Gospel: Matthew 22:15-22 is about the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus by asking Him whether they should pay taxes to Caesar. He was aware of their malice and asked to see a coin. They produced one that had the image of Caesar on it (whose possession ironically violated the Torah prohibiting the making of graven images). Jesus looking at the coin told them to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. He had eluded their trap!

Underlying the story is the fact that all human beings are made in the image of God, but the image was defaced in the Fall, and Israel (the Pharisees and everyone else) was still in exile, and Jesus had come to restore Israel to her rightful place as members of God’s covenant family.

Israel might not see herself in exile (she had returned from Babylon centuries ago), but she was under Roman domination and God had not returned to the Temple, and God’s covenant blessings were nowhere to be seen. In fact there was an evil power behind Caesar and the forces that were in control of the world in Jesus’ day (as well as our own). Jesus had come to redeem Israel, not from Rome, but from sin and the satan.

Jesus was proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mt 4:17) in what He Himself was doing by healing the sick, celebrating at meals with sinners, and bypassing the functions of the Temple in His own ministry. He was issuing a welcome and a warning: if people did not turn to Him in faith and love, but continued their present course of rebellion against Rome, they would perish.

The same message confronts us today. Jesus is still proclaiming that God is King and is ruling heaven and earth, and those who do not devote themselves to following Jesus will perish. We are to follow Him by making Him and His way the goal of our lives by reading Scripture and praying and allowing ourselves to be shaped by faith, hope, and love so that we follow Him. We should see ourselves as actors in an ongoing drama whose plot is the reconciliation of heaven and earth as God deals with all that frustrates His purpose for His world  and through His Son and the Spirit creates a new people through whom His purpose – filling the world with His glory – is being realized.

The more one knows the play, the less you will be ‘playing a role’ and the more you will just be yourself. With practice and devotion the more your actions will become natural – second nature – and the more you will become your true self.

Reading the Bible is habit-forming, in that it shapes us and our character into the likeness of Jesus. We can lose ourselves and find that our primary concern is to bring God’s will into the world, so that in losing our life we save it (Mt 16:25). We accept God’s will for ourselves and the world rather than our own (Mt 26:39).

Our goal is to see God’s kingdom, His reign, established on earth as it is in heaven so that His glory fills the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isa 11:5).

Memory Verse: Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him (Eph 1:9,10).