In today's reading our author takes us to Matthew 22.15-33 and reflects no longer on a parable, but instead a sequence of questions from the religious rulers meant to trap Jesus. Even a casual reading of the text makes it clear what the issues are: money (the "Caesar question") and the resurrection (the "Sadducee question"). Wright puts it this way: "The key to understanding this passage is to realize that, seen from within the Scriptures and in light of the power of God, money is also a theological issue, and resurrection is also a political issue. Together they take us towards the heart of Holy Week." Intriguing observation.
During this week, of all week's, Jesus is not afraid or in the least bit intimidated to take on the powerful, the political, and the practical issue of taxation. At the same time he is free to engage in theological debate on the bearing of marriage in the afterlife. Why? Because this is exactly what the death and resurrection of Jesus, coming on Friday and Sunday, addresses. We must never lose sight of this: Jesus' crucifixion is the result of the real flesh and blood, down and dirty issues we get animated about as human beings: power and control.If Caesar be god, Jesus cannot be God. And if the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the human body, be right, then Jesus be wrong! (Pardon the intentional use of slang.)
I love how Wright puts it: "Put the Caesar-question and the Sadducee-question back together, and what do we find? We find Jesus, on the way to the cross, drawing together upon himself the great evils of the world, the imperial systems with their financial demands, and the great hopes of the world, hopes for God to release the slaves, to raise the dead, the set the world to rights. The scriptures give us the grounding for this hope; the power of God assures us that it will come. That message provides both the deeply personal meaning of Holy Week for each one of us and the deeply political meaning for today in a world that still groans under the slavery of the empire's financial demands."
He continues: "But the way to the resurrection is precisely through death, the death which Caesar demands as the price for declaring a different empire, the death through which Jesus offers to God that which is God's, his own life, his own obedience, his own Image."