Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ”Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20And Jesus said to them, ”Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, ”Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
December 4, 2021
Who wants to talk about taxes during Advent, as we try to focus our minds, hearts and lives on the coming of the Incarnate Son of God into the world? It y’s hard enough to stave off the pressure of work, family and secular holiday activities without having taxes appearing in our Advent devotions! So, what might this reading say to us about our Advent journey to the Christ-mass? In the Gospel of Matthew, we see that the religious establishment have been threatened by the teachings of Jesus and His apparent authority, and rightly so. Jesus has challenged their position and their power. He is perceived as one who has the very authority of God, speaking and acting with that authority. Now, Jesus has been challenged by Pharisees, priests, scribes and soon Sadducees. They have enlisted the Herodians in their fight, who have authority from the Roman emperor. The proverbial deck seems stacked heavily against Jesus. If they can now get Him to speak against Caesar, He will have incriminated Himself, entangling Himself in such a way that He may now be arrested and silenced, which has been the plan all along. As often happens, Jesus turns the question back on His interrogators, giving no easy answer to their question, while suggesting a powerful truth. If the question is not, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?” but rather, “What is there in this world which doesn’t belong to God?” — the religious leaders are challenged to wrestle with a deeper, more profound issue — the sovereignty of God over all human principalities and powers! “When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.” For those of us who are observing Advent, in preparation for Christmas, we are aware there are those who challenge the divinity of the Christ child, question Jesus as God’s only begotten Son or claim that the virgin birth is a myth. We are not deterred or disheartened by those who question and challenge the Holy Scriptures. We cling to the faith of the apostles, the Church Doctor/Fathers, like John of Damascus (commemorated today) and our own spiritual parents in the faith! We hold fast to the beautiful great, glad tidings which were sung by angels and even now, ring from earth and heaven, proclaiming the Good News of the Word made flesh.