Matthew 22

Today we will put our focus on verses 15-22. In verses 15-46 we find four conversations that are controversial, the Jewish leaders are trying to make Jesus slip, but each answer from Jesus shows the depths of his wisdom. For the sake of length I will only touch on one of these, even though they all present profound implications.

The Image bearers - Verses 15-22

Rome would charge the Israelites a tax for living in their own land. This was something that the Israelites hated but they submitted to it because if not, Rome would come and squash them. Now there are two groups here trying to trip Jesus up. The Pharisees and Herodians. The Pharisees are a strict Jewish religious sect and Herodians are a group of people who support Roman rule and the Herodian dynasty (they are obsessed with power and privilege). So the Pharisees and the Herodians ask Jesus a very controversial question. Verse 17 “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” This question was carefully calculated so that they would have Jesus lose credibility with the people or be taken by the Roman empire before his time. If Jesus has answered it is lawful then he would lose credibility with the people he was preaching the message of salvation to and if he answers it is not lawful then they would immediately accuse him of treason. Yet we can see the wisdom of Christ in his answer. He asked them to give him a denarius (which was the amount of the tax) and he asked them “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” The denarius of that time had an image of the ruling Caesar, which meant that the denarius belonged to him. This was an exchange of currency that the Romans had installed so technically it belonged to them. When the people said it is Caesar's image Jesus replies give to Caesar what is Caesars and give to God what is God’s. The people were amazed by this because they knew the Old Testament well, and they knew exactly what Jesus was referring to. You see, in a time where Israel would benefit from the Roman systems, like the paved roads, water systems, and other things they benefited from, it was a good thing to give to Rome what belonged to them. This was a way to honor the civil authority of that time, so if the image of Caesar was on the denarius, then it was only righteous to give back what belonged to them anyways. But this answer of Jesus goes even deeper. What is Jesus talking about when he said give to God what belongs to God? Whose image are people made in? People are made in the image of God. Jesus' response is getting at a deeper-rooted heart issue. The people are complaining about a tax that was given to them even though they benefited from some of the Roman systems. But all of creation, the air that we breathe, the food that we eat, the rain that falls from the sky, the way our body absorbs nutrients, is all a form in which we benefit from God’s creation. But yet as people created in the image of God, we refuse to worship him and give him the obedience that he deserves. Jesus’ answer goes to the deep-rooted heart issue that their controversial question is a mere reflection of their controversial life, where they have the appearance of a worshiper of God but yet do not live as people who give reverence, worship, or absolute obedience to a God who made them in his image. Jesus is telling the people to not only give back to Caesar what is his but give to God what is his. They have life because God gave it to them, they are able to breathe because God allows it, and because they were made in the image of God, they had a requirement to worship and obey God above anything else. Brothers and sisters, give to God what belongs to him. Live your life in true reverence, obedience, and worship to the one who made you in his image.