Render unto Caesar: 13 March 2015

Titian painted this picture in around 1516. It depicts Christ and a Pharisee at the moment in Matthew 22:15-22 when Jesus is shown a coin and says “Render unto Caesar…  Vasari thought the head of Christ the ‘most stupendous and miraculous’ thing painted by Titian and that all artists at the time believed it to be an insuperable achievement.

John 13 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’ 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

Psalm 56

Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
2 My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.

3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise –
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

5 All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.

8 Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll –
are they not in your record?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.

10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise –
11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?

12 I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank-offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.

If you had a friend whom you knew was about to betray you, what would you say to him, “What you’re doing, do quickly,” or would you cry out, “Stop that man any way you can”?

One thing I most admire about Jesus is that he was able to see the big purposes of God in the seemingly little things that were occurring. He knew it was God’s will for him to die. During the last, few fleeting hours of his life, he could see that what Judas was doing was part of an unfolding, cosmic drama. Herein lies the greatness of Jesus. He put the little pieces of together. He made his way into the centre of the will of God.

So this is why he did not say, “Stop that man; he’s going to betray me!” He saw that Judas’s treachery, while not admirable, was just another piece in the puzzle.

Nothing mattered to Jesus but the pleasure of his Father. Yet he ached that Judas who had stood next to his divine love for three years and still chose to die beyond God’s care.

How are you at assembling little things? How are you at taking little betrayals and great hurts and seeing the purposes of God in them?

Lord, I believe that all things really are working together for good to those who love you. When I endure betrayal in order to be true to your calling, may I do it with an eye turned away from my own comfort and self-esteem and with the other turned toward the goal of eternity.