Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.…
The attempt of the Pharisees to ensnare our Lord in his talk was the result of a meeting called for the purpose of considering how they might silence a critic who was making himself too formidable. They do not see how he can answer their question without laying himself open to the accusation and hostility of one party or other in the state. But our Lord is neither blinded by their, false flattery nor staggered by their ensnaring question. Having no denarius of his own, he asks them to produce one. There in their own hands is the image of Caesar, testifying that they themselves are Caesar's subjects. But he is not contented with making them feel that they have answered their own question. He adds a single clause which takes them far out of the region of their own quibbling question, "and unto God the things that are God's." This implies that there is nothing inconsistent in the claims of these two different sovereigns. The Sadducees, if they bore less malice against our Lord, were even more frivolous. The difficulty they raised had no reality in it, because a woman who was merely handed over, under the Levitical law, to her deceased husband's brother was not in the same sense his wife as she had been the wife of her first husband. It is not a bad instance of the way in which men unconsciously become frivolous and ridiculous by harping on one objection, and that an objection which by no means penetrates to the heart of the subject. The fact that such a question could be put shows that a belief in the resurrection was so common among the Jews that disbelief in it had become the badge or watchword of a party - a state of matters which implies that in the Old Testament the material for settling the question of a future state was not so copious and so decisive as to make disbelief impossible. And the circumstance that our Lord could find in the whole Bible no text more directly bearing on the subject than the one he cites is proof that the idea of immortality was not a common one in Old Testament times. The unquestioned dimness of Old Testament revelation on this point has been explained in many ways. But the proper explanation is certainly to be found in the peculiar character of the Divine revelation which the Bible records. If the revelation were a series of oracles, of abstract utterances, it would be hard to understand why the plain discovery of a future life should have been withheld; but the entire revelation is personal and historical. The foundation of all religion, the existence of God, e.g., is never given in the Old Testament Scriptures as an abstract proposition. It is taken for granted. It is no otherwise with the light which revelation sheds on man's future life. It has come, not in abstract propositions, not in direct oracular utterances from God, but through the longings of his people for continued life in him, and through the slow-growing conviction that God's love is love forevermore. The commonest and probably the most reliable of all natural arguments for immortality is that which is based on the injustice and suffering of various kinds which men experience in this present world. In view of this, men have been compelled to think of a future state in which things shall be righted and justice done and compensation made. But this is precisely the view of matters which elicited the clearest utterances regarding immortality which are to be found in the Old Testament (see Psalm 73, and Job 19.). But the argument used by our Lord is of a finer and subtler kind. From the fact of God's calling himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he argues that these men still lived. It would seem a dishonour to God to remember that he had connected himself with Abraham, if he could not keep Abraham alive. The argument involves the idea that to be the God of any one implies a living relationship. One's God is he who gives him life and blessing, and to speak of being the God of a mummy or of a handful of dust is out of the question. We know that God is love. He loves very specially those to whom he specially reveals himself - those whom he calls his children; but as these persons are without ceasing passing out of this life, it follows that, if they pass out of existence altogether, God must be subjected to a continual sorrow. Such perishing friendships are unworthy of God's eternal nature. The answer of our Lord has no very positive teaching regarding our relation to one another hereafter. It certainly implies no cessation of love between those who have here found much of their happiness in one another. No rational idea of the future can be constructed at, all without including the satisfaction of our best affections and the exercise of our highest powers. No satisfactory idea of salvation can be cherished which does not include the prospect of a time when we can frame a life for ourselves according to our late acquired wisdom and our fruitless repentance here. But this emphatic assertion of immortality by our Lord is made in connection with the resurrection of the body. We are conscious that our body is one thing and we ourselves another. Still, the soul has received a great part of its character from the body it has worn, so that, even after separation from the body, the soul will retain the character the body has impressed upon it, and this again must determine the character of the new body which the soul is to receive. It is, however, of very little moment to ascertain what kind of life is in reserve beyond the grave, if we are not ourselves sure we shall attain it. Christ; puts this in our power. His Spirit, received by us now as a Spirit of holiness, will quicken our mortal bodies, and will raise us to be with him in the life to come. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.