March 15, 2009

Seeing Who's In the Crosshairs - Mar 15, 2009


On the Monday of Holy Week Jesus entered the Temple and cleared out all the merchants and moneychangers who were dishonoring God’s House of Prayer. While this upset the religious leaders who benefited from this nefarious selling of goods, they were too afraid to take aggressive action against Jesus. On Tuesday of Holy Week, they were not so timid.

When Jesus arrived at the Temple on Tuesday, He faced immediate opposition. Today we see some of the battle of words waged between Jesus and the hypocrites who wanted Him dead.


The purpose of Jesus’ birth, life and death is summed up in the words of 1 John 3:8:

“…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8 NIV).

In our sermon meditation for today, we consider the words of:

Luke 20:20-26 (NIV)

20Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
23He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24“Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?”
25“Caesar’s,” they replied.
He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
26They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

Grace and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It’s a classic movie scenario. At the crucial moment the hero is in the crosshairs. The trigger is squeezed and the shot rings out. But wait! The character we thought was the bad guy wasn’t aiming a the hero at all! His target was the real enemy who was closing in on our hero from behind.

If we could have seen who was being targeted we would have known the truth.

As we meditate on God’s Word today, “Seeing Who’s in the Crosshairs” makes all the difference.

“The Savior in the Sights”

Our Savior is the first person we find in the crosshairs. In His teaching, Jesus had singled out the religious leaders of Jerusalem. They were not being faithful to God and His Word. But having their wicked behavior pointed out made them angry, not repentant. So they sent spies to catch Jesus in His own words.

This gives us a sobering glimpse into the hearts of the men who opposed Jesus. They were evil, and determined and unscrupulous.

First their spies buttered Jesus up with flattery. They said He was a good and godly teacher. They said He didn’t show favoritism to anyone, but spoke the truth. Then they asked their two-pronged question: “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

If Jesus said that they SHOULD pay taxes to Caesar, the people, who hated Rome’s occupation of their country, would consider Jesus a traitor. No doubt many would stop listening to His teaching. The open ears of the people were on the line.

If Jesus said that they SHOULDN’T pay taxes to Caesar, then Rome’s governor would consider Jesus a rebel and deal with Him accordingly. Pontius Pilate was not afraid of shedding the people’s blood in order to make a point. The spies hoped that Pilate would do their killing for them. Then Rome could do the work and take the blame.

But it wasn’t just the possibility of political suicide and government execution that Jesus faced here. If He were to answer this question in a sinful way, all that He had worked for would fail. His needed to live His whole life without sin in order for the plan of salvation to work. He had to be a perfect sacrifice when He died on Calvary’s cross. In a very real way, OUR salvation depended on Jesus’ response.

This is something we should bear in mind whenever we meditate on the events of Jesus’ life. In baseball, you get three strikes. In the game of perfection, you get no strikes. Jesus lived His whole life with our eternal home on the line. One false step, one sin, and our hope of forgiveness would have been gone forever.

“Jesus’ Disciples: A Secondary Target”

When they were sent to target Jesus, the spies were being used by the religious leaders. And the religious leaders were being used by Satan. Later when the risen Jesus was out of the picture, Satan would turn His sights fully on Jesus’ disciples.

Jesus warned His disciples of this, saying:

“18“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18-20a NIV).

Those whom Satan has tricked into following him continue to do his work today. They seek to catch Christians in their own words. They attempt to make Jesus’ followers look stupid or evil. They try to pass legislation that will hinder Christians or get them in trouble with the government. In some countries Christians are beaten and even killed for their work in Christ’s Name.

We live in an ungodly world, and an ungodly country. When we speak as Christ’s envoys, we shouldn’t be surprised by opposition, we should expect it. The apostle Paul wrote,

“12In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:12-15 NIV).

You too are disciples of Jesus. Expect to be targeted. But like Paul encouraged Timothy, keep YOUR sights on God’s Word and God’s Savior.

“Keep Your Sights on God”

When Jesus answered the question about taxes to Caesar, He was encouraging the same thing as Paul did. With His answer to the spies, Jesus teaches us about obedience to the government while at the same time encouraging us to keep our sights on God.

Let’s read verses 22-26 once more to refresh our memory on His Words.

“22Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
23He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24“Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?”
25“Caesar’s,” they replied.
He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
26They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent” (Luke 20:22-26 NIV).

Part of keeping our sights on God is recognizing His activity in the real world.

The book of Romans reminds us that secular authorities are appointed by God. Not all they do is sanctioned by God, but we are obligated to respect them as God’s appointed leaders all the same.

In the Old Testament David gives us a good example to follow. Once, King Saul went out with an army of 3,000 men to hunt down and kill David. As they searched for him, Saul stopped to go to the bathroom in a cave. Deep in the darkness of that cavern David and his men were hiding. It would have been easy for David to kill Saul. The Bible tells us that David even crept close enough to cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. But afterward, David even regretted this. In First Samuel it says,

“6He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’S anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” 7With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way” (1 Samuel 24:6-7 NIV).

Our obligation to respect and obey government officials is not dependant on their skill or their worthiness or even their moral character. Even when they are incompetent or evil we do not have the right to rebel against them or bad-mouth them.

God does not tell us to respect only the ones that are worthy of respect. God does not tell us to obey only the laws that we think are well written. Only when those laws violate God’s law does He give us the right to disobey His appointed servants. And even then we are to do so respectfully.

There’s greater lesson that obedience to secular authority that is found here. When we focus our hearts on our Great God, the actions of those around us should not determine when we do right or wrong.

That’s the way of the world. The world tells us to do good to those who do good to us and to repay evil with evil.

But that’s keeping others in our crosshairs, instead of keeping God in our sights. May the Holy Spirit warm our hearts to His Word, and focus our eyes on our Great God, so that we live TO HIM. May the Holy Spirit purify our hearts through Christ Jesus, so that our behavior is not dependent on what others do, but on what we know is God’s good and Holy Will.

Ultimately, the religious leaders of Jerusalem succeeded in their plot against Jesus. Even though He clearly taught obedience to Rome, they accused Him of rebellion before Pontius Pilate. And even though Pilate knew He was innocent of such a charge, he condemned Jesus to die.

It appeared that Satan had Christ in the crosshairs and would finally take Him out. But sometimes being in the crosshairs doesn’t matter. When Satan put Christ on the cross, the gun backfired on Satan.

Because He died in our place, the death of Jesus destroyed the power of sin over us. We no longer fear God’s just anger over our past sins. We no longer fear the angry plotting of Satan. Because of Jesus, God has forgiven us.

So, for the rest of Lent, keep your eyes out for Jesus being targeted – for you.

Throughout the rest of life, keep your eyes out for Satan targeting you – and when he does rejoice, you must be speaking the Good News.

For life and eternity turn your line of sight on the Triune God. He is your Creator, your Savior and the one who continues to mold your heart to His ways, and your life to His joyful service. He is the one who daily forgives your sins because of what happened on Calvary.

Keep this God in your sights dear Christians.


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