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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Today’s Reading | Mark 12:13–27

Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”

Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” (NRSV)


The classic “clash of empires” story.

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

This is how the King James Version of the Bible famously translates Jesus’ response to the question that his hostile interlocutors have posed: “Should we pay taxes to the Roman authorities or not?”

As the text tells us, this is not some sort of parlor game they are playing; the religious authorities are trying to trap Jesus in a kind of “lose-lose,” where to say yes would be to acknowledge the emperor and his quasi-divine status, and to say no could be seen as a seditious act, rebelling against the occupying Romans.

Jesus knows all about the clash of empires, for he has come to proclaim God’s reign among his people who are oppressed under the yoke of Rome. God’s reign, which Jesus calls “the kingdom of God,” is the rule of love, and it stands over against the rule of Rome, which is the rule of power.

The devastating response by Jesus (devastating to the questioners) challenges them as to who they have allegiance to: Rome or their God—the rule of power or the rule of love.

For it can’t be both!


The Lord of heaven is thirsty
for justice and for peace;
God’s battle is unending
Till hate and oppression cease. Amen.
A Peruvian prayer

Reflection written by Calum I. MacLeod,
Executive Associate Pastor and Head of Staff

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