I AM MY OWN GRANDPA
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
January 27, 2013
 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,“‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’  David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.
-- Mark 12:35-37, ESV
Let me ask you a paradoxical question. Can a man be his own grandfather? Ray Stevens said it can happen. A song he wrote, entitled “I Am My Own Grandpa,” goes like this:
Many, many years ago when I was twenty-three
I was married to a widow who was pretty as could be,
This widow had a grown-up daughter who had hair of red,
My father fell in love with her and soon they too were wed.
This made my dad my son-in-law and really changed my life,
For my daughter was my mother, 'cause she was my father's wife,
And to complicate the matter, even though it brought me joy,
I soon became the father of a bouncing baby boy.
My little baby then became a brother-in-law to dad,
And so became my uncle, though it made me very sad,
For if he were my uncle, then that also made him brother,
Of the widow's grownup daughter, who was of course my step-mother.
Father's wife then had a son who kept them on the run,
And he became my grandchild, for he was my daughter's son.
My wife is now my mother's mother and it makes me blue,
Because although she is my wife, she's my grandmother too.
Now if my wife is my grandmother, then I'm her grandchild,
And every time I think of it, it nearly drives me wild,
'Cause now I have become the strangest 'case you ever saw,
As husband of my grandmother, I am my own grandpa!
This silly song illustrates a serious statement that Jesus made at the close of His earthly ministry. After being thoroughly questioned by the Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, and Scribes, Jesus proposed His own paradoxical question. “David himself calls him Lord. So, how is he his son?”
“David” is the king of Israeli kings. Along with Abraham and Moses, and often above them, he is the most revered of Old Testament saints. He was Israel’s greatest king, most successful soldier, and the prolific writer of many of the Psalms, one of which is quoted in this text (ref. Psalm 110:1).
“Lord,” and “son” are one in the same person. And herein lies the paradox. Ancestry and respect for elders were extremely important to the Jewish people. It would normally be unthinkable for a father to serve or bow down to his son. Yet Jesus declared that David declared that his ultimate “Lord,” King, and God was actually a “son” or descendant of David. How can this be? How can the same person be “Lord” and “son,” God and man? And what exactly was Jesus trying to teach us for today and forever?
Holy Scripture is Inspired and True
Jesus’ first point was that the “scribes,” those responsible for teaching the Scriptures to the people, had consistently failed to unravel one of the most important mysteries in the Old Testament. In doing so, Jesus makes an important commentary on the nature of Holy Scripture.
Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1, identified the human author, then asserted David was “in the Holy Spirit” when it was written. David was prone to err, and he did, famously. But when he was writing Psalms, which are part and parcel of the canon of the Bible, he did so with the direct guidance and divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who is God. Jesus’ ministry gave this same credibility to all of the Old Testament (the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets) and He personally commissioned all of the New Testament writers. Therefore, Jesus would certainly concur with Paul who wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God ...” (ref. 2 Timothy 3:16) and the Apostle Peter who wrote, “... no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (ref. 2 Peter 1:20-21).
The Bible is inspired; and, the Bible is true. Through many prophets God foretold that the Messiah, the Savior of God’s people, would indeed be a descendant of David (ref. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Amos; and, ref. the messianic celebration recorded in Mark 11:9-10). Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem to earthly parents Mary and Joseph, was a human descendant of the family line of King David.
Family and Faith Go Hand in Hand
This brings up another important point that Jesus indirectly made here and God makes constantly in His word. While gospel faith must be preached and personally accepted, it is best passed on from family to family. The most effective witness for Christ, bar none, is a godly father and mother who sincerely live and share the Christian faith with their children. Such children will usually accept Jesus Christ as Lord, and normally become parents themselves. The cycle continues, and must continue, until Christ comes again.
Some folks in David’s family did something right. Lord knows we can point out the flaws in David and Solomon and all the rest, but at the core of this family was faith in God. This faith survived from generation to generation until it was passed on to a sweet angel of a girl name Mary and a strong, sensitive man named Joseph. Where would we be without them?
I submit that poor parenting (or no parenting) is at the root of every major social evil that threatens our society today. And the poorest parent of all is one who denies that Jesus is Lord with their life and lips, thereby failing to give their God-given children any connection or direction to God in Christ. The hottest place in Hell ought to be reserved for parents who brought their children down with them. Conversely, one of the greatest joys in Heaven will be for moms and dads who get to fellowship with their children around the throne of God for ever and ever.
This may have been a rabbit, but it’s one that needs to be chased. Now, back to our main story and Jesus’ main point.
Jesus Christ, God and Man, is Lord of All
Jesus, as in all His messages and miracles, was pointing attention to Himself. This is not vanity nor pride when you are indeed the only perfect person and sovereign savior in whole universe that you made. He was showing up the scribes, to the delight of the crowd, for not being the biblical scholars they claimed to be. They failed to ask the right questions and supply the best answers. These questions and answers should be about Jesus. Who is He? Where did He come from? What to the Scriptures teach us about Him? What are we going to do with Him?
Jesus is a man, David’s son, the promised Messiah. He descended from David, He is destined to sit on the throne forever, and He will save God’s people from themselves, their enemies, and their sin. The scribes and most people missed this, because they misunderstood Scripture. Impatient and power hungry, they were expecting a Messiah to be a military conquerer who would overthrow all worldly powers and grant peace and prosperity to the people of God. They had the right idea, but the wrong timing. Before the Messiah would wear a crown, He would have to endure the cross. As it was for Jesus the Christ, so it is for every Christian, the cross comes before the crown.
Jesus is Almighty God, Jesus Christ is Lord. David prophetically called Him Lord. The Apostles preached Him as Lord. Only by repenting, believing, and following Jesus as Lord can a person be saved from the wrath to come upon this world. Perhaps the best question and answer in the Bible is found in Acts 16:30-31, “... What must I do to be saved? ... Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” See how the inspiration of the Bible, the importance of family, and the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ go together?
A popular chorus derived from biblical texts goes, “He is Lord, He is Lord, He is risen from the dead and He is Lord; Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Jesus Christ is Lord over the Bible, and personally supervised its every word. Jesus Christ is Lord over homes and households, loving them and longing for their salvation. Jesus Christ is Lord over all, the saved and the lost, Heaven and Hell, and every action and person on earth.
In reality, you cannot be your own grandpa. You cannot write your own Bible, you cannot be your own savior, you should not be your own lord. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and Scribes belittled Jesus in this chapter. Jesus did not come to be belittled, He came to be believed. Believe in Him today.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NOUNS
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
January 20, 2013
 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”  Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him.  And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
-- Mark 12:28-34, ESV
A noun in the English language is properly defined as a person, place, or thing. Nouns are very important. For example, if a boy comes home from school and says to his father, “I hit,” the verb alone means nothing. Nouns breath life and meaning into the sentence. “I hit the teacher and have been expelled” or “I hit a home run and won the game” fill out the sentence with precise meanings, with both making for lively conversation. Yes, nouns are very important.
The most important nouns in our Bible are found in this monumental text, Mark 12:28-34. In this dramatic third of three successive confrontations with Jesus, a “scribe” (a member of the Pharisees versed in biblical and practical law) approaches the Lord and asks for a verb. He wanted Jesus to show him some action, something he could do or keep in order to be better than other people; or, perhaps he was longing to be right with God. The scribes, who were also Pharisees, had identified and invented 613 commandments for God-fearing Jews to keep, 248 positive “do’s” and 365 negative “don’t’s” (I’ll bet they published and sold a “thou shalt not” daily calendar). Which one of these actions could he attempt, which one of these things could he do, to impress God?
Instead of a giving him a verb and telling him to take action, Jesus gave him a set of serious nouns to consider. They are the most important nouns in any language, in the Bible, and in the entire world. They identify for all of us the most important person, the most important place, and and the most important thing.
God is the Most Important Person
“The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” said Jesus, quoting from the “Shema” (the Hebrew word for “hear”) found in Deuteronomy 6:4-6. The Lord, Jehovah, Jesus, the Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit, these are some of the names we call our one true and living God. Without a doubt, our Creator is the most important person in all the universe that He Himself created.
He is one God. There is not a church god and a synagogue god and a mosque god and a temple god and a shrine god and a pantheon of Greek gods or Roman gods. There is only one God. He is a real person, who makes Himself known in three persons, whom you must know personally in order to appreciate and accept Him as the most important person in your life.
He is a triune God, or a holy trinity. Just like one man can be three persons – a worker, a husband, and a father – the one true and living God lives in three persons as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And while there is no completely adequate illustration or explanation of the Trinity, or the tri-unity of God, the Bible does give us a sense of the purpose for which God manifests Himself in three persons: creation and re-creation. In creation, the Father designed the heavens and the earth, the Son spoke them into existence, and the Spirit hovers over and activates God’s continuing purposes and plans for His creation and creatures. In re-creation, or regeneration, or salvation, the Father chose His children before anything or anybody was even created, the Son atoned for their sin and separation with His sacrifice on the cross, and the Spirit comes into the heart of a child of God with faith and repentance, enabling them to be born again, re-created, regenerated, saved.
He must be known personally to be your most important person. This scribe wanted to do something in order to impress God and men. But Jesus taught him that the important thing is not a verb, it is a noun. It is not what you do, it is who you know. And you need to know “The Lord our God.” For only those who have been created and re-created by God know God personally. They know He is the most important person; and, they get to live with Him in the most important place.
The Kingdom of God is the Most Important Place
Jesus’ response to the scribe begins with God and ends with “the kingdom of God.” The scribe obviously wanted in, who wouldn’t? And at the end of the conversation, Jesus told him “You are not far.” Since this place, this kingdom, is so important, we need to know what it is, where it is, and how to get in.
The kingdom of God is past, present, future, and forever. It exists in any person or any place where the true and living God is truly the most important person. The kingdom of God exists in Heaven, unseen by human eyes, where the saints of all time have left this life to go to be with the Lord. The kingdom of God exists on earth, visibly, in the life of a person who has genuinely committed to Jesus Christ as Lord. The kingdom of God was visibly expressed in the Old Covenant when devout Israelites gathered for worship and dispersed to walk though life with God. The kingdom of God is visibly expressed in Christ’s church, when true believers gather for worship and live lives worthy of God’s calling upon them. It is a place you can and cannot can’t see, in people you can and cannot see, and by far the most important place in Heaven and earth.
The kingdom of God has exclusive entrance requirements. You don’t get in by keeping commandments. That’s why the scribe was still on the outside looking in. You don’t get in by being religious, by “whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” You don’t get in by legacy, just because your father or mother or sister or brother is in. And you certainly can’t buy your way in with bribes, indulgences, or charitable contributions. Most of these things have their rightful places. Good commandments are good, and should be kept by those inside and outside the kingdom of God. Religion is not a bad thing, as long as it is true religion truly kept. Contributions are necessary to sustain any organization, even an organism as vital as the visible expression of the kingdom of God. But taking action to do any of these things are not the entrance requirements for the kingdom of God.
Here is the thing, or things, that get you into the kingdom of God: grace alone, through faith alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ, alone. Yet these things are not alone. They are motivated, accompanied, and followed by the most important thing.
Love is the Most Important Thing
Love can be a noun or a verb, but it cannot be one without the other. If you have it, you will show it. If you have, as the greatest commandment states, a “love [for] the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” then you will show it by the way you “love your neighbor as yourself.” This most important thing is a love that is total, a love that takes over your life, a love that turns your life in all the important directions to honor God and bless other people. For God does not want part of you, He wants all of you.
This love comes from a sovereign God. Just like a human being is free to choose whom he or she will fall in love with and pursue for a relationship, God is free to choose whom He will love forever. God made His choices before time began. In time God chose to love Jacob and hate Esau. In time God chose to love Israel over and above all the other nations, even though they were by no means the biggest or the best. In the fulness of time God came to earth to live, die, and rise again, because of His great love for the true members of the true, holy, apostolic, catholic (with a little “c”) church. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, but God’s saving love falls on those whom God has chosen for Himself.
This love leads to saving grace. If you love God like the great commandment says we must, it is because God first loved you. In accordance with that great gospel chapter, Romans 8, those who truly love God were loved and known by God before the world began. They were predestined by God to be born in the right place at the right time in order to be influence by the right people. They were called by God with an effectual, gospel call unto salvation. They were justified by faith and secured with a glorious place in the kingdom of God, in Heaven, for all eternity.
Love is the greatest thing because it makes the greatest thing happen, salvation, for God so loved the world that He gave His Son for the salvation of every person who believes, and we truly believe when we truly love. And of all abiding things, the greatest thing is love.
Did this scribe ever get in or did he just get close? Did he love God in the right, proper, and saving way? I don’t think he was grandstanding or trying to trick Christ, like his predecessors in the preceding paragraphs. I do think he was sincere in his question about keeping a commandment. But Christianity is not a series of commandments to be kept, but a selection of persons to be loved, beginning with God.
We leave the story with the scribe still on the outside looking in. He can’t be in if he is “not far,” which though not in is not necessarily a bad place to be. Notice that Jesus did not ask him to walk an aisle, pray a prayer, sign a card, or take any other action -- no verbs, just nouns.
God, the triune God of the Bible, is the most important person. The kingdom of God, visible and invisible, is the most important place. Love, love for the true and living God that makes you live and be true for other people, is the most important thing. If you have these things, then you are not “not far from the kingdom of God.” You are in, so enjoy another very important thing: eternal life.
THE MODERN MAN AND THE ETERNAL GOD
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
January 13, 2013
 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying,  “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.  There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring.  And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise.  And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died.  In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”  Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?  For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.  And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
-- Mark 12:18-27, ESV
This is the second of three fateful confrontations which occurred during the final days before Jesus died on the cross. In the first (ref. Mark 12:13-17), a committee of fools from the Pharisees and Herodians were caught in their own trap after encountering the wisdom of the Lord. In this second one (ref. Mark 12:18-27), representatives from the Sadducees flaunt their sophistication in front of the Ancient of Days. In the next one (ref. Mark 12:28-34), we will get a far better question and a far-reaching answer. But for now, let’s focus on the fracas between the Sadducees and our Sovereign God.
The Modern Man
The Sadducees were the epitome of modern man in Jesus’ day. They were religious, as was virtually every member of Jewish society. They were well-educated, typically, and from the finer families in Jerusalem. They were politically active and powerful, controlling the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews. I think they typify modern Americans, who number among the most well-bred, well-fed, and well-read peoples of the world.
Modern man respects the law, but tries to twist it to suit his own purposes. The Sadducees paid attention to the “Law of Moses” (the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Bible), but gave no heed to the other extant books of the Old Testament. Unless you are Al Capone, it is hard to climb the social ladder unless you are a law-abiding citizen. So the Sadducees, like their counterparts the Pharisees, tipped their external cap to some letters of God’s law while inwardly rebelling against it for the pleasures of sin and the purposes of self-advancement. Modern society and modern churches are filled with the same kind of modern people, who literally use God to get ahead.
Modern man covets political power, but shuns the reality of spiritual power. What the Sadducees really respected and wanted was power and control over other people. They compromised their Jewish principles with the Roman Empire in order to gain favor. They outmaneuvered the opposing party, the Pharisees, for more seats in the council. They measured power in money, votes, and offices. Yet they did not believe in supernatural power, in angels and devils, nor the resurrection from the dead. They did not believe in a personal God who is personally involved in people’s lives, a God who was personally standing right in front of them.
Modern man lives for today, for he has no firm belief in eternity. The Sadducees lived by the modern, capitalistic adage of “get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can.” They strove for worldly wealth at the expense of any eternal investments. And why not, for no Sadducee had any belief in resurrection, or life after death, perhaps that’s why they were sad, you see? If this life is all we get, with no eternal consequences, why not live for money, sex, and power? Why not make your own rules and ignore God’s? Why not cheat your neighbor, if it brings you pleasure or broadens your bank account? Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow never comes.
Modern man talks about the Bible and Jesus, but considers both of them a joke. The Bible was the best seller in the Sadducees’ day, as it is in our modern era. And though Jesus’ popularity was mixed then, He is the most popular person on the planet today. The Sadducees, while giving lip service to Scripture and feigning respect for Jesus, were actually making fun of them both. Levirate marriage (ref. Deuteronomy 25:7-10) was a serious part of the Old Covenant. In a patriarchal society governed by a covenant, redeeming a widow and keeping her in the family protected women and kept faith with God. The ridiculous, hypothetical question the Sadducees posed to Jesus revealed their contempt for present holiness and unbelief in future judgment. And to lay it on Jesus as a form of a test or trap showed no seriousness towards the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like most modern people today, a literal Bible and a living Lord were not taken seriously.
These modern men did not realize how short their time was on earth. These modern men made choices that were extremely near-sighted. If only they had known that, as least for a few moments, they stood face to face with the eternal Son of God.
The Eternal God
Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, had the first and last words in this debate: “You are wrong …, you are quite wrong.” Jesus boldly and flatly exposed their errors about the Bible, about the power of God, about angels and eternal souls, and about the seriousness of God and the gospel.
God takes His word seriously. “You know neither the Scriptures …,” said Jesus. Whether it is rules for marriage or truths about eternal life, God takes His word seriously. One day He will hold every person accountable for their knowledge and obedience, or their ignorance and disobedience, to His holy word. God has gone to great lengths to speak, inspire prophets, guard and guide the writers of Scripture, and provide preachers and teachers so that people can hear and take heed to ultimate truths. And while modern man may make a mockery of old-fashioned values and absolute truth, God takes them seriously and rewards those of us who embrace them.
God shows His power judiciously. “… nor the power of God,” said Jesus. These Sadducees should have been trembling before Jesus rather than taunting Him with silly questions. Jesus could have answered them with fire from heaven, but chose rather to use a few fiery words. God shows His power in many ways. There is power in the truth, power in a right rebuke, power in the cross, power in the blood, power in the empty tomb, power in the blessed hope of Christ’s return. Do you believe in the power of God?
God created people in His image to live eternally. “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” said Jesus. Only God knows what it is like to exist from eternity past. There never was a time when God wasn’t, and there never will be a time when God won’t be. He is the eternal God. And He created us, from the moment of our procreation, to be eternal beings. Life is short. Eternity is forever. Yet what we do in this life, the manner in which we approach God and the things of God, shall reveal where we will spend our eternity. This is a serious matter, as serious as God Himself.
The Modern Man and The Eternal God
These Sadducees mocked God’s word, they mocked God’s doctrines concerning resurrection and eternal life, and they mocked God to His face. The Sadducees, smug in their earthly success, were making sport and having a little fun with Jesus. I assure you, right now they are not mocking God and they are not having fun. As the writer of Hebrews said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (ref. Hebrews 10:31).
We are modern people living in the modern age. Let us take full advantage of it. Let us use computers, watch high definition television, and fly in airplanes. But let us take stock of the fact that we do these things in a modern world made by the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and it is to Him we will one day give an account. So let us let power, pleasure, and money take care of itself. Let us trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son and our Savior. Let us trust in His holy word, the Bible, and let it govern and guide our lives. Let us worship and serve Him, and love one another. For then our eternal estate will be guaranteed with God, and we modern men shall live and enjoy our eternal God forever and ever. Amen.
THE FOOLISHNESS OF MAN AND THE WISDOM OF GOD
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
January 6, 2013
 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk.  And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”  But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”  And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar's.”  Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they marveled at him.
-- Mark 12:13-17, ESV
Man encounters God in every word of the Gospels. Often it is a pure face-off, like in this oft-quoted passage in Mark’s Gospel. In most cases, man comes off looking foolish, sinful, small. God, incarnate in Christ, is rightly displayed as wise, perfect, great. Few things are as far apart as the foolishness of man and the wisdom of God, and few stories make us face this fact like the dialogue in Mark 12:13-17.
The Foolishness of Man
“They” keep popping up in the Jerusalem narratives depicting the last days of Jesus’ life. “They” are “the Jews” (a favorite phrase of John’s, which he uses 63 time in his Gospel), the people to whom Jesus came. To again use John’s words to amplify Mark, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (ref. John 1:11). The Jewish people are represented in this story by their socio-economic-religious leaders. More importantly, these men really represent all men, and put forth for all to see the great foolishness that lies within each of our hearts.
Unbelief is utter foolishness. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (ref. Psalm 14:1). I dare say this debate would not have played out if the Pharisees and Herodians had truly believed that Jesus Christ is Lord. They would not have approached Jesus in the manner in which they did. They would not have tried to deceive Him with flattering lips. They would not have tried to trick Him or trap Him with His own words. All wrong attitudes and actions toward God are rooted and grounded in unbelief. And unbelief is utter foolishness before God.
Hypocrisy is hateful foolishness. Tactfully not telling the truth can be a welcomed thing, withholding the truth in surprise can show love, but hard-hearted hypocrisy is the height of man’s folly. It is one thing to not believe. It is quite another to act like you do when you don’t. Unbelief saddens Heaven. Hypocrisy stinks to high Heaven. And after these men feigned respect and honor to Jesus, Jesus smelled it right way, “knowing their hypocrisy” (vs. 15).
Trying to entrap God is too foolish for words. But that’s exactly what these unbelieving, hypocritical men were trying to do. If Jesus supports the tax, they thought, He’ll fall out of whatever favor He has with the common Jews who loath Roman control of their lives. If He denounces the tax, they can turn Him over to Rome as a rebel and a rabble-rouser (which is what they would ultimately do, anyway). Unbelief, hypocrisy, and deceit make strange bedfellows, but these Pharisees (who hated the Roman government) and Herodians (who supported and took advantage of Roman government) made their bed together against the Lord Jesus Christ, until the Lord blew their covers right off.
The Wisdom of God
The fact that they had a denarius in hand showed their hand as being hand in hand with human government. Both the Pharisees and the Herodians used government currency. Both the Pharisees (though they did protest) and the Herodians (supporters of the Herod clan who were supporters of Rome) paid taxes to Caesar. And Jesus famous answer, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (vs. 17) disarmed their plot and made even them, the enemies of God, marvel at the majestic wisdom of God.
In His infinite wisdom, God has a passing interest in government. God ordained government and man maintains government. We should all have an interest in the way government works. We should vote, or conscientiously abstain from voting when one idiot is running against another. We should pay our taxes and strive for a fair tax system. We should pray for our government leaders, regardless of their particular party or politics (ref. 1 Timothy 2:1-6). We should submit to the laws of the land (ref. Romans 13:1ff; 1 Peter 2:13ff) unless they are in absolute and direct opposition to the law of God (ref. Acts 4:18-20, 5:29). We should all have at least this passing interest in government; but, we should all realize that all governments will one day pass away.
In His infinite wisdom, God has an eternal investment in His kingdom. As we regularly read, at least at Christmas, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7). There is one government that will never end and it is the kingdom of God. Therefore, while our current government’s control over some things we do should be respected, God’s authority over all of the things we do, say, own, and spend must be ultimately revered, constantly worshiped, steadfastly obeyed, and supremely loved.
The Foolishness of Man and the Wisdom of God
Isaiah had been a foolish man, until he encountered the glorious wisdom of God in Isaiah 6. The prodigal son had been a foolish man, until he encountered the loving wisdom of the Heavenly Father in Luke 15. I was a foolish man, until I encountered the saving wisdom of God in 1982. These Pharisees and Herodians were foolish men, until they encountered the manifold wisdom of God in Jesus Christ, then they remained foolish still. They would continue in unbelief, hypocrisy, and deceit. They would hound His every footstep and harass His every speech until their conspiracy was complete and Jesus was nailed to the old rugged cross.
The cross is where the foolishness and sinfulness of man intersects with the wisdom and salvation of God. The cross is where the wrath of God burned and was poured out upon the Son of God for the sinfulness of certain men. The cross is where the love of God was demonstrated and determined towards those same men. I am one of those sinful, hypocritical, deceitful men for whom Christ died, for whom grace came, bringing repentance and faith in the wisdom and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I am a fool for Christ! Join me in this foolishness and let us live together in the kingdom, and in the wisdom, of God, now and forever. Amen.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org