Hoping to trap Jesus in his utterances, some of the shrewdest of his adversaries posed double-edged questions on political and rabbinic law. One group of Pharisees and Herodians asked him a most diabolic question:
“… Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth. …
“Tell us therefore, … Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Matt. 22:16–17.) If he were to answer yes, he would easily be accused of betraying his heritage among Abraham’s seed, the very group staggering under the oppression of Roman law. If he were to answer no, he would immediately be apprehended as a political agitator. He answered neither, but rather asked to be shown a coin by which such tribute money commonly was paid.
Holding the piece of money up to his accusers, he asked: “Whose is this image and superscription?” Of course, they answered as any child in the street could have: “It is Caesar’s.” With that single question he had taken command of the confrontation. He returned the coin saying: “… Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” (Matt. 22:20–21), as if to say: “The man’s name and picture are on the coin. Surely it belongs to him. Please be kind enough to return it to its rightful owner.”
Brilliantly he had destroyed the ploy of his oppressors, but that was never his true mission or desire. These, too, were sons of God. These, too, were among those he came to save. He feared for them and loved them even in their malice. As they turned away he added a plea: “… and [render] unto God the things that are God’s.” As the coin bore the image of Caesar, so these and all men bore the image of God, their Heavenly Father. They had been created by him in the likeness of his image, and Jesus was to provide a way for them to return to him. Yet, “When they heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.” (Matt. 22:21–22.)
They approached Christ in a deadly serious rhetorical contest. The stakes were death for him and power for them. Christ accepted the game and crushed them.
But what Elder Hunter saw is that even Christ’s victories over us can be loving.
There is too much falsity these days about love. We are a loveless generation. We do not understand love. We do not understand a Savior that can defeat us even to love us.
Other Posts from the Friday morning session of the April 1974 general conference
- Our Unwearying Savior by Daniel Ortner