Jesus probes the heart and searches the mind. That is why those who seek to catch him and set a trap for him fall into it themselves.
The Pharisees and their followers are against the payment of taxes to Caesar. The Herodians, on the other hand, are for it. But it is enough that they all seek to trap Jesus for them to turn into strange bedfellows.
So then, they try catch him in speech. And he, in turn, steers clear of the trap with his answer. He tells them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
Such a reply comes from logic, for the image and the writing on the coin are Caesar’s. And it unmasks the odd bedfellows as phonies (Dennis Hamm). They fall, then, into their own trap. Of course, it has not crossed their mind that Jesus knows what is in each person (Jn 1, 25). And that is why he knows their ill will.
But as D. Hamm and J.A. Pagola, too, make clear, not a few fall into a trap. That is to say, not a few say that the rule of a state is one thing, and that of God, another. And that these two realms are separate and self-ruling.
But Jesus says no such thing, if we do not take what he says out of context. If we do not fail to see it in the light of what he does in behalf the kingdom of God and his justice.
True to the Scriptures, Jesus makes clear by word and deed that we all bear the image of God. And so, we are all God’s. And God is the Lord of all and there is none besides him. One, then, should resist all authority that defaces, enslaves and oppresses us.
One must not set a trap for anyone who bears the image of God.
To see God in others. I grapple with this, especially when it has to do with those who seem to be the devil himself in the flesh. Yet here is the test that tries and proves the true disciples.
Madeleine L’Engle wrote (“Lion and Lamb,” The Irrational Season) of a Lutheran pastor who had met Hitler and liked him. But he could not reconcile his faith with the Third Reich that claimed to protect religion. As long as it agreed with Hitler and served his ends.
The pastor “and his wife and children were sent to a concentration camp, and the wife and children died there. Like Anne Frank’s father, he was the only one left.
“… When Hitler’s megalomaniac kingdom had fallen … it was remembered that he had seen Hitler. Someone asked him curiously, ‘What did Hitler look like?’
“He replied quietly, ‘Like Jesus Christ.’”
Lord Jesus, may we love our neighbor as ourselves to the end, and never set a trap for him. And make our faith alive, our love toilful and our hope enduring. Grant, too, that we further more your kingdom than our own possessions (SV.EN III:527).
18 October 2020
29th Sunday in O.T. (A)
Is 45, 1. 4-6; 1 Thes 1, 1-5b; Mt 22, 15-21