I. Paying Taxes (15-22)
II. Marriage at the Resurrection (23-33)
I. Paying Taxes (15-22)
What was the goal of the Pharisees in asking this question?
Who are the Herodians?
Does verse 16 express their true thoughts about Jesus? Then why did they say these things?
What may they have hoped to gain through flattery?
Why do you think some Jews may have advocated not paying tax to Caesar?
What was their evil intent (18)?
How did Jesus answer them? What is the essence of what He is saying?
Does Jesus’ answer relate to our lives today? How?
Split up into small groups. Ask the groups to consider the following questions:
Should Christians pay taxes to a corrupt or evil government?
What about if you know that some of those taxes will go toward sinful practices (for example abortion or unjust war)?
Are Christians in some way responsible to consider how they should be used or should we “pay taxes and then forget it?”
What are some common ways that people avoid paying taxes in your society?
As a Christian, is there anything you need to change in order to have a clear conscience before God and men in the area of taxes?
After giving appropriate time, ask the groups to come back and share the results of their discussion.
Romans 13:6-7 – Pay to all what is owed, taxes to whom taxes are owed.
Romans 13:1-7 – A broader section telling us to obey authorities.
1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or anything in the world.
1 Peter 2:13-17 – Be subject to human institutions.
Matthew 17:24-27 – Jesus paid taxes.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. The Pharisees tried flattering Jesus – The statements seen in verse 16 do not show what they really believed about Jesus. It seems that they hoped by flattering Him, they would get Jesus to get a little puffed up. And in doing so, perhaps Jesus would let down His guard and make a provocative statement like “Death to Caesar and to taxes” and get Himself in trouble with the Romans. Application: We should be wary of people who use flattery on us. Almost always those using flattery have an ulterior motive.
2. You hypocrites! – It is quite a strong reply by Jesus. He would not have answered this way if their question was sincere and they hadn’t used deceitful flattery. They were in fact hypocrites since they claimed great respect for Jesus and His teaching while on the other hand rejecting everything that He ever said.
3. Many Jews did not want to pay taxes – Nothing surprising there, right? Who likes paying taxes? Not surprisingly, they would have used lots of righteous sounding rationalizations for not wanting to pay taxes. For example, “The Romans are pagans and worship pagan gods. Our taxes go toward their temple fund where sacrifices to idols will be made. God would not want us to support idols so we should not pay taxes.” Put like this, their arguments would sound very reasonable. Except most likely such arguments are in reality a cover for a love of money and materialism. People can make all sorts of arguments about why they should not pay taxes, but most of the time this is an excuse for keeping as much of our money as we can.
4. People today are the same – Tax avoidance is very common all over the globe. What are some ways that people in your country try to avoid taxes?
5. The answer from Jesus – Jesus’ answer is not complicated. He told them in essence to “pay taxes.” He knew that Rome was corrupt. He knew some of the money would go toward wrong projects. Clearly He did not consider them responsible for these projects if they paid their taxes. We know that Jesus Himself paid taxes in Matthew 17:24-27. Jesus says “to give to God what is God’s and give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” What does this statement mean? It means “pay your taxes!” You are not serving God by disobeying the government and keeping the money for yourself.
II. Marriage at the Resurrection
Who are the Sadducees? How are they different from the Pharisees? What did they have in common (their hatred of Jesus?)
What do we learn from this passage about what the Sadducees believed? What modern day group or groups might they be compared to?
What are your observations about their question to Jesus?
Since they had only asked a question and not made a statement why did Jesus say “you are in error?”
What was their error?
What does this passage teach us about heaven? About angels? About marriage?
What method did Jesus use to refute their reasoning (Scripture?)
What does this teach us about Scripture?
What truths can you learn about what happens after death from this passage?
Romans 7:2 – The marriage bond lasts until death.
Revelation 19:6-9 – The church will be figuratively married to Christ.
Exodus 3:6 – God told Abraham He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Daniel 12:2 – People will awake, some to everlasting life and some to judgment.
John 5:28-29 – Jesus teaches about the resurrection.
Revelation 20:12-13 – The sea and Hades give up the dead who all stand before the throne.
1 Corinthians 15:52 – The trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised up imperishable.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Sadducees – Who were this group? These were primarily composed of upper class Jews from priestly families. They largely controlled the Sanhedrin. And it was they who had made the deals with Rome agreeing to serve Rome, but able to keep some local control and religious freedom of worship. Sadducees only believed the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, was Scripture. Therefore any doctrines built upon evidence in the other books was discarded. In our text today, we see that they rejected the doctrine of the resurrection. Interestingly, we will see that Jesus’ reply to them proved from the Pentateuch that the resurrection was real. We see in their question that they openly mock the very idea of a resurrection and believe they have come up with a fool proof logical case disproving it. Perhaps they also hope that Jesus will use some references outside the Pentateuch to refute them so that they would have one more reason to attack Him.
2. Jesus responds from the Pentateuch – Jesus met them on their own ground. Certainly it was not necessary to do so. He could have used other Scriptures. But this would have been much more convincing to them. This was the key to quickly and definitively end this debate. Bringing in other Scriptures from outside the first five books would have just resulted in rehashing the same old debate which they had already been having with other religious groups. Thus we learn a simple point about sharing the good news or teaching others. Application: We learn that if it is possible to meet people we share with on their own ground to share with them, then that is more effective. We see Paul doing this in Athens when he talks about the statue to the unknown God. For example, if you want to share evidence against evolution with an evolutionist, statements made by atheists, agnostics or evolutionary scholars bringing up the difficulty of their own position can be powerful tools.
3. Resurrection and life after death is not merely an extension of life on earth – The Sadducees’ question shows that they made an incorrect assumption. They assumed that life after death was very similar or the same to life now, hence marriages would still be intact. They projected their own understandings and experiences to an area they could not understand or experience. In doing so, they misunderstood what life in heaven would be like.
Jesus’ answer shows them that life in heaven is not at all like life on the earth. Angels live very differently than we do. The way they relate to each other is different. They themselves have never experienced and will never experience the marriage relationship. And our lives in heaven will be vastly different to our lives now. In what ways will it be different? Here are just a few areas in which we cannot comprehend heaven or life after death now:
How can those of us married imagine a return to singleness? How will our relationship with our spouse and kids and relatives be different than our relationship with others in heaven? What will our interaction with others be? We don’t know.
How can everyone in heaven be perfectly happy and content? Including people who wasted opportunities on earth, whose children or close relatives were not saved? We don’t know.
How will our bodies be both physical and spiritual (like Jesus’ post-resurrection body?) We don’t know.
How will feel singing songs to Jesus on and on and on for all of eternity? Won’t anyone get bored? We can’t understand it.
How about all of the Biblical descriptions or visions of heaven or heavenly beings? These descriptions are written in human language and yet they are still almost incomprehensible to us. Ever read Ezekiel’s description of the wheels in Ezekiel 1? Very hard to understand. The physics and very laws of gravity, etc. may be different in heaven.
4. So what should we do? – We should focus on God and His character rather than the details of what life after death will be like. Spending too much time considering these things is fruitless. It is impossible for us to imagine this future life without projecting our own culture and perspective onto it. But it will be so different that projecting these things will not help us in understanding it. In the Bible hell is described more than heaven. Much about heaven is a mystery. You have to see it to understand it. We do know a few rock solid truths:
There will be no sin or pain or tears in heaven. Revelation 21:4.
It is everlasting.
God is there. We will be with Him forever.
These are the key truths we should keep in mind.
5. Jesus’ amazing answer – Jesus’ winning argument is seen in verse 32. He quoted from Exodus 3:6. The point is simple. God is a living God. He is alive and He is God of those who alive. Since He made this statement after the physical deaths of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob then they must still be alive too (note He did not say that He “was” the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.) The fact that they were still alive proved the resurrection to be true since that is the only explanation for how they could still be alive even after death.
Another thing we see in Jesus’ answer is that He used Scripture. He was very familiar with it. He was skilled in it. The only way we can be like Him in this regard is to never stop studying the Word. We must develop a better and deeper understanding of it so that we too can immediately remember a vast number of Scriptures we have studied and use them to teach or share with others.