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Sermon for Matthew 22:15-22   -   What Is Caesar's and What Is God's?
Proper 24
           

A young lady was soaking up the sun's rays on a Florida beach when a little boy in his swimming trunks, carrying a towel, came up to her and asked her, "Do you believe in God?" She was surprised by the question but she replied, "Why, yes, I do." Then he asked her: "Do you go to church every Sunday?" Again, her answer was "Yes!" He then asked: "Do you read your Bible and pray everyday?" Again she said, "Yes!" By now her curiosity was very much aroused. The little lad sighed with relief and said, "Will you hold my quarter while I go in swimming?"

The little boy was straightforward and honest in his questions because he wanted to entrust to the lady something valuable. The Pharisees are not being honest. They have no intent in entrusting Jesus with anything. They are not looking for the answer to a question. They don't want someone to hold their quarter. They are looking for a way to get rid of this trouble making Nazarene named Jesus.

The Pharisees were so angry it blinded them. Think for a moment about the ironies here: We know, because we live on this side of the resurrection, that Jesus was God. They thought he was demonic, an agent of Satan. We know that Jesus is the King of kings. They thought he wanted to be the King of Israel. We know that he was the Son of God. They thought he was simply Joseph and Mary's son. We know that Jesus has influenced the world for 2000 years. They thought his influence would end at the cross.

It's a fascinating story. We look at the Pharisees and we shake our heads. How could they have been so wrong when the truth was standing right in front of them? I believe they were upset because Jesus held them accountable and exposed their hypocrisy. "Teacher, we know that you are sincere," they say to him, "and teach the way of God." Not for a moment did they believe in Jesus' sincerity. It was a set up. It was a way of putting him at ease before they stabbed him in the back. Tell us then, they continue, what do you think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor?

I suppose we ought to be grateful to the Pharisees. In their question, which Jesus says was motivated by malice, they prompt one of the greatest of Jesus' teachings. It may not seem like much on the face of it but its implications have echoed through the centuries and has shaped western societies. Jesus said, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." Let us ask three questions this morning and find out why this little teaching has had such a great influence.

1. What Is Caesar's?
2. What Is God's?
3. Which Will You Choose?

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