So today I preached at Creekside and man was it good. I guess it was too good for our recording system because something didn’t work right. :o)In all seriousness It was a good time, I think preaching is best when the preacher is having fun, and I was having a great time and I heard good feedback. I’ll post my notes below, I realized halfway through that I never really looked at them. I kept moving the pages at the right time but never really used my notes. But if you want to know what I said, keep reading.
Distraction — Matthew 22.1-22
Creekside Church 12-2-07
last week we were talking about Jesus’ Parables of the Two Sons, and the Rebellious Tenants, and how Jesus message is really the crushing stone to the religious leaders who rejected him and his ministry. And today we are going to continue in that dialogue. In Chapter 22 Jesus is still talking to the Religious leaders who are challenging his authority and trying to show make the people believe that he is a fraud. But Jesus does some Judo Moves and turns the tables on the Pharisees.
So Let’s Jump Right into chapter 22.
The Kingdom of God is like a Wedding. The Kingdom of God is a celebration. The Kingdom of God is supposed to be filled with Joy and Celebration and Merriment.
The King is God the Father — he is throwing a wedding for his Son (Jesus) and inviting his people — Israel. So he sends out his messengers (The Holy Spirit).
But the invited guests refuse to come.
The King sends his messengers to invite them to the party to Celebrate with him the Joy of a wedding. And they just flat out refuse.
When Kathy and I got married we didn’t really receive a single reply that said, no I refuse to come to your wedding. But that would be devastating wouldn’t it? I don’t know how I would respond to something like that.
Let’s keep reading
I love this because it shows the King doesn’t just give up after the first try. He sent more messengers. This was clearly important to him and he wanted his people to come and celebrate but they refused.
One to his field and one to his business — Distractions. The people were distracted by what is urgent what was pressing and so they ignored what was truly important — the Celebration.
Some of the people even killed the messengers. They ignored the first request and then they got angry and killed the second messengers. That’s intense. But some people are clearly hostile towards God’s Kingdom and they are going to kill whatever gets in the way of their agenda.
Remember that Jesus here is talking to religious leaders and he’s giving them a summary of the history of the religious institutions response to God’s Kingdom.
When you look at the History of Israel you see a repetitive theme. God calls his people out of love. They refuse, God calls again, and they refuse, God sends prophets they kill the prophets, God sends punishment, the people repent, and then the whole cycle starts over again. And the reason for this is as human beings we naturally want to be independent. We want to do it on our own, we have things that we feel are more important. But they aren’t.
That was Israel’s response to the Kingdom of God. And Now Jesus is telling the religious leaders that they are about to do the same thing again. The ultimate messenger of the Kingdom, the Son has come to invite God’s people to the celebration. And they are going to kill him. They hate Jesus so much that they can’t see how God is working through Jesus so they need to Kill him.
Jesus doesn’t follow the rules, Jesus loves the unlovely, Jesus Heals on the Sabbath, Jesus clears the temple. Jesus tells people that God loves them and wants to restore the relationship. Clearly Jesus can’t be from God. But God is leading Jesus and inviting the religious leaders to the celebration but they are going to refuse the invitation and miss the Kingdom entirely.
And God again will send Judgement. We see in verse 7 the God was enraged and sent his army to destroy the people that refused the invitation. Pretty intense. We don’t like to talk about the wrath and judgment of God, but the truth is that God is a God of righteousness and his wrath falls on those who refuse his love and refuse his invitation. We have all of our lives to accept that invitation. But we get distracted because we want to do our own thing.
This Parable serves as a warning for us I think because what are we doing that is distracting us from the kingdom celebration? What are doing that is distracting us for God’s love and joy and grace? What is more important to us than God’s will?
Is it work? Is it Money? Is it Sex? Is it pride? What is it that is keeping us from giving are whole heart to Jesus? What is keeping us from the wedding celebration?
Something that I think we lose sight of is that the Kingdom of God is a party. Following Jesus is supposed to be a celebration, but it’s religious people that kill the party.
And today we started the Advent Season, and as we are leading up to Christmas it’s so easy for us to get distracted with all the stuff that we have to do that we lose sight of what Christmas is really about. We have Christmas without the Christ and the church is sometimes the leading cause of this because we get so busy with activity that we can lose sight of why we are celebrating. How do we make Christmas a celebration again?
What are you doing to celebrate the Kingdom of God? What do you need to stop doing so that you can come to the party? Nothing in this world is more important than the Kingdom of God. We have to make sure that our allegiance is first and foremost to the King and not to our stuff, our distractions. It’s when your stuff keeps you from celebrating with God that you are guilty of idolatry. And Christmas is a season where often we put our activities first, or we put our christmas gifts first when we need to keep Jesus at the Center.
Otherwise we are in danger of becoming the invited guests who rejected the invitation because our stuff was more important.
Slow down, keep your priorities straight. The gospel has got to be forefront in our lives. The message of Jesus needs to be the most important thing.
So the King doesn’t want the wedding to be nothing and so instead of pandering and begging the first invitees to come he sends his servants out again so let’s keep reading
The Good news of the kingdom will not be stopped because some have refused it. God is sending his messengers to the ends of the earth to invite all who would come. He is calling Tax Collectors, prostitutes, drug dealers, politicians, lawyers, teaching, civil servant, poor people, rich people, white, black, male, female, young, old. God is calling everyone, The gospel is not limited to a few people. THe Party is open to everyone good and bad. And you know, that’s you and me.
We are invited to the Kingdom Celebration, not because we deserve it. But the Father invited us anyway. So from the ends to the earth the Kingdom Message is going out and we can choose to respond to the invitation or ignore it. If we respond and come to the Celebration then we have the right prioriities, but if we ignore we are like the first group who rejected the Gospel, Rejected Jesus and will face punishment.
If God the Father is throwing a party you know it’s going to be the best party ever.
One of the coolest Classes I ever took while I was in college was OT Metaphors for God. And we basically looked at the fact that we can’t understand God flat out because there is nothing that compares to him, so we have to look at him through Metaphors, and so we picked up all kinds of metaphors in the Bible. My Professor’s told us about his thesis work which was God as a Host.
Over and over again in the OT God is preparing a meal and welcoming strangers into to celebrate with him. It’s a pretty incredible image. God doesn’t want to keep us at a distance. He wants to be close to us. He wants relationships with us. And we see this image as God hosting a party for us again. And it’s just incredible.
A wedding no less. Weddings in these Days were huge affairs, sometimes they would go on for days. And there was feasting and wine and dancing and celebration. And the first guests rejected this, and God invited the riff-raff instead.
One particular aspect of the feast that is incredibly powerful is the table. Honored guests were seated at the main table. And so the local Rabbi, the town leaders, distinguished family members were there. But All those people refused. So who does God invite to the honored Table? The Riff-Raff. You and me. And when we come to celebrate Communion. We are coming to God’s Table and Celebrating that we have responded to his invitation. The people who would normally never have a chance to be a part of that kind of celebration, are the honored guests. How beautiful is that.
And so people getting their best clothes on and get ready to celebrate.
So the Party is all full of guest and you think that would be great. That’s where the story should end but wait there’s more.
What? Why would the King do this? Why would he send somebody out when he invited everyone?
Let’s look at this. The Guy wasn’t wearing wedding clothes. Now let’s talk about this metaphor. Jesus is not saying that the Kingdom of Heaven has a specific Dress Code and if you aren’t dressed to the nines then you are not going to make the Cut. Which is good news for me because i only have one suit and then a bunch of jeans and t-shirts.
The wedding clothes here are a sign of transformation. Have you heard the Gospel Call and responded Great! Now let the gospel transform you. Let Jesus give you new clothes so that you are no longer known as a drug addict, you are no longer a prideful person, you are no longer abusive or angry, you are no longer a liar, you are no longer a fornicator. Jesus wants to transform you.
the Gospel is a message that says come as you are, but don’t stay that way, as you grow closer and closer to Jesus he continues to transform you and change your heart so that those old sins are not attractive any more, you don’t want to get caught up in the sins of your past, Jesus will set you free. This guy who was not wearing wedding clothes refused to let Jesus Transform him and so he was thrown out.
We can’t be faking it in the Kingdom Celebration. The King will find out the phonies and the frauds. Jesus is calling us to be real and authentic and if we are putting on a show we will be found out and thrown out.
____________________Maybe Start Here and Finish with the top_________________
Paying Taxes to Caesar
So Jesus basically has told the religious leaders that they are going to miss the kingdom and they don’t take lightly to that kind of talk, so they are going to try to get the crowds to hate him. So they are going to start distracting him with questions that are controversial in his day and hopefully sway some people away from him so let’s keep reading.
So the Pharisees are intent to trap Jesus (the word for trap is literally a hunting term, they wanted his blood) and try to get him distracted, get him off message and so they are going to ask him questions that he doesn’t really care about. And this first section there are some interesting things that are brought up.
The Herodians — The Pharisees have teamed up with the Herodians who we really don’t know a whole lot about them other than they support the Herod Administration, which was essentially a Pagan Government that was ruling over Israel. The Herods were not loved by the common people and for the pharisees to associate with them says that they are starting to get desperate. But the whole world is essentially against Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven so you start to see the enemies coming out of the woodwork.
Flattery — the Pharisees and Herodians start the questioning with flattery. Now what they said was true but it was flattery none the less. We all like to be told how great we are, and our own praise can distract us and I think that’s what these folks were trying to do to Jesus. They were trying to remind him how cool he is.
And Jesus does not buy into the flattery — He’s such a great example for us. Jesus was not concerned with other people’s opinions. He knew what the Father had called him to do and listening to the opinions of the world can only distract you from your mission. You don’t need to be a jerk but we are not called to please men, we are called to please and serve the Father. So what are we going to do? Offend God or Man? Always choose man.
A little history about First Century Palestine is in Order. Israel had not had it’s own king for hundreds of Years. The Jews went into exile in Babylon and God let them come back and there was a period where they were semi-self ruled and then The Greeks Came and Conquered the whole region and after the Greeks, Rome came and took over. Rome was lead by a Guy named Caesar. The Caesars claimed to be the sons of the roman gods. They Demanded worship from the people that they conquered and part of that involved Taxation.
Now on the Coin as Jesus points out is a Portrait of Caesar. This went against Jewish Law, as it was a graven image and technically it would be considered idolatry to carry it and use it and to pay the tax. technically.
But the Question they ask is very telling. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?
Now the issue of paying taxes to Caesar was huge, when Jesus was a boy there was a guy named Judas who lead a revolution that was to fight this tax and try to get Pagan Rome out of their land. Rome defeated them and Crucified the rebels along the roads in Israel to show that you don’t mess with Rome.
So the Jews paid the tax grudgingly because they didn’t want to lose their home again. And this was an issue that divided the Jews. The Zealots wanted to kick Rome out of Israel and many were following Jesus with the hope that he would do exactly that.
So they are trying to Get Jesus to either say that it’s cool to pay taxes and thus get the Zealots angry at him and maybe even kill him, or to say that we shouldn’t pay taxes to Caesar and instigate a riot and get Rome to kill him. It a brilliant move tactically because Jesus is in a lose lose situation with this question and depending on the reaction the Religious leaders can become the heroes of the day because they exposed Jesus to be a fraud. Brilliant.
But Jesus doesn’t play the games.
He asks for a coin and they Give him a Denarius which has one one side the image of Caesar and he asks, Whose image is this? They respond, Caesar.
And Jesus pulls this Judo Move and changes the whole game, and says,
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. This money has his name on it, it’s his, pay the tax and stop quarreling. But more importantly. Give to God what is God’s. Brilliant.
There are so many ways that the religious leaders could have taken this. And all of them are basically Jesus stickin’ it to them. Brilliant.
Give to God what is God’s. So What is God’s
Tithe — just because you are paying this extra tax doesn’t mean you can take it out of your tithe.
Obedience — Live for God above all, so obey him, and back to the original story that we looked at, the King has invited all these people to the party but they are disobeying.
God owns Everything so just move on.
God wants your heart so give it to him — stop fighting his messenger.
The Kingdom of God is much, much bigger than the Roman Empire. The Kingdom of God is much, much bigger than the U.S. and the shadow that we cast across the world. The kingdom of God is much bigger than that.
What about today. We have all this things that can distract us away from the kingdom message?
We are in the midst of the political season in less than a year we will elect a new President, and a lot of churches are going to jump right into the political season and get wrapped up in that. IS that what Jesus is calling us to do? Should we vote? yes because that’s part of giving to Caesar what is Caesar, but can we afford as a church to get sidetracked on our hobby horse political issues? Should we pay taxes? Absolutely. Should we serve and pray for our city? Yes. That is giving to Caesar what is Caeser’s.
But What is God asking you to Give to him? Is he asking you to give your family to him? Men is he calling you to the Pastor of your home? Moms is God saying that you need to give your kids to him? To trust him? Students is Jesus calling you to give him your future? To stop living for yourself and to embark on his mission? Is God calling you to dedicate your business to him? If you are single and looking is he calling you to give your desire for a spouse to him?
I think the biggest distraction that we face in life is the distration of our stuff. We get so caught up in our possessions and our territory that we lose sight of the bigger picture. That’s my car, my house, my career, my wife. We reduce everything to a possession and we become lord over our realm and we push God out farther and farther. We become like two-year olds who refuse to share and one of our favorite words is Mine.
But here’s the incredibly liberating thing about God. It’s all his. He owns everything, we are just stewards. So when Jesus says, give God what’s God’s then he’s not just talking about tithing. That puts a huge limit on this text. Jesus is really talking about Everything. So it’s no longer your career, it’s the Career that God’s given you. It’s not longer your house, it’s the House that God’s blessed you with. So what are you going to do with God’s blessings.
The cool thing about giving your life and dreams and hopes to God is that he usually give you back better, refined, hopes and dreams. God wants to be in the driver seat he doesn’t want to be co-pilot. He wants to drive. He wants you to trust that he knows where he’s going. Because he’s so much smarter than us. And we need to trust him.
It’s when we give God what’s God’s that we start to truly live!