Proper 24 Series A
1 Thessalonians 1:1–10
We Are Recreated in the Image of God by the Cross of Christ
Collect for Proper 24: O God, the protector of all who trust in You, have mercy on us that with You as our ruler and guide we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.
Plotting against Jesus, the Pharisees attempted “to entangle him in his words” by asking about the payment of taxes to Caesar (Matthew 22:15). The Lord pointed to coins required for the tax, and He answered that we should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). But if coins bearing the image of Caesar should be rendered to him, then man — who is made in the image of God — must be rendered to the Lord. That tax is paid for us by the Lord Jesus, the image of God in the flesh, by His self-offering on the cross. And from His cross, as the Lord’s anointed, He reigns as the true Caesar over all nations “from the rising of the sun and from the west” (Isaiah 45:6). The Lord once called and anointed Cyrus “to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings” (Isaiah 45:1). Now by the preaching of the Gospel, “in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:5), foreigners from all over the world are “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9–10).
Rev. Dr. Daniel J Brege
And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” (Matthew 22:20, NKJV)
When Jewish leaders questioned Jesus as to whether one should pay Roman taxes, He asked for a coin. They showed him a denarius and he promptly asked them whose image was stamped into the coin. After they answered that it was Caesar’s image, Jesus said to give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and give to God that which is God’s. Jesus demonstrated wisdom beyond that of Solomon, thus shutting down the questioning of the Pharisees.
Bear with me now and consider an illustration from our text. Though some translations fail to translate the Greek word as “image”, yet that is precisely the word used in this account when Jesus asks, “Whose image and inscription is this?” “Image” is a word used in Scripture to convey great depth of meaning. It was the word used to describe that perfect humanity possessed by Adam when the world still had its pristine purity. Adam was made in the image of God. When Adam then sinned, the image was lost. One could look at every human being on the planet from Adam onward and find no one demonstrating possession of the image of God.
But now there stands in front of the Pharisees the man who once again possesses the image of God. Jesus has God’s image from two perspectives: First He is the eternal Son of God, having been stamped with the Father’s image from eternity. Second He is the man who when one sees Him living as a man, one beholds the perfect man, the man without sin, the man whose will perfectly aligns with God’s will. Beholding Jesus one beholds the New Adam who, like the first Adam, is in the image of God.
Jesus is like the perfect coin, stamped with the image of God, and the inscription beneath the image declares, “This my beloved Son.” Now we can hear the voice of the Father commanding, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.” The “coin”, Jesus Christ, will make the payment. Jesus is both the spender and the coin, even as He is both priest and sacrifice.
After a trial handled by the Roman ruler named Pontius Pilate, the people cried out, “Crucify Him.” They were in effect saying, “Make Him pay the price of claiming to be a king who competes with Caesar.” Indeed, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” The coin is to be spent; Jesus must die by the hand of Caesar, He must be crucified under Roman law.
Being in God’s image as both God and man, this Jesus is without sin, perfectly obedient to His heavenly Father. But now the Father makes Him who knew no sin to be sin for us. This Second Adam is being commanded to pay the price of mankind’s sins. He is being told by His Father to render unto God that which is God’s. So the Son obeys. This coin perfectly stamped with the image of God is spent to pay for mankind’s sins.
Now this perfect coin, because He willingly rendered unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s, has paid the price of our redemption. And what is the result? We become the righteousness of God in Him, for He rises from the dead for our justification. Or to state it differently, in Christ we have the image of God restored. Now in our Baptism God has declared us again to be in His image, and the inscription upon us says, “This is my beloved son.” This is Christ’s blood-bought gift for us.
Paying Taxes to Caesar
Τότε πορευθέντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι συμβούλιον ἔλαβον ὅπως αὐτὸν παγιδεύσωσιν ἐν λόγῳ.
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words.
καὶ ἀποστέλλουσιν αὐτῷ τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτῶν μετὰ τῶν Ἡρῳδιανῶν [a]λέγοντες• Διδάσκαλε, οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἀληθὴς εἶ καὶ τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ διδάσκεις, καὶ οὐ μέλει σοι περὶ οὐδενός, οὐ γὰρ βλέπεις εἰς πρόσωπον ἀνθρώπων
And 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.[a]
a. Matthew 22:16 Greek for you do not look at people's faces
εἰπὸν οὖν ἡμῖν τί σοι δοκεῖ• ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ;
Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
γνοὺς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὴν πονηρίαν αὐτῶν εἶπεν• Τί με πειράζετε, ὑποκριταί;
But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?
ἐπιδείξατέ μοι τὸ νόμισμα τοῦ κήνσου. οἱ δὲ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δηνάριον.
Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.[b]
b. Matthew 22:19 A denarius was a day's wage for a laborer
καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς• Τίνος ἡ εἰκὼν αὕτη καὶ ἡ ἐπιγραφή;
And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”
λέγουσιν [b]αὐτῷ• Καίσαρος. τότε λέγει αὐτοῖς• Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τῷ θεῷ.
They 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.”
καὶ ἀκούσαντες ἐθαύμασαν, καὶ ἀφέντες αὐτὸν ἀπῆλθαν.
When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition. Copyright © 2010 by Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software
LCMS Lectionary series
Lutheran Service Book Copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis