This week’s Gospel reading finds the Master on his final trip to Jerusalem in preparation for Passover and his sacrifice. He arrives on the 9th of Nissan, and returns to Bethany. On the 10th of Nissan is the cursing of the fig tree and the clearing of the Temple. The next day (11th of Nissan) He is teaching openly in the Temple. In fulfillment of the command found in Exodus 12 the entire house is to watch over the lamb and examine it for any blemishes until the 14th of Nissan.
Exodus 12:3-6 “Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb for his family one lamb for the household. But if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor are to take one according to the number of the people. According to each person eating, you are to make your count for the lamb. Your lamb is to be without blemish, a year old male. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You must watch over it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to slaughter it at twilight.”
In Luke 21 we are told that all of the people would get up early and come to the Temple to hear him speak.
Luke 21:37-38 “So during the days Yeshua was teaching in the Temple, but in the nights He went out and stayed on the Mount of Olives. And all the people would come early in the morning to hear Him in the Temple.”
The Temple authority and religious leaders would also come out to listen to Him teach. There were many who came to test Him but not all were for nefarious reasons. Many were testing Him in the same spirit the Apostle John teaches us to test the spirits in 1 John 4:1 “Loved ones, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from G-d. For many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
This blog I will focus on one of these tests.
Mark 12:13-15 “Then they send some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Yeshua in order to trap Him with a word. They come and say to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are honest, and what others think doesn’t concern You. You don’t look at men’s appearance, but teach the way of God according to the truth. Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay, or shouldn’t we?”
An unlikely collaboration between the some Pharisees and Caiaphas! The Herodian’s (Sadducee’s) were the secular and political liberals of their day, the Pharisee’s were the fundamentalists of their day. What would cause them to come together? They had little in common, but their opposing world views provided an opportunity to set a trap. The start by attempting to flatter Him, of course He saw right through their motivation. They then asked the question “Tell us what you think, is it lawful to give a tax to Caesar?” In other words does the Torah allow Jews to pay taxes to a pagan monarch who will use the money for idolatry and the further oppression of the Jewish people? The Pharisee’s generally supported to Zealot view that only G-D rules over Israel. For the zealots paying the poll tax to Caesar was treason against the people Israel and a betrayal of her G-D. If Yeshua would have said pay the taxes these Pharisee’s and their zealot friend could accuse Him of being a Roman sympathizer and anti-Zionism. This would also create a disillusionment amongst His followers. No True Messiah or Prophet of G-D would sell out to a pagan authority. On the other hand, the Herodians were exactly the kind of sell outs pagan sympathizers the Pharisee’s were they hoped to depict Yeshua as. The Herodians and the Sadducee’s aligned themselves with the Roman government because they were a part of the government and operated with the approval of the Roman government. If Yeshua answered “We should not pay the tax to Caesar”, they would accuse Him of being a traitor to Rome and an enemy of Caesar.
Mark 12:15-17 “But Yeshua saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius so I may see it.” They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they said to Him. Then Yeshua said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to G-d the things that are G-d’s.” And they were completely amazed at Him.
What an amazing answer to their seemingly unanswerable question! The Master detected their trickery. Knowing their hypocrisy He asked to see a roman coin. Many Pharisee, did not carry Roman currency while in the holy precincts of the Temple. Some never carried Roman coins at all since they had an image of Caesar on them. The coins inscription during this time would have read in Greek “The divine Emperor Tiberius Augustus”. It is not hard to see why observant Jews would not want to carry this coin, especially in the vicinity of the Holy Temple. When Yeshua answered their question it was more than just a cryptic evasion, but a response that challenged both the Pharisee’s and the Herodians.
“Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” A coin baring Caesar’s image must belong to Caesar. How much than belongs to Caesar? One Denarius! To render to Caesar what is Caesar’s means to surrender Caesar his coin.
Then He says something no one expected. “and to G-d the things that are G-d’s.” Where are the images of Caesar found? On a coin! Where is the image of G-D found? Genesis 1:27 “G-d created humankind in His image, in the image of G-d He created him, male and female He created them.” The image of G-D is found in mankind. To render unto G-D what is His means to surrender your entire person to Him.
The Binding of Isaac
The sages ask an important question regarding Isaac, the son of Abraham. Why was both Abraham and his grandson Jacob allowed to leave the land of Israel but Isaac was not?
Genesis 26:2-3 “Then Ad-nai appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt. Dwell in the land about which I tell you. Live as an outsider in this land and I will be with you and bless you—for to you and to your seed I give all these lands—and I will confirm my pledge that I swore to Abraham your father.
In Genesis 22 G-D called Abraham to take His son Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering unto G-D. Torah laws requires that when a sacrifice is set aside for an offering it is then sanctified and wholly set a part and cannot continue outside of the bounds of holiness, even if the offering is never actually sacrificed.
The Burnt Offering
A burnt offering was doubly holy in that it was entirely dedicated unto G-D. As Isaac was set a part as a holy korban He was dedicated unto G-D in his entirety and must reside within the promised land of G-D. When someone offered a sacrifice they would lay their hands upon the sacrifice and project their own identity upon the sacrifice. This is essentially what they laying on of hands means. This speaks intimately of us as followers of Messiah Yeshua. We are completely dedicated unto Him. Our lives should be a type burnt offering to Him. His image is in us! He came in the form of man taking on our identity as a type of burnt offering on our behalf.
The Apocryphal Gospel of Thomas
The Apocryphal Gospel of Thomas relates an alternate version of this story with some added detail.
“They showed Yeshua a gold coin and said to Him, The men of the Roman emperor demand taxes from us. He said to them, Give the emperor what belongs to the emperor, give to G-D what belongs to G-D, and give me what is mine.”
This version adds the phrase “Give me what is mine”. This could be implying two demands.
- Call to discipleship.
- The Messianic Kingdom.
The people of Israel are to give Him what is His, that is the throne of David and allegiance to Him as the Messiah. If they had given Him what is His and the Father what is His there would have been no claim by any Roman emperor.
When we give to the Master what is His, and the Father what is His; love, We need to give the Father what is His, the Son what is His, and let Caesar have the worthless things of this world that are dying away. The enemy may have cast his imagine on many polluted and corrupt idols in this world, but there is a new world coming. One that is made new and fully dedicated to Him! A day is coming when the world will be a type of holy burnt offering.