March 26 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 20)

Submitted by Carol C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • Surface appearance vs. internal reality

The spies in vv. 20-21 and the Sadducees in v. 27 questioned Jesus. Usually, questions are asked because one is investigating and seeking answers out of genuine curiosity and to use the answers to get closer to the truth as in a trial in which the truth of one’s guilt or innocence is trying to be determined through the investigation of the evidence. But here, both the spies and the Sadducees had hidden motives behind their questions. They were not really interested in the answers except that they already had answers that they were expecting so that they could trap Jesus, discredit His authority, and be rid of Him and His threatening presence to their status. Jesus was undermining their authority by performing works of God on the Sabbath that they zealously guarded, but He humiliated them by revealing their loveless hearts which Jesus exposed as being far from the heart of the Father. Instead of allowing this humiliation to humble them and repent of how they really missed the heart of God, their pride and desire to protect their positions flared up instead.

Jesus was speaking against the chief priests and teachers of the law, revealing their sinfulness, their lovelessness and legalism, when they had worked so hard to build up their image of spiritual piety. They were unable to trap Him theologically so far so they tried a different strategy. The spies used a political tactic to trap Jesus. They questioned Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar to test Jesus’ national loyalty. If He said it was right, they could accuse Him of being a traitor to Israel. If He said it was wrong, they could turn Him over to Caesar for being opposition of Roman rule. They tried a different arena to trap Jesus because they were desperate for any way to get rid of Him. They were willing to take advantage of their political situation and use the Romans who they declared as their enemy, as their accomplice to preserve themselves.

The Sadducees were so smug in their attitude as they questioned Jesus. They crafted this elaborate scenario so that they could trap Jesus and prove their point that the resurrection could not be possible because of this kind of dilemma. Instead of taking the time to listen to Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of heaven, consider their sinfulness, and need to repent, they spent their time and energy concocting ways to save themselves. Jesus’ response reveals that they didn’t have everything figured out and made a lot of wrong assumptions. The Sadducees must have been astonished by Jesus’ response, but their silence shows that they were not really interested in whether or not there is a resurrection or that they had any curiosity about finding out more about the implications of His response as they didn’t ask any more questions. Instead of being interested in the truth, they retreated so that they wouldn’t encounter any more humiliation.

Jesus questioned the religious leaders about the Christ being David’s son and Lord, not to trap them and get them off His back, but to get them to reflect on the important matters of who the Messiah is and that even the man after God’s own heart needed a Lord and Savior.

I can relate to the religious leaders in using questions with hidden motives. I have used questions to divert attention from myself or make myself look better than I am. In college, after a Bible study on the fall of man, instead of thinking about my own sinfulness, I asked a question about whether or not the second law of thermodynamics was a result of the fall. I was so smug and thought I was being so original, but I completely missed the point of the Bible study and wasted an opportunity to be real with God and confront my own fallenness. I have also asked questions about situations or scenarios, or things coming up in our ministry to pretend to take initiative and ownership to make myself look good in front of others in hopes that they would overlook my character flaws or that I could avoid confessing my sins. I wanted to keep up an image with the kind of questions I asked. I refused to ask questions that I thought would make me look spiritually ignorant. I abused the power and roles of questions–to utter and seek the truth which would set me free. In wanting to appear spiritual on the outside when I actually wasn’t, I robbed myself of knowing God and being known by Him, being addressed where I really was rather than the shell of what I wanted to be. I was not desperate for closeness to God and lacked fear of the holy God; I was desperate for the respect of men instead. Trying to fly under the radar and hiding is so miserable and a waste of time trying to save myself which is futile. God is not deaf, blind, or mute. He knows exactly what is going on in my heart and calls me on my sins. Surrendering my pride, confessing my sins, and asking the right questions that press on my heart are what have led to life, closeness to God, and freedom from the chains of guilt and shame through the cross of Jesus, not this wicked game of manipulation and self-preservation. My ego is so strong so I need to surrender it daily to Jesus in confession of my sins knowing that forgiveness for my sins is better than pretending that I don’t have any and insisting that I am right.

  • What belongs to Caesar, what belongs to God

Jesus responds to the spies that they need to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. He is saying that earthly money should go to earthly governments because they bear the image of earthly rulers, but men have been made in the image of God so their lives belong to Him and should be offered up to Him. This happens through agreeing with God regarding what is true–His holiness and our sinfulness. In Jesus’ response, He acknowledges earthly establishments and does not pit allegiance to God against them.

Sometimes I wonder, “Is it right for me to work hard at work or not?” I spiritualize it too much and think if I work hard, then I am idolizing work so I shouldn’t. But being lazy at work does not honor God nor does it make me more spiritual. I need to be a diligent worker and give myself fully to the work of the Lord as long as the former doesn’t interfere with the latter.

  • Prayers for a show

When Jesus warned the disciples and the crowd about the teachers of the law who did everything for show to gain the respect of people and feed their own egos. He was exposing the greed of their hearts and how it displaced God even though they had the titles as religious leaders. Jesus was not only warning them against the religious leaders and falling for their mask, but against becoming like them as well, performing religious acts for the approval of others, to appear righteous and to be shallow about what’s really going on inside the heart, denying their sinfulness just because their sinful thoughts and feelings don’t materialize and they are able to outwardly perform religious acts as if they make up for their sins.

I’m guilty of the same sins as the teachers of the law. I have done religious things to gain the respect of others and to mask the inward reality, turning the Father’s house into a marketplace, rather than being honest about who I am, agreeing with God that sin is in me, at my core, whether it materializes or not. I’ve babbled prayers of jargon without love for God or compassion for others, and deceived myself of my spirituality. Jesus says such men will be punished most severely. My fear of God leads to repentance and recognizing that He knows my heart despite what I show on the outside and I need to be real with Him. He is the one who has the power to throw me into hell. He is not deaf, blind, or mute, but the Holy Spirit searches my heart and knows me.

PERSONAL PRAYER                                                           

Lord, I confess that I am like the teachers of the law who question you with ulterior motives. I sought to feed my ego by while pretending to be honest and innocent on the outside. I robbed you of what belongs to you – the truth of who I am in light of your holiness. Instead of using questions to find out more about who you are and exposing who I am, I played this game of deceit which only resulted in misery and insecurity because I could not be loved and accepted since what I was showing people was the masks that I used to try to impress them and fool them. So much of what I did in the name of piety was just for show to gain the respect of men rather than you. I’m sorry for my worldliness – having greater fear of men than you. Please have mercy on me. I want to be authentic with you through confession, uttering what’s going on inside in truth, knowing that the Holy Spirit is with me and sees my heart, and grieves over me when I compromise my integrity by being one way on the inside and another way on the outside. Please become bigger in my life.

Submitted by Helen P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Luke 20:20-33

·     As the expression goes, “there are questions, and then there are questions.”  What kind of questions were these that the “spies” and the Sadducees ask of Jesus? 

The spies and Sadducees asked questions, not because they were ignorant or didn’t know the answer to their questions.  They asked questions that questioned Jesus’ authority. They pretended to be honest, even saying to Jesus that they knew that he was speaking and teaching what is right and going as far as to say that Jesus does not show partiality but teaches the way of God in accordance with the truth.  Jesus knew that they were lying. Their main agenda was to trap Jesus, to stump him in some way in public so that they can hand him over to the governor.  They purposely wanted to make a fool out of Jesus in front of people so that the people would not follow Jesus.

·     Think about the act of asking questions that spring from a desire to make a point, or embarrass the other party.  Why would someone use a question to do this? 

The act of asking questions from a desire to make a point, or embarrass the other party is an evil thing to do. The religious leaders were threatened by Jesus’ power and authority; they had a plan to corner Jesus with their questioning but in the end they failed in their direct questioning about Jesus’ authority. They pretended that they wanted him to answer a real problem. Whichever answer Jesus gave would get him in trouble. They thought that they were smarter than Jesus by posing these questions to trap and stump him.  But in the end Jesus knew their schemes and saw through their duplicity and answered their questions in a very rational, reasonable way where the tables turned and the spies ended up being “astonished” by his answer and becoming silent.

·     To what extent do I use questions to hide my true condition or intention?

I use questions to hide my true condition or intention when I don’t want to fully own up to my sin or something that I am guilty of. By asking questions, I leave room to justify my actions or find a way to prove the other party wrong.

·     In the same way, how might I miss out on a genuine encounter with Jesus because of a fault-finding outlook or ulterior motives? When I cling to fault-finding ways and resort to being driven by ulterior motives, these will prevent me from seeing my heart in its raw form.  It leaves little for me to think about what I’m doing wrong or sin that’s in my heart.  In order have a genuine encounter with Jesus, I need to own up to those thoughts and motives that go against the truth, truth that will hurt my ego or make me look bad, acknowledgment of the truth that will show that I’m in the wrong.  It’s when I admit these truths that I am humbled and able to have genuine encounter with Jesus.

·   What application does v. 25 have on my life?

Jesus pointed out that they were using coins that had a portrait and inscription of Caesar on it. It made sense that they pay taxes that belong to Caesar, especially since they received benefits from the government. But what Jesus was trying to point out to the religious leaders was the fact that we should give to God what belongs to Him which is our very selves, our entirety, our allegiance to God.

Luke 20:27-32

·     C.S. Lewis said that we often conceive of heaven chiefly in terms of negatives because any higher reality will often seem to lack things we experience in this life (i.e., fish thinking that “walking” must chiefly consist of the lack of floating).  In what ways is this illustrated by the Sadducees’ question?  What implication does this have on our ability to form a detailed picture of heaven?

Sadducees’ question regarding resurrection and marriage illustrate their limited conception of heaven.  It was beyond them to conceive heaven being different from earth.  Jesus points out to them that marriage is only bound on earth, so their elaborate question is based on a faulty premise.  Likewise, we have limited ability to form a detailed picture of heaven due to our limited understanding and faulty premises of how we envision heaven to be like as we often base it on our earthly experiences.

Luke 20:45-47

·     What two things did Jesus accuse the teachers of the law about?

Jesus accused the teachers of the law of cheating poor widows who could not defend themselves by devouring their houses and trying to hide what they were doing by showing off their spirituality through making lengthy prayers for show.  Jesus also pointed out that they walked around in their flowing robes, loving being greeted in the marketplaces and having the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.  Jesus saw right through their spiritual flaunting.

·  What warning does Jesus provide for people who make a show of spirituality while having a heart far away from God? Jesus knew what these teachers of the law were doing.  He warns them that such men will be punished most severely.  Though they are able to get away with acting like they are spiritual on the outside in front of people, walking around with flowing robes, taking the most important seats in the synagogues, praying lengthy prayers, God knew their true motives and the deception that they were engaged in.  He knew that all they wanted was to get attention, respect, honor from people, using their positions and dishonesty to get this.  The teachers of the law tried to hide what they had done but nothing is hidden from God, everything is laid bare before Him.

·  How can I apply these warnings in my life?

I need to be honest and real before God. God is warning me that I cannot fool God with spiritual acts that I do on the outside. God looks at my heart and the ugly sins within–the dishonesty, deception, image-management, cowardice, etc.  I’m reminded of the verse in 1 Samuel 16:7 “…The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  It’s these sins within that I need to humbly acknowledge and confess before God and repent. God warns me that covering up the sins going on in the inside through spiritual acts to make it look like I’m close to God is going to be severely punished.

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