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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Central Market, Lancaster, PA
The Central Market in Lancaster PA,  the oldest, continuously-operated farmers' market in the United States.

"Not Of This World"

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"And they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap Him in His talk. And they came and said to Him, 'Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?' But, knowing their hypocrisy, He said to them, 'Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.' And they brought one. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, 'Caesar's.' Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.' And they marveled at Him" (Mark 12:13-17).

Today we will look at a lesser considered event that took place during the days following the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, the day we call Palm Sunday. It's a very fitting message, especially here in the USA, as this is tax day. I happened to be early this year, getting all my returns off several weeks ago but doubtlessly some of our American readers have taxes on their minds. Perhaps today's message will offer an interesting perspective!

We've all heard the old saying, "Nothing's certain but death and taxes". While we contend that there are other certainties in life it is definitely the case with death and taxes! Wherever you live you deal with some type of taxation.

Today's Scripture portion chronicles the growing attempts by the religious and political establishment to trap Christ. In fact they came "to trap Him in His talk".

They, being the Pharisees,  were primarily a religious group concerned for ritual purity while the Herodians were a Jewish political group that approved of Herod's compromises with Rome. Normally the two groups had nothing to do with each other.

Let's examine merely the underlined portion from the text: the two groups came together to trap Jesus in His words, knowing that a "yes" or "no" would get Him into trouble. They carefully prefaced their question with a; flattering comment,
'Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Their flattering observation is very instructive. Although they were likely insincere in their assessment they were nevertheless absolutely correct and these characteristics are a great example for each of us who follow Christ.

The reason I sense they were insincere is that if they really believed what they said why would they be trying to trap Jesus? Also notice that our Lord knew of their hypocrisy. But regardless of whether they were sincere or insincere they nevertheless spoke truth concerning the character of Christ.

'Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. Lesson for us: We should be more concerned about God's truth rather than the world's vacillating opinions, no matter how "expert" they are!

For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Lesson for us: We shouldn't care about the outward appearances lest we take on any darkness or politically correct views from the world.

Anyone caught not paying taxes faced harsh penalties. The Jews hated to pay taxes to Rome because the money supported their oppressors and symbolized their subjection. Much of the tax money also helped maintain the pagan temples and luxurious life-styles of Rome's upper class. The Pharisees and Herodians hoped to trap Jesus with this tax question.

The trap was related to paying taxes to Caesar. They thought they had Jesus on this one. Answer "yes" and it meant that Jesus supported Rome, which would turn the people against Him. Answering "no" would bring accusations of treason and rebellion against Rome and could lead to civil penalties (Life Application Bible Study Notes).  But Christ answered wisely and they marveled at Him. I find great truth in Matthew Henry's comment regarding their response: "Many will praise the words of a sermon, but will not be commanded by its doctrines". Jesus exposed their wrong motives and their self-interest. When we find ourselves bartering or arguing with God, if we search our hearts, read the Scriptures, and seek the heart of God our wrong motives and unyielding spirit are exposed as well.

Christ essentially reminded them (and us) that there are two Kingdoms. The kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God. We have some rendering to this world, and this, in part, is paying our taxes. 

Jesus told the leaders to pay taxes to the emperor whose image was on the coin. Likewise, we who bear the image of God in our lives, are to give full allegiance to Him whose likeness we bear. Are we giving that which rightfully belongs to Him?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, the conflict remains between our loyalty to You and our duties to the world. We are to be in this world, but not of the world. On the eve of Jesus' crucifixion He asked You to sanctify the disciples by praying, "I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.....And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth." Like the Jews we too struggle paying our taxes to our government knowing that so much is used irresponsibly and at times immorally in opposition to principles taught in Scripture. But we are also called to obey our authorities. We also recognize the benefits we enjoy collectively and individually through the collection of our taxes so we ask for grace as we deal with this matter every year. Keep us honest and fair so that we maintain our integrity, for that matters to You. Just as the Jews were told to pay taxes to the emperor whose coin bore His image, may we likewise give proper honor and devotion to You whose image we bear in our hearts. Amen.

Central Market stand, Lancaster, PA
The Central Market is located right in the heart of Lancaster City and is made up of small stands, many operated by the Amish, such as Stoltzfus Home Style Bakery.

Whiteboard witness at JK Mechanical
Mike has an interesting means of sharing his faith using his old-school twitter feed.

Flowers growing on old tree stump 4/14/14
Yesterday we purchased some flowers from our Amish neighbors. I thought these flowers growing on the stump were interesting. They were actually planted in the rotting material on the stump by one of the children. Imagine their mother's surprise when the flowers actually grew! Perhaps, in part, because of the wet spring we've had.

Yesterday's mystery photo displayed at the top of our post was taken from inside the Pennsylvania State Capitol looking up at the rotunda! We had several correct answers including a man who works for the state in Harrisburg. However most guesses were the inside of a church, including Saint Peters in Rome. Of course, there are many historic churches who were designed in similar fashion, and their beauty is a sight to behold.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"I Surrender All"  Video

Major Events of the Passion Week

An astounding 30 of the 89 accumulative chapters in the four gospels cover the period beginning with Christ's triumphal entry through His resurrection and post-resurrection appearances. Mathematically this means that approximately 33% of the written material in the Gospels deals with a mere .05% period of His life! In the providence of God we have a much greater proportion of Scriptural revelation dealing with God's greatest act of mercy in providing our redemption.

Here's an interesting chart from a Study Bible that may be helpful as you study the Bible this week. It sure helps me to have a sense of when the events took place and is inspiring to read these Scriptures in the daily sequence leading up to Easter.

  • Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19
  • Jesus Clears the Temple: Mt. 21:12,13; Mk. 11:15-17; Lk. 19:45,46
  • Jesus' authority challenged in the temple: Mt. 21:23-27; Mk. 11:27-33; Lk. 20:1-8
  • Jesus teaches stories and confronts the Jewish leaders: Mt. 21:28-23:36; Mk. 12:1-40; Lk. 20:9-47   
  • Greeks ask to see Jesus: Jn. 12:20-26
  • The Olivet Discourse: Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21:5-38
  • Judas agrees to betray Jesus: Mt. 26:14-16; Mk. 14:10,11; Lk. 22:3-6
  • The Last Supper:  Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:14-20
  • Jesus speaks to the disciples in the upper room:  Jn 13-17
  • Jesus struggles in Garden of Gethsemane: Mt. 26:36-46; Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:39-46; Jn. 18:1
  • Jesus is betrayed and arrested: Mt. 26:47-56; Mk. 14:43-52; Lk. 22:47-53; Jn. 18:2-12
  • Jesus is tried by Jewish and Roman authorities and disowned by Peter: Mt 26:57-27:2, 11-31; Mk 14:53-15:20; Lk 22:54-23:25; Jn 18:13-19:16
  • Jesus is crucified and buried: Mt 27:31-56; Mk 15:20-41; Lk 23:26-49; Jn 19:17-30
  • The glorious resurrection: Mt. 28:1-10; Mk 16:1-11; Lk 24:1-12; Jn 20:1-18
(This material is developed from an outline in the Life Application Bible)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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