Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's

Mark 12: 13-17

In Mark 12, we find a couple things I find very interesting.  These are a few points I’d like to share with you now. Today we see the Pharisees (keepers of the Law) testing Jesus.  Before I get started about the reading I’d like to take a moment to talk about the Pharisees.  They get a bad rap from we Christians.  In this reading, and many, we see them as keeping the letter of the law without understanding the spirit of the law.  In other words, the law becomes more important than the reason behind the law.  You might say the law of God, rather than God, is their god.  Which is why in the scripture Jesus is recorded as “knowing their hypocrisy”.   It is also important to realize that, like any group we can make a generalization about, not all of them were what we might consider to be bad.  St. Paul was a Pharisee before his conversion.  Some of them, like we are capable of doing, simply got wrapped up and fell in love with (worshiped) the rules rather than the rule giver.  This is something that isn’t an ‘in antiquity’ exclusive trait, nor is it something that could only happen to the Pharisees. 

With that said, how the Pharisees open their line of questioning amuses me.  It shows a certain cleverness, that were Jesus fully human, may have sucked him into their trap.  They start with:
“Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God.”

Butter wouldn’t have melted in their mouth the flattery was so thick.  How they flatter him here interested me too.  They are saying to him albeit hypocritically since they don’t believe it…You are a speaker of truth and don’t really care about the opinions of people.  They were saying what they themselves would find flattering.  They believed themselves to be that very thing.  In their sweet lie, they were showing Jesus who exactly they were.  Another thing I found interesting is that not much has changed from that time to this in regards to the slavery of other people’s opinions.  Even then, people who had escaped the worry of what other people thought about them were regarded as strong. 

They proceed to ask him if it is lawful (Jewish law, not state law) to pay taxes to Ceasar.  So, they set the question up with flattery only to ask a question that really didn’t matter, because it’s not about discovering the truth, it’s to trap Him into saying something they could use against Him. 

Jesus replies : “Why put me to the test?”

With a beautiful economy of words, He crushed their flattery and revealed to anyone paying attention that He understood completely both that they were not seeking real answers, and they didn’t believe He was a true teacher.  Jesus then asked someone to bring him a coin.  Some translations record this as a denarius.  Which, if you are interested, would have been one day’s wage of the time, or about twenty dollars.  This was interesting to me because Jesus clearly doesn’t have a coin on him.  Let that sink in.  The Messiah, He who would change the world, doesn’t even have a copper coin on His person. 

Now, He lands one of the best in-jokes ever.  He asks whose image is on the coin, and then AMAZES everyone by saying:  “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Now, they were amazed.  More than likely because they thought they had constructed the perfect trap.  In fact, if you consider that the Pharisees are a very intellectual group (think doctorate level theology) and they probably spent a good amount of time coming up with that perfect question to trick him, considering every possible answer that might trip Him up…you aren’t shocked that they are shocked. 

The in-joke though, the one that proves again Jesus truly knows who and what they are, where their hearts really lay, is this: The image on the coin was Caesar as was the inscription.  Romans 2: 15, Hebrews 8: 10 speak to the Word and Covenant being written on our hearts.  Basically, give Caesar your money, and render unto the Lord our hearts.
And they were amazed at him. 
How could we not be amazed at Him?  Yes, we are called to obey the laws of our land, but we are also to understand that when we are His-we need to render unto Him what is His, and that is our heart.

Just some food for thought and prayer. Selah

Here I am, Lord, send me!

 Lisa Brandel