“GRAVED NO MORE: ENGRAVED IN JESUS”
Saint Matthew 22. 15-22
22nd Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 23 propers/Michaelmas skip)
27 October Anno Domini 2013
Fr. Jay Watson SSP
In The Name + Jesus
After telling a crowd, including Pharisees, a condemning parable about the fate of all who reject the free gift of God’s Grace, Jesus is instantly enmeshed in this morning’s Gospel narrative.
“Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangles Him in His talk.” And isn’t this what unbelief always does. The best defense in an offense your Mom used to tell you. It’s just what “old Adam” sinful nature does when it’s caught up in (your) foul putrescence of sin—go on the attack! This self-justification runs from Adam blaming Eve, to Eve blaming the serpent, to you blaming everyone else for your own naked shame whenever you catch a glimpse of your own true terrifying tap-root of unrighteousness.
When a drowning man is approached by a saving life-guard in the open water many times the rescuer is met by resistance, struggle and even attacking blows; all wrought in panic and loss of control. Many (many) times a sinner caught with his/her hand in the “cookie jar” (adultery, gossip, theft, murderous anger, avoidance of God’s Word, etc.) attacks the messenger.
The Pharisees along with some of Herod’s followers tried to incriminate the Lord. Like the apocryphal lawyer grilling the hapless court witness: “when did you stop beating your wife,” they too sought to catch, “entangle,” Jesus in a no-win type of answer. “Which are you, Nazarene…a traitor to your own people…or a dangerous political revolutionary?”
Refusing to play by the rules of sin, the truly Righteous One simply speaks more truth. God knows wickedness. Jesus understood the unbelief and malevolence of their hearts. He knows the daily trespasses and severity of your sinful selves. Trying to hide from Jesus with the fig-leaves of your own justification, works, or panic-attacking, is dangerously damning. Repent and believe. He who has ears to hear…
Today’s Good News is not some arcane numismatic lesson on Roman coinage and the Empire’s monetary policy. God’s words deal directly with and to YOU on God’s own ownership, election, Law, and rescuing salvation—the free gift of faith through His merciful Grace!
Caesar’s government, His Empire, seized the gold and thus made the rules. With swords, Legions, cavalry and the “might of man” they owned what they could own by force. They either minted the coins or seized other people’s gold. Caesar vainly put his own image on the currency, marking it like a wolf “marks” its own territory. While you write your school-age children’s names in the back of their jackets so if they lose their property they can identify it later on if it’s found; tyrants mark their filthy lucre so when and wherever it is they can seize it.
This is not right; this is not true, good or beautiful (much less fair) but it is the way of the sinful world, the kingdom of the left. He who has the gold makes the rules. Jesus is almost saying “so what,” what does this Roman/Palestinian/Empire of Tiberius versus “empire” of Caiaphas & Herod have to do with the important questions of sin and Grace?
All gold, in truth, belongs to The Truth. All coins, plastic, silver, or gold belong to the God of creation who made all minerals, rocks, and the hands and bodies of sinners who covet mammon while eschewing the family of mercy. Whichever temporary “king of the world” has his “mug” etched on the blood money of Satan is moot. “Render unto God the things that are God’s!” Repent and believe.
God minted all of you in the forge of His own love before eternity. He made you shiny and absolutely perfect, “mint” in your father Adam. After that fateful marrage, despoiling, and discarding of the “fall,” your luster and sheen were not just lost, your value as precious was rotting away to dust, death and damnation. But the Maker would not let his treasure go because you are not inanimate coins but beloved children and tender lambs to a Good Shepherd.
The Lord put His image onto the original Adam and engraved His superscription of love onto Adam’s soul. Adam even in the fall, even during the time of Noah, Abraham, Moses and the Exodus, the warfare of the Judges and the Kingdom of David and his descendents; even during the exile in Babylon and the long period of the minor prophets, God’s precious golden coins of His chosen predestinate-- still bore His ownership, His mark, His protecting and redeeming Grace.
In the fullness of time the Lord sent His only begotten Son, born of woman. The Second Person of the Trinity marked Himself with flesh and blood, true humanity save for sin, to restore the shiny salvific worth and preciousness of His treasure. You are the pearl of great price; you are the golden luster in the Father’s tender eyes! Not because you are golden (righteous) in yourselves but because you are marked in His obedient and commandment—fulfilling flesh and super-scribed in His sin-bearing and trespass atoning blood. You are stamped and engraved in and with the + sign-of-the-crucifix. You wear your ancestral family name, crest, and heraldry “coat-of-arms”—the Crucified God/Man!
When you daily sin much and forget who you really are, Who made you, Who owns you and provides for all your daily needs; when you run from your family identity like a profligate prodigal…the true owner reclaims you by letting His own precious body work patiently and perfectly for 33 years of Law-keeping. Christ the Second and Better Adam restoring mans dignity, salvation-sparkle and beatific beauty. When you grumble, chafe and even attempt to entangle Jesus in your own hypocritical self-deception, He marks you, marks you some more and re-marks you with the very finger of God, the very Word of God, the very breath, death and re-birth of God. He willingly permitted His innocent, pure, and sinless Body to be captured and entangled in rough cords and ropes; entangled in thorns and spikes; entangled by the suffocating sins of your sin, but rendered in love and joy to the Father on your behalf, and in your place.
He re-births you in the font, and like a ’49er in a cold California stream panned up pure gold, He resurrects you through the thrice-fold watery streams of His Blood and Water as “gold of God,” a restored Eve, the Bride of Christ and Heir of the Father.
Hear Jesus and believe: “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands…I will not forget thee.” [Is. 49. 16a; 15b] Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is your Lord. Jesus has redeemed you, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that you may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness… In The Name, Mark, and Inscription of Jesus.
In The Name of the Father and of The Son + and of The Holy Ghost