2019年11月24日 バイリンガル 音声

     Jesus Christ a lot of hostility from those considered great and powerful while He worked in Palestine two thousand years ago. In particular, teachers of God’s law given through Moses were jealous of Him and tried to trap Him with difficult questions. They hoped that if He said something politically incorrect, they could get rid of Him. Today’s text describes one of those encounters.
     We will look at the passage in three parts. First, let’s look at Jesus’ enemies and their question, in vv. 19-22. Second, we will consider Jesus’ answer to His enemies in vv. 23-25. Finally, let’s consider the enemies’ and our response to Jesus’ answer from v. 26.

     Previous to v. 19, Jesus told a story accusing the priests of Jerusalem of being unfaithful leaders of God’s kingdom. Burning with jealousy and hatred, these priests reorganized with a new plan to get Jesus to say something politically dangerous. The Jews at this time were controlled and sometimes abused by the Roman Empire. They were permitted to worship the one true Creator God, but of course they still had to render political submission to the Empire.
     In light of this, the religious leaders of Jerusalem (teachers of the law and priests) planned to put Jesus in a dilemma with a double-pronged question that would put Him in a dangerous position no matter how He would respond. As Luke says in v. 20, they were hoping “to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor,” who alone had authority to order someone in Judea executed.
     The people sent were “spies, who pretended to be sincere.” In other words, they were hypocrites speaking sweetly with bitter intentions. They come up to him with flattering words, as v. 21 says. ““Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God.” They spoke the truth but with evil plans. Then they attacked with their dilemma. V. 22 “Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”
     What is the issue here? Caesar was the title of the Roman emperor. And at this time, the Roman Empire’s subjects were required to pay a per-person poll tax, a tribute of one silver denarius coin per person. These coins were minted with an image of the profile of the Roman emperor’s face, and the inscription “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.” For many fervent Jews of the time, the image of a man and calling him divine was an idolatrous image, an abomination. Nevertheless, they could not avoid having to pay this tax.
     Mark’s Gospel further notes that the spies formed a mixed group of religiously conservative Jews, Pharisees, with Herodians, men who colluded/openly worked with the Roman Empire! This was a normally unthinkable combination, but they had a strategy behind this alliance. On one hand, if Jesus would say, “It is lawful to pay the tax to Caesar,” then the Pharisees would be able to stir up the passions of the Jews against Jesus and call Him a traitor. On the other hand, if He would say “It is not lawful,” then the Herodians could accuse Him before the governor Pilate, and by his “authority” destroy Jesus. Whether Jesus said “Yes” or “No,” His enemies expected to have Him in a dangerous position.

     However, Jesus Christ is the greatest Prophet ever, one who always speaks the truth with the authority of God. As v. 23 says, “he perceived their craftiness.” His enemies thought they had Him trapped, but now it was His turn to invert the trap. Instead of responding immediately, He first commands the opponents and sets the stage. “’Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s.’” The opponents had the coin with them, even if they did not like it. The Pharisees might have cringed, but there it was—an image of a man claimed to be god, in their midst.
     And Jesus gives His answer with authority: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Jesus, not fearing the enemy’s question, directly told them to pay their poll tax. The grounds for this command, in His words, were that the silver coin was minted by Caesar, and it showed his political authority over them. The coin was made in part for the purpose of paying taxes to him, so they owed it to him.
     When I first joined a company as a salary-man, I worked at a patent law firm handling intellectual property, like Elder Nasu. Even now, if I see a very interesting product for sale, I sometimes check if it is marked with “Patent pending” or “Patent No. ~.” If it is, then something about the product is deemed an inventor’s great innovative advance over the previous products or methods. The patent office, if it accepts the patent application as claiming a qualified innovation, gives special rights to the applicant to make and use that idea. In addition, many companies file registrations for trademarks such as logos, which also are property of the applicant who files the idea first.
     This example may illustrate the principle that Jesus raises here. The Roman Caesar had these silver coins minted, and put his name and figure (image) on them, so he had a claim on them. The residents of his empire were responsible to submit such coins as tax.
     However, Jesus does not end this discussion with a political comment that His hearers should pay the Roman tax. He goes much deeper with them. He pierces beyond their surface question to the matter of their hearts. In fact, He hinted that God has all authority over all things, as the Creator of the universe and all in it, including all living things. All things are “things that are God’s.” And in fact, Jesus was pointing to something bearing the imprint, the image, the likeness of God Himself. He was pointing at each one of those spies, and He is pointing at each one of us. Perhaps you have read or remember hearing Genesis 1:26-27:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image, / in the image of God he created him; / male and female he created them.
The word for “image” is translated into Greek in the same word that Jesus uses in Luke 20 of the image of the face of the so-called god on the silver denarius. The idea is the same, as well. An image of someone symbolizes and represents that person. We were created as God’s creation, as His beautiful work. As such, we were placed here on earth to reflect God’s beauty (glory) and fill the earth with reflections of His character. For us humans to render to God what is God’s is to fulfill this purpose He gave to us.
In other words, we are to show God’s greatness, treasure/love Him, and rejoice in Him as our fitting response.
     The problem is that humans doubted God and rejected Him. The only Man to live according to God’s purpose perfectly was Jesus Christ. He was pointing to the sin (that is, thinking, speaking, and living as an enemy of God) in His enemies’ hearts. Of course, giving the tribute to the worldly authority over them was a moral issue and a duty. They were supposed to give to Caesar that silver coin, even if they did not like what was on it. Yet at the same time, these men were not respecting Jesus, who is the perfect man and greatest authority over them. In fact, they were trying to kill Him with lies, which was their greatest sin.

     Finally, then, let’s consider the spies’ response and our own. The spies returned silently, dejected in v. 26. They had no valid accusation to take to Pilate and had been shamed for their hypocrisy. They left the presence of the Lord of life, refusing to confess their sins. Several days later, they saw Pilate make a spineless decision to execute Jesus nevertheless. In this way, these men made in the image of God rejected Jesus who had come to represent and display Him to them.
     How are we? In Japanese culture, dishonoring the parents who have borne and raised us is considered a serious wrong. The Bible also clearly teaches us to honor our parents in the Ten Commandments. Yet it even more sternly teaches us the importance of loving and honoring God Himself, who has given us our abilities, personalities, will to work, love, and every other good thing, with even greater respect than we give to our parents. Non-Christians live in a mode of rejecting and dishonoring God, trying to ignore and reject that they even have this deep relationship with God as His image bearers. Christians also often fall into this same sin. We need to ask if we are really believing and following what human beings’ user guide or manual, the Bible, says about how we function as God’s image bearers.
     Last year, my family began to rent an apartment in Chiba city. We were free to arrange our furniture, but of course we cannot do anything we might want to the home. For example, we are not allowed in principle to damage the walls or wallpaper. Of course, we would not be allowed to move the walls or build on to the apartment. That is because we are not the builders or owners of the building. As we agreed in our contract, we are not allowed to affect the structure itself. Our landlord has the authority over the apartment. We need to treat the home with respect as something we need to return to the owner someday. We bear responsibility to him. Even more so, we are responsible to God for how we live in accordance with His will for us as image bearers who should reflect His character in the world. And as the Bible says, if we sin against God or man , the payment for what we have done is death, that is, the judgment of God (Rom 6:23).
     Is there no hope for us, then?
     If we keep reading in Luke’s Gospel, we find hope. Jesus Himself came as the One who would perfectly render to God what was God’s. He is actually the perfect reflection and representation of God. Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus Christ the Son “is the image of the invisible God.” He is not merely made in the image of God, He is God and is the Image of God to show God’s greatness. The Bible further tells us in Romans 5 that He became a representative for humans. What this means is that He replaced Adam who failed as image bearer of God. And that specifically means for us that although we were born stained by Adam’s sin and enemies of God, on the team of fallen humans, God sent Jesus to be the team captain of a team in love with Him (God). He declared that we may move from Adam’s team of death to Jesus’ team of life. If you are trusting—or if you come today to trust—in Jesus Christ as One who died to bear the punishment for your rebellion against God, and ask God to help you come near to Him, then you are represented by Jesus and included in His team, the church.
     What kind of team Captain is Jesus? He lived to display and reflect His Father’s (God’s) greatness and beauty in every way and every situation. In Luke 22:41-42, He considered the agony of the cross the next day and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” With this He surrendered Himself to God and the next day, rendered to God what He willed. Rising from the dead in Luke 24, He demonstrated the power of God and God’s pleasure in Him, and announced that forgiveness would be given to those who trust in Him (24:47-48).
     Now what shall we do in response? All we can do is trust and follow. Like Jesus, we are called to honor authorities over us. Yet also, like Jesus, we may never give to them the honor or respect that belongs only to God. He is our King, the only perfectly divine Man. And though we still forget and turn from Him, God’s Spirit works in us to make us more like the image of Jesus Himself. Paul teaches us this in the letter to the Romans, ch. 8. We grow gradually as members of God’s family to give God the honor He deserves, to love Him and other people made in His image, as He commands. We fail, but again, we walk as members of Jesus’ team, treated as holy by His holy obedience and made more holy by the Holy Spirit’s work in us through the Bible’s truth.
     I urge each of you, do not turn away in silence from the Lord Jesus! If you are not a Christian, hear His call to you and turn back. He points out your deep sin against God, and He offers true forgiveness for that sin if you trust in Him. If you are a Christian and have turned from Him, come back and hear His words of peace. Let’s all talk with each other, and pray for each other about how God wishes to apply today’s Word to our hearts.
     Let us render to God what is God’s, by the help of the Holy Spirit.


海浜幕張めぐみ教会 - Kaihin Makuhari Grace Church