Alright… alright… so this turned into a three part series on this passage from Mark 12, but I think it’s really important stuff. I mean, God made us in His image to reflect that image out in the world, but we don’t know how to do that. So, read the previous two posts, and then pick it up here to get the rest of the story.
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him. Mark 12:13-17
When we understand that we have the image and likeness of God on us we understatnd that Jesus is telling us to render ourselves to Him. Rendering ourselves to God means that we must be motivated to please God and rendering our allegiance to His Word and truth above all else. But when we truly render ourselves to Him we have to remember that we’ll come up against resistance, and so the third insight we gain from this passage is that rendering our lives to God means we must render our strength to Him so we can stand firm against resistance.
We can see that fleshed out in this Scripture, and the really interesting thing about this passage in Mark 12 is that it is a part of series of three challenges Jesus faced against leaders of His day. Here He faces the challenges of the Herodians and Pharisees over taxation, in verses 18-27 He answers the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in resurrection, about resurrection, and in verses 28-40 He challenges the scribes about their interpretation of Scripture.
Jesus didn’t back down from resistance, He knew it would come, and He faced it. He looked at every point of resistance, every point of hostility as an opportunity to expound His mission in the world to glorify the Father through the redemption of all of creation.
Admittedly, my reaction to resistance is somewhat different than Jesus’. I’m not a biologist or zoologist or anything like that, but of the things I remember from my high school and college science classes one of the things that really stuck with me is the “fight or flight” instinct that all animals have. For those that can’t remember the “frog-slicing” days of junior biology, the fight or flight instinct basically means that when an animal feels threatened it does one of two things: it fights back or it runs. And for animals this is purely instinctual.
But the sad things is that most Christians tend to do the same thing when we come up against those that don’t share our faith. We either get indignant and express, what I like to call, “combat apologetics” or “combat evangelism”… mowing people down with quick Scripture references and razor-sharp logic leaving no unbeliever unpunished for their lack of faith… Or we run and hide in our little Christian bubble, hanging out with our little Christian clique, listening to our little Christian music, and living little Christian lives.
Jesus did neither of those. He was out in the world. Touching people’s lives. He was not closed off, and He did not fear people like the Herodians or Pharisees or the Roman officials. But He also wasn’t violent with those that confronted Him. In fact, as Isaiah 53:7 states He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, when the final resistance came.
The great news of the gospel is that the same Spirit that gave Jesus the strength to face His detractors, and the same Spirit that gave Him the strength to go to the cross, is the same Spirit He promises for our help. As Paul exhorts Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, “God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
Rendering ourselves to God, bearing His image in the world means that when things come against us that attempt to rob that image, we have to rely on the power of Christ and the strength that can only be found in the Holy Spirit.
Do we rely on the Lord in the face of difficulty and opposition, or do we latch onto our “fight or flight” mentality? Do we beat people over the head with our knowledge and doctrinal truth, or do we demonstrate the love and patience of Christ in the face of opposition? When resistance comes, do we run and hide in our Christian world and cut ourselves off from anything that might challenge us, or do we live in the strength of the Lord and face challenges to our faith head on?
I don’t know you necessarily, but right now, there may be people in your life that are challenging your convictions as a Christian, and you don’t know what to do. Or there may be people that are alienating or even actively trying to discredit you because of your faith. That may be happening to you, and you are wondering: “just how do I stand in the face of all this?”
I have to tell you that you can’t stand in the face of it. But instead you have to kneel at the throne of Jesus and be in a constant state of prayer to ask for the Spirit’s guidance and direction. That’s rendering our strength to Him.