Radical Preaching

Can preaching again have something to say?
This blog marks the attempt to bring the theological vision of Radical Orthodoxy into the worship and preaching of the local church.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Christ and Nothing

In the Matthew reading, we find Jesus being set up by an uneasy alliance of Pharisees and Herodians. From the beginning, there is a conspiracy afoot, and so the entire episode is their attempt to trap Jesus in words that they can use against him.

They ask him about taxes. If he declares that Jews should not pay tribute to Caesar, then he is a revolutionary, and they can exploit that with the Romans. If he declares that tribute should be paid, then he appears to be a sell out to the Romans. It is a no win situation. Jesus, however, turns the question back on his opponents by asking them for a denarius. He does not have one, but the questioners produce one. He asks them, "Whose likeness and inscription is on the coin?" When they respond with Caesar, Jesus declares, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's."

More than an outstanding use of rabbinical rhetoric, Jesus accomplishes something else. He unveils the Pharisees and Herodians as already complicit in the Roman system. They are there to play the games of the world, conspiring to destroy a fellow Jew through trickery. They are complicit in Caesar's economy. They play Caesar's game some for their own benefit, others in hope that it will protect Israel.

Jesus exposes their breaking of the first commandment. In facing Caesar, even part of the way, they have begun to turn their faces on another who claims to be God. In our day, our faces are
turned, not towards the leaders depicted on the coins, but upon choice itself. In radically reconstruing the world around the individual will, God becomes replaced by an autonomous and arbitrary will that chooses but is never made to obey.

I refer now to David Bentley Hart's excellent article in First Things, "Jesus and Nothing," who explains things much
better than I can.


Blogger Et al said...

True. More comments to come after deeper study :)

October 12, 2005 5:55 PM  

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