“Render to Caesar, Render to God” (Sermon on Matthew 22:15-22, by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

“Render to Caesar, Render to God” (Matthew 22:15-22)

Our text today is the Holy Gospel from Matthew 22, the passage that includes the famous saying, “Render unto Caesar.” But as we’ll find out, that is only half of the verse. The other half is about rendering unto God, and really that is the main point of the passage. So today our theme: “Render to Caesar, Render to God.”

We’re in Jerusalem in the days leading up to the Passover. Jesus has just come into town a couple of days ago. His enemies have been trying to figure out a way to trap him, to trip him up, either to get the crowds to turn against him or to get the authorities to come down on him. Jesus’ enemies would like to get their hands on him themselves, but they have to deal with the political realities. So they practice an early form of “gotcha” journalism: Figure out a question to ask, so that no matter which way he answers, he’ll get in trouble.

Now among these enemies of Jesus is a group called the Pharisees. Jesus has been exposing their hypocrisy for a couple years now, challenging their religious leadership, and they hate him for it. But so far they haven’t been able to catch him in a big slip-up. Even so, they’re going to try once again. And so our text begins: “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians.”

There’s an old saying, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” Well, so does opposition to Jesus. What I mean is, groups that otherwise might not like each other, when they have common cause, can become unlikely allies. So it is here with the Pharisees and a group called the Herodians. The Pharisees, like most Jews, were nationalists; they did not like the fact that the pagan Romans were ruling over them. The Herodians, on the other hand, were political collaborators who were willing to work under the Romans, because at least it gave them some measure of power. The House of Herod was the local political dynasty that had made a deal with Caesar to serve as puppet kings under the mighty Roman emperor.

So now catch the tension and the electric political-religious dynamic at work here, as the Pharisees set the trap. They’re going to ask Jesus a question that, if he answers it one way, will disappoint and anger the masses. But they also bring the Herodians along to witness Jesus’ answer, so that if he answers it the other way, they, the Herodians, will not like it, and they will report Jesus to the Roman authorities. A delicious trap, so the Pharisees think. Heads, you lose. Tails, you lose also.

To gain Jesus’ confidence and good will, and to encourage him to speak freely and loosen up his tongue, the Pharisees have their spokesman start out with some flattery: “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” Now the irony here, of course, is that all of this is true! Jesus himself is true–genuine, authentic–and he does speak and teach the way of God truthfully. Yes, that is exactly right! And yes, Jesus does not care about man’s opinion, nor is he swayed by outward appearances. He has demonstrated that over and over in his bold and controversial ministry. The irony here is that it’s the Pharisees themselves who are not being true or speaking truthfully. They’re being dishonest and deceitful and devious in their attempt to butter up Jesus and get him to slip. Jesus will not fall for it, of course, but this is how they’re leading into their trick question.

Which the Pharisees then ask: “Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Well, that’s a pretty clever question, I must say! A “gotcha” question! “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Is it lawful, is it right, for us Jews as God’s own children, who should be slaves to no one, to pay taxes on our person to a foreign, pagan emperor who has us under his thumb? If Jesus says yes, he has just lost the crowd; they’ll turn against him. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?” If Jesus says no, the Herodians will hear it, and they will mark him as someone disloyal to the regime, a rebel against Caesar, a potential insurrectionist. And they will probably report him to the local Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.

Jesus, as he is wont to do, answers their question with a question. He asks them: “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?” Jesus sees right through their phony flattery and calls them on it. He is “aware of their malice.” Even so, he decides to use this occasion for his purpose, and so he tells them, “Show me the coin for the tax.” Somebody digs into his pocket and brings Jesus a denarius, the Roman coin that would be used.

And now Jesus asks them another question, a question about the coin they themselves have just provided. He asks them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” That is, whose image, whose likeness, whose portrait do you see on this coin, and whose name is inscribed on it? This sounds like a pretty straightforward, simple question, and so the Pharisees quickly reply: “Caesar’s.”

What the Pharisees don’t realize is that now Jesus has caught them in a trap! Because what he says next is so brilliant, it is wisdom that cannot be refuted. He will answer their original question about paying taxes, but he will do it in a way which neither the nationalists nor the Herodians could gainsay. And he lifts their sights, and the sights of the crowd–and our sights, too–to see a question about ourselves, ourselves in relation to Jesus and to God.

Here is Jesus’ answer: “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” That gets at it, both our relation to Caesar and our relation to God, in one fell swoop.

First, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” This is really the minor point, because their question never really was a sincere question in the first place, it was just a set-up designed to trap Jesus. But Jesus does address briefly the matter of our responsibility toward civil government. Whoever the “Caesar” is over you at any particular time and place in history–well, Caesars need taxes to run whatever form of government happens to be in place. The government may be doing a good job or a bad job with those taxes, they may be collecting too much or too little in taxes, but the point remains: Nations need governments. And governments collect taxes. It’s what they do. Caesar needs–and demands–his denarii. That’s the nature of life in this world.

So it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. We do render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. But as I say, this is only the minor point that Jesus is making. He has something more to say that goes beyond taxes and Caesar. And that is, that we are to render “to God the things that are God’s.” This is the most important thing Jesus has to say, and it applies to everyone, including us. Render to God the things that are God’s. And that has everything to do with how we receive–or reject–the man who is saying this, namely, Jesus of Nazareth.

Now here we’re getting at it, and think back to that Roman denarius, with the likeness and inscription of Caesar on it. If that coin had the image and name of the emperor on it, and it did, then that meant you recognized it as such and you received it and used it for operating in that kingdom. The coin bore the image of the current Roman emperor, and the inscription gave his name and title: “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.” Did you catch that? The Roman emperor claimed to be divine, the “son of the divine Augustus.”

Now here is Jesus, standing here right in front of you, telling you these things. You have observed his person and ministry for several years now. You have heard his words and seen his deeds, words of heavenly wisdom, deeds of divine mercy. So now the question comes: Whose image and inscription does he bear? The answer: God’s. Jesus’ words and his works attest, most clearly, that he is indeed the Son of the living God, the only one there is. Then why, O Pharisees, do you not receive this Jesus as your Messiah, your King and Deliverer sent from heaven? That would be the right way to render to God the things that are God’s. By believing in the one whom he sent! The image and the inscription are there for you to see!

That image and that inscription are there for you to see, dear friend! Look to Jesus your Savior. See in him the image of God, the God of all compassion and mercy. So great is his love for us that he was willing to be rejected by his enemies and to be crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. There on that cross the inscription read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” But really the inscription could read, “This is Jesus, the King who was willing to suffer shame and suffering and death for your salvation.” Yes, Jesus renders to God the things that only he could render: payment for all our debt of sin, a tax we could never pay. But Jesus, the holy Son of God, does pay it, declaring in his dying breath, “It is finished. Paid in full.” That the debt is paid is shown when Jesus then rises from the dead, offering life and peace and eternal salvation as a free gift.

So today as you see the image and inscription of God resting on this Jesus, “render to God the things that are God’s”: Faith and trust in the Savior he sends you–Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

On my heart imprint Your image,
Blessed Jesus, King of grace,
That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may Your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation!



“Render to Caesar, Render to God” (Sermon on Matthew 22:15-22, by Pr. Charles Henrickson) — 5 Comments

  1. Quite true today as the Jews rule Europe and America. Just look at Cultural Marxism. Hollywood is Full of public pornography today for young children to view. At least when I was a child it was not available for children to view then and parents garden their children very carefully if they were good Lutherans as mine were !!! And Hollywood is also full of constant violence and murders and race mixing which doesn’t work–I’m speaking about a Black or Muslim or Hindu man having sex with a white woman. And a marriage made in Heaven? Ha! The Man in this case is not religious and the white woman use to be a baptist. Oh that really works… right? It’s the theme song today and as they promote this new kind of perversion they are flooding our country with third worlders of which most are free loaders and believe in Islam, or don’t believe in anything but paganism. Paganism is the new norm today. Who do you think runs America’s political machine today ? It certainly is not Christians. In 1913 and 14 the federal reserve bank system began. And it was ran and still is today by Jews and Freemasons. Throughout the 20th century in Europe and in America and indeed in other parts of the world , but I’ll focus just on the aformentioned; we have seen a very wicked media (all lies or half truths in the MSM) Evil small bunch push this wickedness and lies and deceptions take place in our churches , our governments , our newspapers , and television’s. Look what you see on TV and what has been seen on TV since the 1960s —- The PTL club, and the 700 club , and now the very rich billionaire Kenneth Copeland , and his wife Gloria, and Joel Olsteen, and his wife , who are both very rich, and a whole host of others such as John Haggee, who constantly says we have to give money to Israel , so that we will be blessed and of course —go to war for Israel —so we can be blessed because they are the chosen ones of God ! And no I’m not exaggerating because an estimated 60000,000 so-called even Jellicle Christians believe this to be true , and it’s a heresy so it is very important to bring it up —the eighth Commandment ! That’s American Christianity today and I don’t see anybody (or very few) trying to tell the truth so I’m doing it now. I’m telling you who is in charge and who is pushing this terrible heresy and false religion. Darby from the 19th century and his heresies and Scofield and his heretical Bible which many Baptists have read and they believe it. I even know Lutherans that actually believe this nonsense that Israel and the Jews are the blessed ones today, and that tells me that the the pastors are failing to teach correctly ! I even know and LCMS pastor who preaches this silly nonsense about once a year in his church and I have confronted him about it since it’s not too far from my home ! He has since stopped this in his Sermons. What does he teach in Bible class ? Only God knows and those who attend. Anyway these are heresies. We have had more wars in the last century that killed more millions of people than at any other time in the history of the world ! Now somebody is causing this at the top and that is the bankers as I mentioned including the RothChilds, Warburg’s of Germany, and Rockefeller’s, and look at The Federal Reserve Chairman’s going way back in time –almost all were Jewish and our present one is Jewish also. We have three United States very liberal Jewish Supreme Court justices in power today –one is a lesbian! Do we ever hear them called out by who they are ? Not very often and every one of them is for abortion and pornography and could care less about Christianity ! Only a handful of Lutherans seem to be grasping this unfortunate fact because Many will not criticize the Jew but oh how they will criticize Islam! — or the other fundamentalist Christian preachers that I mentioned earlier. Now why is this ? The Bible clearly tells us to speak truth loud and clear. Jesus commands us to do so as he said honor my 10 Commandments. And the eighth Commandment comes up here in my mind as it says do not lie –do not deceive –do not bear false witness against thy neighbors! Are we following that commandment today ? Not very well . I don’t see but a handful speaking out against Hollywood, and virtually no one in public speaks truth as to who runs it. NO! Hardly anyone nor do I see anyone speaking out against this wicked Usury system in America. Nor do I see anyone speaking out about all the obese people in this country gluttony is a sin you know . Everything is out of control today. Oh we know Sin has been here since the fall of Adam and Eve. But at this level? It’s almost like Sodomn and Gomorrah! Also this getting high on pot and having sex out of wedlock and living together because we are little God’s today —yes that’s the Marxism or if you prefer–Secular Humanism–I’m talking about and it’s not not Fascism, because fascism did not allow The Jews to own the media, to own the big banks, to own Hollywood , as that would never have happened in Hitler’s Germany! The Germans only did what the old Popes and so many old leaders did which was to keep the Jews out of power places ! We are living in a very perverted communistic type of globalism to where everybody is supposed to be equal and that is just not true ! Some people are mentally retarded and they are not equal to those that are very intelligent as we do not put low IQ people into high government positions or answers to all teachers !!! Get my drift? Quotas are terrible today. Read up on quotas. We have an invasion by Islam , especially in Europe today with the exceptions of Hungary , Poland , and a few other old eastern bloc Soviet nations who remember the horrors of communism, and want out of the EU and our bucking the system and deporting Islam and Africans who are into Islam or freeloading ! if American pastors and many Americans do not start telling the truth we will see this country fall into the worst Civil War type of nightmare it has ever seen. Probably see it all fall apart with no yens losing their money and their homes and even their relatives , as it happened during Dr Luther’s time. Remember Dr. Luther spoke out vehemently against the Jews and wrote a book about it and I make no apologies for bringing that up. He also spoke up about Islam and I hear Lutheran minister’s talking about Islam, so don’t get soft on me but back me up when I say it’s OK to speak out against Judaism because it was never the Christ centered focus of the Old Testament –it’s always been about the grace of God and FAITH and Christianity! You have to identify the enemies and not leave one particular type of enemy out just because you’re afraid to mention their name !! IGNORANCE is one thing but failing to call out the Judaizers when you know they are the problem is quite another! Jesus spoke truth and I love truth. The churches can be full once more but only again if we see another Martin Luther type rise up and challenge the political and Church system because it is absolutely rotten to the core today ! Only a few millions seem to be able to grasp the cultural and political Horrors and destructions today–such as our boys fighting and dying in the Middle East and for what reason ???? The terrorism is within America, in our banking system and Government—and it will only be stopped IF the truth is accepted by the churches and the people. New songs or Hymnals mean nothing as that is just polishing the car so to speak. In 1941, when the Lutheran hymnal was published and first used the churches were full and they were before that , too . If the car has a broken engine you don’t polish the paint , but you fix the engine! We need to fix the souls of man today by telling the truth boldly, and proclaiming that it is all about Jesus today and confessing our sins and trying to live a life as he said to the harlot “your sins are forgiven go and sin no more!” Dr. Walter Maier of Lutheran radio in the 30s and 40s was a great man of God who spoke truth so well. He was vehemently against going to war in Germany against Germany. Check him out he was truly a great man of God in the 20th century. He had a good wisdom from God. Dr. Ludwig A Fritsch , another great Lutheran Pastor–Who in 1948 , published the book titled , ” THE CRIME OF OUR AGE”. I ABSOLUTELY recommend that everyone get his little book and read it carefully because it is so prophetic today. It clearly opens up ones eyes as to what I’m speaking about. I’m ready to hear some younger Lutherans who have the guts to spell out the gospel and truth from their hearts rather than be afraid they will offend somebody. Lord almighty we need to start offending the heathens and the people that are teaching wrong ! If we never offend anyone we are not doing God’s work. Our churches are half empty and many are folding but the fundamentalist preachers got their churches full by shouting and proclaiming “it’s all about me and my decision to follow Jesus and my little way to be a little God ” ….in the words of Joyce Meyer ! The Devil knows how to deceive people so well including many Christians, and it’s because they don’t pay attention and they are not astute. And they’ve gotten lazy and into the material life of things. Will America survive another 50 years and Europe at its present pace with divorce at almost 50% and childless marriages or marriages that start at age 35 and one child pops out by age 40 ??? Can America survive feminism for 50 more years? Can we survive another 50 years with wars every 10 years and all for Israel in the Middle East, or elsewhere for that matter cause we now have Korea– as an issue!!??? Can America and Europe survive pornography for another 50 years and the most perverted TV shows I have ever seen in all my 50+ years of life on this earth !?? I know some folks know exactly what I’m speaking about. I see you every week on line or as I visit with you. We just need more to awaken and believe! I’m here to tell you that of all the knowledge I have gained and wisdom over my years of life as a baptized Lutheran at birth and to the present — that I have never seen the likes of an apathetic nation as ours today –that seems to almost totally ignore the unbelievable cultural breakdown of the family today and just seems to accept anything that comes along. We cannot afford anymore apathy. I hope someday before I die that we will see a reformation of the Lutheran churches because they need it badly. I’m not stating all are bad as I know we always have the remnants which are the elect. But a new revival regarding the fact that we all sin and fall short of the glory of the Lord , and it is our consciences that tells us it’s time to go partake holy Eucharist and to ask God for forgiveness as we are all poor Miserable Sinners is a must! I truly pray that I may see that they come because if I do not and I live another 30 years I’m afraid that we won’t be able to save the country anymore. I’m afraid we will see a total distruction of the European Christian western race. You cannot survive in a nation without believing in God and the truth that he taught in the Holy Bible and you cannot survive with Judaizers in charge. If a culture is in tact and it has a strong faith in Christ it can survive even though a painful tribulation surrounds it, but we don’t have an intact culture and Christianity is no longer the norm in America. Christians have been brow beaten to the core in America by the devil already many decades ago with television, other sources of the media , and our government , and yes the chosenites. Communism left Mother Russia, and she now is seeing her churches fill up on Sunday including the Lutheran churches while America and Most of Europe is declining so fast in this regard that I cannot even keep up with it nor can people that I know . In Russia today Homosexuality is a sin and not allowed and abortion is not permitted. That country is more traditional than ours today as are some of the old Soviet Bloch countries. I’m saddened and I am angry and it’s obvious I’m frustrated but I am also extremely determined to get the truth out and to make a difference as a Christian, and I intend to keep doing that until the day I die. If this gets published I wish everyone well and God’s blessings and I hope you will look into what I have spoken about. If it does not get published then that just proves that we just don’t have anyone that wants to hear the total truth and the Lord will continue to punish our nation as long as we disobey in this case the eighth Commandment. Whatever your sin or terrible problem today know that Jesus always comforts you if you believe. He will never forsake you and will bless you as you speak his truths. Gods Grace and Peace and Mercy to all of you in Jesus Holy name. Amen.

  2. I understand that Pastor Henrickson, along with most folks these days, is reading the text through Colossians 1:15, which is all well and good. But the first hearers of Christ’s words (and possibly the first recipients of Matthew’s Gospel too), would not have filtered it through that lens, and yet they still marveled. Marveled at what, then?

    I’d wager that, to the ears of Jesus’ first hearers at least, the point of the “image/icon” was more reminiscent of the Gen 1 language of man’s creation; and most likely the “inscription” language is added to invoke thoughts of the Shema (Deut 6:4 and following), spiritually worn on the Jewish person’s hand and forehead, and also literally worn in the form of phylacteries.

    Point being, mankind (and even more specifically the Jewish hearers) should give to God their devotion as they bear his image and inscription.

  3. Ok since my posts are not acceptable here I will email individual Pastors and the President of the LCMS. I write well and I can back up everything I say. You guys remind me of snobs. An elite little group that ignores lay people like me. And then you wonder why you are losing thousands of LCMS members? Including me in the future. Too progressive and to Catholic in some LCMS congregations and contemporary worship too yet? Altar Girls? Baptism is not essential anymore according to some LCMS Pastors and it’s even on the LCMS website. Oh well. Be arrogant like those Priests were during Dr Luther’s days. Our country is on fire. I have stated why but you choose not to hear it. I’m not done yet!

  4. Thankyou very much. I may come off quite blunt and at times not for the weak at heart—but I tell the truth even if it causes heartburn for some. Our societies dangerous Devils in power have pushed this political correctness to an unbelievable high. It weakens the soul. It drives some away from seeking truth. Jesus offended many people. Truth always upsets some. Jesus spoke total divine truth and so did St Paul and Peter and so many good Church Fathers. Dr Luther included. We need good men of God to involve themselves in politics today and in the Church and show strength. My Grandparents were schooled in A Lutheran Church through the 8th grade. American culture was intact back then. It’s not today and the Devils helpers finally got the job done by using the media and public Schools and Book publishing and the wrong leadership! The culture was better then. There is no doubt about that. We can have this again but only if it’s a United message and the people understand the enemy of the gospel and Christianity.

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