Matthewby Mike Raiter
The verbal battle now resumes. It is striking how traditional enemies-the Pharisees (the more theologically conservative), the Sadducees (the Jewish liberals), and the Herodians (friends of King Herod's family and, therefore, sympathetic to Rome)-now unite to tackle their common enemy, Jesus. Repeatedly, they try to undermine His credibility by asking difficult questions (vv. 15-17).
Most Jews hated the poll tax, which went straight into the Roman coffers (v. 17). It was a daily reminder to them that they were in captivity to a godless foreign power. To condone this tax would be to lose the support of the people. To oppose it was treason. Trapped! Jesus' brilliant answer, ″Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's″ (v. 21), has proven foundational for the church's understanding of its relationship with the secular authorities.
Would Jesus contradict himself? Jesus was probably known to believe in the resurrection of the dead, something that the Sadducees denied. So, in the next question concerning marriage in heaven, they try to use this belief to trap Jesus (vv. 23-28). In His answer, Jesus points out that they are fundamentally mistaken in their understanding of the coming age (vv. 29-32). Using their example of marriage, Jesus says that you can no more tell what that coming age will be like by looking at this age, than you can predict what a butterfly would become by looking at a caterpillar.
In the final question concerning the greatest commandment (vv. 34-40), Jesus again shows His brilliance by coupling love for God, which is foundational, to love for the neighbour, who is made in God's image, so that from now on, in both Christian thinking and practice the two must remain indivisible.
Jesus asks the last question (vv. 41-46), which forces the Pharisees and the Jews listening in to completely rethink their whole understanding of the most important person in life and history, the Messiah. In authority, power, and glory, He must be greater than any mortal man.
Verbally battered and beaten, the Jewish leaders retreat. In just a few words, Jesus has laid the foundation for a believer's relationship to the government (v. 21), revolutionised our understanding of heaven (vv. 29-32),and taught the essence of our relationship with God and others (vv. 37-40). No man taught with such wisdom and authority. Here is a man to listen to, trust, and obey.
What false or foolish notions do people have about heaven? Why do you think the Bible does not tell us everything about what heaven will be like?
Why do you think Jesus insists on making the commands to love God and neighbour indivisible? What might be the repercussions if we tore apart what God has joined together?