Reflecting on Matthew 22:15-21
Every once in a while Jesus says something very funny, and today’s Gospel gives us one of his best zingers. Cultural historian John Pilch points out that when Jesus says “Show me the coin that pays the Temple tax” he’s setting a trap that the Pharisees and Herodians never see coming until they’ve fallen right into it.
Since the denarius used for paying taxes bore the image of the emperor Tiberius (and the inscription identified him as the son of the “divine Augustus”) even having this coin in one’s possession was shameful. But somehow those ever-observant Pharisees had the coin right there. Can’t you just see Jesus given them the “Oh, well isn’t THIS interesting” look?
So they must already have been a little cowed when he took the sacrilegious coin from them and asked them whose image and likeness it bore. Caesar’s, of course. And then I imagine him asking “And whose image and likeness do YOU bear?” God’s, of course. So live in that freedom.
“The world may have our hands, but God has our hearts” (Abraham Heschel).
In what ways do you see the image of God in those around you?
What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).
Kathy McGovern © 2013