This is post #10 of a series entitled RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 27 podcasts and blogs that focuses a bit deeper on the first five days of what we now call Holy Week. Using the Gospel text found in Matthew 21 through 25, we explore the major differences between organized religion and true relationship with Christ. Practical sessions that give us Jesus’ view of spirituality as compared to the religiousness found in so many people today. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: That’s when the Pharisees plotted a way to trap Him into saying something damaging. They sent their disciples, with a few of Herod’s followers mixed in, to ask, “Teacher, we know You have integrity, teach the way of God accurately, are indifferent to popular opinion, and don’t pander to Your students. So tell us honestly: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Jesus knew they were up to no good. He said, “Why are you playing these games with Me? Why are you trying to trap Me? Do you have a coin? Let Me see it.” They handed Him a silver piece. “This engraving—who does it look like? And whose name is on it?” They said, “Caesar.” Then give Caesar what is his, and give God what is His.” The Pharisees were speechless. They went off shaking their heads. Matthew 22: 15-22 (MsgB)
Today’s passage in Matthew’s Gospel is often used as a sermon text when a pastor is doing a preaching series on the subject of money or tithing. And yes, Jesus does give us some wonderful insight on how to be a dedicated follower of God (giving our all in all to the things of Christ) while also living in this world where the only certainties in life, as Benjamin Franklin once wrote, are death and taxes.
Indeed, giving to God what is God’s while giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s is excellent advice for anyone who dares to live, as Jesus said, in this world but not of it. (see John 17: 15-16 or 1st John 2: 15-17)
But today, as I ponder on this familiar text, I’m struck by the shockingly rebellious attitude displayed by those who have come to question Jesus.
Let’s think about this for a minute.
Here’s the leadership team, men appointed by God to lead the religious system of Jesus’ day, plotting and scheming on how to best trap an honest man into saying something damaging, something off the cuff that can be used against Him. So, they cook up a plot to bring some of their own disciples together, sending them off with the order to do whatever is necessary to catch Jesus saying or doing something that can be used to turn both the Roman government and the people of God against Him.
I think, in legal terms, that’s called entrapment. A tool used by human beings to sniff out any piece of evidence, or provoke an illegal action that will help prove a case against that person.
Isn’t it interesting to see church leaders stoop to such extreme measures in order to entrap Jesus for their own purposes?
And not only that but look at what these religious cronies say about Jesus…
Teacher, we know You have integrity, teach the way of God accurately, are indifferent to popular opinion, and don’t pander to Your students.
Talk about incriminating yourself, saying things that will uncover the evil in one’s heart…
You see, if these guys really believe what they are saying about Jesus, that He is a man of integrity, teaches God’s word accurately, is indifferent to popular opinion, and doesn’t play politics with religion, then, why, for heaven’s sake, aren’t these guys actually listening and responding to the truth they are speaking about Him?
Apparently, my friends…now get ready for this…
You and I, as followers of God, leaders of God’s people, can be sitting in the presence of Eternal Truth, hearing it for ourselves first hand, but because our hearts are so cold and hardened, the Truth will fail to penetrate our empty souls.
So, when Jesus, the author of Truth, speaks Truth to these guys, the only thing they can do is remain speechless, wandering back into their darkness and confusion, shaking their heads.
Now, that’s what I call hardened souls and stone-cold hearts, don’t you think?
Which now begs the question.
Could it be that today, in our generation, church leadership, those who are commissioned by God to shepherd God’s people, could allow our hearts to become so cold, so hardened, that we’d not only miss all Jesus has for us, but actually, like these 1st century church leaders, become a hardened enemy of all God wants to do in our midst?
In truth, I’m not writing today to accuse anyone of that, but I do feel the need to, at least, ask ourselves the question.
My Prayer: Father God, I’m astonished at the way these 1st century church leaders were able to not only deny the good coming from Your Son, but actually become an active enemy to all Jesus was doing and saying in His day. I need to pay attention to this story today, not just because there’s a good lesson here for me on how to handle finances, but more importantly, weighing the condition of my heart. Holy Spirit, show me where I might be hearing truth but rejecting it at the same time. For Your Name’s sake. Amen.
My Questions to Ponder: Knowing that it’s possible for me to be in Jesus’ presence yet still reject His truth, His integrity, and His goodness, where am I in such danger today? What motivations, both external and internal, might be driving me into such contradictions of the soul? Am I willing to examine my heart, allowing these faults to be exposed so that I might better follow Jesus wherever He might lead?
So, what are you hearing from Jesus as we take this journey into the first 5 Days of Holy Week?
Religion or Relationship: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ.
A 27-session Lenten blog series from Matthew’s Holy Week Gospel.
Throughout the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday), you and I will take a deeper look at Matthew 21-25. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use.
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