Today I wanted to share a passage from Luke 20 that deals with Jesus and the Caesar. This great passage in the gospel accounts really helps me remember what is important, especially in times of intense political debate.
First a little bit of context. In the first century world of Jesus the Roman Caesars believed they were sent by the gods to renew creation. Caesar Augustus believed that as the son of god, he was god incarnate on earth, the prince of peace who had come to restore all of creation. One of his popular slogans was “There is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved than that of Caesar.” Another popular phrase was, “Caesar is Lord.” These popular phrases and images of Caesar were inscribed on the coinage of the Roman Empire as well.
Think about the implications of this. The caesars claimed that they were the ones who provided for everyone and saved everyone and made the world a better place. It is against this backdrop that we find Jesus the first-century Jewish rabbi in Luke 20:26.
20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.
Jesus’ response to the questions is brilliant, as usual. Think about what he is really saying here. The money and taxes they belong to Caesar, but you also need to give God what is God’s. By separating the two entities here (Caesar and God), Jesus is making a very controversial claim. He is essentially saying, “Caesar is NOT God.” Sometimes it is very important to remember that God is in control, no matter what political party or leader is in government office. At the end of the day God is in charge, not politicians.