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Reform Magazine | July 23, 2019

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Chapter & verse: Mark 12:17

Chapter & verse: Mark 12:17

Kevin Snyman on waking up to the power of money

Franz Jägerstätter sat in his dark prison cell, deep in prayer. It was 1943, and this Austrian Catholic farmer faced a simple choice: promise to serve the Nazi medical corps, or be hanged. His guards, parish priest and bishop all urged him to serve. But Franz could not be swayed. His was a one-man stand against imperial violence. He sat quietly, at peace with the God of nonviolence.

Jägerstätter’s execution on 9 August 1943 testified to one of the 20th century’s most courageous examples of Christian discipleship. Would I have made the same decision? No. Christians are blinded and co-opted by the domination Jesus confronted. We fail miserably with the system’s most effective means of control – Caesar’s coin.

Jesus was executed for refusing to compromise with empire. His enemies had been gunning for him for ages – long before he overturned the temple tables. The problem for the Jerusalem elite was that Jesus’ ministry was, unacceptably, a danger to the state.

The Herodians were in league with Rome, and Jesus’ presence posed a clear and present danger. The Pharisees, less tolerant of the Romans, detested Jesus’ flouting of the purity laws. They would not have thought of themselves as collaborators. Nevertheless, in this passage, both formed an uneasy alliance to trap the troublemaker. If Jesus agreed to pay taxes, he’d immediately lose all credibility with his debt-stricken followers. If he refused to pay, they could nail him for sedition. They set their snare like hunters onto prey…

Kevin Snyman is the United Reformed Church’s Programme Officer for Global Justice and Partnerships

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the July/August 2019 edition of Reform.

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