Bad government is a wake-up call from Almighty God for those who think that we have all the answers and can rely on ourselves
By Donald Whitchard
Matthew 22:15-22,Mark 12:13-17,Luke 20:20-26
Summary: In His final week of public ministry, Jesus confronted a series of challenging questions His enemies attempted to use as traps. One question dealt with the issue of paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus’ surprising answer would settle the issues of loyalty and obligation to both God and Caesar.
Jesus had spent the first days of His final week shaking up the status quo concerning the worship of the LORD, the reverence due to the House of God, and to recall its purpose. He exposed the moneymaking schemes of the religious leaders, rebuked their practices, and drove out the merchants who were in the house of God to make a profit off of the pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem during Passover, who had brought their lambs and other animals to be sacrificed to God in accordance with the Law of Moses. For the first time in many years, the house of God was clean both physically and spiritually, temporarily bringing a sense of relief and some joy to the remnant faithful, but enraged the Pharisees, Sadducees, and others who were using religion as their “cash cow” and enjoying the corruption with which they were content. Jesus was bad for business and He had exposed the Pharisees and others for their blatant hypocrisy which appeared devout but was in reality rotten and dead like tombs full of bones as Jesus described. When you read all of the Gospels, you see that it is the religious crowd which gave the Lord Jesus the hardest time and the largest amount of pettiness, grief, and criticism.
He was hassled constantly during this time, but also presented teachings that confounded His foes and comforted those few authentic believers in God who gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the holiest time in the Jewish calendar, that of Passover. The city teemed with visitors from all throughout Judea and different regions of the vast Roman Empire. Rome’s presence was there in force with soldiers ready to keep the peace and take care of malcontents who could disturb the festival or cause a revolt. The official who governed this region of Caesar’s dominion was Pontius Pilate, who lived in the coastal city built by Herod the Great, Caesarea Philippi, and came to Jerusalem if only to keep order over the Jews and their strange beliefs. He was under a time of probation by Emperor Tiberius Caesar (A.D. 14-37). Pilate had put to death some worshippers earlier for alleged revolts against Rome and had placed the Imperial Eagle symbol at the Temple which enraged the Jewish population. Pilate was aware that if he made any more mistakes, he would be exiled or worse.
The average Jewish person could have cared less about Pilate or anything dealing with Rome. The very fact that they had to use coins with Caesar’s image to pay taxes and fees to keep the Imperial government in power was blasphemous and humiliating to them, considering that Israel under King David was a mighty nation while the ancestors of the Romans were a group of barbaric clans. The Pharisees had a cozy relationship with Rome who would use the national unrest and hatred of the Caesars as a way to trap and discredit Jesus in front of the people. Destroy Jesus’ credibility with them, and His reputation and character would then be permanently ruined. He would more than likely leave the area to live an anonymous life in the little backwater town of Nazareth. His time of popularity would then be nothing more than a bad memory to His enemies, both religious and national. Their plan seemed simple and had a no-win answer, or so they believed.
The Pharisees teamed up with the Jewish supporters of Herod who had no problem with Roman culture or presence. This odd bunch approached Jesus with words of flattery and false praise, proclaiming that He was a great teacher in the ways of God, true and unconcerned with the thoughts of men. If they were real worshippers of the LORD, these words would be a declaration of His glory and greatness as the Promised One of Israel. Jesus saw right through these phony and hypocritical words and more than likely looked at these snakes with disgust and quiet anger with this display of false worship, and prepared Himself for their question. It centered on the issue of paying taxes to Caesar, which was a sore spot on the conscience of the Jews. Was it right to do so? This was a dilemma that would have made the average man stay quiet and say nothing to upset either his fellow Jews nor the ever watchful eyes of the Roman soldiers who were ready to arrest anyone who dared to speak against the might of Rome, lest they be arrested, tried, and put to death for insurrection and treason against Caesar. If Jesus were to answer “Yes,” then the people would desert Him, condemn Him, and run Him off as a blasphemer and traitor to His people. To answer “No” meant a quick arrest and condemnation by the Romans for the crimes listed earlier, something Jesus’ enemies hoped would be the outcome of this situation.
Jesus throws their plans into chaos and an unexpected realm. He rebukes His foes for their testing of Him, and then asks for a denarius, a Roman coin. As He holds it, He shows it to the people and asks them whose picture is on the coin. They answer that it is the image of Caesar, and it is only his image that is allowed on coins throughout the Empire. Caesar’s power, authority and rule are symbolized on this currency and was a silent reminder to his subjects as to who is in charge of the government. Jesus never denied or challenged this claim, for it is as God that He places kings and rulers on thrones and in power, and He can remove them according to His Sovereign will and direction (Proverbs 21:1). He establishes governments to keep the peace and maintain order, which is what Rome did well (Romans 13:1-8). Even though the Caesars and the Romans were not godly by any means and did persecute the Christians for centuries, God used these bad rulers to show the world what godless people are like when in power, and the necessity of praying for leaders in that they either come to Christ or become the dust of oblivion.
Bad government is a wake-up from Almighty God to open the eyes of idealistic nationalists and others who think that we have all the answers and can rely on ourselves. The hard truth is that we are nothing without God. This world system will to come to an end. The horrendous acts of Nazi Germany and the Communist bloc of the past century show that there are disastrous consequences for nations and people that embrace policies and politicians who sound great, appear noble, who cry out for fairness and equality, and appear to have all the answers instead of turning to the LORD for guidance, direction, and repent of their sins and wickedness. These powers were either voted into office or toppled existing governments with the promises of a world utopia where all would be equal and wonderful. 100,000,00 people are in their graves as a result of these “promises” that were written in ink, but instead shed the people’s blood. Before we go blaming the LORD for these ills, just remember that it is we who rebelled against Him at the dawn of history, deciding to doubt and deny Him. We arrogantly flipped Him off and dared Him to do something about it (Romans 3:10-18). We created the mess we are in, whether we admit it or not. We possess no way of cleaning it up nor making things right, save for the intervention and mercy of God ALONE.
What do we owe Caesar, or the government we are currently under? We owe the government our loyalty as citizens of the nation and to behave and act in the world as ambassadors of Christ to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. We owe thanks to those who serve the nation for the public good such as our armed forces, law enforcement, healthcare workers of all levels, along with those anonymous public servants who acknowledge that a nation is blessed if their God is the LORD, and do their best to follow Him and keep everything running as best as possible. We can pray to the Lord to remove bad leaders from office and to beseech Him to have our elections protected by His power and trust that His people are placed in authority, and to guide the heart of the President to repent and bow before the King of Kings and do as He commands, or face Him as the Great and Final Judge. We have to realize that the Caesars of this present world system are under the control of the Devil, yet God will use this to bring all events and powers under His rule and make all things new. This is described in the book of Revelation, where fallible human government is forever destroyed by the return of the Lord Jesus Christ at the end of the Tribulation period.
So, what do we owe God? While Caesar temporarily rules the known world, it is the Sovereign LORD GOD Almighty who created the world, the universe, and all life here on Earth for His glory. He holds the very fabric of creation together (Genesis 1, 2; John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:15-17). He has all things, events, and our very life under His absolute control. He guides the destiny of nations to bring them into a time of prosperity and grace as they submit to Him, or allows them to follow their evil ways, reaping the horrendous consequences and then blame or curse God and arrogantly claim that He can be overthrown and defeated (Psalm 2). This makes God only laugh at our foolish delusions of grandeur. He has everyone, including the devil and his brood, on a short leash letting them go so far and no further. The LORD gives us life, breath, purpose, meaning, ideas, joy, love, happiness, fulfillment, and eternal salvation from our sins through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross on our behalf. Sorry, America, I am thankful to be a citizen of this nation, but the redemption of our souls has never been in your job description, even if the swamp creatures in Washington demand otherwise.
Jesus took our sins upon His sinless, holy form becoming the sacrifice for sin that we can never be in our evil state (Romans 5:6-11; Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 7:25-27). No fallible human being can do that, no matter how noble of character. No human government provides salvation and the promise of eternal life. It is in the new heaven and earth, where Jesus Christ will rule and reign forever. Those who will surrender their lives to Him, confess Him as LORD, and ask forgiveness for their sins (Romans 10:9-10) will be with Him. Our world system is coming to an end, and with it, all despots, tyrants, dictators, arrogant politicians, wicked and perverse leaders of the nations, and their evil natures. Sinful human government will end forever with the return of Jesus (Revelation 19:11-21), and He will cast all godless rebels into the eternal Lake of Fire, never to harm nor influence His creation again. We owe Jesus our very lives, our worship, our love, and our loyalty. Caesar will appear before Him to be judged and sentenced at the Great White Throne, along with every person throughout history who rejected Him as Lord and Savior (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 20:11-15).
Here is a warning to every elected, appointed, or self-crowned authority, whether religious or secular, who believes or declares that they have all power, authority, and the final word: You have NOTHING, including your lives, if it were not given to you by God Almighty (John 19:11). You are limited, finite, and as dust before Him. Repent NOW and ask Him in humbleness to forgive you of your sins. Confess Him as Lord and Savior before it is too late (Hebrews 9:27). This goes for every one of you who reads this message. Surrender your life to Jesus Christ TODAY (2 Corinthians 6:2; James 4:17). None of you have any guarantee of tomorrow, and the devotion you shamelessly gave your leaders here in this world will do you no good in terms of eternity. Jesus settled the issue of loyalties as He gave the coin back to His would-be accusers. Where do you stand?
Donald was born and reared in the authentic Cajun country of south Louisiana. He is a 1978 graduate of LaGrange High School in Lake Charles. He is also a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1994) and Andersonville Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, 2000). He is an ACPE Certified Chaplain with training in Trauma/ER, NICU, and Psychiatric Pastoral Care from the McFarland Institute in New Orleans (2003). He has over thirty years of ministry service, which concluded when he was called to serve as pastor of Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma from 2017-2018. Due to health concerns, he retired from public ministry in 2020 and now devotes his time to internet evangelism through the writing of Bible studies, sermons, and articles on current issues for varied Christian webpages and ministries. He is a regular contributor to sites such as Rapture Ready and Sermon Central as well as Inspirational Christian Blogs. He and his wife Cathy are both active members of Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Muskogee. Don will often serve as a panel member of the Gospel Rescue Mission Pastor’s Round Table Broadcast, shown monthly on the mission’s Facebook page as his health allows. He has a personal evangelistic blog as well and can be contacted at his Email address.