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Sunday, March 18, 2018

posted Mar 18, 2018, 8:18 PM by Site Administrator

THE GOD OF THE LIVING

 

Luke 20:20-47

Key Verse 20:38

 

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

 

       First, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (20-26). Look at verse 20. “Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest…” According to Mark’s gospel’s record, here, “spies” were “the Pharisees and Herodians.” (Mk 12:13) The Pharisees were hard core-religious people who tried hard to keep the traditional values as God’s chosen people. On the contrary, Herodians were political people who did not consider their religious heritage as God’s chosen people that much, but valued practical benefits of siding with Herod, a Gentile king. So, originally, they were enemies to each other.  But now, threatened by Jesus’ popularity, in order to protect their own interest, they became friends with each other, teamed up together and devised their best plan to trap Jesus. When they came, they, first, flattered Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth,” meaning, “You do not tell lies or compromise, but speak the truth all the time.” Then, they launched their best shot, saying, “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

 

The Jews were under the Roman rule, but because of their pride as God’s chosen people, many of the Jews refused to pay taxes. They encouraged people to fight against the Romans instead of paying taxes. As a result, there was always conflict between the Roman government and the Jews. In those days, the question, “Should we pay the taxes to Caesar or not?” was a political hot potato. If you said, “Yes,” then you would be considered as a traitor, and many zealous Jews would hate you and even try to kill you. But if you said, “No,” then, Roman soldiers would come and arrest you as an insurgent. Actually, this was the very charge they brought to the Roman governor Pilate against Jesus, saying, “He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar.” (Lk 23:2) It seemed that Jesus would be trapped in either “yes” or “no.” These spies thought that Jesus as a devout man of God, would say, “No,” and thereby, they would report it to the police.

 

What was Jesus’ response? Look at verses 23 through 25. Let’s read these verses together:

 

23He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24“Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?” 25“Caesar’s,” they replied. He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

 

       “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” What amazing wisdom Jesus had! What Jesus said sounded really right that the spies could not say anything against him in this matter. By saying, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” Jesus teaches us to fulfill all due obligations and duties in this world. Since we live as the citizens of this world, we have many obligations and duties such as paying taxes to the government; when a war breaks out, our young men are called to fulfill their military obligation; on the streets, you’d better obey the instructions of the police, lest you get a ticket; as students, we need to show proper respect to our teachers; as children, as sons and daughters, we owe respect and honor to our parents. Romans 13:1 reads: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

 

       “Give to God what is God’s.” This expression of Jesus shows that there are certain things that belong to God, and Jesus teaches us that we must give them to God, because he is the rightful Owner. All things belong to God. But in the Bible, God points out a few things as His specifically. Numbers 8:17 says, “Every firstborn male in Israel, whether man or animal, is mine.” God says in Leviticus 27:30, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.” During the time of Malachi, people did not bring one tenth offering to God. So God said to them, “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.” Shocked, they asked him, “How do we rob you?” God said, “In tithes and offerings.” (Mal 3:8) The Sabbath day (Sunday for Christians) belongs to God; it the Lord’s day. So, we must keep it holy. Most of all, our wholehearted love belongs to Him. God says in Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” When you love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, what else do you have? What else can you desire except God alone in your entire life? Nothing! This is the true meaning of worship – we offer our entire life to Him without any reservation out of compelling and overflowing love and desire for Him.

 

       The Jews refused to pay taxes to the Roman government; they were even willing to fight a bloody battle for it, even willing to die for it. In that way, they thought that they were showing their loyalty to God. Their idea was: “We only kneel down to God, not to men.” But that’s not the way God wanted to be worshiped and honored. In the name of being loyal to God, they were only rebellious and violent, which was totally against God’s characters. While they were fighting about it even in the name of God, God was saying, “No, don’t do that. Just pay it.” Instead, God wanted them to give to Him what was His. Some people say, “I obey God only.” They sound spiritual, but what they really mean is that they do whatever they see fit, rejecting any governing authority – parents, teachers, governments, even God’s servants – upon them. With this, they refuse to obey at home, at school and even at church. Some people think that they are obeying God by refusing to serve in the military. Some people think that they are loyal to God by challenging their professors in the classroom in regard to evolution and creation. Some people think that they are showing their loyalty to God by protesting against abortion or Muslims – but only politicians are pleased with them. Some people think that they have done all their obligations due to God by coming to church once a week. But God does not want to be served and worshiped in these ways. Instead, what he desires from us is just what is His; He claims, expects and demands what is rightfully His – our wholehearted love and devotion – not cold-soup like love, but hot cocoa-like love, Sabbath day (the Lord’s day), one tenth offering and firstfruits. It is all Christians’ duty to give to God what is God’s. When we struggle to do so, our Christian life becomes very real and practical: You love God with all your heart, soul and strength, you really pursue God, and at the same time, you keep the Sunday worship service absolutely, and bring your offerings to God regularly. Your Christian life becomes very solid. That is the way God wants to be honored by us.

 

       Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. When you do this, your life is very sound, and everyone, even unbelievers around you can see that you are reliable, doing what you are supposed to do as students, as employees, as citizens, and at the same time, they see that you are holy, fully dedicated to God without any compromise; they come to honor you as God’s people really, and because of you, they even want to become Christians.  

 

Second, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (27-39). Look at verse 27. As the Pharisees and Herodians were defeated, now the Sadducees challenged Jesus. The Sadducees were a religious party in Israel. All the priests including chief priests and the high priest, were Sadducees and the absolute majority of the Sanhedrin was the Sadducees. They accepted the five books of Moses as the only authentic Bible, and since there is no word such as resurrection in these five books, they didn’t believe the resurrection of the dead, or eternal life. They were like modern day liberal theologians who don’t believe any miracles, God’s power or the eternal kingdom of God. Then, why did they believe in God? What was the purpose of their belief in God? Simply, they wanted to get what they had desired such as wealth, high positions and honor through the religion; simply, they were utilizing God for their own purpose. When we think about their purpose of believing in God in this way, then, we understand that today, still, there are many Sadducees in our generation as well, who try to use God for their own purpose; their purpose of believing in God is not to worship God or dedicate themselves to God for his purpose, but to gain what they desire such as money, fame or titles. Today, still the Sadducees’ idea is very popular among church-going people. According to statistics, 40% of all pastors in America do not believe in the resurrection.

 

The Sadducees, mustering all their subtleties and literary genius, made up a most sorrowful and grotesque story and came to Jesus with a question. They said, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” (29-33).

 

What! Seven brothers married to one woman, and all died without leaving a child! One woman marrying to seven brothers! What a grotesque story it was! What kind of people the Sadducees who had made up this story were! What were they thinking about? They were really a terrible people. When they denied the resurrection of the dead, fundamentally in their life there was no hope, and their inner world was so dark, full of deadness. All they could do was: “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” According to their idea, life in the resurrection would be completely chaotic. “At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” What a difficult and sophisticated question it was! Some may say that the woman should be the eldest brother’s wife because the eldest brother was her first and original husband. The youngest may say, “She should be my wife because she died as my wife.” The third one may say, “She should be my wife because we love each other most.” Since they cannot agree with one another, the seven brothers who married the woman will rise from the dead and engage in boxing tournaments or wrestling matches among themselves in order to claim this woman as their wife. The Sadducees thought that in asking such a question, they had rendered the whole idea of the resurrection completely ridiculous and obsolete.

 

How did Jesus answer their question? Look at verses 34 through 36. Let’s read these verses together:

 

34Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.

 

Wow! In the resurrection, we will be like angels, shining in glory! There is no such a thing like marriage in the resurrection, because there is no death and thereby, no need for reproduction. In the resurrection, we will be perfect! Many young people hang their necks on their future marriage as if it is the most important matter to them. They dream about it day and night, laugh and weep because of it. But, Jesus says, “Those who are considered worthy of taking part in the resurrection will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” We should not live for marriage but live our lives worthy of taking part in the resurrection, as children of God, holy and righteous.  

 

The Sadducees understood the resurrection as the extension of the present life. The present life is already full of pains, sorrows, miseries, and injustice. People weep and cry; they fight and pour their anger on the streets, honking horns. If the resurrection is the continuation of this present life, it would be real torture – you live forever with all kinds of sorrows and pains and sins. But Jesus showed them that the resurrection is not the continuation of this present world, but a completely new world. Jesus used the expressions, “this age” and “that age.” Jesus says that in that age, we can no longer die. This is the fundamental difference between life in this age and life in that age. You can no longer die. You try to die, but it does not work. Then, you see everything differently. When you can no longer die, you don’t have to live to secure your life – no matter what, even without eating, you can no longer die. You don’t need to be concerned about your future, or your health or retirement plan. Competing with others or bragging about your talents or skills is meaningless. Mozart may say to you, “I am better than you in music.” Then you say, “Oh, yeah. Let’s see,” and then, you invest 1,000 years in music; or if 1,000 years do not work, then, you spend 10,000 years. When you can no longer die, there will be no more fear, worry, or anxiety; no sorrows, no pains. When you can no longer die, you truly enjoy your life; your work is no longer a painful labor, but something you enjoy. When you can no longer die, your whole view of everything changes, and your attitude and words become holy and glorious like angels. You think, act and live in the way children of God would really do. That’s why Jesus says that they are children of God, since they are the children of the resurrection. It is really great privilege and blessing to participate in the resurrection.

 

But not all people will participate in it, but only those who are considered worthy. We believe in Jesus; we believe whatever he says. Thus comes the lifestyle of the believers, struggling to be worthy of taking part in that age. Christians must not live their lives however way they like; instead, we must live our life in a manner worthy of the gospel so that we all may be considered worthy to participate in the resurrection. That’s Christian’s way of life.

 

Look at verses 37 and 38. Let’s read these verses together:

 

37But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

 

Now, Jesus showed the Sadducees the truth of the resurrection based on the Book of Moses. The Sadducees considered the first five books of the Bible, from Genesis to Deuteronomy as the authentic word of God, and since they could not find the word, “resurrection” in these five books, they said that there was no resurrection of the dead. Jesus now proved to them that there was the record of the resurrection in these books. When God appeared to Moses in the book of Exodus, God introduced himself, saying, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Exo 3:6) These patriarchs had died about at least four hundred years before Moses met God there. But God did not say, “I was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Instead, using the present tense, God said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” indicating that as of that time, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were alive; their life did not end in death, but God raised them from the dead and they were, and even now, are alive. 

 

       As a conclusion, Jesus said to them, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for to him all are alive.” The Sadducees thought that God was their God because they had worship service and because they were priests. But that’s not the case. God cannot be the God of the dead people like the Sadducees who entertained all kinds of negative thoughts and pervert ideas only to justify their own sinful life. God is not the God of the dead. People are dead because of their sins – God cannot be their God. People are dead because of their perversion. People are dead when they are only concerned about I, my, me, myself, and here and now. All these people are like dead fish flowing down the stream, following the trend of this world, only concerned about security, small citizen’s life and success – everything is about how to fit in this world. In the hearts and lives of such people, there is no glorious vision, or powerful passion for something truly great – they are dead. They are walking zombies on the streets, at schools and at work. They are like sick chicken. God cannot be the God of these dead people because God has nothing to do with death.

 

Instead, God is the God of the living. Who are the living? In the passage, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the living. What kind of people were they and what kind of life did they live? They were patriarchs of faith; they accepted God’s covenant vision upon their lives and pursued it. Were they perfect? No. Just like us, they too had weaknesses, character-flaws, and sin problems; sometimes, they made big mistakes. Sometimes, they were depressed, sometimes, they laughed, and sometimes, they wept. Yet, despite all challenges, difficulties, and their own mistakes, they still believed God’s great vision upon their lives, and pursued it. In God’s eyes, they were like live fish that was struggling to swim against the flow; they were the living, and God was pleased to be known as their God – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

 

What does it mean that God was their God? It meant that, when they were in trouble, God came to rescue them; when they cried out to God for help out of deep agony, God heard their prayers and answered them; when someone attacked them, God stood on their side and attacked that person; as they pursued God’s will continually, God gave them more amazing revelations in regard to what He was going to do with them and with their descendants; God was their Counselor, their Provider, their Trainer, and their Protector. As the result of God’s intervention in their lives, their life was full of amazing stories; they experienced God so many times and thereby, their understanding of God deepened. Then, as their eyes were opened to God, they saw everything differently – their words changed, their perspectives changed, their life changed; they were no longer the same people, instead, they became holy people in words and actions – totally, different from the people of this world that even unbelieving people around them recognized them as the mighty princes, as servants of God.

 

We all want God to be our God – the God of John Baik, the God of Johnny, the God of Sarah. We all want God to talk to us, answer our prayers, and reveal Himself to us. It is really wonderful that God becomes our God not just theologically, but really. Do you want God to be your God? How can God be your God? You must be the living!!! Accept God’s great vision upon your life and pursue it wholeheartedly – Be God’s covenant people! Don’t slow down only because of some difficulties; don’t be shaken by difficulties! Don’t be blown away by temptations! Keep struggling, because your God is watching you. When you live that way just like live fish struggling to go against the flow, God will be pleased to be known as your God and reveal Himself to you at the right time. When God is your God, many great things will occur in your life due to God’s intervention, and your Christian life will be really dynamic and fulfilling. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Today, are you the living?

 

Third, “Whose son is the Christ?” (41-47). Thus far, we saw how Jesus defeated the challenges that came from all so-called leaders of the time – the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, Herodians and the Sadducees. All these people were sneaky and double-minded, but Jesus was a man of truth; he had nothing to worry about, and he told the truth plainly. The enemies could not stand before him. After defeating all their challenges, now Jesus challenged them with one question. Jesus said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David? David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” When they said the Christ was the Son of David, they only understood the Promised Messiah’s humanity – they understood the Messiah as a powerful political leader who would destroy the Roman Empire and establish a kingdom to Israel as king David had done in Israel’s history – to them, the Christ was a mighty warrior, great hero for Israel. But now Jesus wanted to show them that the Promised Messiah was more than the Son of David; Jesus, based on Psalm 110, showed them the Messiah’s deity – even though the Christ would come from the line of David, he was still David’s Lord; he was God. When they understood the Messiah as the Son of God, a great hero for Israel, they were only thinking about what great things he would do for Israel, and then, what great things they would enjoy – ruling all other nations in the world. But when they understood the Messiah as their Lord, as their God, they could not just think about the benefits they would enjoy in and through him; instead, they should think about how they must worship Him and serve Him.

 

Modern-day Christian’s concept of the Messiah is also the Son of David – a great, even super hero who would do great things for them such as helping them get a good career job or helping them have a wonderful family, and especially, giving them a ticket to heaven. Now Christians must learn that the Christ is not only the Son of David who does great things for them, but also the Lord whom they must serve and worship.

 

After this, Jesus warned his disciples about the danger of the influence of the teachers of the law. The teachers of the law had a form of godliness and great religiosity; they occupied important positions in the religious society. But inwardly, they were self-seeking, and had no sincerity or true spirituality toward God. They were empty and hungry for human praise, honor and recognition. They loved money. Jesus says, “Such men will be punished most severely.” We started as Jesus’ disciples, as servants of God, so we must finish as servants of God. Good looking titles or high religious positions do not make us good disciples of Jesus. Many certificates do not make us good believers. Jesus wants us to remain as the living people so that God can be our God and fulfill His plan through us.

 

God is the God of the living. God wants to reveal his glory and do great things. So he is looking for the living whom he can work together with. Today, don’t you want to accept this will of God? Today, are you alive? Is God your God?

 

One Word:      God Is Not The God Of The Dead, But Of The Living


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