Jesus is still in the temple dealing with the religious leaders. We are into round three of this confrontation. This time it is a group of Pharisees and Herodians questioning Him. Their topic of choice is taxes to Caesar. They are not really interested in their tax question, only in trapping Jesus in something He might say.
I am struggling again today in finding something different to bring out. We covered this encounter when we looked at Matthew’s gospel. In case you want to reread it, you can find it under “Taxes to Caesar.” The two accounts are almost word for word, so where do I go now? (I’m glad Luke and John don’t include this one.) I was prompted to look at the “set-up” speech that this group gave Jesus. I don’t know exactly where it will take us, so we are all simply going to hang on for the ride.
This group starts out by laying it on thick. “Teacher, we know that You are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For You are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God” (verse 14). These were the truest words they ever spoke, yet they didn’t believe them. We touched on this point in our previous encounter too. But now let’s put these words together with Jesus’ last comments on the issue. Jesus conclusively ended this conversation when He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (verse 17).
Jesus was talking about whose likeness was stamped on the coin and Whose likeness is stamped on us. The words of the Pharisees demonstrate that they clearly saw a stamp on Jesus’ life. They pretended not to recognize that stamp, but their speech in this encounter proves otherwise.
They admitted that Jesus’ taught God’s ways. They recognized that He spoke only the truth. And they had PLENTY of evidence that He wasn’t swayed by anyone’s opinion of Him or what He did. They came within a hare’s breadth of calling Him a prophet of God. They spoke just enough truth in an effort to butter Him up without publicly admitting that they knew He was God’s Son. They wanted to “entice Him” into an argument so the people would see His flaws.
Oops! He doesn’t have flaws. He is the exact likeness of God. He wears God’s seal on His life. He lived the life they could only dream about. When they each began their training, did they aspire to serve God or did they go into it for the perks alone? I would like to think that they started off with right motives. Because of their choice of rejecting Jesus, and all the prophecies written about Him, they were NEVER going to receive the seal of God that they so deeply desired.
We get the opportunity to receive God’s seal. We can bear His likeness on our hearts. I want more than His seal there though. I want it to shine on my life too. Jesus’ seal showed in everything He said and did. Does mine? Unfortunately I know the answer to that question. Too often it doesn’t. My frustration at being interrupted is one glaring example of my failure to display His mark. Jesus was always being interrupted. He couldn’t even sit down to dinner without someone wanting something from Him. Did He get short with them? Did He heave a big sigh before pushing back from the table and going to help whoever was calling Him? Did He grumble under His breath? I’m sure the answer to all three of these questions is a resounding “NO.” For me, not so resounding.
Father God, I want with all my heart to bear You seal with honor. I want to live my life as a pleasing offering for You. I know I fail SO many times. I have asked Your forgiveness so often that it is probably still ringing through the air when it’s time for me to “sing out the next verse.” I don’t want my “I’m sorry. Please forgive me” to be false or just something I say to keep out of trouble. I want it to be true and to actually change my behavior. Please make Your seal burn my sin away. Bring this to my mind every time I’m tempted to fall back into my usual habits. I noticed You doing a little of that today. You reminded me of the good reasons to respond positively to the interruptions. Thank You for effecting that little change in me. Please keep it going and growing.