The stand off created by the Pharisees in Sundays passage from Matthew 22:15-22 needs a little unpacking. At the superficial level we can feel that there’s points scoring on the part of Jesus and his followers over the Pharisees and their followers, yet there is more to this than meets the eye. To unpack it we need to go back to Exodus and the experience of Moses. Ever since then it was believed that no one could look into the face of God and live. Peter’s declaration that Jesus was “the Christ” changed that understanding. They understood overtime that Jesus wasn’t simply a Rabbi. When they looked into his face they saw the face of God.
So we have the face of God and the face of Jesus so far. We then move to the context of the Temple courts and the answer that Jesus gives revolves around the Roman coin. On it we have the face of Tiberius Ceaser with an inscription saying that he was the son of a god. The Pharisees trap was set and Jesus didn’t have any great problem finding a route through. He declared that according to the Torah there isn’t any problem paying taxes to the state. However Jesus didn’t have a coin with him so one of the Pharisees passed him one upon his request. By so doing the official made a mockery of his question, passing over an idolatrous image in a sacred precinct. However little is made of this in the text.
Ultimately the reader is left with a choice after exploring the passage. Do our eyes of loyalty go to our God or are we tempted to hedge our bets and avert our gaze towards an alternative. It seems that the Pharisees were looking into the wrong face. The choices that we have to make on a daily basis make us realise that being a follower of Jesus Christ isn’t always easy.
In a recent post I looked at the choice that Rowan Williams has made in looking into the right face. I entitled it “Zimbabwean Tea Party”