Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (Matthew 22:15-22)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon and Sweet Home, OR
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost + October 22, 2017 (Baptism of Miles H)
Text: Matthew 22:15-22

We like either/or questions, like do we need to pay taxes or NOT?  We’d love the answer to be as simple as a computer flipping between 0 and 1.
It still seems like a simple matter when Jesus takes the coin and divides between rendering to Caesar and rendering to God.  Would that it were that simple, that we knew what belonged to our temporal life and we were perfectly dutiful to parents and other authorities, that we would build ideal societies marked by justice and equity, that people would always treat each other with dignity because we are members of the same human family.
Maybe paying taxes isn’t really that hard, but what about the other thing? “Render to God the things that are God’s.”  Just as there is an image on the coin, there is an image on men and women.  God put it there in the beginning:
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27         So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
We were made as image-bearers for God—righteous and obedient, holy, loving God and what is good, pure in thought, word, and deed.
What happened?  Sin happened, and brought with it unrighteousness and disobedience, hatred of God and love for what is evil, and uncleanliness down to our very heart.  On top of all that, death came into the world as the just consequence of sin.  “And death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12)
Using the image on the coin as an analogy, when sin came into the world, the image that God had made us in was marred down to the core.  What remains is but the faintest shadow of the original.   It’s like a penny that’s been rubbed beyond recognition, except worse than losing its outward appearance, even the metal inside has become corroded.[1]
Because the original mint (Adam and Eve) were corrupted, so have all their offspring been.  “Flesh gives birth to flesh,” our Lord told Nicodemus in John 3:6.  Because of sin, “flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”[2]  There is no solution of vinegar and salt to clean away sin, because it goes much deeper than the surface.  There is no alchemy which can make us pure to the core like our first parents once were.
Yet, we must still give account and render to God what is God’s.  What can possibly be done?!
God could have destroy us altogether and started from scratch.  He came close before the Flood when it says,
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7)
Right there, He could have made an utter end to the whole mint of humanity.  Back to the drawing board.  But God didn’t.  Instead, in verse 8, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”  His solution was not to destroy the flesh He had made, but to redeem and renew it.
His solution is to send “one like a Son of Man”[3] who stands in our place.  He is like us in every way except without sin, for He was born of the Virgin Mary.[4]  He is at the same time the exact imprint of His divine Father,[5] and at the same time our brother in human flesh.  Therefore, He is able to render to God what we owe.  He is the perfect man, Jesus Christ the Righteous, Behold the Man—James 1, 1 John 1, John 19.
Baptism is the beginning of restoring that image to render to God what in reality was His all along.
Romans 6:3-4 (p. 942) – Jesus saves us by His death and resurrection, and Baptism brings that saving work directly to you.
Titus 3:5-7 (p. 999)
God’s way of saving us is actually through water.
Baptism has the power of regeneration—it is a new creation.
Baptism has the power of renewal by the Holy Spirit
Colossians 3:1-10 (p. 984)
In the baptismal life, God is at work.
He puts to death and destroys what is corrupt in us
He is restoring His image in us, restoring us to the image of Christ the sinless Man.
Romans 8:29-30: 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
This is God’s eternal plan: To bring us out of corruption and into immortality through Jesus Christ.
Jesus, our Savior, has rendered to God what none of us was able to.  He paid the price of our sin by offering up His sinless body and soul on the cross.  Because He has paid your way, you are free.  By His Holy Spirit you are being restored into the image God made you to be and into which you will be for all eternity. Amen.
[1] Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article II – Original Sin
[2] 1 Corinthians 15:50
[3] Daniel 7:13-14
[4] Hebrews 2:14-17 and Hebrews 4:15
[5] Hebrews 1:3