Thursday, January 19, 2017

Image Bearers

Who do you look like? Perhaps it is your mother or father. Maybe an uncle or aunt. From our first moments after birth, most families try to determine which person the newborn most resembles. While these discussions are fun for family and friends, the truth is that we do each bear an image of another.

In Mark 12.13-17, two groups approach Jesus with a politically charged question. You can read more about these groups and their exchange with Jesus here.) The question related to whether or not a particular tax was to be paid. The origins of this tax, some twenty years earlier, led to many rebels leading a charge against Rome. To question Jesus, was to determine if He, too, was a rebel (for which He could be arrested and killed), or if He was a religious imposter who would agree to pay the tax which would alienate those who followed Jesus. Make no mistake, this was a trap. However, it was the Pharisees and Herodians who would spring their own trap.

You probably know this story. Jesus asks for those questioning Him for a coin. But He did not simply ask for a coin, He asked for a specific coin – a denarius. And they were able to provide one (ironically, especially since this exchange took place within the temple complex! Jesus knew whose image was on the denarius, and He knew the reason that many Jews did not wish to pay the tax (it had an image on the coin and a phrase that considered Caesar as near divine). (Again, more details and a picture of the coin with an explanation of the description can be found here.)

Jesus simply indicates that the coin bears the image of its maker (Caesar, in this case Tiberius). As the rightful owner of the coin, it should be given back to Tiberius. But the greater lessen was meant to challenge the thoughts of all those around Him. Jesus continued by saying that whatever has the image of God on it should be given back (or dedicated) to God.

Many do not realize Jesus’ full intent here ascribing the statement to be monetary in nature. But the reality is, Jesus was referring to Creation, and specifically the words found in Genesis 1.26 and 27. The implications of this statement were (and are) that we are made in the image of God and should, therefore, be given back to Him. (Notice the question to Jesus is about being permitted to pay the tax, but Jesus response is about what should be given – or, in actuality, given back.)

Our minds are not trained to look across the pages of Scripture for connections like the scribes and Pharisees of yesteryear. Most miss connecting Jesus’ answer to Creation, but the leaders of that day would have make the connection instantly. We are not told of their exact response here, but rest assured, they did not like being made the fool and this unlikely pair of groups would have further plotted against Jesus as they had much earlier (Mark 3.6).

But Jesus’ response was not just for the people in earshot on that day in the courtyard of the temple. The same words resonate today. The reality is that while we may look like a certain family member, the real question is whose image do you bear? The Bible is clear: God created us in His image. And yet, when I look in the mirror, I do not see the characteristics of God in me like a should.

And that is what is truly amazing about God. Although we were created in His image, and although we should give ourselves back to Him accordingly, we resist and even turn away. So what did God do? He bought us back! Paul echoes Jesus words to honor God with our body, but not before reminding his readers in Corinth that they are not their own, they were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6.19-20).

God could demand we give ourselves back to Him, but He knows that even if He did, we are incapable to do so by ourselves. So, instead, He provided the necessary means through Jesus. He paid a price to get His own image-bearers back. God is truly an amazing God. He is a God whose image I wish to bear, even if I am unworthy on my own to do so.

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