Because There is Jesus, Part 4:
Whose Image Is On It?
October 16, 2011
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Greetings, Friend! Our title and our topic for today is: "Whose Image Is On It?Ē which is Part 4 of our "Because There is Jesus" series.
During the last weeks we have talked about the fact that because there is Jesus, there is light instead of darkness. Because there is Jesus, there is light in our lives to lead us and guide us. Because there is Jesus, we are presented with the sweetness of Godís love which is symbolized by the clusters of grapes on the vine. Jesus bought us a whole new concept of the way that God feels about us. Last week we talked about putting on the Robe of Respect, the respect that Jesus offers to each and everyone of us. Because there is Jesus, there is respect - for ourselves, and for those we encounter day by day.
Today we are talking about the fact that because there is Jesus, there is good judgment. Letís take a look at todayís Gospel reading which is from the 22nd chapter of Matthew.
Jesus and the Pharisees - What a Struggle!
These past weeks we have been talking about Jesus and His encounters with the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a group of people (men only, at that time) who thought that the way to please God was by observing the letter of the law.
The Pharisees were ultra, ultra fanatical about the law, believing that this would cause God to love them (and nobody else). They thought Godís love would be theirs exclusively - after all, they felt they earned it. But Jesus came around and told them: No! that is not what is going on. God loves everybody.
The Pharisees found this to be impossible. They kept to the letter of the law and believed Godís love was theirs alone. Therefore, the Pharisees were against the Lord, Jesus. Let us look at what happened in the Gospel reading.
Mathew 22: 15-22
15 Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle him in his talk.
The Pharisees planned this out very well. They wanted to get Jesus to contradict Himself, so that His ministry would fall apart.
16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Hero'di-ans, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men.
The Heroídi-ans were a political group that were fanatically devoted to Herod, who was the local Roman leader. On the other hand, the Jewish people hated living under a foreign rule, they were hoping that the Messiah would be a military leader to help them oust the Romans from the area. To the very end, the Jewish people hoped that Jesus would be a military ruler even though he continually explained that he was not. His kingdom was about the relationship to God, a relationship of the heart. The Pharisees (ultra Jewish) and the Heroídi-ans (ultra Roman) were vastly different yet they were united in their determination to undermine Jesus and His teachings. In current terms, it was like a coalition between a motorcycle gang and the AARP. (Congregation laughs).
Come to think of it, though, some of the motorcycle gangs I've seen could well be members of the AARP (more laughter), but you get the ideaÖ
17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"
This was absolutely amazing. The Pharisees and the Heroídi-ans were teaming up to try to trap Jesus. Their reasoning was that if Jesus said it was lawful to pay taxes, the Jewish followers would leave Him.
The Jews could not stand to pay all the taxes to the Romans. There were three different taxes that had to be paid. Ground tax was 10% of all their grain, and 20% of all the oil, wine and grape juice. They also paid an income tax and a tribute tax. The tribute tax was directly to the King for being the king. Part of this went to the funding of the Temple of Jupiter in Rome. This is the one that really got their goat. This tax was a hateful abomination to the Jews.
18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?
19 Show me the money for the tax." And they brought him a coin.
20 And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?"
21 They said, "Caesar's." Then he said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
22 When they heard it, they marveled; and they left him and went away.
I remember hearing this story as a young child and thinking about what a wise person Jesus is.
Jesus didnít lay down a law, he laid down a principle.
How can we apply what Jesus said to our lives today? The first thing He tells us is that a mature Christian holds dual citizenship. A mature Christian is a person who has grown up in the Spirit. A mature Christian is a citizen of this world and a citizen of Heaven. As good Christians we want to be good citizens. We need to pay our taxes.
Mature Christians pay their taxes, although they might not like it. Someone once told me that the Eiffel Tower is the Empire State Building after taxes. (Congregation laughs) We canít do anything about the taxes except adjust our attitudes to them. Because we pay our taxes our nation is secure. Our police and fire departments are all paid for. So we can pay our taxes with a sense of responsibility and a positive attitude. We are called to be responsible citizens as mature Christians.
We are also citizens of Heaven. Because we give to our church, the light of Christ shines in the community. Did you know that Churches in Europe are supported by the state? Most of these churches are empty. But in America we take care of our church, it is part of being a mature Christian.
All things belong to God. I donít know that the following fact is true in any other country. But in America, each of our coins and bills has the inscription, In God We Trust.
Jesus pointed out to us that we are called to be dual citizens - responsible to our country, and faithful to God. Let us be mindful of this as we pay both our taxes, and our joyful contributions to the Church we love.
One more question.
Whose image is on you?
Jesus is pointing us to the book of Genesis. We are created in God's image and likeness. God made you good, and wonderful, and creative, a walking miracle. God made you special and honorable. His image is upon you. Let us live with dignity, and with a sense of reverence for God. He has made us "a little lower than the angels, and has crowned us with glory and honor." (Psalm 8)
So therefore let us render to Caesar what is Caesarís and to God what is Godís. Let us also remember in whose image we are made. You are a reflection of the infinite glory of God.
God loves you; I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2011 Anthony J. Godlefski