The Wrong Messiah

for the wrong kingdom.

Matthew 22:15–22

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.”

So they brought Him a denarius.

And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

People often interpret this passage as Jesus outwitting the Pharisees who were trying to entangle Him, but that misses the point. The Pharisees have the wrong concept of a Messiah, and Jesus is correcting them.

They expected a Messiah that would overthrow the Roman kingdom. That’s not who showed up though. Instead, Immanuel became literal and the kingdom of heaven arrived in a heavenly form. The kingdom of heaven gladly allows other kingdoms to exist.

Having Christian eyes means taking the right Messiah concept to heart. They see both kingdoms, but the kingdom of heaven is the important one. Other kingdoms shouldn’t be ignored, just seen in context.

Yes, the government makes money through taxation, even by just printing it—which is a whole lot easier than earning it. Yes, we should pay taxes.

Yes, the government uses force to make people obey its rules. Thus, their rules define right and wrong in society. Yes, sometimes the government’s concept of right and wrong conflicts with Scripture.

So, two kingdoms coexist in the same place at the same time. They have, at times, even disagreed.

But only one of those kingdoms is forever. Governments come and go.

Governments are important. They provide the environment for all activity. Christians should almost never be revolutionary or subversive. That would be falling back into the wrong messiah concept.

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. — Romans 13:1–2

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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