TRICKERY, MOCKERY, OR THEOLOGY
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
March 24, 2019
41 But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David's son? 42 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 43 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 44 David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?” 45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
— Luke 20:41-47, ESV
When Jesus came into Jerusalem for the last time, He turned over tables. He turned the most important Jewish festival into the first Christian holy week. He turned over the tables of those making money from the Passover. And, He turned the tables over and against the religious leaders of the Jews, namely the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The Pharisees and Sadducees considered themselves to be scholars and they thought of Jesus as a common carpenter’s son. When they came to the Lord and asked Him difficult questions, He easily answered them. But when Jesus asked them a solid theological question, it sailed over their heads. The egg on their embarrassed faces would hatch a conspiracy to put Jesus in the frying pan of a Roman execution.
The key theme of Luke’s three question and answer sessions move from trickery to mockery to theology. False Christians excel at trickery. Anti-Christians live in mockery. God, however, is the Author of good theology. And the pursuit of good theology is the essential motive and means for being a true follower of Christ.
An Answer to the Questions
Let’s begin with the end, for to appreciate the theological ramifications of Jesus’ question to the religious rulers you have to recognize the trickery and mockery that motivated them. Though the sessions probably did not happen on the same day of that holy week, they fit together nicely to present us with a sobering referendum on religion.
Most people get into religion for all the wrong reasons. The Pharisees used their religious appearance and authority to “devour widows’ houses.” In other words, they were tricksters or hucksters, in the vein of Elmer Gantry. Though cultural Christianity is fading in the West, there remain remnants of religious charlatans who use church leadership as a means of monetary gain. As Jesus alluded to at the end of this passage, their seat in Hell will be the hottest.
The Sadducees were the mockers. They liked the “long robes” of religion. It was their way of getting recognition and power. But they really did not believe anything substantial about God, His word, or the salvation He offers. They made fun of Jesus and any God follower who believed in the total inspiration of Scripture, supernatural miracles, life after death, and eternal reward and punishment.
Yet no people were more religious in Jesus’ day than the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Their religion was brainless and heartless, devoid of doctrinal truth and decidedly insincere. So, after batting away their belittling questions, Jesus asked them one that was theological, biblical, substantial, and eternal.
A Question Full of Answers
I shall never forget a painful debate that resulted in my departure from a previous church. Our denomination was in an upheaval over the doctrines of grace, or what some call Calvinism, and I was tarred, feathered, and pushed into a corner to defend a theology is proven to be biblical, historical, and evangelical. After citing some Scripture in context with commentary, one of the church leaders angrily argued, “Don’t bring the Bible into this!”
In actuality, I was following Christ’s example. In this ongoing debate with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Jesus brought the Bible into it. He posed an important theological question about the Messiah, then quoted Psalm 110:1. The simple question He posed was filled with significant answers.
It was clear in the Old Covenant Scriptures and set in the historical Jewish mind that the Messiah would be the son of David. Also revealed but somewhat enigmatic is the prophecy that He would be divine, the Son of God, in a literal sense. King David’s first generation of offspring turned out to be a pack of incestuous, murdering, playboys. Ensuing generations of Israeli kings alternated between very good and very bad, but none of them were divine. Could the personal God of Israel (Yahweh) and the coming Messiah/Redeemer (Adoni) somehow be the same? Yes, according to about 450 Old Testament texts!
The mystery lingered until the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. He came into the world via a virgin birth. Both His birth mother and step-father were from the tribe of Judah and the house of David. When He began to preach, He spoke with inspiration and authority. When He did His work, He controlled nature and performed miracles. When He died, in part because He posed this good question to these bad men, He rose again the third day. He is David’s son, He is God’s Son. Could He be the promised Messiah, the anointed Christ, the Redeemer of Israel, the Savior of the world?
The Sadducees and Pharisees had no answer. We must come up with one. Silence is not an option when confronted with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The eternal fate of our souls, and the souls of others, depend upon correct theological answers.
Questions We All Must Answer
What is theology? Theology is the study of God. It is the pursuit of understanding who God is, what God does, what God requires, of how to know and be right with God. Theology is something that should be of interest to all people and theology should be especially sacred to the people of God. Sound theology should undergird the church and light the path walked upon by Christians.
Where does theology begin? Theology begins with God’s initiative and God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. God has revealed Himself to us in various ways and means from creation to the call of Abraham to the establishment of Israel to the birth of the church. He continues to reveal Himself to us through His Spirit and His word, the Bible. In a way, theology is God’s greatest gift to us because through it He comes to us and lives within us.
What, or Who, is the greatest revelation of God? The most perfect revelation of God is God Himself, who comes to us in the person and work of His Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. True theology depends upon correct Christology. And the correct study of Christ boils down to four great questions offered in a book by the late, great Dr. James Montgomery Boice: Who is Jesus? What did He do? Why did He do it? What does it require of me?
While you think about those four questions, consider these three options:
Well, it's one for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to get ready,
Now go, cat, go …
— Carl Perkins
One, if you are a Pharisee, you’re in it for the money. Two, if you’re a Sadducee, you’re in it for the show. Three (a nice, triune number), if you want to know God and be ready to meet God face to face, you’d better answer theological questions aright and be a fully devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is God and man, the God-man, the promised Messiah, the Savior, He is Lord! Jesus lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and was raised on the third day to sit upon the throne forever. Jesus manifests the Father and sends forth the Spirit and it the embodiment of our living, eternal, triune God. Jesus did His gospel work because He loves us and has chosen a people for Himself to share His eternal life and glory with forever and ever. Those who are saved to savor this life are those who repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, what kind of cat are you? Have you tricked yourself and others into thinking you are a Christian when you are not? Are you making a mockery of Christianity with a disobedient life? Or, are you a theologian? Every true Christian is a theologian, pursuing God, pouring over the Bible, loving others, following Christ. This is the only way to be, the only way to behave, the only way to live, and live forever.
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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