Which Face Do You See?
Luke 20:21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.
There were those who wanted to trap Jesus and so they tried to pose a question that they thought would put him in a bind. They began with a question which seemed to affirm their understanding of who he was. They recognized that he didn’t show partiality toward people of high position. The word that is used here is that he showed no deference to any person — or face. This language becomes interesting when many of the early Church Fathers saw in this conversation the importance of the reflection of the image of God.
Humanity is called to be in a face-to-face relationship with our holy God. In doing so, we reflect the face of God incarnate, that of Christ, to our world. So, those trying to trap Jesus affirm that they see him giving no deference to the face of different humans. The draw of earthly power and politics would never be enough to draw the face of Christ in their direction. Jesus kept his face on the Father and as God incarnate was the Image of God.
Jesus’ response also becomes affirming of different faces. The coin has the face of Caesar on it and so the things in our lives which have the stamp and seal of the world on them should receive what belongs to them. But also to understand that if the Emperor can have his face placed on a coin, can’t the Image of God be stamped on God’s people? The face of God, the reflection of Christ, is to be stamped onto the lives of God’s people. Deference is given to no human face. Taxes are paid to the face on our money, but we have the capacity to reflect the face of Christ, whose image is seen in us.
When people look at us they will see a face. Yes, it’s our face, but there will also be the face of something else reflected in our lives. Jesus showed no deference to people because his focus was on the Father. No other faces were reflected in him. It is the things in life which catch our attention which become reflected in our faces. The world has an uncanny ability to stamp its impression upon our lives and the things to which we show deference will be seen in us. The challenge for Christ-followers is to go against the tide, and not allow the imprint of the world to be burned into our flesh and become determinate of our behaviors. Through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to turn our faces toward God and reflect Christ in the midst of noise of contemporary culture.
The capacity to reflect the image of God is in each and every single individual. When people look at us, which face will they see?
Lord, please help me to reflect you even in the midst of the noise of the world. Amen.