“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Mark 12:17

The chief priests, scribes and the elders in the temple (11:27) could see that their authority was under threat. They sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus with a view to discrediting Him and not to discern the source of Christ’s authority (12:13). Paying taxes to Caesar was a sore point in Israel. Their view was that taxes should go to the temple not Caesar. If Jesus answered their question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not” (v 14) with either a yes or no it would have been incorrect and provided an opportunity to discredit Him. Neither yes nor no was the correct answer.

Jesus’ answer agrees with scripture that we should pray for and support earthly governments but that we also have the privilege and responsibility of providing for His ministry on earth.

In focusing attention on the image of Caesar on the coin He confirmed that obligations to human government should be met. It is God who raises up and puts down kingdoms. It was the Roman Empire that had provided the circumstances for Messiah to enter the world and fulfill scripture at that time.

Where there is Caesar’s image that object belongs to Caesar. The extrapolation of that is that where God’s image is, that belongs to God. We read in Genesis 1:26-27 that mankind was created in God’s image. Jesus said that the coin which bears the image of Caesar should be rendered to Caesar and therefore man, created in and bearing the image of God should be rendered to God. This is what Paul was thinking when he wrote, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1) and “You were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

That we are created in God’s image means that we belong to Him to serve and worship Him. This is the basis for Jesus’ demand of supreme love, supreme loyalty and supreme devotion to Him without which we cannot be one of His disciples (Luke 14:25-32).

The image of God in man was corrupted when sin entered the world but when Jesus, “the image of the invisible God,” (Colossians 1:15) came into the world and suffered the cross He opened the door for the image of God to be recreated in any person who will receive Him (John 1:12-13; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Liberty in Leaving All

“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple” Luke 14:33

This verse is the third reason in this passage that Jesus says prevents one from being His disciple. The first is in verse twenty six where He demands supreme love. Since we are commanded to love our spouse, our parents, our children, other Christians and even our enemies Jesus is surely not saying that we should actually hate them. What He is saying that if we really are a disciple of His our first and greatest love will be easily seen to be Him (cf. Revelation 2:4). An aspect of this love will be to love others as we are often told but it will leave an observer in no doubt that He has the absolute pre-eminence. Anything else is idolatry and rebellion against the first commandment (Exodus 20:3; Matthew 22:37)

The second reason that prevents a person being a disciple of Jesus is that they have other loyalties. Jesus demands supreme loyalty. Anyone who has ambitions of their own has not taken up their “cross.” Taking up one’s cross means to die to one’s own ambitions and will. Not my will but His will is the way of life. It is possible to give the appearance of dying to self without giving loyalty to Jesus. It is cloaked in terms like, “I am doing this for Jesus.” No, you are doing it for the praise of others and the feeling that you are doing good and merit Jesus’ “Well done.” I have heard many testimonies of people who started out this way only to realise later that the Lord was withholding blessing because their motive was wrong.

The third reason why a person may not be a disciple of Jesus is that they are held captive by materialism. The wealth is not the issue but the attachment to it is. Even a relatively poor person can be held captive by material possessions. Jesus came to set the captive free so a disciple is one who is experiencing supreme liberty by not being held captive to temporal possessions or the admiration of others. It is this liberty that makes him free to obey Jesus in any matter. When one knows this liberty in Jesus Christ he will not be held captive to anyone or anything else and is therefore His disciple.

The three excuses for not attending the wedding in the parable preceding this passage (vv 18-20) seem to parallel the three reasons for refusing to be a disciple of Jesus. They all had other priorities that might be considered legitimate and reasonable but they all displaced supreme love and loyalty for Jesus and liberty in Jesus. The things that prevent a person being a disciple may not be evil or wrong in themselves but they become that when they displace Jesus as Lord. We need to be careful that we do not deceive ourselves on any of these points and thereby disqualify ourselves from being a disciple of Jesus. We do want to be profitable servants of his so let us serve with Jesus following His direction and lead and not trying to do something of our choosing for Him.