And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” (Matthew 22:20, NKJV)
When Jewish leaders questioned Jesus as to whether one should pay Roman taxes, He asked for a coin. They showed him a denarius and he promptly asked them whose image was stamped into the coin. After they answered that it was Caesar’s image, Jesus said to give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and give to God that which is God’s. Jesus demonstrated wisdom beyond that of Solomon, thus shutting down the questioning of the Pharisees.
Bear with me now and consider an illustration from our text. Though some translations fail to translate the Greek word as “image”, yet that is precisely the word used in this account when Jesus asks, “Whose image and inscription is this?” “Image” is a word used in Scripture to convey great depth of meaning. It was the word used to describe that perfect humanity possessed by Adam when the world still had its pristine purity. Adam was made in the image of God. When Adam then sinned, the image was lost. One could look at every human being on the planet from Adam onward and find no one demonstrating possession of the image of God.
But now there stands in front of the Pharisees the man who once again possesses the image of God. Jesus has God’s image from two perspectives: First He is the eternal Son of God, having been stamped with the Father’s image from eternity. Second He is the man who when one sees Him living as a man, one beholds the perfect man, the man without sin, the man whose will perfectly aligns with God’s will. Beholding Jesus one beholds the New Adam who, like the first Adam, is in the image of God.
Jesus is like the perfect coin, stamped with the image of God, and the inscription beneath the image declares, “This my beloved Son.” Now we can hear the voice of the Father commanding, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.” The “coin”, Jesus Christ, will make the payment. Jesus is both the spender and the coin, even as He is both priest and sacrifice.
After a trial handled by the Roman ruler named Pontius Pilate, the people cried out, “Crucify Him.” They were in effect saying, “Make Him pay the price of claiming to be a king who competes with Caesar.” Indeed, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” The coin is to be spent; Jesus must die by the hand of Caesar, He must be crucified under Roman law.
Being in God’s image as both God and man, this Jesus is without sin, perfectly obedient to His heavenly Father. But now the Father makes Him who knew no sin to be sin for us. This Second Adam is being commanded to pay the price of mankind’s sins. He is being told by His Father to render unto God that which is God’s. So the Son obeys. This coin perfectly stamped with the image of God is spent to pay for mankind’s sins.
Now this perfect coin, because He willingly rendered unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s, has paid the price of our redemption. And what is the result? We become the righteousness of God in Him, for He rises from the dead for our justification. Or to state it differently, in Christ we have the image of God restored. Now in our Baptism God has declared us again to be in His image, and the inscription upon us says, “This is my beloved son.” This is Christ’s blood-bought gift for us.