person unfaithful to the faith of Israel.
Jesus wasn’t daft, and this is why Jesus, as these two conflicting groups approached him,