It was a hard choice to make, but now it has been made. This April sees a new one pound coin introduced designed by a teenager. From thousands of entries the design of fifteen-year-old David Pearce was selected. The Queen’s head still appears on one side, designating who is our sovereign, but on the other side are his design of four emblems of the UK’s constituent parts: a rose (England), leek (Wales), thistle (Scotland) and a shamrock (Northern Ireland).
The royal mint decided to give the coin twelve sides (dodecagon) to make it much harder to forge than the current round one (about three percent of the 1.5 billion one pound coins are thought to be fakes!). The dodecagon was inspired by the ‘threepenny bit’ (1937-71).
Jesus was faced with a hard choice that would divide his listeners. He was asked whether the Jews should pay taxes to Caesar or not. If he answered ‘no’ then the Herodians (non-religious Jews and supporters of Herod) would accuse him of treason. If he said ‘yes’ the Pharisees (devout religious Jews) would accuse him of disloyalty to the nation. It was a trap.
Jesus said that they were hypocrites just trying to trap him. He asked for a coin used for paying taxes. The denarius was made of silver, it bore an image of the emperor’s head along with an offensive inscription: “Tiberius Casear, son of the divine Augustus” on one side and “pontifex maximus” on the other meaning ‘high priest’ – which would be offensive to most Palestinian Jews. Jesus asked: “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s” they replied. Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they head this they were amazed. So they left him and went away’ (Matthew 22v20-22). This was not a witty response to tie them in knots. It showed their responsibility to state authority and also to God’s. God’s claims take first place over the state.
The state claims some of our income as tax. The Lord God Almighty claims the whole of our lives. The resurrection of Jesus declared with power that he was truly the Son of God. How we respond to Jesus matters: for he reigns as our Lord. What sort of allegiance do you give to him? I invite you to come and visit at a service this Easter to find out how you can respond to him in the right way.