“The incarnation means that he who never began to be in his specific identity as Son of God, began to be what he eternally was not. We must appreciate the historic factuality and temporal occurrence of the incarnation and the sustained contrasts involved. The infinite became the finite, the eternal and supratemporal entered time and became subject to its conditions, the immutable became the mutable, the invisible became the visible, the Creator became the created, the sustainer of all became dependent, the Almighty infirm. All is summed up in the proposition, God became man. The title ‘God’ comprehends all that attributes that belong to God and the designation ‘man’ all the attributes that are essentially human.” —John Murray, “The Person of Christ”
Altogether three reasons were given to Israel for remembering the Sabbath. The first, given here, is rooted in creation.
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:11 ESV).
When Moses calls the next generation to covenant renewal and restates this command, much remains the same, but the grounds are significantly different.
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:15 ESV).
Ultimately, I believe, that these two reasons have one unifying reason, and a hint as to how this can be is found in a yet third basis given for Sabbath remembrance.
You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you (Exodus 31:13 ESV).’
Like circumcision and the Passover, the Sabbath is a perpetual sign throughout their generations, of His covenant. Jesus comes as the fulfillment of the law. Because of Him circumcision gives way to baptism (Colossians 2:11–13), the Passover blooms into the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:14–18ff), and the Sabbath, well, what becomes of the Sabbath? We’re clearly commanded to baptize and to remember the Supper, but no command is given concerning the Sabbath, nor the Lord’s day. Rather, we’re told:
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord (Romans 14:5–6 ESV).
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ (Colossians 2:16–17 ESV).
What happens to the Sabbath? Jesus declares Himself Lord of the Sabbath in Matthew 12. Just prior to this Matthew records these words, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28–30 ESV).” Hebrews 4 speaks of entering God’s rest by faith, the rest of God that He had once He had finished from His works.
Because of Jesus, our work is finished, competed perfectly for us, and now we rest. What happens to the Sabbath? We haven’t abandoned it. We’ve entered more fully into it—in Jesus. Because of His redemption, a new day has dawned, a resurrection day, a day of new creation, a day of rest.
In short the physical rest of the Old Testament Sabbath has become the salvation rest of the true Sabbath. Believers In Christ can now live in God’s Sabbath that has already dawned. Jesus’ working to accomplish this superseded the Old Testament Sabbath (John 5:17) and so does the doing of God’s work that He now requires of people—believing in the one God has sent (John 6:28, 29). In fact the Sabbath keeping now demanded is the cessation from reliance on one’s own works (Heb. 4:9, 10). —A.T. Lincoln
[T]he Scriptures, when properly searched into and compared do clearly and in every part testify of Christ, that he is the end of the Law, the sum of the Prophets, the completion of the promises, the scope of the types and ceremonies, and the great object of the whole Old-Testament dispensation. —John Newton, Works
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” —Exodus 3:11–13
Moses: Who am I?
God: But I will be with you.
Moses: Ok. Not me. You. Got it. …Who are you?
God: I AM WHO I AM.
God has addressed Moses by name. Moses has not returned the favor. Was God’s name not known up to this point? No. The name of God is YHWH or Yahweh, represented every time we see the all caps “LORD” in the Old Testament. Knowing this, we see that Abraham knew this name (Genesis 12:8), as well as Isaac (Genesis 26:25), and Jacob (Genesis 28:16). We can go all the way back to the third generation of man (Genesis 4:26). God’s name was known.
Has Moses been baking in the wilderness too long? Or has the 400 year bondage caused him, along with all Israel, to forget? A better answer is found in a couple of verses that may initially cause us more puzzlement. “God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them (Exodus 6:2-3).’” So was Genesis mistaken? Did the patriarchs not call upon YHWH? They knew the name YHWH, but YHWH wasn’t known by His name. God had appeared and made himself known as God Almighty, but His name YHWH was a mystery to them. Now, God is revealing Himself in His name to Moses so that he might give it to His people.
Biblically, names are revelatory. They’re meaningful. God’s name communicates His aseity, immutability, incomprehensibility, transcendence, simplicity, and holiness. But His name also represents His condescension. In giving this name, God is stooping and lisping to His children. To know God’s name isn’t just to know Him, but to know Him intimately. This is God’s covenant name that His people are to remember Him by (Exodus 3:15).
It’s a shame that we’ve forgotten it. We read that Abraham “called upon the name of the LORD,” and think of a title, “Lord,” instead of a personal name, “YHWH.” It’s a great shame that we don’t call upon this name. It’s a greater shame that we forget Who it is this name says we call upon. Pray to your Father, but do not forget that it is YHWH—the self-existent, transcendent, holy, immutable I AM come down in covenant love—that you call upon as Father.
By God’s grace we do better than we know. Anytime we call upon the name of Jesus, truly knowing Him as the supreme revelation of God, we are leaning upon the truth revealed in God’s name—the Holy one, come down in covenant love to redeem His people. “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Joshua” or “Yeshua” which means “YHWH is salvation.” The angel commanded Joseph “to call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).” God told Moses that God would deliver His people (Exodus 3:8). Unlike Moses, with Jesus, God isn’t simply delivering His people through a man; Jesus is God come to deliver His people. He is YHWH, and so He says, “before Abraham was, I am (John 8:58).” Knowing the name of YHWH helps us to better understand the name of Jesus. May we never forget, throughout all our generations.
We are all born Sadducees denying the Resurrection. Dead men don’t believe in the Life. The Sadducees want to discredit Jesus and they don’t believe in resurrection. They want to make Jesus look foolish for believing in resurrection. They want belief in resurrection to look stupid and thus for Jesus to look stupid. They just don’t realize how synonymous their goals are. “I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).” One way Jesus could have replied to their inquisition was, “I move that we suspend this debate for a few days. Then I will present you with conclusive evidence.”
Just as the previous passage in Matthew wasn’t about taxes, this one is not about mere resurrection. It isn’t about simply learning that there won’t be marriage in heaven or that when God enters into covenant relationship with someone, that covenant is forever, therefore the person God is in covenant must be forever (Matthew 12:32). There is no such thing as mere resurrection unto life. There is the Son’s resurrection, and those who are immersed into it. All resurrection is about Jesus. Scripture is God speaking, to you (Matthew 22:31). Here God is saying, “See my Son? He is never discredited. Resurrection is true. Learn this in My Son.” If you are a slow student, don’t worry. God will repeat Himself loudly when the next week begins on Easter morn. “[Jesus] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:4).
We are born dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). We are born dead men who try to discredit the Life. We are Sadducees who try to murder the Life. The dead cannot ultimately murder the Life, but the Life can raise the dead. The Life died that the dead might live. This is because His death was ours and His resurrection is ours. You will be as resurrected as Jesus is, for His resurrection is yours.
Thinking that this text is about taxes is like thinking that the point of building a house is driving nails. The government may spend taxes that way (“Hey we bought an outrageous surplus of nails here… hmmm… what to do? Houses!”), but the Holy Spirit does not inspire texts that way. We can learn about taxes from this text. In fact, everything that the New Testament teaches us about relating to government (i.e. Romans 13:1-7) is contained within Jesus’ response, but taxes are not the point. Taxes are the road, not the destination. What is the aim? What was the Pharisees’ aim? They wanted to entangle Jesus in His words. They do want to drive nails—in Jesus’ coffin. They want to discredit Jesus. Their questions are the hammers.
The Holy Spirit, in contrast, wants to glorify Jesus. He has the easy task. He just has to open blind eyes; “Look, there He is!” When the Pharisees test Jesus, it is like a distance jumper saying he will test the vastness of the Grand Canyon by his jumping skills. You have to foolishly think you are some kind of greatness to test Jesus. When man tests Jesus, man always fails. Jesus’ answer is brilliant and wonderful. They ask about giving taxes, He tells them to render. Don’t just give, give back to Ceasar what is his. Pause. Read slowly. Give Ceasar what is his. Do not render Caesar what is not his. The coin used for the poll tax had an image of Tiberius with the inscription, “Tiberius Ceasar, Son of the Divine Augustus.” Divinity is not Caesar’s. He is not due worship. Pay Caesar taxes, not homage.
The Pharisees fail, and yet, Jesus is going to the cross. Nails will be driven into His hands and feet, but He is using them, the rulers of this world, as His hammers. Foolish hammer. He thinks he wields himself. They kill, God raises, Jesus rules. Every time—they look stupid and Jesus looks glorious. We can give Ceasar taxes, because we know the risen King of kings who is Lord over them all. In giving Ceasar his due as an act of obedience to God, we give to God his due as the Sovereign Lord of all.
Jesus does not tax His subjects. He was taxed for them, by God, bearing the wrath they deserve. He payed our debt and rendered our due. True, he demands we die, but so that we might live. We must repent, but in repentance we turn from poison to elixir. We turn from darkness to light. We turn from death to life. Jesus does not tax; His yoke is easy and His burden is light. In Jesus we have been given a ruler none of us deserve; a King who serves, a Ruler who heals, a Conqueror who delivers, a Lord who gives. This frees you to give. Even taxes. Jesus is so great, you can pay taxes to pagan kings as an act of worshipping Him. Render Him His due.
You’re the general manager of a restaurant that is a national chain. Soon you’re to open for dinner, so you gather the staff to speak to them. A call briefly diverts you. When you return a mystery man is rearranging the furniture, telling the employees to take certain things down and throw them in the dumpster, while instructing them as to how things will be done from now on. You run up interrogating, “Who do you think you are? By what authority do you do these things?”
This is what the Jewish leaders are doing here. They do not realize that the Owner is in the house. They are getting themselves fired.
Why did I identify you with these corrupt managers? If you read this text and identify with Jesus as a rebel bucking corrupt authority you need to realize this—you are not Jesus. If you are shouting “Yeah, boo authority,” you are just like the high priests. Don’t identify with Jesus as a rebel against authority. Identify yourself with the leaders as rebels against the supreme authority. Jesus isn’t a rebel for you to identify with. He is a King for you to submit to. Jesus isn’t subverting their authority, He is saying He trumps it. He is showing that the authorities have no authority over Him.
Two parties have clashed rejecting the authorities of one another. This is not a meeting of a south-going Zax meeting a north-going Zax. This isn’t the meeting of two equally stubborn creatures. The crucial issue here is who has the authority. That is whose rejection matters. If an officer pulls you over and starts to give you a ticket it does you no good to say, “I reject that badge, toodeloo.” Likewise, when you reject Jesus, you’re not the one in authority. Worse yet, the one rejected, is King, so your crime becomes treason. Even worse still, He is the King of kings; there is no higher court of appeal.
Repent, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
During His ministry Jesus uses only two modes of transportation, foot and boat. When He is on land, Jesus always uses foot. I have to qualify this because when Jesus is on water He mostly uses boat but occasionally uses foot as well. Jesus has walked all the way to Jerusalem and now, just prior to entering the city, He sends His disciples to fetch a donkey. Jesus isn’t tired. He is making a statement.
Imagine a young man in a long distance relationship going to meet her parents for the first time. Twenty miles outside of the city he parks his rust bucket lemon and rents a car that says intelligent and safe, being sure to conceal the green Enterprise logo. What is doing? He wants to make a statement, but it’s a false one. Or consider the teenager who rents or borrows the expensive ride for a formal. Likewise, a statement is being made and that statement is, “Me!” Jesus rides into town to make a statement, but unlike my examples, Jesus isn’t being deceptive, nor is He being shallow and vain. He is being humble. Jesus is saying He is King, but He is a humble King. He has come to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.
None are ever so humble, yet none are ever so kingly. Don’t miss the Lion for the Lamb. Say that when the US invaded Iraq in 2003 she went with the intent to make her a United States territory. The American flag was raised, the pledge now their pledge, the president now their president. Weeks in Qusay Hussein strolls into town with a motorcade, with red, black, and white flags waving, and crowds shouting, “Save us! Allah bless the son of Sadam.” Even if the followthrough is laughable, such actions wouldn’t be taken lightly.
What is the charge that the Pharisees charge Jesus with in their own courts? Blasphemy. But what charge do they bring before Pilate? Insurrection. Jesus previously used smoke when He came to Jerusalem (John 7:1-11), but now He grabs the bee hive, shakes it up, and spreads His arms to accept the stings.
The crowds see a war horse where there is a donkey. Indeed Zechariah 9 speaks of Jesus defeating our foes. The irony is that Jesus as He comes humbly, mounted on a donkey will defeat our greatest foes. The Lion as Lamb delivers, saves, and conquerors. Hosanna!
He granteth and confesseth whatever can rightly be charged upon us; yet so as that he taketh the whole charge upon himself, acknowledging the crimes to be his own. -John Bunyan, The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate
Wherefore, it is evident that saints neither can nor dare adventure to plead their cause. Alas! the Judge is the almighty and eternal God; the law broken is the holy and perfect rule of God, in itself a consuming fire. The sin is so odious, and a thing so abominable, that it is enough to make all the angels blush to hear it but so much as once mentioned in so holy a place as that is where this great God doth sit to judge. This sin now hangs about the neck of him that hath committed it; yea, it covereth him as doth a mantle. The adversary is bold, cunning, and audacious, and can word a thousand of us into an utter silence in less than half a quarter of an hour. What, then, should the sinner, if he could come there, do at this bar to plead? Nothing; nothing for his own advantage. But now comes in his mercy-he has an Advocate to plead his cause-‘If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ -John Bunyan, The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate