See God’s Face in One Another
When I was a kid, my mom used to say to me, “You take after your father.” But sometimes she said, “No, you take after me more than your dad.” “Yes, of course, I am not only her son but also his son. I take after both of them. However, at that time, I had no idea of why my mom said sometimes that I resembled her, and why she said sometimes that I took after my dad, and honestly, I did not understand what the likeness was about and meant. However, later, I came to know that, when I did well on something, … she said that I took after her, … but when I did not follow her or did not well on something, then she said, “You and your dad are just alike.” Finally, I could realize that, … Sometimes, my mom saw herself in me, in my face, in my behavior, and sometimes she saw my dad in me. And now, in them, I see myself as a son, as a husband, ans a dad. I have a son. And like my mom, sometimes I am so surprised that my son so takes after me in behavior. I can see myself in my son’s face, and sometimes I can see in him my wife. And I pretty sure you can see my face in my son. Even though it is your first time today to come to St. Anselm’s, but I am sure that you can recognize who my son is. Yes, he is just like me.
“Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
In spite of their contrary opinions on the imperial tax, the Pharisees and the Herodians join forces to oppose Jesus, and to contrive tricky question to entrap him to downfall. If Jesus says ‘Yes’, he will lose the popular support from Jewish people who follow him as their new leader. But, if Jesus says ‘No’, then, he will get in serious trouble because he can be denounced to the Roman government as a traitor. So, Jesus now seems to be caught in a trap, and they probably give a smile of satisfaction, “Yes, we got him.”
However, the show is not finished yet. “Show me the coin used for paying the tax,” Jesus says. “What? …. Why is he asking the coin?” and they show him the coin. Then, …. Jesus asks them, “Whose face and name are these on the coin that you brought? Whose likeness and inscription are these?” And, Now, …. the situation totally becomes changed. The Pharisees know, it is the Emperor’s name. The Herodians know, it is the Emperor’s face. Then, Jesus says, “The coin that you brought and showed me. The coin that the face and the name of the Emperor are inscribed in. The coin, therefore, belongs to the Emperor, give it back to the Emperor.” They are amazed at his smart and wise answer.
But, Jesus does not stop there. He leads the situation toward a totally different level, and put the whole issue in the wide perspective, saying, “In the same manner, give it back to God what belongs to God.” But, “What? What does it mean to give to God what belongs to God?” Yes, the Roman government mints the coins, and with the face of the Emperor, the title that the Emperor is the son of the divine, and the high priest, is inscribed in the coins. The coins belong to the Emperor practically and symbolically. The coins are his property. In addition, his people worship him as god.
If what belongs to the Emperor bears the image of the Emperor, then, does what belongs to God bear God’s image?
Jesus’s challenge to the Pharisees and the Herodians is this, “You hypocrites, saying that you are the people of God, but carrying and holding the coin, then, who do you belong to?” And “what are the things that are God’s?” Genesis chapter 1 says, “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Yes, Human beings are created in God’s image. Thus, we all are inscribed with God’s image. Whatever we are fully aware of God’s image or not, … we bear God’s face. And we belong to God the Creator, … and therefore, … we should live as God’s, and as a God’s image bearer.
“Give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor, and give to God what belongs to God.”
We are called in Jesus to strip off the old self … to forbid us to recognize God’s image in us, and to strip off the old self …. to tempt to close our eyes to see God’s face in one another’s faces. Instead, Jesus Christ calls us to put on the new self to open our hearts, minds, and eyes to recognize God’s image in us, and to see his face in one another and our neighbors. John says in his gospel that, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18). So, we need help to see God and to see his face. And we need an example having the fullness of God’s image instead of the invisible God. Jesus is the fullness of God’s face. Then, Jesus came to us as “the image of the invisible God” and “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him, God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:15, 19-20). He is the only God in heaven and on earth. Not the Emperor.
“Give the emperor what belongs to the emperor, and give God what belongs to God.”
It is not saying about a separation of ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’. It is not saying about a division of ‘church’ and ‘state’. It is not saying about a split of Christian life into two, ‘godly’ and ‘wordly’. Jesus does not tell us to live a double life on earth. Jesus calls us to live out the image of God inscribed in us, not only in church, but also in school, in workplace, in the street, in the bus, in the park, and at home, and in everywhere. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. Jesus loves us because he sees in us His Father in heaven. Jesus sees in us God’s love and mercy toward his creation. Jesus sees in us why the Father sent him into this world, and among his creation. God’s love and mercy and righteousness became incarnated in Jesus. The invisible God became visible in Jesus. The fullness of God’s image becomes incarnated in Jesus.
Then, Jesus gives us a new commandment, that “You love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” And, “By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Jesus says, “when we love one another as Jesus loves us, … and …. when his church serves our neighbors as Jesus serves them, then, everyone will know we are his disciples, and everyone will know the church is his church, and everyone will know that we are God’s. As Jesus became the visible God, and became the incarnate love of God, his disciples should become the visible Jesus, and the incarnate love of Jesus among our neighbors.
Concerning the final judgment in Matthew 25, Jesus says that, on the day of the Lord, “the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’” And, the righteous will ask the king ‘when they did it to the king’. Then, the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25). The king says that you did it to one of ‘my family’, and to one of ‘my brothers and sisters’. That is, to love and serve our neighbors in the streets, in the park, in the corners of buildings, is to see the king’s face in them, and to love and serve the king and also his family, and his brothers and sisters who created in his image and bear his image.
Therefore, ‘To Give God what belongs to God’, first of all, is to see God’s face not only in me, but also in you and in them, and even in the emperor, and to know that all human beings bear God’s image. ‘To Give God what belongs to God’ is to see God’s face in each other’s faces, and to love and serve each other as a family bearing the same mother’s and father’s face. And it is also to help and encourage our neighbors to know that they are the people bearing God’s image just like us.
Today, you and I, are called to see God in each other’s faces. Today, we are called to see the God’s face in our neighbors’ and our homeless friends’ faces who we meet in the streets. Today, we are called to go out to the street to see in their faces the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says, ‘the kingdom of heaven is theirs’ (Matthew 5:3).