Red Letter Year: 5/16

Matthew 22:15-33

15 Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 16 They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. 17 Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? 19 Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, 20 he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

22 His reply amazed them, and they went away.

23 That same day Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question:24 “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.’ 25 Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children, so his brother married the widow. 26 But the second brother also died, and the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them. 27 Last of all, the woman also died. 28 So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.”

29 Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. 30 For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But now, as to whether there will be a resurrection of the dead—haven’t you ever read about this in the Scriptures? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead.”

33 When the crowds heard him, they were astounded at his teaching.


“You don’t know the Scriptures and you don’t know the power of God.” That really stood out to me as I read this passage just now. The people Jesus was talking to here actually did know Scripture quite well, or at least they thought they did. The hypothetical they create for Jesus is based on specific laws in Torah. But they did not know the power of God, which explains their close alliance with the Roman authorities. The Sadducees were thoroughly ‘realistic’ about how to get on in the world, they held no ‘delusions’ about some mythic messiah coming to deliver them from their oppression, so they were making the best of their bad situation. Which is uncomfortably close to how we go about our business much of the time, as if no help is coming, no deliverance or healing or miracle is possible. But when we think that, we not only betray a lack of knowledge of the power of God, we betray a lack of understanding of Scripture as well. Scripture only makes sense as Scripture when read through the lens of the power of God. The Bible is the account of God revealing Godself in love and power to people through the course of human history, leading up to and flowing out of the central revelation of loving power in the person of Jesus. The Sadducees don’t know Scripture because they don’t know the Word of God who is speaking to them. They don’t know the power of God because Jesus has repeatedly demonstrated that power and they have refused to see. When we interpret from Scripture something other than the powerful love of God for all humans, the loving power just waiting to be expressed in each life, we come under the same rebuke as they did. Knowing the Word of God and the Power of God are intrinsically connected, one cannot be understood apart from the other.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.