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Lowell Brueckner

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Whose Image is on Your Life?


Dave with son, Ethan, at tennis championship
I published the following message five years ago, but because it commands meditation, I will present it again. I can testify of the mark of God on David's life from his youth. Even as a student in a Christian school, Dave was often called into the office to help counsel problematic students. As a teenager, the Lord began to move upon his life, preparing him for the future. For many years, Dave lived in the Republic of Ireland and gained a reputation there, as an able teacher of the Word of God. He worked with the youth and saw a gang of boys turn their attention towards heaven. Fruit still remains and even other members of their families now belong to Christ.  

Today, Dave lives in the same area of Vermont as his twin brother, Daniel. Daniel pastors the Swanton Christian Church and Dave contributes his valuable teaching from time to time. He also works in house construction, which might have something to do with his insight on the house of God in this message. He is also sought out as a photographer at weddings and I will add a little sample of his photography to this article. I will also introduce you, by photos, to his three sons. 

Whose Image is on Your Life?

David Brueckner (taken from a message given at Swanton Christian Church)

“And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ And they said to Him, ‘Caesar’s’. And Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’”              Mark 12:16-17

Oldest son, Jared
This is a passage of Scripture that I have been “grazing on” for a while. I have landed on this pasture and I don’t know how many mornings I have gone back to it. I have been eating from it and then, I have gone two verses forward from it or two verses backwards. You need to get all the nourishment you can from a passage, when God is talking to you from it. We will look at it in its context. It has blessed me and I hope that it will do the same for you.

Enemies converge

This happened towards the end of Jesus’ ministry and life. This event took place on Tuesday before the Friday, when He was crucified. He has three days left here. The enemy is throwing everything at Him; the devil wants Him dead. In a war documentary, you sometimes see how plans were laid with an arrow that shows how an army is going to come from one side, then another arrow shows how another contingent would swoop around another way. This is what I see happening to Jesus. The devil is throwing everything he has at Him and attacks are coming at Him from every angle.
In Luke, before we come to this story (you have this same one in Matthew, Mark and Luke), my Bible titles it “Paying taxes to Caesar”. Luke says that they were looking for a way to kill Him, but they couldn’t, because the people were hanging on to every word that He said (Luke 19:48 literally reads, "they hung upon him hearing"). Is that not what we are meant to do… to hang on Jesus’ words? What takes us out of the miry clay? His strong arm, and we hang on to it.

Mark 12:12 comes just after Jesus speaks a parable, and I want to get the context here, because this is the situation that Jesus is in. The chief priests, the scribes and the elders are looking for a way to get Him. Now, Jesus is in the temple, and they are coming for Him from one side. In this passage you see two groups of people that normally do not get along, but now they are allies. The Pharisees and the Herodians come in together. They have totally different world views, but now they are together. They think that they have a question that Jesus can’t answer; there is no way out for Him without getting into trouble.   Right after them from the other side, the Sadducees come in with their attack. They have Him cornered in the temple.  That’s the plan. These leaders are high up in the eyes of men, elders of the people and the teachers of the law.

A question about taxes

What does Jesus do? Let’s look, because that is what is important for us today. “They sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to catch Him in His words” (v.13). This is ridiculous. How are they going to trap Jesus in His words? The one who is standing before them is their Creator, Who is called the Word.

First they butter Him up: “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are, but You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth” (v.14). They know that He will speak the truth and they think that that will be His undoing. If He says that they should pay taxes to Caesar, the Pharisees will accuse Him. If He goes the other way, then the Herodians are going to have Him trapped. Either way, they think that Jesus is in trouble.

Here’s the question: “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” All they want to hear from Jesus is a simple “yes” or “no”, but when there are such questions, Jesus doesn’t give an answer. Instead, He is going to give them what they need to hear. “But Jesus knew their hypocrisy and said to them, ‘Why are you trying to trap Me?’ Bring me a denarius and let me look at it. They brought one and He said to them, ‘Whose portrait is this and whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. Jesus answered them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’” So my question in this message is called, “Whose image and inscription is on your life?”

Whose image and whose writing is on that coin? Well, it’s Caesar’s. Okay, if it has Caesar’s picture and inscription, then give it back to Caesar! It’s his. Suppose you invent a product. You get a patent for it, it goes on the market and everyone uses it. You get royalties from that, because you made it. You have the patent and the product has your trademark. It’s yours and you deserve the credit for making it. So this is Caesar’s coin; give it to him.

Give to God what is His

Youngest Jacob

The most important part and the one I want to look at is the phrase that follows: “And to God the things that are God’s”. How often do we read this Scripture and we think that Jesus is talking about taxes and money? But if you will look at this verse in its context, you will see a lot more. Jesus is not here to deal with Caesar. He is preoccupied with His Father’s business and is looking towards the house of God. The question for us this morning and the one that we should take into our hearts is this: “Whose image and inscription is on your life?”

This is what God said from the very beginning in the Bible. God spoke and He created and after that He said, “Let Us make man in Our image and in Our likeness” (Ge.1:26). Therefore, each of us, just because of the fact that we are born, have an image stamped on us. It is the image of God. One commentator said, “We are more akin to God than we are to any of His creatures.” Evolution looks at it another way and says that we are more like the creatures.

It’s the other way around; we can know God. He made us in His image. Saved or unsaved, Christian or not, we all bear the image of God. We bear His stamp. He’s the Potter, we are the clay. He doesn’t ever have to answer our questions, because He’s in charge.

This is My house!

"Do not enter!"
Let’s look back a couple verses and see this in its context. On Sunday, two days before, Jesus rode into Jerusalem, riding on a colt. People are laying down their palm branches and their clothes, so that Jesus can ride over them in a triumphal entry. The next day, Monday, He returns to the temple and cleanses it. He does a thorough job, chasing out the money changers. It’s hard to picture this, but there are a lot of people there and Jesus is expelling them all. He’s letting no merchandise pass through the temple.

In basketball, when you are on your home court, everyone is pumped up. The visiting team comes down the court with the basketball and their star takes a shot. The big man from the home team jumps up and slams the ball into the crowd in the seats. “NOT IN MY HOUSE!” says the big defender. His hands go back and his chest comes out. Now, this is what Jesus is saying: “Not in My house!”

“It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers” (Mk.11:17). This is the context and antagonism arises from the chief priests and the teachers of the law and they began looking for a way to kill Him (v.18). Jesus wasn’t there to deal with Caesar. He didn’t come into this world to deal with Caesar. His house was not what it should be and He was dealing with His house. He made the dirt that the temple was built on, the stones with which it was built; it is His house by right, because He is also the architect. Did He not tell them from the time of the Tabernacle, how it should be built? Did he not tell them where all the utensils should go? Is this not His house?

However, the Jewish people had gone far away from where they should be. They were set apart by God, beginning with an individual called Abraham. He said to him, “Every place you put your foot, that’s yours.” He’s starting a nation with Abraham. He’s building a nation through which He will propagate His word, from which the whole world will hear. He wants to keep this nation pure and holy, wants them to have the Word of God and live according to it. He is preparing every child that is born for the coming of the Messiah. This is His plan.

Jesus came to His own people and they received Him not. He is fulfilling Scripture. Of all the people in the world, who were to be ready for the coming of the Messiah, it was to be the Jewish people. In Romans Paul said, “What advantage does the Jew have? Much in every way, because they had the oracles of God.” No other nation had that. By the time a Pharisee was 12-years-old he had had the books of Moses memorized. These leaders should have had the people ready, so that when Jesus came, they would receive Him. 

Jesus doesn’t need to answer man’s questions

A cold house
Now, on Tuesday they raise this attack. They ask Jesus for His credentials; who gave Him this authority? “Who are you to say this is My house? We have been here since our youth growing up and we have arranged things as we like them. Now you are up scuttling the whole thing and saying that it’s Your house. Who gave you this authority?” (Mk.11:28-33)

I love to listen to what Jesus says in these matters. “I will ask you a question.” He doesn’t have to answer their question; He doesn’t have to answer our questions. In the end they won’t answer His question, so He doesn’t answer theirs, though the answer was simple for Him… but it is not important. We can spend our whole life, pursuing things that are not important.

It is like Saul with David. Saul is jealous of David and doesn’t want him to be the next ruler. David said to him, “Saul, why are you chasing a flea?” Saul with all the kingdom resources, is using them to chase a flea! The Pharisees were also envious and are chasing Jesus with these questions. We have a lot of questions that do not need to be answered.

Joshua is getting ready for the big battle with a sword in His hand. He asked the Lord whose side He was on. The Lord doesn’t have to answer that. His answer is that He has come as Captain of the Lord of Hosts. In other words, He is saying, “I’m in charge here. Take your sandals off, Joshua. You are on holy ground.” Peter wants to know about John, but Jesus lets him know that it is none of his business. “Peter, you just follow Me.” We want to know what God is doing in other people’s lives, but it doesn’t concern us.

And God is in charge here. This is His house, but the Jews will not recognize this. They cannot see it. The question concerning Caesar is not the issue here. The issue is to give God what is rightfully His. Give Him your life! Isn’t it His? We are all breathing at this moment and we’ve been doing it, since we took that first breath at birth. We are only here because we continue to do it. Had I not brought it up, you wouldn’t even think about it, but every breath we take is a gift from God. It’s His by ownership and we can’t take credit for it. He gave Adam his first breath. Whose image is on your life? It is God’s… let’s give it back to Him. Everything belongs to Him. 

A vineyard and a cornerstone

Now we go on to chapter 12 and He begins to speak to the chief priests, the scribes and the elders… the big shots. It’s a parable about a vineyard, rented to vine-growers, who beat the servants sent to them from the owner of the vineyard. Now, to save time and space, we will just explain that God sent His prophets to the people and they were mistreated and killed. It’s a parable aimed right at these men. The time has come for the fulfillment of all things, Jesus is here, and they are going to kill Him in three days. He was crucified outside the vineyard (v.8).

Because they knew that this parable was meant for them, they come against Him with these questions. They knew that the vineyard represented God’s people and especially Jerusalem. That’s not my interpretation. How did they know that He was speaking to them? Turn to Isaiah 5:1-2, “The Song of the Vineyard”.  It is exactly the same as Jesus’ parable. God says in verse 4, 5, “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?... Let me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard.” You see, it’s His; He dug it, planted it, built a tower, and hewed out a wine press. Is the evil that has come upon it His fault? Can we ever blame God for anything? People get upset with God and become bitter against Him, because God didn't do things the way they think that He should have.

 The vineyard was built and was to be ready for His return and here is the Son near the end of His ministry. They are ready to kill Him. They wouldn’t have even one grape, if God had not planted the vineyard, but now they were not going to give the owner one grape for all His work. We wouldn’t have one breath, had God not breathed into us. He made us in His image and again, when we were enslaved to another, He bought us back by His death on the cross.

 If Israel rejects its Cornerstone (Mk.12:10), they will lose their nation. If you have no Cornerstone, the building will not stand.  Whoever lands on this Stone will be broken, on whomever the Stone will fall, he will be ground to powder. Either He is the Cornerstone or they are doomed as a nation. Jesus gave these people some scathing woes in Matthew 23, but after all of them were pronounced, He speaks to the vineyard His intentions: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Mt.23:37). 

Now, it’s your house

A desolate house
Then He says, “Your house is being left to you desolate!” Your house! Wasn’t Jesus there for His house? However, if they don’t want Him to live in His house, all right, then it will be left to them. It’s your house. He said.

By all rights, God is the owner, because His image is upon us. We belong to Him and He wants His best for our lives. We give Him our whole lives, our all, and what do we have to lose by doing so. He made us in the first place and what more can He do for His vineyard? He said, “It is finished.” He created us and He gave His life to save us. We are His and our bodies are His temple. It is either His house or it’s our house. If we demand our rights, our house will be left to us… desolate!  He is either the Cornerstone or the crushing Stone.  His image is upon us and we belong to Him. “Give unto God the things that are God’s.”   


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