The Other Side of the Coin Sermon by Pastor David A. Reed at Immanuel Baptist Church – June 25, 2017Back to ImmanuelBaptistNB.org
You may be wondering
why I have this huge replica of a Roman coin
here at the pulpit with me this morning.
Well, a few weeks ago we spoke about Caesar's image on a coin
and how Jesus used that coin-a Roman denarius-
to answer his enemies
when they tried to trap him with a trick question
about paying taxes to Caesar.
And we talked about how we are like coins
with an image stamped on us, by the pressures surrounding us-
how we should not let
'the world around us squeeze us into its mold'
but, instead, we should reflect the image of Christ.
That was all about
Caesar's image on the front of the coin.
Well, today we'll talk about THE OTHER SIDE of the coin-
how the back side of a couple Roman coins
can help us better understand the Bible
and can strengthen our faith.
Everything we need to know in the Bible
is plain and clear to the ordinary reader.
It was written for fishermen and shepherds,
wives, mothers, tax collectors and sinners.
The Bible was not written for theologians.
So, we don't need a bunch of experts
to enable us to understand the Bible.
Jesus praised the Father
for hiding the Gospel message
from wise and intellectual ones
and revealing it to babes.
But we can sometimes gain a little extra insight
from things like archaeology.
Archaeology also helps strengthen our faith,
because it proves the written Word of God contains
true and factual history
of what actually happened in Bible times.
The Bible is not a fairytale
that begins with a line like
"Once upon a time in a place far away…"
No, the Bible contains true and factual history.
Archaeology is the study
of physical objects people in the past have left behind:
lost coins, abandoned buildings, graveyards and tombs,
--whatever may have ended up buried
in rubble or trash heaps.
The first archaeologists were actually treasure hunters
searching for hidden treasure
left behind by pirates
or other people from past generations.
New Bedford archaeological digs
may unearth discoveries from the 1700s or 1800s,
or they may unearth arrows, spear tips, and so on
left behind by native Americans a few hundred years ago.
In contrast with this, archaeologists in Bible lands
uncover relics from 2,000 to 5,000 years ago.
There are many people, places and events in the Bible
that were found only in the Bible-not in any secular history books.
And people who were hostile to the Bible
ridiculed those stories as fairytales or fables, not true history.
But over the past 100 years or so,
archaeologists have dug up evidence
proving that those people actually lived,
that those places actually existed,
and that those events actually happened.
scholars questioned the existence of the people the Bible calls Hittites.
Genesis 23 says Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpelah
from Ephron the Hittite.
And 2nd Samuel 11 tells how King David committed adultery
with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
Scholars dismissed the Hittites as being as non-existent
as leprechauns and fairies.
But in 1906
archaeologists digging east of Ankara, Turkey
discovered the ruins of the ancient Hittite capital
where they also found a huge collection
of Hittite historical records.
Similarly, critics of the Bible doubted the facts about Pontius Pilate,
the Roman governor who
condemned Jesus to be crucified.
But in 1961
in the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Caesarea
a team of archaeologists
uncovered a block of stone
with Pontius Pilate's name on it.
It was like a building cornerstone inscribed
with words dedicating the building.
It said Prefect Pontius Pilate, the Governor of Judea,
was dedicating the building to the Roman emperor.
That block of stone verified as true
the very things that critics of the Bible had been denying.
The Bible accounts have been confirmed
by archaeological discoveries, not only in Israel and Turkey,
but also in Egypt, Syria, Greece, Rome and other places.
Now, before I talk about this huge replica of a Roman coin,
I should mention that archaeologists often find coins
minted by ancient civilizations.
Sometimes they find a large cache of coins-a real treasure-
when they dig up a city that had been buried suddenly
like the Roman city of Pompeii in that was covered in ash
by a volcanic eruption of Mt.Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
Or, when they salvage a sunken ship
that was transporting treasure.
But much of the time, the coins archaeologists find
are the ones that fell out of someone's pocket
or were otherwise lost by their owner.
Ancient coins help make clear who was governing,
and changes in government.
Different governments minted their own coins,
and different Caesars replaced the previous Caesar's image
with their own.
So, when coins are found along with ruins of buildings or fortifications,
that helps the archaeologists
identify the artifacts and their time in history.
Coins also help us understand things that are said in the Bible.
at Luke 12:33 Jesus talked about purses that wear out.
"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys."
We don't usually worry about our purses wearing out today,
but back in those days,
small bronze coins called "lepta"
were usually poorly manufactured
and had irregular edges that were often sharp.
So, a leather purse filled with coins like that
would soon wear out.
And that's why His listeners back then
would understand what Jesus meant
by purses 'wearing out.'
And it's a similar situation
with this huge replica of a Roman coin.
It helps us understand a mysterious reference
in the book of Revelation.
As I begin reading Revelation, chapter 17,
let's pretend that we're living back then
in the First Century,
at the time when John wrote the Revelation
and it began circulating among the churches.
And as I read, let's STOP
when I reach the point where this coin explains the verse
to a First Century reader.
[ READ Revelation 17:1-9 ]
Notice, it says, "seven hills on which the woman sits."
Now, the Apostle John wrote the Revelation
during the 2nd half of the first century.
People all over the Roman Empire
who read copies of John's Revelation at that time
would have stopped right there,
and said to themselves,
"Hey, wait a minute! I know who that woman is."
And they would have pulled a coin just like this-
only much smaller, of course-about the size of a quarter-
out of their pocket or purse.
They would have seen the image of Caesar on the front of the coin,
and then they would have flipped it over
to look at the other side of the coin.
So, let's take a look at the back of this coin.
There you see a woman sitting on seven hills
-- just like what John described in the prophecy.
And her name appears beneath her: ROMA.
So, the city was Rome.
And God told John to write about it using
a symbol that was familiar to people over most of the earth
where the Gospel was being preached,
because they already had a coin in their purse
showing a woman sitting on seven hills.
This coin is NOT a denarius-
the coin most often mentioned in the New Testament.
It is a replica copy of a Roman "sesterius."
A sesterius was a copper coin a little larger than our quarter or 25-cent piece.
But a sesterius was worth a lot more than that.
About 2 or 3 hours pay for a farm worker.
So, in today's money, it would have been worth around $40.00
to people in the Apostles' days who carried one
in their pocket or purse.
The face of the coin bears the image of Roman Emperor Vespasian.
It was minted during his reign around 70 or 71 A.D.
And here on the other side of the coin,
the letters "S" and "C" means the Senate was consulted.
The various Caesars either actually did consult the Senate
or at least gave lip service to sharing power with the Senate
by putting the "SC" on their coins.
And this coin helps US TODAY to understand Revelation
- that the 'woman sitting on 7 hills' is ROME.
Now, there are different opinions today
as to whether this means
ancient imperial Rome-the Rome of the Caesars-
or papal Rome, where the Vatican sits.
I'm not going to get into that in this sermon.
It's a controversy that has Christian scholars
coming down on both sides of the issue.
But one point is very clear:
This coin that everyone had in their pocket or purse
makes very plain that the woman sitting on 7 hills
Revelation is a great big puzzle
full of mysterious signs and symbols,
and this coin gives us the answer
to a big piece of that puzzle.
I also brought along some replicas of ANOTHER Roman coin
-- very similar to this one, but with an important difference
-- I'm going to ask the ushers to pass out
these coins now, so you can HAVE ONE IN YOUR HAND
when I talk about them.
I brought about XX with me,
but I didn't know how many people would be here today,
so I'll leave it up to the ushers whether they should go to everyone,
or just one per family.
I was going to give this sermon a few weeks ago,
when I was candidating-before you called me as pastor-
but I didn't want anyone to think
I was handing out money to bribe people to vote for me.
I'd like you to keep these coins,
as a reminder of what we talk about today.
But, if you don't want to keep them, you can drop them
on the table in the vestibule.
You'll notice that each coin is in a little plastic envelope
with a story about the coin.
Let's read that together.
It says, [ READ ]
This is another sesterius with Roman Emperor Vespasian's
head on the front
like the HUGE coin I have here with me at the pulpit.
This coin in your hand gives us proof
that Bible prophecy comes true-
in particular, the prophecy Jesus spoke
at Luke 21:20-24.
We read it a few minutes ago
as part of our responsive reading. Jesus said:
20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.
21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.
22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.
24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
This prophecy was fulfilled
within the generation after Jesus gave it.
Notice Jesus said in verse 21 that those in "Judea" would need to
flee to the mountains,
and in verses 23 and 24 he said "this people" -
the people of Judea - would be led away captive
into all nations"
Now take a look at the back of the coin in your hand.
It says "JUDAEA CAPTA" on the back,
and it shows a Jewish woman sitting captive
with the Roman Emperor standing over her.
Emperor Vespasian was celebrating
how he took Judea captive after an uprising by the Jews.
Taking Judea captive was such a big deal
that the Roman emperors Vespasian
and his sons Titus and Domitian after him
kept minting "Judea Capta" coins
in gold, silver & bronze for 25 years.
So, this coin proves that what Jesus predicted
actually came true.
Yes, Bible Accounts are real history and real prophecy.
So, please keep this coin and the little story card that comes with it
as a reminder of just how real the Bible is.
These coins strengthen our faith in the Bible.
And this is IMPORTANT because THE BIBLE IS KEY
to getting us through our daily lives
AND the difficult days that lie ahead.