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Bible Study Guide for Sunday October 18, 2020

October 15, 2020

● Exodus 33:12-23

● Psalm 99

● 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

● Matthew 22:15-22

Today’s Gospel reading occurs during Holy Week, after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the Temple, but before the plot to have Jesus killed is put into place. Tensions are about as high as they will ever be. The Pharisees set a trap for Jesus. They, along with much of the populace, oppose the Roman occupation and bitterly resent paying Roman taxes. The Herodians depend on the Roman occupation for their status, as Herod was a puppet king of Rome. If Jesus affirms paying taxes to the emperor, he’ll lose the people’s support. If he doesn’t, he could be arrested by the Romans for sedition – and the Pharisees brought along Herodians who will be quite eager to go tattle. Either way, Jesus ends up neutralized.

Jesus knows what they are trying to do. They aren’t asking this question because they actually want to know the answer. Their flattery is as over-the-top as it is insincere. Pay taxes to the emperor with the emperor’s coins. “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.” The coins bear Caesar’s image but human beings bear the image of God (compare Genesis 1:26). Go ahead and pay taxes to even a terrible, oppressive government, but always remember that our whole selves do not belong to the Caesars of the world, or even to ourselves exactly, but only to God. The Pharisees and Herodians slink off. Jesus has evaded the trap this time. But they’ll be back.

The other two readings explore what it means to belong to God. In Exodus, Moses is interceding for his people. After the Golden Calf incident that we read about last week, God withdrew from the people. They would still inherit the land, as God always keeps his promises, and God would send an angel to guide them, but God would no longer accompany them. Moses intercedes for the people and God relents. The people have sinned badly, but they are still God’s people and God will remain present in their midst.

In the Epistle, Paul and his companions Silvanus (also called Silas) and Timothy write to God’s beloved and chosen people in Thessalonica. They are a people who are marked by faith, hope, and love despite being beset by persecutions. Later in Thessalonians, the authors emphasize love and hope. The people of God are first and foremost a community of love, waiting in sure and certain hope for Jesus’ return. This hope is not a sunny optimism that all will turn out well in this life, as much as it is confidence that this life is not the end of the story. The Caesars of the world will all pass away. Give them their tax payments in the meanwhile, but the day of the Lord is coming when God’s people will be vindicated and all will be set right and renewed. Since we know how the story will end, we can endure whatever persecutions may come between now and then. We can wait with love and even with joy, confident that Jesus will

return and since we are Jesus’ own people he will “protect us from the wrath that is coming.”


· How have you given to Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s? What are some times when the Caesars of our day have tried to claim what belongs to God? How have you tried to navigate that?

· What are some times when you’ve been particularly aware of God’s presence in your life?

· How do we live in hope in a world that seems to be dominated by Caesars? What does it look like to trust that Jesus will return and set all things right?

Author: Kristen Filipic


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