Monday, March 03, 2008

Render to Caesar...Render to God

Spoke the other evening on Mark's account of how the Lord Jesus responded to the hypocritical questioning of the Herodians and Pharisees. What an off the map response - even His enemies were bowled over by His wonderful wisdom. Not for the Lord the Newsnight politicans side stepping answering. He gives them an answer that shows them the real and greatest need.

13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?" 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." 16And they brought one. And he said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to him, "Caesar’s." 17Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s." And they marveled at him.

Now what was this all about? There seem to be a few opinions doing the rounds. I like how Tim Keller ties it in with a revolt by Judas the Galilean in AD6, the year that this Poll tax was introduced. Judas the Galilean had called on all Jews not to pay, he was speaking about the kingdom of God and had on one occasion cleared the temple. Obviously the Romans were a bit annoyed with him and took him out of circulation. Revolutionaries were not that popular to say the least. And now comes this Jesus person, He too has been speaking about the kingdom of God, He too has just cleared the temple and now they come and ask - so what do you think about the poll tax? What they are basically asking is - are you a revolutionary too?

In light of that the Lord's answer is so amazing. If He answers yes they will take Him out of circulation too. If He says no the many Galilean supporters that He has will become rather non plussed by His teaching.

So when the Lord answers as He does with neither a yes or no, yet really answering the question, what He is saying is - Yes I am a revolutionary but not the sort of revolutionary that you are thinking about. His revolution is of an entirely different order.

Look at how He answers. Bring me a coin (he doesn't have one of His own!) Whose image (icon) is this? And when they answer Caeasar they have answered their own question. Of course they should pay the tax - the coin for paying it has his image on it - so give him what he deserves (render). Indeed since they already have a denarius and are using it they are already showing that they are under Roman rule. So give him what he deserves, but not what he really wants. That is why the Lord speaks about the inscription. Every coin in Roman usage had an insription about Caesar being God and being a high priest. So they could give him His tax but not what he wanted - worship and total allegiance.
But the Lord was saying something much more - render to God the things that are God's. Just as the image of Caesar is on his coin and you are to give him what he deserves, so by implication every human being who is stamped with the image of God is to give to God what He deserves - every part of our lives.

There is only one revolution that is worth signing up for. That is the one that the Lord Jesus Christ has - one of knowing and serving the Lord of the nations. And how could we ever in our sin be His servants? That is the gospel - He who was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, so that we through His poverty could become rich. His death on the cross sorts out the horror of our rebellion, He bore the punishment for the sins of many, so that sinners like you and me would not have to pay the penalty for our rebellion. He alone is the true high priest, the Pontifex Maximus, great bridge builder. This great King calls you to fall before Him and trust Him alone for salvation and to become a servant in the revolution that is really changing the world.

That is just a quick summary. I will preach the passage soon. For all young RPs if you didn't get the full version you would have if you had gone along to the CY conference!

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