A dramatization of Matthew 22:15-22, in which Jesus tells the Pharisees to give unto Caeser that which is Caesar’s and give unto God that which is God’s.
This was posted on a different blog years back, but that blog has since been shut down. I thought this story needed to be out there, somewhere on the internet, and this felt like the perfect spot. “Give Unto God” is a fictionalized dramatization of an event in Jesus’ life, one I wrote back in 2009. I’ve taken liberties with the language and added details not found in the original text, but I’ve tried to remain true to the intent of the story, and to present its meaning in plain words. I hope you enjoy the read. More, however, I hope you get something out of it.
Jerusalem nearly burst from the jostling but excited crowds during Passover week. Many of the people had traveled over a hundred miles to be in the city during its most blessed celebration – a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some. The square was filled with the shouts of merchants plying their wares, the happy laughter of children playing games in the street, and the rich aroma of fresh-baked flatbread from a nearby bakery. Jesus’ face bent into an ironic smile. He knew what this week meant, to him. But he knew what it would mean to them, as well.
It was a new day, and the sun had not yet risen over the walls of Jerusalem. The city was still enshrouded with the lazy light of morning, and the air was cool and moist. This morning, Jesus walked alone, having sent his disciples ahead of him, to gather supplies for the day. They were to meet him at the Temple.
The Temple was a marvelous structure – but one he rarely had the chance to enjoy. Most of his time spent there had been taken up with teaching – he taught with stories, hoping to get his point across – and answering questions. Today, he knew, would be no different. There was no doubt he was popular among those who frequented the Temple, but just as many despised his words as loved what he taught.
Jesus ascended the steps into the outer courts of the Temple – where those who were not Jews were allowed to come – found an empty bench, and sat down. Soon, he had attracted six young men and women, all of whom were asking him (some politely, some less-so) for a story or a bit of wisdom. He smiled, and began to instruct them, sharing with them first a tale about a wedding feast. The people listened closely, some with devious looks spread across their faces, as if they hoped to trip him up in some theological argument, but none seemed to be able to refute the words he spoke.
“So you see,” he concluded, “many are called, but few are chosen.”
A wave of murmuring spread across the crowd, which had grown to nearly thirty people. Some of the people nodded sagely, as if it all made perfect sense to them. Many simply looked confused.
One brave soul changed the subject.
“Teacher,” he called out. “Should we be paying taxes to the Roman dog, Caesar? What does the Law say about that?”
Jesus recognized the man. He was Uzzah, a student under Abijah, a member of the Pharisees. Jesus shook his head. It was easy to imagine the man’s intent: he had been sent by his superiors to trick the one they considered a false teacher. Jesus scanned the small crowd gathered around him. There were more of them, as well: Bodesh, Elihaz, Mathiel, and Elaniel. All students of prominent members of the Sanhedrin.
“Does anyone have a tax-coin handy?” Jesus asked. Someone tossed him a denarius. He studied it for a moment, then continued, “Who’s face is on this coin, Uzzah?”
“Well, Caesar’s,” Uzzah answered. “Duh.” The crowd laughed, and Jesus laughed with them.
The he continued: “If the coin’s got his face on it, it must be his. I say, give everything with Caesar’s face on it to Caesar, if he wants it all. And if something has God’s face on it, give it to God.”
The people sat for a moment, dumbfounded. One by one, Uzzah, Bodesh, Elihaz, Nathiel, and Elaniel walked away, looking half-dazed.
The crowd dispersed, but Jesus met their eyes one by one. Each of them had been created by his Father. Each of them bore, in some way, the face of their creator.
That they could wander off and not understand what he meant nearly drove him to tears.