Summary: Who owns your money? What image shows who are money belongs to? And what image shows what belongs to God?
OPEN: Before the Civil War, about 15% of the US money in circulation was fake. At that time there were approximately 10,000 different currencies. One expert said “People had a hard enough time remembering what the different currencies were supposed to look like, let alone recognizing counterfeits.” (Stephen Mihm, professor at U. of Georgia and author of “A Nation of Counterfeiters.”)
Today only a tiny fraction of our currency is counterfeit, but our Government is constantly trying to stop criminals from passing off phony money. For example, about 6 yrs. ago the U.S Treasury department redesigned the $5 bill because counterfeiters loved the $5 bill. They could bleach it and then reprint it as a $100 bill because apparently it shared the same security marks as $100 bills. (Caitlin Carpenter, The Weekend Times10/07)
APPLY: So, how did the Treasury change their design of the $5 bill? They did that (among other things) by changing the IMAGES on the bills. Things like watermarks, micro-printing and changing Lincoln’s image on the front to be larger. It’s those IMAGES on our bills that guarantees that your money is legitimate.
Now we’ll get back to that in a minute but right now, let’s explore our text for this morning.
Jesus has been preaching, teaching and healing for about 3 years now. Large crowds have gathered to listen to Him and there was beginning to be talk about making Him the new king of Israel.
• He could inspire huge crowds with His words.
• He could feed thousands with very little food.
• He could heal the sick, the lame and the insane.
• And He had the power to even raise people from the dead.
If Jesus were their King, there’d be no power on earth that could stand against Israel. Not even the hated Romans could hold them back. Israel would once again become a great nation.
But there was a problem: the job of King was already taken. Judea already had a King and that king’s name was Herod (the King who’d executed John Baptist). Herod’s followers were called Herodians and they wanted Herod as their king… not Jesus.
So, these Herodians conspired with the Pharisees to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people. They approached Jesus and asked:
“Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" Matthew 22:17
Now, what’s odd about this question is that it was posed by a group of Pharisees and Herodians. The Pharisees hated Rome and claimed with was heresy to pay Roman taxes. And the Herodians wanted better relations with Rome and approved Roman taxation.
The only reason they joined forces was because they both hated Jesus and wanted Him destroyed. If Jesus answered that the people had to pay their taxes the Pharisees could condemn Him to the crowds as a friend of the hated Romans. BUT if Jesus replied that people Should Not pay their taxes the Herodians would brand Him an enemy of Rome and had Him arrested.
It was the perfect trap.
They knew Jesus as a Rabbi. And Rabbis ALWAYS answered questions people asked them, so it was a no-brainer that this man would answer them. But just to put a little extra honey on their trap, the put a little extra flattery into their question to appeal to His vanity.
"Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion?...” Matthew 22:16-17
(pause) And they smiled to themselves.
Greater teachers than Jesus had been brought low by appealing to their vanity.
They smiled as they thought of having this Jesus become putty in their hands.
Well, He would have been putty if He’d been an ordinary Jewish Rabbi.
But… He wasn’t.
Well, if He wasn’t just a Rabbi, what was He?
He was God.
Repeatedly – throughout the Gospels – we’re told that “He knew what they were thinking in their hearts” Mark 2:8
And, of course He knew what these men were thinking longggg before they ever showed up. These men are masters at deception and manipulation. And they probably have a track record of publicly humiliating those they dislike.
These are the kinds of men Jesus despises.
(Pause) And I can see Jesus smile.
He’s going to enjoy this.
First He slaps them down a little bit.
“You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?” Matthew 22:18
Essentially He’s saying: “Seriously??? You seriously think you can get me with silly question? Really? Is that best you’ve got?
Then Jesus just turns everything around and lays His own little trap at their feet.
He asks for a coin and then says to them: