Last Sunday we heard in worship the parable of the wedding banquet.
In this parable Jesus tells of a king that throws a wedding for his son.
In the parable we discover that those who were first invited refused to come.
So, the king decides to invite everyone that he can find to his son’s wedding.
After doing this the wedding hall is filled with guests.
But there is one man at the wedding who is not wearing the appropriate wedding robe.
He is questioned for why he does not have on the proper wedding garment.
But he does not have an answer.
Having no answer to the question he is thrown out of the wedding.
As with all of the parables of Jesus there are many ways to interpret this parable.
One way we might understand this particular parable is to see that when God calls us to his party meaning the kingdom of heaven we are to respond with glad and joyful hearts.
We are not to find other things to do or to name excuses in order to avoid God and God’s kingdom.
In the parable this is what the first group of people do -they name reasons for why they cannot come to the wedding.
Let’s think about this here.
What is the needed response to the wedding?
We are to jump at the opportunity to be a part of God’s kingdom and to join God in what God is doing in the world.
The parable ends with a man who is thrown out of the party.
This man does not have on the wedding garment.
We might interpret this part of the parable in this way.
He is like the one who is not willing to embrace gospel living.
This person accepts the invitation to God’s party but refuses to live in the ways of Christ.
For us this means that we are to be found by our Lord clothed in Christ not in our own sinful living.
We are to put on the robe of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience – this is the way of Christ.
Today we continue in chapter twenty-two of Matthew right where we left off from last week.
From the parable of the wedding banquet we immediately go into the story of Jesus being questioned about paying taxes.
Unlike the man in the parable who when questioned had no answer for why he did not have on a wedding robe Jesus has a perfect answer to the question that the religious leaders ask him.
To begin here -first, know that this is a trap.
How do we know this?
The Bible tells us.
In verse fifteen we hear: “The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him.”
The Pharisees have no intention to know the right theological answer here.
They want Jesus to get caught in their trap that they are setting for him!
You see Jesus is in a very difficult situation here.
Does Jesus confess loyalty to emperor or to God?
If Jesus says to the emperor then the Pharisees would say he is opposed to God.
If Jesus says to God then the supporters of Herod would say Jesus should be tried for rebellion against those in power.
Jesus completely avoids the trap.
He answers the question in a way that teaches us that we are to honor and to respect those in authority while at the same time giving our true obedience and even our very lives to God.
Our very lives are found in God.
This is the profound teaching that Jesus makes here.
For in the end we do not belong to the emperor but to God.
We do not belong to our possessions or our wealth but to God.
In our current context here in our country we might say that we do not belong to the political claims that we make during an election year we belong rather to God.
We do not belong to the demands of our jobs but we belong to God.
We do not belong to the ways of this world but to God.
We do live in this world, yes and we do vote and pay taxes and obey and respect authority but our greatest loyalty belongs to God.
OK, now three takeaways from today’s Gospel reading and one takeaway from last Sunday’s Gospel reading.
First, do not give to emperor what belongs to God.
This means that we always belong to God first, before any human authority we belong to God.
Second, as citizens of this world we seek to live in ways that promote justice and fair and good government.
Thirdly, as followers of Jesus we are careful about mixing religion with politics.
The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus in that mix but Jesus separated the two and by doing so he taught us that what belongs to God is vastly greater than what belongs to the emperors of this world.
For what belongs to God: the answer of course is everything.
Even the emperor owes everything that he has to God.
He is accountable to God.
And just because emperor is in power does not mean that he is doing God’s will.
He too will need to answer to God.
Lastly, as we pull all of chapter twenty-two of Matthew together now and consider the opening parable of the wedding right before the question about paying taxes, we might receive one more takeaway.
How can we give to God what belongs to God?
It is by putting on Christ and by living fully as a child of God.
This brings glory to God and light and hope to the world.