Next, missional Jesus is emplotted by the Pharisees who want to get Jesus to say something that will get him in trouble — which is still a preferred technique by lots of Christians today. As they refuse to sing the dirge when John Baptist’s voice is heard and as they refuse to dance to the music Jesus plays, so Jesus refuses to play their game. Which is the way, if we have sound discernment, to play the trapper’s game. Here’s the trap:
Tell me Jesus, they say, should Jews being paying taxes to Caesar? “Give me a coin,” Jesus responds. Seemingly flipping it into the air for them to catch — I’m making this up but it evokes for me Jesus’ attitude — and before they catch it, Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s waht is his and give to God what is his.”
1. Missional Jesus finds a way between a false dichotomy. The option is not simply either Caesar or God, but both God and Caesar. (Besides the obvious compromise he caught them in for they evidently had the coin with Caesar’s idolatrous image on it in their own possession.) There is a way of paying taxes and a way of serving God in the same life.
2. Missional Jesus, one has to think, is simultaneously letting the temple leaders have it. They are compromising the Temple with the presence of Caesarian coins so they should just give them all back — let the Romans have what the Romans want and you go ahead with them. And the challenge is to give to God what is God’s — namely, the Temple and the heart of the Jewish people — which they were probably unwilling to do.
The double-answered question is a double-sworded lance to the heart.
Matt. 22:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.