When people question Jesus, one of the things they question most is His authority. This month we have learned that Jesus not only claimed to be the Messiah, but He also claimed to be God in the flesh. He claimed all authority over the universe. If Christ does not have this authority, our faith is worthless. If He does, the value of our faith is astronomical.
Since we are full swing into voting season, we are going to see politicians trying to discredit one another more and more. In our text for today, there are a couple groups of Jews who try to discredit Jesus because if Jesus is the Messiah, their authority in the Jewish community becomes null. From the start, I want us to notice something about authority. It is that our authority over other people on this earth actually means nothing. All people are of equal value under God’s authority. Every role that God has us fill in this world and the next is of equal worth. A Janitor is equal to a Pastor and a teacher is equal to a student. What God’s authority does is take away any possible power struggle among His people. If we choose to strive for power over people, what we imply is that God does not have that authority. This being said, let’s look at some people who assumed authority over people as they interacted with Christ, who actually has authority.
The first question from the Pharisees
Tell us, therefore, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
But perceiving their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought Him a denarius. “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them.
“Caesar’s,” they said to Him.
Then He said to them, “Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away.
This particular group of Pharisees asked Jesus a question to try and trap Him or discredit Him. If Jesus were to say that they should pay taxes to Caesar (who claimed to be god), then he would admit that there was something under Caesar’s command that was not under His own. If He were to say not to pay taxes to Caesar, then the Pharisees would have grounds on which to charge Him in the Roman court. After pointing out their hypocrisy, Christ answered and said, “Give to Caesar what is his and give to God what is His.”
What is amazing here is that the Pharisees were so concerned with their own authority over people and Christ used that concern to deliver a very powerful message. The coins had Caesar’s image on them, so they could be given to Caesar. People, though, (including Caesar) were made in God’s image (Genesis 1-2), so they should be given to God. No person should ever assume authority over another person because people belong to God!
Every position that God gives us, even if it comes with some type of human authority, is and must be a position of service. There can be no other way if God is King. We are servants who should not find our identity in the authority may have or not have. When we place our identity in authority or success, we live for a purpose that is meaningless. When we place our identity in Christ, we do what honors Him no matter the consequence or response from others.
The second question from the Sadducees
The same day some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came up to Him and questioned Him: “Teacher, Moses said, if a man dies, having no children, his brother is to marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first got married and died. Having no offspring, he left his wife to his brother. The same happened to the second also, and the third, and so to all seven. Then last of all the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will she be of the seven? For they all had married her.”
Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. Now concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven’t you read what was spoken to you by God: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
And when the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.
Just as Jesus took a question about taxes and turned it into a statement about eternal authority, he takes a question about marriage and does the same thing. Here we should be careful. We might be able to learn something about marriage from this text, but the text deals specifically with Christ’s authority (not with marriage). There was a group that said there would not be a resurrection. To prove their point, they presented Jesus with a philosophical paradox, or a contradiction of thought. It would be similar to me asking you if God can create a rock that He cannot lift. The question is nonsensical but it stumps us if we try to answer it. If God is all-powerful and if He is not limited, then there is nothing that He cannot do. He can create a rock as big as He desires and He can lift it. A rock so big that God cannot lift it is an impossibility. It is not something that can exist. Just as we would take our focus from God’s ability to the possibility of such a rock existing, Christ moves the focus from the paradox to the marriage itself. His answer is simple: This marriage cannot exist. It is an impossibility because the Sadducees were presuming that this woman had to belong to a man.
If God has all authority, then no woman will belong to any man in the resurrection. All are equal under God’s sole authority. If marriage does exist, one partner will not have authority over another. We will be like the angels: finding our satisfaction in God and submitting only to God’s authority. This means that we should not place our identity in relationships. When our identity is placed in human relationships instead of in Christ, we live for a purpose that is meaningless without Christ. When we place our identity in Christ, we can love better than we ever could because our love becomes truly unconditional.
The third question from the Pharisees
“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him, “ Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
The group of Pharisees came to Him again, knowing that any Messiah would consider the whole Word of God to be equally important. Hoping to discredit Jesus, they asked which was the most important? Jesus replied simply: Love God and love people.
When we become concerned with our own authority, we become concerned with holding people to a certain standard. We say that others ought to act a certain way and stay away from certain things, dress a certain way and believe a certain thing. When we are concerned with serving people and trusting in God’s authority, then we are concerned with loving God and loving people. When others also love God is when they will care about honoring God with their actions. Our task cannot be to show the world how wrong it is. It is to give people the love and forgiveness of Christ: leading them into a love relationship with the God of the universe. The rest will take care of itself.
The fourth question from Jesus
While the Pharisees were together, Jesus questioned them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?”
“David’s,” they told Him.
He asked them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Him ‘Lord’:
The Lord declared to my Lord,
‘Sit at My right hand
until I put Your enemies under Your feet’?
“If David calls Him ‘Lord,’ how then can the Messiah be his Son?” No one was able to answer Him at all, and from that day no one dared to question Him anymore.
This question doesn’t come from the Pharisees or the Sadducees. Instead, we see Jesus turning and asking a question of His own. Whose Son is the Messiah? The Pharisees knew the prophecies. They knew the Messiah would come from Bethlehem and from the house of David, so they answered: David’s.
Jesus simply asks, why would David refer to one of his descendants as his lord? This seems to be an insinuation that even King David would give his patriarchal authority up to the Messiah who would come after him. How could the Messiah be David’s son if He was lord over David? Jesus brings about yet another impossibility for the Pharisees, especially within their view of what authority was. The Messiah would have to be God’s Son with all the authority of God. The Pharisees could not answer Jesus’ question, so they did not try to discredit Him anymore after that day.
After this section of Matthew, we should have no doubt that Jesus has all authority.
The challenge for us is to take this temptation we have to assume authority over others (siblings, people who are younger or less experienced or who have a different position) and resist it. We must also resist the temptation we have to assume authority over our own lives. We are but servants under God’s authority who are here to show God’s love, mercy and forgiveness to the world.
 Matthew 22:17-22 (HCSB)
 Matthew 22:23-33 (HCSB)
 Matthew 22:36-40 (HCSB)
 Matthew 22:41-46 (HCSB)