What does it mean when Jesus said “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”? (Matthew 22:21). Richard Wurmbrand a Romanian Pastor who spent 14 years in prison and 3 years in solitary confinement for simply preaching Jesus had an interesting take on it. I happen to think that there is a lot of merit in what he says here, but even if you disagree at least allow your mind to think through what he has to say. This is taken from one of Richard’s many writings. (Some of the examples he uses may be a bit old now but they still make the point)
“The words “Render unto Caesar” have been misunderstood. Jesus did not advise his disciples to give anything to Caesar. His words where address to the Pharisees. The Pharisees and Jesus’ disciples were at odds with one another: the words were spoken to Jesus’ detractors, not His friends.
Who was this Caesar anyway? A foreign conqueror who had occupied Israel, He had contributed nothing to its well-being. He had never planted a tree, built a highway, or even visited the country. Yet he had established tax-collectors to milk its riches, and had slaughtered anyone who dared resist his edicts. Nothing in Israel belonged to Caesar.
If you say to a Czech, Hungarian or Pole, ‘Render to the Soviets the things which belong to them’, he would understand you instantly. Nothing belongs to them. These words can only mean, ‘Give them a boot in the back and send them packing.’
This was the true sense of Jesus’ words. If the Pharisees were so convinced that they serve God, why were their minds preoccupied with things which are not godly? Jesus commands them, ‘Do both things: serve a tyranny and serve God at the same time.’ He knew they would soon realize that these things are not compatible. One must choose between being Caesar’s bootlicker and a true servant of God who stands before a godless King like Herod and tells him to his face, ‘What you do is unlawful.’ This is the attitude which cost John the Baptist his head.
It is a misuse of Jesus’ words to interpret them as counselling submissiveness to despots. My own interpretation is in fact the contrary. Just as the soul is higher than the body, so the sacerdotal dignity excels and instructs the regal; the celestial, the terrestrial. It is the duty of Kings to obey Scriptural leaders, rather than the reverse.”
Jesus is Alive!! Do you believe it? Good, because Satan also believes and trembles. It is no good believing a fact only, you need to act on it. We are called to believe and also to repent and be baptised (See my article above on “What must we do to be saved?”). It is because that Jesus resurrected from the Dead that we know one day we also will be resurrected. Jesus resurrection means that we have access to the Holies of Holies and that we can become new creation in Him. Most of us have heard the phrase “Sinners saved by Grace”, this is a good phrase but I prefer the phrase coined by Neil T Anderson, “Saints who sometimes sin”. Because Jesus is alive we can, if we wish to enter in, become Saints. We do not need some Church authority to decide who can be a saint or not, because we read in the Scriptures that we are part of the Sainthood of all believers because Jesus is Alive.
I want to show you who we are in Christ because of his resurrection (If we repent) by quoting a number of verses. I will leave out where they are from as it flows better that way. It was Neil T Anderson who put these verses together in his book the Bondage Breaker. As you read it just realise this is who we are if we only accept Jesus and repent and be baptised.
I am not the great “I Am”, but by the grace of God, I am what I am. I am the salt of the earth. I am the light of the world. I am a Child of God. I am part of the true vine, a channel of Christ’s life. I am Christ’s friend. I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit. I am a slave of righteousness. I am enslaved to God. I am a son of God; God is spiritually my Father. I am a joint heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him. I am a temple—a dwelling place—of God. His Spirit and His life dwell in me. I am united to the Lord and am one spirit with Him. I am a member of Christ’s body. I am a new creation. I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation. I am a son of God and one in Christ. I am an heir of God since I am a son of God. I am a Saint. I am God’s workmanship—His handiwork—born anew in Christ to do His work. I am a fellow citizen with the rest of God’s family. I am a prisoner of Christ. I am righteous and holy. I am a citizen of Heaven, seated in heaven right now. I am hidden with Christ in God. I am an expression of the life of Christ because He is my life. I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved. I am a son of light and not of darkness. I am a holy partaker of a heavenly calling. I am a partaker of Christ; I share in His life. I am one of God’s living stones, being built in Christ as a spiritual house. I am a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession. I am an alien and a stranger to this world in which I temporally live. I am an enemy of the Devil.
This is who we are because Jesus is alive. Do we live like we believe it or do we give victory to Satan every time we are awake. Read it. Meditate on it. And live it.
There is nothing in the Bible that I believe is there by chance. And here is another example of that.
After the conquest of Joshua was completed, the land of Canaan was divided, by lot, among the Twelve Tribes (there are actually 13 tribes). The Tribe of Levi, however, did not inherit land as “the Lord was their inheritance.” They where, however, awarded 48 cities, 6 of which were designated “cities of refuge.”
If someone was killed by an assailant, his slayer would be pursued by the next of kin, the goel, the avenger of blood. In the case were there was no premeditation – what we would term “manslaughter,” – the slayer could seek refuge in the nearest city of refuge. Assuming that he could convince the elders at the gate of the city that there was no premeditation, etc., he was secure from the avenger of blood, as long as he remained within the city. If the slayer left the confinces of the city of refuge, he was fair game to the avenger of blood.
In Israel they had no police force, or prisons. Still, it does seem like a strange procedure. The fate of the slayer was dependent upon his ability to access the nearest city of refuge.
And what has the death of the High Priest, in distant Jerusalem, have to do with any of this? Why should this impact the status of the fugitive refugee? And what has this got to do with us? If we look at it with Jesus at the centre of it we will begin to see more clearly.
Was Jesus’ death “first degree” (premeditated) murder or “second degree” (manslaughter)? From God’s point of view, it was “first degree.” It was ordained “being delievered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,” (Acts 2:23) and, so, from the Father’s point of view, it was indeed premeditated. In fact, it was a deal struck with the Son before the foundation of the world!
But what about our position? After all, it was our sins which put Him on the cross! Would this be considered “first” or “second” degree murder?
Remember the words of Jesus Himself, (who after all is our own defense counsel): “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). So from this point of view it should be considered manslaughter, and this in turn would qualify us to flee to our city of refuge.
And just where is our city of refuge? In Jesus Christ Himself, of course.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of the sin and death.” (Romans 8:2).
And all this was to obtain until the death of the High Priest. Who is our High Priest? Jesus Christ. (we see this in the book of Hebrews). And it was His death that has freed us from the pursuit of the Avenger of Blood. (Rom. 8:1). However, every check, to be cashed, requires an endorsment of the receipt. Ever pardon needs an acceptance. Have you laid claim to what He has purchased for you?
We are all victims of the seepool of deceit of this world and our genetic defect of sin. Yet He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And He is waiting to hear from you. Flee to the City of Refuge, The City of Refuge, Jesus Christ Himself and he will defend and protect you friom the avenger of Blood.
Last week I posted a couple of articles about the timing and dating of Easter (which in my opinion should be still called Passover). While I believe that these issues are important and the Church should seriously consider rethinking their traditions and start follwoing after the Biblical pattern, the more important issue is why we do it in the first place.
Despite their errors I have always preferred Easter to Christmas, not so much for the rituals around it but for what it means. Without the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus we are nothing. This is the one even in world History that everything hinges on. Without Jesus’ crucifixion we have no sacrifice and without His Resurrection we have no Saviour. Over the last number of years, especially in England each year some bishop or some so called minister has come out in the papers denying the resurrection of Jesus. Without the resurrection there is no Church, no salvation and no hope. What is your hope in? Is it in a Jesus who didn’t rise again after 3 days and 3 nights in the grave? If it is then as the Apostle Paul said you are most pitied. Put your hope in Jesus; Jesus the Son of God; Jesus who was crucified as our Sacrifice; and Jesus who was Resurrected as our Saviour.
This Easter (Passover) meditate on Jesus and what He has done for you and what He continues to do for you.
It is funny how you can be reading the Bible for years, but one day a verse or phrase jumps out at you. You had obviously read it before but you hadn’t quite taken it in. Last week as I was preparing a sermon on Psalm 45, such a verse jumped out at me. It was the last part of verse 11 which said “Because He is Lord worship Him.” When I read it, it just jumped out at me and blew my mind as we say. We live in a world where there is very little respect and people expect to have things done for them before they return any repsect or love. Children don’t repect their parents or teachers, people don’t respect the police and no one repsect the Referee. When it comes to God, do we worship Him because he is Lord, Master, Adonai etc or do we only worship Him because of what He has done for us. This verse jumped out at me and said that we should worship God simply because He is Lord and that should be enough. Yes God has done many things for us such as sending his Son to die for us, for creation and many other things. But we are not asked to Love God because of any of these things. He is Lord, He is the great I am we need no other reason to worship Him. If we always needed a reason to worship God then most of us would be on an emotional rollercoaster, with us some days worshipping God and other days not feeling like it. It is enough to worship God Simply because He is Lord.
I have always had a problem with the Crucifix and any other idols to Mary etc. Growing up as an evangelical/protestant in Northern Ireland I could never bring my self to go inside a catholic Chapel (In Northern Ireland Catholic places of worship are called Chapel’s and Protestants are called Churches), simply because every time I saw the Crucifix or some other idol I literally felt sick, not because of the blood or the cross itself but because to me it represented idolatry. While on some of my religious views I have mellowed and am no long as dogmatic as I once was, I still can not bring myself to enter a catholic Chapel.
A few days ago I started reading another book (no surprise thereJ). It was called “The Dark side of the Papacy” by an ex Priest called Peter De Rosa who had studied at the Vatican and worked there for a time. He made a point about the Crucifix which I wish to develop for you here.
He describes the Crucifix as “easily the biggest cover-up in History.” He says that this cover up comes down to the piece of cloth that “covers the loins of Jesus on the cross.” In the beginning the Cross was never represented in art. No one dared use an execution tool as a representation of their faith. This would have been seen as blasphemy by the early Church fathers. It is said that Constantine’s armies bore the cross on their insignia. This is also not true. They instead used the first 2 letters of Christ name in Greek as their insignia. Only when the memory of the thousands who had died on crosses all over the Roman world dimmed did Christians feel free to depict the cross as the symbol of Christ’s suffering love. And even then it was only an EMPTY CROSS. Who would dare re-crucify Jesus? This after all would be going against what Hebrews 6 says.
Later, this bare symbol of his conquest of the dark forces seemed too austere. Fifth century artists began to paint a cross with a lamb next too it, for Jesus was the Lamb of God slain for the sin of the world. Then with mounting courage, a lamb-white Jesus was himself depicted next to the cross. With only 2 known exceptions, not till the end of the 6th Century was He shown on the cross. Still the artist dared not paint in the pain and humiliation. Jesus was in a long tunic, with only hands and feet bare to show in stylized fashion the nails that pinned him to the wood. This was an image of triumph; he was not suffering and dying but reigning, open-eyed and sometimes crowned, on the throne of the cross. The first tenth-century Greek representation of Jesus suffering on the cross was condemned by Rome as blasphemy (now imagine that). Soon the Church of Rome itself gave in to this blasphemy.
As the years moved on the cloth got smaller and smaller until in suddenly stopped – at a loin cloth. Why did the artists stop here? I used to think that this was simply not show Jesus as naked (for anyone who knows history knows that when the Roman’s crucified someone it was always naked). But now I am not so sure. After reading De Rosa’s book I think I have another reason. If the artists painted Jesus naked on the Cross, then the Church would not have been able to partake of their favourite pass time, which was being anti-Semitic and killing and abusing Jews where ever they found them. What do I mean by this? In giving Jesus the final shreds of decency, that loin-cloth took from him His Jewishness. It literally covered His pride and turned Him into an honorary Gentile. For what it hid was not just his sex but the knife-mark in His flesh, the circumcision, that showed He was a Jew. This is what The Catholic Church feared and still fears to see. If it wasn’t for the cloth then the Catholic Church couldn’t blame the Jews for Jesus’ death. The Crucifix is simply another anti-Semitic symbol in a long line. The Church in Rome to this day still refuses to apologise for this and many other acts of Anti-Semitism. Maybe one day they will when Jesus returns not only as Saviour and Messiah but also as a Jew.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was Reading a book called “Putting Jesus in His Place” by J. Komoszewski and R. Bowman Jr. I have just finished it and I thought I would give you all a short review of it. The book is basically about proving the case for the deity of Christ. It is written in such a way that it would appeal to those looking for something academic as well as those who want an easy read. For those on the academic side there are over 100 pages of notes at the back of the book. The book uses the acronym of HANDS to divide up the sections. The sections are as follows:
Jesus shares the HONOURS due to God.
Jesus shares the ATTRIBUTES of God.
Jesus shares the NAMES of God.
Jesus shares in the DEEDS that God does.
Jesus shares the SEAT of God’s throne.
It is a very Biblically centric book and the authors go through practically if not every verse in the Bible associated with Jesus and His deity including many from the Old Testament as well. One of the down sides in this is that about half way through each section you have probably got the point but it is worth while having the points reinforced again and again. One of the downsides for me personally is his use of the word Jehovah for me this is a mistranslation and I would rather that the word Adonai or Yahweh (YHWH although this may put off any potential Jewish readers, so it would probably have been better to stick with Adonai) had been used. Apart from this I found the book to be a worthwhile read and lift up the faith of any doubting Christians out there who needed some reassurance. It would be great for Pastors as well as so-called lay people. A great book.