Jesus, Politics, and Temptation

Sep 24, 2023

Jesus, Politics, and Temptation

Passage: Matthew 22:15-22

Preacher: Jeff Crotts

Series: Matthew

Category: Sunday Morning


Jesus, Politics, Temptations

Intro: Just begun monthly WITR series: God and Government.

  • More than for a compelling series, motive to Pastor.
    • Might be academic or philosophical.
      • Asking, “How Xians relate to government.”
      • Aim is to shepherd, temptations arising from political passions.


  • “What 3 things, you don’t talk about to avoid family strains?


  • Pastoring hearts, esp/when things not going our way.


[Illus] 2024 election cycle promises, theatrics of public personalities.

They will fight to the death for their political platform.


And we will be told the outcome of this particular political race will determine the trajectory of the next 100 years.


And, your life, your kids, your grandkids and great grandkids will forever be affected. Providing for yourself or families will be on-the-line.


All of which might be true. Jesus promised culture would go from bad to worse. For Xians, slaves of Christ, are promised worse treatment than X. While on earth, X was loved by a few and hated by many or most.


  • My series on God and Government is laid out as an academic exercise. 5 possible positions for how Xians relate to Government:


God under Government, God over Government, God in Government, God verses Government, and God and Government.


  • Time tested approaches, perennial.
    • Nothing particularly new about them to figure out.
      • A grid for discernment.
        • Ways good people historically resolved the issue of being down here, with concerns for both here and there.


  • Engaging in this personal reality.


  • How engage secular culture while living in Christian faithfulness.


  • Reconciling a 2-citizenship mentality and mission is not easily done.


[TRANS] Our text lays out particular temptations when dealing with something that is ultimately outside of our control. Who God allows to be in charge!

  • X’s teaching, repeated in all 3 synoptics, bc/important as politics is, it becomes a blinding force in the church (or you), if you let it.
    • It was for the early Jews, missing their Messiah.
    • It will be for the church, to miss our Messiah, in our day.


  • Oppression of Rome (early church) was egregious.
    • Easy to believe, for X to truly be Messiah, he would rt/this political problem.
    • Jesus, predicted to take role: God over Government.

[Appl] Xians, living in a post-Covid, post-Trump, post-moral, world feel a growing sense a sense of loss, temptations to discouragement is on the rise.

“What will be left for our children and grandchildren” is a repeated concern.

Movement: “Christian Nationalism,” spawned by groups holding/post-millennialism, believing they’ll usher in X’s return with mass government reform.


[Illus] This week heard a proponent, calling Xians to follow him out of California, as a protest, to lock down California’s economy.

If all Xians leave, will initiate economic meltdown where once it hits rock bottom, then return one day to make it a Christian state.

The lessening of population reduces the number California’s electoral seats.

Pastor/author had abandoned California, saying, “if you can’t obey God in a blue state (wife a homemaker, kids not in public schools, paying taxes as support of liberal agendas) then move to a red state?

He moved to Texas, but the city he moved to, in his red state was Austin (the bluest city in Texas).

[TRANS] Outline, set up as practical temptations with politics.  

  • Important to say I believe in the impeccability of Jesus.
    • X never able to be tempted inside his heart.
      • But tempted externally by Satan in wilderness.
      • Tempted in terms of human trials (cf. Heb. 4:15).


  • X avoided every trap, faced (cf. v. 15 “entangle” “entrap” “ensnare”).
    • Every “test” (cf. v. 18, “test” and “trial” and “temptation”; same word used interchangeably, cf. James 1:1-12).
    • X led by example.


  • An up-close clinic for how X avoids 3 traps, related to politics.
    • Jesus’ enemies tried to set X up in an unwinnable situation.
      • Set up a false bifurcation.
        • Either rebuff Caesar or worship Caesar.
        • Coward to Caesar or God.
          • Failing test, would disqualify Messiah, from being Messiah.
          • Failing test, would disqualify Messiah, from fulfilling his mission, Father sent him to do.


Prop: Countering three temptations set by the religious right and the political left.

  1. Countering temptation from flattery (vv. 15-16)

Verse 15 sets the stage for 3 temptations.

  • Mid-week, Wednesday of Passion week.
    • Evening and Pharisees, mobilized to attack Jesus.
    • Plotted to entangle X “in his words” (v. 15).


  • Trap set by committee-think, setting up Jesus up to misspeak.
    • Trip up in his words.
      • Either speak against Roman government.
      • Ensuring same fate as X’s predecessor, John the Baptist.
        • Incarcerated and decapitated.
        • By Herod Antipas.

Verse 16 opens how plan was unfolding.

  • Pharisees built small army of “their disciples” “along with “the Herodians” to ensnare Jesus (vv. 15-16).
    • Luke’s cross-reference says they sent disciples as “spies” to take Jesus by surprise.

ESV Luke 20:20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. (Luk 20:20 ESV)

  • Pharisees would have been easy to spot in terms of how they dressed and carried themselves.
    • So, spies, coming to Jesus covertly might catch Jesus unawares so Jesus’ would drop his guard.
      • Persuaded to compromise.
      • Under pressure of public polling.

[Illus] In the last election cycle, you’ll remember how there were apparent plants from people masquerading themselves as representing the opposing party, in public events. Creating hyperbolized charcutier.

  • Note connection made, btwn/Pharisees and Herodians.
    • Pharisees and Herodians were both highly political for gov and Nations.
      • Pharisees for Israel.
      • Herodians for Rome.


  • Herodians were Edomites or Moabites (Esau’s line) who not pure Jews.

[Illus] Herodians claimed as Jewish sect, not loyal to Judaism.

“Nominal, Hellenized, and Romanized.”

Loyal to Rome, as stooges. Representing Roman occupancy in land. Herod’s were hated.

Their mixed ethnicity made vulnerable to exploitation from Rome.

The Herod-system. Herod the Great, established his Tetrarch of four Herods (4 sons), spanning the middle east-regions, establishing Roman governance over God’s land and people.

  • Pharisees and Herodians joining forces for the purpose of silencing Jesus is eye-popping.

[Appl] Trumpers and Dems joining forces to shut a movement down.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Alliance is not comparable to liberals and conservatives being in collusion for goal.

Think hypothetically, Communistic China, overrides the US government.

Has regional liaisons enforcing tax-law to China under Xi Jinping.

  • Whatever their endgame, Pharisees and Herodians as alliance was next level, political pressure.
    • Jesus posed a clear threat to both.
      • Irony of ironies.
        • X headed to his own, decided execution, 2 days away.
        • X, would soon pose no political threat.


  • Still, Herodians along as witnesses to what Jesus might say.

[TRANS] Lead w/flattery: “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully…” (v. 16).

  • True statements @/X.
    • X called himself the “truth” (cf. Jn. 14:6).
    • Affirmed message from God.
      • X teaching the “way of God” (v. 16).
      • Translated as, “path to God” (cf. Jn. 14:6).


  • X’s full integrity; speaks “truthfully” (v. 16).


[KEY] Step further, X clear aloofness to popular opinion @/himself.

  • “…and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances” (v. 16).
    • True statement @/X.
    • Committed to “an audience of one.”


  • X knew people would not agree with him or like what he said.
    • Did not care how he was coming across to others.
      • Literally unflapped by “seeing their facial expressions (appearances)” (v. 16).
      • When X repeated, hard truths.


[Appl] Rt/state of mind, unperturbed by what others think about what you stand for or how coming across.


  • Well-spoken compliments, possessing integrity in truth.
    • Truth @/X as way to God.
    • X operated in total freedom.


  • Public perception did not matter to X.

[TRANS] All, prologue for their question.

  • Predetermined by this unlikely committee.
    • Religious for Israel and others for Caesar’s Rome.
      • Some, overt and some covert.
        • Pre-arranged statements.
        • Motivated for X to drop his guard and misspeak,


  • “…to entangle him in his words” (v. 15).

[Appl] Believing your own press clippings, (ev/true ones) make vulnerable to make God’s mission about you.

What you think you can do; what only God can do.

These groups were flattering Jesus, to convince him to take a different tact. Become a political reformer. Change the world they way they’d want it to be.       


  1. Countering temptation to compromise (v. 17)

[TRANS] Based on pre-arranged prologue, they ask a pivotal question.

  • Nexus of trap to push, Jesus to play into their hands.
    • They ask, “Tell us, then, what you think” (v. 17).
      • Not his someone else’s position.
      • Not a certain tradition or opinion.


  • X was own source of truth (what they just affirmed, vv. 15-16).
    • “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, nor not?” (v. 17).
      • Question forcing X him to either declare full loyalty or disloyalty to Caesar.
      • Audience admixture of political ideologies.
        • One for Israel and the other for Rome.
        • Either answer would mean two entirely different things in terms of X’s loyalty.


  • Either response eliminates X as threat.

[KEY] The question, “…Is it lawful to pay” (v. 17) is curious in terms of which law you mean, and this is also determined by X’s response.

  • If Jesus says, “yes” then he means “yes” that Caesar’s tax “law” supersedes God’s law.


  • And, if he says “no” then X is raising up God’s law as what supersedes Caesar’s law.


  • So, the question is, “Which law is higher than the other?”

[KEY] The question is supercharged by how Caesar is lauded.

  • Caesar’s self-sloganized as deity, so for X to raise his law above God’s law would be to cede to Caesar’s self-claim.
    • X capitulating his own claim as Messiah for Caesar’s claim.
      • “Will the true Messiah, please stand up?”
      • If X lost the favor of Jews, the Pharisees would move on him.


  • If X said, “no”, X’s rogue.
    • Subversive to hierarchy of Rome.
      • Taking role as a political revolutionary.
        • “Zealot”
        • Neither option is acceptable for X’s mission as the Lamb.


  • X’s role is neither is neither passive.
    • “Peace at all costs.”
    • Bowed capitulation to Caesar.


  • Nor aggressive, as political revolutionary.


  • Both parties wait w/bated breath to see what X says.
    • Question, perfectly cast, forcing him to go one way or the other.
      • “Where will X put his money?”
      • Old adage, “Follow the money.”

[Appl] Power of their question comes by way of an underlying philosophy; seeing no distinction between the secular and the sacred.

Presumes Caesar as a dividing point.

Religious position makes an impossible either/or.

All the way bound together, for Caesar.

Or, all the way bound together as being against Caesar.


[KEY] Loyalty to Caesar was both political and religious.

  • In other words, there should truly no “both/and.”
  • With God and government.

[Appl] A real argument is to be made that there is no difference between the secular and the sacred. True in terms of God being sovereign over all his creation.

He is the Creator and so as the hymn writer writes: “This is my Father’s world”.

At the same time, this world is fallen, cursed, secular, and Satanized. Society is literally spellbound by the Devil. Satan is our world’s god and it is important to reestablish this reality.

To argue no difference between secular and sacred, you need to qualify what you mean with the nuance of Scripture.

Yes, “no difference” broadly speaking, in terms of God’s overriding sovereign plan in redemptive history.

No, “there is a difference” when speaking in terms of what God calls holy and what God calls sinful.

Xians called to be separate from sin, down here on earth. Christians are aliens, sojourners, in 21st century Babylon.

Solved with Christ’s return, the church being raptured, Christ’s return after the seven-year tribulation, where he tramples his enemies, ushering in the millennium at which, at its completion, God will establish the New Heaven’s and the New Earth.

Everything secular and sacred, unlawful and lawful, matters in terms of God’s sovereign plan, Secular and sacred dynamics in terms of God’s unstoppable plan are seamless. Nothing will stop God’s plan.

At the same time, within God’s sovereign plan, sin will be exposed, bled out, finally defeated, and ultimately eradicated as the opposing side to what’s sacred.

Believers holding an unnuanced position, see no difference between the secular and sacred and are forced to answer this question in a way Jesus didn’t.

Tying together the secular and sacred, forces believers to either take the position of wholesale capitulation to the secular society, believing you’re selling out or taking the position as a wholesale political revolutionary.


This caricature for either kind of believer makes a false bifurcation that X doesn’t make.

By doing so, avoids a major distraction to the real mission.

[TRANS] Suffice it to say, X was undistracted from his mission as the Lamb of God.    


  1. Countering temptations to distraction (vv. 18-22)


  1. Confronting their motive

Before, charting the path forward, X addresses the issue beneath the issue.

  • They were out to “trap” X (cf. v. 15), so X exposed their evil motive.
    • Their “malice” and “hypocrisy” (v. 18).
    • Their evil pre-scripted plan is set in the context of their flattery.


  • They never believed X spoke or represented the truth.
    • Denied his message of truthfulness.
    • Not seeking X answer for their complex question.


  • Simply wanted to get Jesus in trouble.
    • To be jailed or killed.
    • To neutralize influence.


  • Seeing through them, X rightly called this out as “Putting him to the test” (v. 18).


  1. Confounding their question

[KEY] Exposing their evil motives and hypocrisy (both Pharisees and Herodians), X does not leave their question alone, as if, no real dilemma to deal with.

  • In fact, we do live in a secular world with real secular governance, so what are we supposed to do: Yield or Revolt?


  • Jesus’ answer offers a third option by asking for “the coin for the tax” (v. 19).
    • Again, “follow the money.”


  • Reason X asks for the coin, “a denarius” or day’s wage is to hold it up as a tangible illustration as a separate category.
    • Jews would normally had sheckles.
      • Herodians had a Roman “coin” [Hapax Log; Roman currency].
      • Denarius: Day’s wage.


  • Caesar Tiberius’ face minted on it.
    • Latin phrase “Divi Aug F. Augustus.”
    • Interpretation? “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.”
      • Augustus considered a God.
      • Tiberius, “son of God.”
    • Opposite side of coin: “Pontiff Maxim”, meaning “Highest Priest.”
      • Title for Pope.
      • Political/Religious god.


  • X made Jews look @the face of this coin.
    • Violating first commandment [“graven image”].
      • X not flapped by “appearances” (cf. v. 16).
      • Saying, “look into the mirror.”
        • Pharisees, hypocritical @/God.
        • Herodians, worshipping false idol.


  • Coin represents Caesar’s governance and X’s question in verse 20 says as much. “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” (v. 20).
    • The obvious answer:
      • “Caesar’s” making idea of there being a secular government is obvious and functionally in place.


  • Jesus says, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” (v. 21).
    • Dealings w/Caesar is separate from dealings with God.
      • Freedom to live within both realms.
      • Paying taxes is functional and basically pragmatic.
        • Whether to Caesar or any other ruler, this is what you are supposed to for an economic standpoint.
        • Romans 13.

ESV  Romans 13:5-8 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Rom 13:5-8 ESV)


  • X is undistracted by this question, as it is practically solved as a non-issue.


  • You could say, Jesus is not ruled by mammon.

[KEY] His follow-on phrase completes his thought. “…and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 21).

  • X makes clear: There is a difference between the secular and sacred.
    • Functional taxpaying to Caesar and then there is your mission under God.
      • Sure, we pay our due as political citizens, but this is no contradiction to our higher loyalty which is to God.


  • We give “…to God the things that are God’s” (v. 21), which could be our worship, sacrifices, ultimate loyalty etc.


With this single statement, Jesus makes clear that you cannot bind the secular and sacred on a fine level.

Creating blind followers to take extreme or passive positions. Distracted from mission.

[Illus] Jesus’ answer almost seems elementary: What’s Caesar’s is Caesar’s, so just give it to him.

[Point] Either an extreme passive or aggressive approach is a distraction to God’s true mission.


  1. Convincing them to stop

Verse 22 tells us they had nowhere to go with what Jesus’ said.

  • They may not have agreed but they nevertheless “marveled” (v. 22) as they he said.
    • They did not see this coming.
      • Believing there was no way that X could have it both ways!
      • Either Caesar’s Messiah or X is!


  • Predicated on a wholesale blend of the secular and sacred.
    • Jesus did not see it this way.
      • Clarifying, two-kingdoms functioning at the same time.


  • Secular ones can be tolerated and even submitted to while the sacred one is being built for ultimate victory.


  • Their response? “they marveled” - “And they left him and went away” (v. 22).


Conclusion: For there to be a sacred kingdom, there needed to be a sacred Savior.

  • Jesus would soon go as the Lamb, undeterred and undistracted by this ploy.


  • We too must charge ahead in this turbulent political time, avoiding the temptation to be dragged down inside the temptation toward distraction.


  • Do we vote? Do we pay taxes? Do we influence?


  • Certainly, as Christians who are salt and light in this world, on this earth.


  • Do we chiefly remain focused on a kingdom not of this world, calling souls from every nation to believe? 100%.


[KEY] These temptations were meant to put a stop to Jesus’ plan.

  • Because there are two Kingdoms.


  • Christ could be killed by one to make it possible for people to be brought into another.


ESV  John 18:35-36 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?"

36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." (Joh 18:35-36 ESV)

ESV  Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, (Col 1:13 ESV)


  • Jesus is truly the only One who can bring about one kingdom.


  • He is King and will create one Kingdom when he returns.

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