Today we are continuing our look at Jesus. Fixing our eyes on Him as we seek to worship Him and emulate Him.
I am going to come right out and say this that today’s message has been heavily influenced by a message by a pastor in New York names Tim Keller. I knew I would need some help with this one, which I do normally do, but more so than usual, I needed some help on this one.
There are may things that happened in the times of Jesus that don’t happen in our time. I am sure we all know that politics are something that does happen in our time. Political debate, and gamesmanship is alive and well today, as it was in Jesus’ time, and today we are going to see how Jesus dealt with people who tried to get him caught up in a political trap.
You see, all throughout Jesus’ ministry, people, including his disciples are of the opinion that what He is doing in His ministry is leading up to a climax that is political in nature. People look back to Isaiah and read that the government will be upon His shoulders, and they think that when He comes, he will be founding and upholding a new government. Well, time and time again, Jesus refutes that Idea, and even rebukes Peter when he insists that Jesus should not go and die. Now in the text we are to read today we see something that is not completely clear without understanding some of the back story of the interaction. There is more at steak here than just determining whether Christians should pay taxes or not, these men who are going to ask Jesus a question want to know HIs end game.
Before we start though, I do want to ask you a two fold question. 1. Who are your enemies politically? 2. How do you feel about those people?
now, lets read the text:
Ok, the first this I want to do here is give you a little background on what is happening here. The first thing to make note of is that Jesus is not being ask about taxes in general, but a particular tax. Because He asks for a denarius we know it is a head tax that was to be paid annually and was one denarius a year, somewhat symbolic in nature for the honor of being a subject of Caesar. Now, what is’t in the story here is that this particular tax was about 25 years old and when it was instituted, a revolution occurred, lead by a man named Judas the Galilean. This man lead in three things. The first is that he told everyone not to pay the tax, second he went into the temple and threw out all the foreigners. The third thing he did was to say that they would bring in the Kingdom of God. This revolution was squelched, and its leader executed. Does some of that sound familiar? You see, this new man who has been speaking all about the kingdom of God for most of his ministry, and who has just cleansed the temple. They are seeing a pattern here and they want to know if he is going to follow suit on the same route that Judas took. So, the question that the phrases are asking is really not should we pay the tax, they are asking if he is looking to overthrow the government. They are trying to trap him because If he says not to pay the tax, then he is calling for a revolt, if he says to pay it, then he is bowing to the authority of Caesar.
The beauty of His answer here is that he changes the rules of their question. in their question, they wanted it to be one way or the other, they only gave him two options, because in their minds there were only two options, pay it, or don’t, and those two answers would have put Jesus clearly on one side of a fence or the other. Political revolutionary, or political coward, Jesus didn’t play by their rules, instead he redefined what a revolution really was. He recognized both sides of the fence without bowing to either. Instead of becoming in grossed in political muck, He transcended it, and restored order to the people’s understanding.
So, how does he do that, he asks for a denarius to be brought to him. which is funny in itself because it was like a quarter, and Jesus didn’t have a quarter on him. Secondly, he asks whose inscription and whose likeness is on the coin. The image that was on the coin was tuberous Caesar and the inscription on it said, “Tiberius Caesar, son of the God Augustus, pontiffs Maximus (high Priest)” So, this coin is making a huge claim to godhood. It is a creation in the image of Tiberius, claiming to be God.
So, Jesus then says to give to caesar what is caesar. Recognizing that the money that is minted, is minted by Caesar. The money belonged to Him and it bore likeness. So Jesus was saying to give that to Caesar, because it was his, and Give to God that which is God’s. So, what he is doing is saying, yeah, this money bears the likeness of the Caesar, so give it to him for his tax, but you bear the image of God, so give yourself to God. Now, this is important to understand because there is a distinction here that I think is prevalent, and I myself have given into at points in my life. Here is the thing You need to understand. Whether you are dealing with a political party, or candidate that is currently in power, or you are dealing with someone who you want to be in power, you can offer your support in tangible ways, but you must never put your hope in them. Never give them your full allegiance, and never blindly follow anyone.
He is showing the people that there is a distinction between your general duties to the state, or the government, and your full allegiance to the king of all the universe.
These men wanted to trap Jesus, and pigeon hole him into making a misstep. They wanted Him to put his revolution into a box that they would understand. You see, what is the political process all about? Gaining power right? and how do people get that power, There are two main ways that people tend to gain power, by force, or by amassing popularity. Garnering support through various means. Jesus here stays the course in His revolution by not bowing to the lines drawn by men, but by drawing His own.
All along in His ministry, He is using revolutionary language. He is talking about the kingdom of God, and ot in secret either. So the people around him are expecting Him to rise to power, but in a different way than He does.
You see the kingdom of God has never been about an earthly empire in the way we know it. It is about establishing Christ’s rule and reign not over the bodies of people, but over the hearts of us. The kingdom of God does not come into existence through a revolt, or an armed insurgence, but by the king laying His life down on the cross. The power that had to be overthrown for Christ to enter His kingdom was not Caesar, it was death, the greatest opponent that Jesus faced was not the Roman rule, it was the reign of Satan over the Earth. That reign that could not be broken by military might, or by brute force, it could only be broken by a spotless lamb who was willing not to take up his sword, and lead an insurrection, but to pour out His blood, to cleanse us from the guilt of our sin, and free us from the oppressive rule of that sin and death that we had earned. That was Jesus’ greatest enemy. Even the political rulers of the day were not His enemies, but potential followers of the revolution that would be for every nation, tongue and tribe. The revolution that would unite the most unlikely of people into the family of God.
I am not opposed to politics. I believe it is the duty of citizens of a nation in which we have the right to vote to do so. I believe God calls many into the field of politics, and don’t we need believers in the political realm right now? We need people to stand up for what they believe in, and to not be complacent. But, NEVER forget this. You will not find any hope in any president, governor, congressmen, or any other political figure for that matter. So, give to caesar, what is his, but don’t give to a politician what belongs to God alone.