THE Pharisees and Herodians came to the Lord together, on that last day in the temple, asking if they ought to give tribute to Caesar or not. The Pharisees taught that it was wrong, the Herodians believed that it was right. It seemed that whatever answer the Lord gave, He would offend one party or the other. But he answered so wisely that neither Pharisees nor Herodians could make any reply, and His words contain a lesson for all time.
Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.—Matthew XXII. 15-22, 25-40.
The last visit of the Lord to the temple had so much that was sad in it! but it closed with a beautiful scene. The Lord sat watching the people who put offerings into the treasury, —into the chests with trumpet-shaped mouths which were placed in the court where both men and women came, to receive the money that was brought to the temple. What made some of the gifts worth little, and some of them worth much in His sight?
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.—Mark XII. 41-44.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s >> A well-balanced life must be outwardly in touch with the world, and inwardly in touch with God >> Duty as citizens of the country and duty as members of the church >> Our care for the natural body and for the soul
The poor widow >> All who know their own weakness and helplessness and trustfully put all that they have at the service of the Lord
Two mites >> Loving the Lord an loving thy neighbor
But Jesus continued, in further exploration of their relation to the Divine : In Him a marriage with the Divine was offered to all, and the good things of heaven by means of it ; but they despised it. The simple and uninstructed would be gathered in, and those who received instruction would be clothed in the garments of heaven, but those who trusted in their own goodness would be cast out.
Thus ended the Divine exploration of the church which should be the means of conjunction between God and men. They made the Lord’s house of prayer a den of thieves. They had the Word, but bore not its fruit. They kept not its teachings of life either literal or spiritual. They were unfaithful husbandmen, rendering nothing of the fruitfulness for which the vineyard had been entrusted to them. They were rejecting Him Who was the very Presence of God with men, and upon Whom the church must be built. They were refusing the heavenly marriage, and the good of heaven, which God in Him had provided for them.
But falsity confirmed by perversions of the Scriptures, does not yield without an attempt to destroy the truth. The love of self, in the form of Pharisaical pride in holiness, combines with the love of the world, and presently with the love of the body only, to ensnare Him with their false reasonings. The first two bring the question about tribute to Caesar. Neither cares anything for God except in name. They are in antagonism with each other, the one caring only for a free and easy life in the world as the highest good, and the other for a self-holiness apart from the contamination of the world. But they unite to ensnare Him Who is the Presence of God with men. If He permits tribute to Caesar, the pride of holiness in the name of God will flame, and condemn Him as not of God. If He forbids it, He is not of the world, and should be condemned and rejected by the world.
He answers them with an even justice which silences them both. From their own lips He gathers the confession that the forms of life are of necessity from the world, though the substance of good is from God. And so was He. The stamp He had, the forms of truth He learned, as the Son of Man. The life and substance were of God. And so should be the church with them in the world and adapted to the world, yet of God.
The lovers of the body only, who deny that there is any life apart from the body, next attack Him. They tell Him of seven brethren, who may stand for themselves, mere forms of bodily lusts ; of a woman, who is the truth of the church with them, a church of the body only, with no spiritual internal. Serving the body only the truth of the church is united with its lusts, and in the end is totally destroyed, so that neither to it nor to them is there any resurrection to life. This was their condition. Out of their own mouth they were judged. Had they known the Scriptures which are the truth of life from God, and the power of God which is the love of the good life according to the truth, they would have entered into the heavenly marriage on earth, and in the resurrection would have been angels of God in heaven. For all who are in the marriage of good and truth of any degree of the child’s innocence represented by Abraham, of the intelligence represented by Isaac, or the obedience represented by Jacob live in heaven with heavenly life from God, though they who are spiritually dead acknowledge Him not.
The account in Mark indicates that it was of good intent that the ” lawyer ” now asked Him, Which is the great commandment of the Law? to learn what He held as the essential truth. And He answered : ” Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it : Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets ” the absolutely unselfish commandments of the Divine life.
And then He asked them in turn: ” What think ye of Christ ? Whose Son is He ? ” And their answer showed that there was nought in the Christ but what was of them, that they would recognize ; while His reply was, that the Divine in Him would put all that they valued under foot. Their effort to entangle Him was ended. It had brought from Him the truth of God by which they should be judged that the church should be in the world, and adapted to the world, yet of God : that the truth of the church with them was made to serve their own lusts, and was destroyed thereby ; whereas the truth of God should be united with the love of God in a marriage unto eternal life : that the law of love to God and the neighbor was the Divine law of heaven and earth : that the Divine of God should rule in all things, and whatever is of man should serve in the lowest place. So clear and simple is this truth of God, that the subtleties of evil can make no answer, but must submit to be judged by it. (Author: John Worchester, 1898. Matthew’s Gospel.)
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum