Tuesday, October 11, 2011

you belong to... Matthew 22:15-22

I write today remembering my uncle, Ben Thoma. He died yesterday. Talking with my aunt today I'm reminded what a great life he had introducing modern people to the natural world as a biologist and naturalist. My cousin Ed wrote of him today. I have great memories sitting on the bench seat in the pick up bouncing along washboard quality dirt roads in Itasca State Park with Ben listening to his strong opinions and seeing the way life worked in the world.


There's a question in our gospel reading about what belongs to who and what doesn't belong. Earth bound people worry about earth bound stuff. And we wonder what really belongs to God and what really belongs to this earth. We make pictures for ourselves of God's Son Jesus as a loving and comforting man who helps us in this world of questions and uncertainty. There's truth to this image, Jesus loved and comforted sick and downtrodden people. Many in Israel loved him. Crowds hung on his words and sought him out to heal the sick. Clearly Jesus loved and comforted many. The popular picture's true, but incomplete. Jesus, healer and comforter engaged in a full on battle for His life; and in the fullness of time he was battling for the life of all who would come to faith in Him.

Powerful people conspired against him. And Jesus matched their doubting words with his own questions. The powerful came to test him seeking blasphemy against God or treachery against Rome in his words. Other powers in the universe were in on the conspiracy. The humans involved were unwitting co-conspiritorse. They just wanted Jesus silenced...

... the Pharisees met together to think of a way to trap Jesus into saying something for which they could accuse him. 16 They decided to send some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to ask him this question: “Teacher, we know how honest you are. You teach about the way of God regardless of the consequences. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. 17 Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to the Roman government or not?”

18 But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Whom are you trying to fool with your trick questions? 19 Here, show me the Roman coin used for the tax.” When they handed him the coin, 20 he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to him. But everything that belongs to God must be given to God.” 22 His reply amazed them, and they went away. Matthew 22:15-22. NLT
A complete picture of Jesus shows He is comforter, healer, protector, and more. Jesus battled the devil not just the Chief Priest, Herodians, and Pharisees. He matched human words with his own. His earthly opponents needed one slip to trip him up and catch him. His earthly opponents saw a quick way to get rid of him finally turning the crowds against him. The devil wanted nothing less. The real battle was on. All the powers of darkness had to do was see it through, let Jesus die, be rid of him. Those in power on earth weren't even aware of who was doing what. The devil saw Jesus humanity and missed the divinity. Luther likened it to a fish that swallowed a hook.
For the hook, which is the divinity of Christ, was concealed under the earthworm. The devil swallowed it with his jaws when Christ died and was buried. But it ripped his belly so that he could not retain it but had to disgorge it.24 He ate death for himself. This affords us the greatest solace; for just as the devil could not hold Christ in death, so he cannot hold us who believe in Christ. Martin Luther, vol. 22, Luther's Works, Vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, page 24.
The earthly debate in Matthew 22:19-21 might have been about a coin and taxes; but the real battle was for souls and eternity. The Good News is that Christ won and by faith all who believe belong to him forever. AMEN.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Amen, indeed! The Lamb of God is also the Lion of Judah. We have a Savior that comforts and heals; conquers and reigns. How blessed we are to call Him our Lord.