I love it when Jesus does this!
In Luke 20.19-40 He’s being attacked by enemies who dispute His authority. First, the scribes and chief priests come after Him: Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, or not? they ask (:22). Jesus asks them to produce a coin with Caesar’s image on it. Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s, He says (:25).
Jesus’ answer has the following strokes of genius:
- In pressing them to pull out the image and likeness of Caesar, Jesus is forcing them to recognize that they already live in Caesar’s currency, for now;
- Jesus recognized a place for government within God’s order;
- Jesus recognized a BOTH/AND where others saw only an EITHER/OR.
Without falling into anybody’s trap, Jesus has made the point that God owns Caesar! And the day is coming when there will be no more Caesar. Until then, honor the emperor (See also 1 Pet 2.13-17; 1 Tim 2.1-2), and live life in light of everlasting life with God.
The trap has sprung, and Jesus isn’t in it!
Then come the Sadducees. These guys didn’t believe in the resurrection, and they hope to take down Jesus (and their enemies!) with a conundrum. Reaching back to the practice of levirate marriage (best known from the Book of Ruth) they spin a ridiculous question involving a woman who had seven husbands and now must live in a monogamous marriage in the afterlife.
Jesus goes after their assumptions:
- He challenges the assumption that everyone will know life with God. This is important, since His questioners were rejecting Him right at that moment!
- He overturns the idea that everlasting life is perpetuated the same way bodily life is here. God gives us marriage and childbirth in this life, because we’re dying. This will not be necessary in eternity, since we will be “like the angels, neither marrying nor giving in marriage”.
- He rejects the Sadducees’ idea that God’s promises die with us. To make the point, He quotes Ex 3, the passage about the burning bush. Now He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live in Him (:38).
God promised to deliver His people, and He did. Now, Jesus is standing right in front of them, offering them everlasting life with God. God is alive … the patriarchs are alive … God’s promises are alive, too! The benefits of knowing God go beyond this life.
Jesus has taken pointed, limited, even obscure and ridiculous questions and answered a major question we’re still talking about today:
WHAT IS OUR HOPE IN THIS LIFE?
My HOPE IN THIS LIFE is that I have everlasting life with God received by faith in Jesus. That’s my hope. My hope isn’t in prosperity and political freedom (like in the first passage). My hope isn’t in anything I can experience in this life apart from everlasting life in God.
My hope is in the God of promise. And focusing on Him and my life to come gives meaning to my present life as well …
Here’s a few questions to consider:
- Where do we (like the scribes and chief priests) see ourselves placing our hope in prosperity and political freedom? How does the first half of the passage challenge us on that?
- What might be some action steps in praying for leaders, in light of our own time in history, between Jesus’ two comings?
- Where do we (like the Sadducees) see ourselves placing our hope in immediate pleasures and benefits of this life? How does the second half of the passage challenge me on that?
- How does my present life take on meaning when I contemplate everlasting life with God through Christ, after my own resurrection?
- Is my hope in this life really that I have everlasting life with God through faith in Christ? How can I know if this is true?