October 18, 2020 Nailed to the Wall
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Most of us are not trained in the art of ‘debate’. In a debate, two sides of a question or issue are discussed as one side tries to convince the other side, or convince the audience, which viewpoint is the correct one to have. In a debate, neither side wants to get caught lying, or being illogical or inconsistent, or -as they say- being ‘backed into a corner’, or being ‘nailed to the wall.’ (figuratively speaking).
The most common illustration of those last two things is being forced to answer only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this question: ‘sir, have you stopped beating your wife?’. If you answer just ‘yes’ or ‘no’, you are ‘nailed to the wall.’ You see, if you say ‘yes’, it means you did beat her, even if you didn’t. And if you say ‘no’, it means you’re still beating her, even if you meant ‘no, you never did.’ Lawyers, politicians, & news reporters love to enter a debate with those ‘gotcha’ kind of questions. It’s better not to answer at all. Fortunately, most of the time, we’re not in a debate-mode with those who are out to ‘get’ us. *Or are we?
Maybe even in every day situations, we might run into questions we shouldn’t answer. A pastor I know once went around his church asking some of the ladies if they could think of any questions which men should never answer; where any answer will get him ‘nailed to the wall.’ The ladies offered some. The most common one was: ‘do these jeans make me look fat?’ Every man knows that its far better to pretend you’ve gone deaf (or fake a heart attack) than to answer that. Another question better left unanswered is: ‘do you like you’re mother’s spaghetti sauce better than mine?’ And, ‘do you think she’s pretty?’; ‘If I died, would you remarry, ….and still live in our house?’ I don’t know, maybe King Solomon could’ve answered those questions; but probably not the average man.
If we understand this debate-principle, then we can grasp the underhanded forces at work the day Jesus was asked a question which was designed to ‘nail Him to the wall’ = in Matt.22. Even tho the arrogant men opposing Jesus failed before to back Jesus into a corner, they were going to keep trying, with the goal to get rid of him. But *how does a person out-smart God, and get anything good from it?
There are people today who think of Jesus as a good guy, nice & gentle, loving, & accepting of everyone. And that’s true; Jesus is all of that -& more- for the person who understands that they are a broken & condemned sinner in need of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and salvation = He’s the Savior!
But that’s not all He is. For the person who ignores God, & His Words & Commands for this life, and who thinks they can live by their own rules, that person -sooner or later-
will find that Jesus is not just meek & mild, but is the authoritative Judge of God Almighty. He is unbeatable. We know Him by the Scripture as one who defeated the proud & the pompous. To their faces He called the Pharisees ‘snakes, hypocrites, and whitewashed tombs.’
We believe, as Phil.2 declares, the day is coming when every knee will bow to Him, those in heaven, on earth, & under the earth; and every tongue will confess Him to be Lord & God; either to their et. blessing, OR their et. regret.
So, from the beginning, the Pharisees never considered Jesus to be a colleague or a coworker in God’s Kingdom. They saw Him as a threat, and they examined everything He did in order to turn the crowd against him, trap him, nail him to the wall, & get rid of him. Even when Jesus was comforting people with God’s mercy, or healing someone of their sickness, the Pharisees were criticizing, disapproving, & plotting against the Son of God.
Week after week, month after month they butted heads with Jesus; it must’ve been very frustrating for them. Every time they came up with a new plan to corner Him & discredit Him, or claim He was violating some law or tradition, He managed to defend Himself, and turn the tables on them, showing them to be phony & deceitful.
They tried to disgrace Jesus by discrediting His disciples; they tried to shame the Savior by attacking the sinners He had forgiven & brought to faith; they tried to poke holes in His teachings; they even said He was working for Satan. They did everything they could think of to nail Jesus to the wall. But Jesus was always smarter, & ‘righter’ than they were. As the all-knowing Son of God, He knew what they were thinking before they did = just like He does with us. That should give us pause as we make our daily plans. I’m sure Jesus’ enemies were frustrated.
You’ve heard the old expression which says: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Nations who don’t normally like each other will become allies if they’re both threatened by a worse enemy. Like when the world united against Hitler. Differences might be set aside -for a time- in order to fight a common threat & foe. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. It was the same in Jesus’ day. The Pharisees joined forces with a political group called the Herodians. The Pharisees, who hated Roman rule & pagan customs, allied with the Herodians who supported & promoted the Roman Empire. Normally, they wouldn’t give each other the time of day; but both agreed that Jesus had to be silenced.
We can still see this same thing in our world today. Worldly-people, who reject the one Creator of the universe, at times they might join with those they don’t like so as to silence Christ Jesus and His Church. Maybe the communists will cooperate with the Muslims in order to keep people from becoming Christian in their countries. Maybe certain politicians will turn a blind-eye to radical & violent protest groups in order to win an election, to get power over the people, or to keep abortion legal = or whatever their goals are. As we learn from the Scripture, we should never underestimate the wickedness in man’s heart to fight against God & God’s people. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
So, the Pharisees join with the Herodians, they go to Jesus, and present a question they felt certain would nail Him to the wall. After a phony compliment, they asked, “Tell us, wise Teacher, is it right for a person to pay taxes to the Roman government?” People in our day can ask those challenge-questions, too. They say, “Tell us, if God is so kind, how come He allows this war, this hurricane, this accident, or this deadly virus? Huh?” “If your God is so loving, how could He be so cruel as to send people to hell?” Mostly those questions are asked to create doubt, mock or trap a believer; to nail Christians to the wall.
‘So tell us, oh wise teacher, should we pay taxes to Caesar?’, and they got their ‘nails’ ready. If He said, ‘No, you shouldn’t pay taxes to the Romans,’ the Herodians would go ballistic, report Him to the authorities; who would arrest Him & could execute Him for insurrection. On the other hand, if Jesus said, ‘Yes, as good citizens, pay your taxes to Rome’ then the Pharisees would could spread the word throughout all Judea that Jesus wanted to support the wicked & ungodly Empire of Rome. And the crowds of faithful Jews would abandon Him, or call for His head.
So, the Pharisees didn’t realize Who they were talking to. Jesus was the one who gave Solomon his wisdom; so Jesus knew how to divide up this ‘baby’ & get to the truth. He begins by figuratively slapping them in the face. “You lying hypocrites; you compliment me while you try to trap me & condemn me. Why don’t you show me the coin for the tax.”
The coin was a Roman denarius; a common piece of stamped silver, worth about one day’s labor. A denarius could feature the likeness of a Roman emperor or one of their gods. Holding the money, the Lord asked them, “you tell Me, whose face is on this coin, & who’s words?” They knew. “Caesar’s.” So, it was Caesar’s coin; he minted it & decorated it; it was backed by the full faith & credit of the Roman government.
Jesus said: ‘then, you ought to give Caesar what belongs to him.’ Well, that’s the answer the Pharisees had hoped for; they nailed him! Except, Jesus didn’t stop there. He then said, “And… and along with giving Caesar what you owe him, you also ought to give God the things which are His.”
They set a trap, but Jesus hadn’t been caught. Jesus had just taught a Scripture truth that’s been true since there have been nations & emperors, presidents & governors.
Jesus’ answer was not ‘yes’ or ‘no’; it was ‘yes’ and ‘yes.’ The Lord teaches us to know that WE are blessed to have citizenship in two different kingdoms: one earthly, one heavenly.
At His Word, God’s Biblical people -in every nation & every generation- have done their best to be faithful citizens of both. So, ‘yes’ we agree to pay our taxes to fund the our government; we agree to obey the laws; in -almost- every way, we want to live as obedient & upright members of our country.
And I say ‘almost every way’, because being ‘Christian’ means we have the primary duty to live as citizens of God’s kingdom, and as members of God’s eternal family. Foremost, and always, our loyalty is first to The Lord = who sent His Son to live for us, to die to forgive us, & to rise to give us a new life. When forced to choose between God’s will and the world’s way, those who have been saved by Jesus will bear witness to God’s right & Biblical ways.
This world’s kingdoms & nations come & go; God’s Kingdom endures forever.
Your Savior Jesus traded His life for yours; He has bought you back from being condemned & separated from God. You now belong to Him; He is your king; in Him you have an eternal future, and a present courage, peace, & joy.
This is our faith, & this is our life. A Christian’s first loyalty is to their Savior, to His teachings & ways, and as living witnesses to Him, to His Word & salvation. Just as in Acts 5, when Peter & John were told to quit preaching salvation thru the cross & empty tomb of Jesus Christ, without hesitation they proclaimed: “Sir, we understand your position. But we have to obey God rather than men.” When Christians were being persecuted in Rome, St. Paul wrote to that church & said: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Rom13:1). But when the Emperor threated Christians with death unless they treated him as a god, they declared: ‘Sir, we can’t do that.’ And many of them were martyred for the one true faith & Lord.
How blessed WE have been that our nation began with a Judeo-Christian foundation, with freedom of religion, & some separation between Church & State. For generations, the Church has been able to live in harmony with our nation’s leaders, & within our country’s culture. Many Christians world-wide have not been so blessed; and that harmony is always being tested for us. (we could lost those blessings if we vote for the wrong leaders) Faithful & patriotic Biblical Christians in our day are sometimes mocked for being backward-traditionalists & out-dated moralists. Reporters & commentators spit their criticism of ‘the religious right’, and say that ‘evangelicals’ should keep silent in politics & culture, and not shove our morality down their throats.
But our Lord has told us to be upright & faithful citizens of BOTH kingdoms = and so we will be, without fear or apology. *Why? Because we belong first to the Lord of heaven & earth; we have a new life with the world’s one Savior, Jesus, who loved us & gave Himself for us. He has told us: give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to Him.
We started out talking about questions for men which can get you ‘nailed to the wall.’ That’s a weird phrase. But let’s wrap things up with that same idea. The Pharisees didn’t succeed with Jesus that day in Matt.22; but they didn’t stop. And another question was put to Jesus later which finally got him nailed -not to a wall- but to a cross. Jesus’ enemies kept getting bolder, & finally they pulled out all the stops. They bribed one of the Savior’s disciples to betray Him; they paid false witnesses to tell lies about Him in court; they broke their own rules & raced Him thru a series of illegal night trials.
At one of those interrogations, Jesus was asked, ‘I charge you before the living God: are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ (Matt./Mk). Jesus could’ve kept silent, or had a clever answer. But He was done playing their games. He answered, “I am.”
Then the high priest tore his robes, charged him with blasphemy, and the whole court condemned Him to death. Jesus answered one of those questions He shouldn’t have answered. And they nailed Him to the cross for it. But God’s plan was being fulfilled.
On Calvary’s cross He died so that all who believe on Him as Savior would live. Nailed to a cross, He put an end to the condemnation of sin, & the charges of Satan against us. Then, on the 3rd Day, He showed those in heaven, those on earth, & those under the earth that He is undefeatable; He is Lord over heaven and earth; and His kingdom & reign will never end.
Some of the world’s questions are meant to back you into a corner, or nail you to the wall. But God’s people can ask the people of the world some questions of their own. Such as:
*Do you know anyone who loves you so much that they would be crucified for you?
*Do you know someone who can look at your most evil thoughts & wicked actions and still offer you complete forgiveness, wipe the slate clean, & give you another chance?
*Do you know The One person who will hold the door of heaven open for you when you face death?
We don’t ask those questions in order to win a debate. On Good Friday & Easter Sunday the debate was over. We can ask questions of others that are designed to point them to their Savior Jesus, the Lord of Life.