Trapping Jesus

Matthew 21 ends like this:

  • The Kingdom of God will be taken away from failed religious leaders.
  • The Kingdom of God will be given to people who produce fruit.
  • The religious leaders understood Jesus was right, but...

Matthew 22 has 5 parts.

  1. Wedding story of the Kingdom: Who gets accepted and rejected?
  2. Political question: What about Caesar?
  3. Theological queston: What about logical puzzles?
  4. Summary statement: God’s message is completely about love.
  5. Ultimate challenge: Who is the rescuing King (Messiah)?

*Matthew 23-25 is a Lament for Compromised Religious People who Do Not Get IT.

Main point: Living your allegiance to Jesus matters.

Wedding Crashing - Matthew 22:1-14

Abraham was called to be the start of a people through whom all people would be blessed. His descendents were rescued from Egypt and told that they were God’s treasure, a royal priesthood for the nations. Books like Hosea develop the imagery of God and his covenant people entering into a marriage. Israel got sidetracked by politics, theology, and selfishness. Their betrayal resulted in exile.

The story of the wedding was clear to Israel under Roman domination. Jesus entered into Jerusalem extending a fresh invitation. Anyone could come to the party. But Jesus makes it clear that just because the invitation is open does not mean that it does not have criteria.

Political and cultural sinners were praised for receiving the invite and joining in the celebrations. Why was the one guest treated so harshly?Apparently the seemingly petty concern over having the right wedding clothes was not that petty. Everyone else was able to be accepted. The issue at hand is the second of two ditches bordering a narrow path.

The first ditch was rejecting God’s plan outright. That is the end of Matthew 21. The second ditch is thinking that the inclusive generosity of welcoming just about anyone means that one can come in on their own terms.

You do not have to come to the wedding in nice clothes to be included, but if you are so brazen as to think you have a right to crash the party ironically wearing cargo shorts and a T-shirt you have made a mistake. Simply put, everyone who is genuinely celebrating God’s uniting of Heaven & Earth belong. Those who just want to get in for what they can get out of it are not welcome.

Question: Does this mean some people who think they are saved aren’t?

Answer: Yes.

Question: How can we check ourselves?

Answer: Jesus connects what we say we value and what shows up in our actions. Trusting him in word & deed, imperfectly but genuinely, is essential to belonging with him and his people.

Hail Caesar! - Matthew 22:15-22

The tax question was like a dangerous FaceBook poxg creating a false “Either/ Or” test.

You are either FOR this political position or you are AGAINST it. Choose!

Jesus does a couple of things in response. First, he calls out the false dichotomy they are using to trap him. Second, Jesus makes a point about the graven image on the coins they are using. Third, he defuses the trap by saying Caesar can do what he will, but you are called to be faithful to God no matter how that makes you look politically.

Question: Does this, and passages like Romans 13, say we should be pro-government?

Answer: No. Governments are challenged by people of God from Genesis to Revelation.

Question: Then why does it sound like we should be pro-government, honoring the King and all?

Answer: Challenging the government only matters to the degree that it helps pursue a positive goal. Speaking up for truth will put one at odds with many aspects of society, including political movements. An alternative goverment is not the ultimate goal. Embodied grace and wisdom are the ultimate goal. Do not lose focus.

How many ex-es can dance on the head of a pin? Matthew 22:23-33

There are many logic puzzles in any system of thought, including one’s theology. Too often people get excited about the challenges as they grow in their understanding of a system and resolve to solve all of the puzzles. Job’s friends are prime examples of this. God was not impressed with Job’s friends. Jesus was not impressed with the Sadducess’ puzzle about marriage and resurrection.

What does Jesus do to solve their resurrection riddle? He does what we are often told not to do. He basically says it was a stupid question. How? First he answers that they do not understand how the resurrection technically. More importantly he says they do not understand what is the better question. What are God’s revealed truths trying to tell us? The answer is that God is bringing Life over Death. That should be our focus.

Question: Is it wrong to ask specific theological questions?

Answer: No. It is fine to ask questions, but it is important to know why and how you are asking them.

Question: What makes a question good or bad?

Answer: A good question is seeking to better understand the main idea. A bad question is trying to avoid the main idea.

Question: What is the main idea?

Answer: Funny you should ask, that is the next section!

God says two things - Matthew 22:36-40

The Saducees were shut down by Jesus’ wisdom. Their rivals, the Pharisess, stepped up next. They were experts in listing and explaining God’s commands. Their main list was 613 long. No one could really understand all of that without them. They were religious professionals with very good job security.

Jesus summed up God’s message with two quotes: Dt. 6 & Lev. 19. He is then so bold as to say you utlimately only need to know those two commands. Jesus’ simplification means he just made God’s Word totally open source. ANYONE could understand and respond to this:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heartand with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it:You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the Law and theProphets.

Question: How can Love God & people really encompass all that God says?

Answer: Specific commands are examples of failing to give and receive love appropriately. Worshipping a created idol instead of the living God is wrong because it unlovingly distorts the nature of God and the relationship between humanity and God. Adultery is not giving and receiving appropriate love for obvious reasons relative to one’s covenant. The detailed laws are developing the only two things God wants from us. Love with him and one another.

Is the Messiah human or divine? - Matthew 22:41-46

After Jesus thwarts his challengers’ unhelpful arguments he speaks into the silence. What is his question? Jesus wants people to think on the nature of the Messiah. The answers have been hinted at for generations. There are reasons that no one wanted to answer him. It is easy to make the mistake of overemphasizing the transcendent nature of Christ and end up with God’s comic book superhero, or, with Jesus as just one wise teacher among many.

Question: Why does it matter if Christ is both human & divine, really?

Answer: Mainly it matters because it is true and Jesus and his apprentices said it is essential. Trusting the wisdom of Jesus includes his claims about universal authority over Heaven & Earth as well as is very specific experiences as an actual man who faced real temptations and sufferings in a specific context. Loving someone includes understanding them as they are as much as you can.

Question: Where can I learn more about these ideas and how to live them?

Answer: That is what 17th Street Church is all about. Join us in person or by sending us your questions and observations.

MatthewJustin NeSmith