GUILTY AS CHARGED!
13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him. Mark 12:13-17
The religious leaders were so intimidated by Jesus that they had fled the scene for fear of more exposure and more egg on their faces. Now they used their supporters and even supporters of their enemy (Herod) to do their dirty work for them. They were out to trap Jesus into incriminating Himself by His own words, but they should have known better. Not even their flattering prologue fooled Him. He knew exactly who they were and why they were questioning Him.
These men should have been warned before they ever posed their question. They were the ones who would be made to look like fools, but they ploughed on anyway. One wonders what their body language and tone of voice was like when they began their hypocritical and rehearsed speech. Their sarcastic words were actually bull’s-eye truth if they had only spoken them with sincerity. Was their little preamble intended to nail Him to an honest answer? They didn’t need to do that because there was no danger of Jesus ever being devious or deceitful.
Their question was loaded. Answering either way would have put him into a dangerous position. Pay taxes – He was siding with Rome and that would have angered the Jews. Don’t pay taxes – that was treasonable and would have got Rome’s attention. Once again Jesus was sharp and accurate – His spiritual vision 20/20. He used a Roman coin as a visual aid. The coin represented the inescapable world system in which they lived. As part of that system, they were obliged to participate in it and God Himself sanctioned that.
But there was also another kingdom which Jesus represented and, whether they liked it or not, everyone was also part of that kingdom, either willingly or living in rebellion. Everyone is subject to God’s rule and will eventually be judged by the way he/she responded to that rule. This was not an either/or situation but both/and. The very obedience in paying taxes to Caesar fell into the greater submission to the kingdom of God.
With His own return question which, by the way, was a clever way of making His opponents think, Jesus hit them right on the nose. Of course is was right to pay taxes to Caesar, There was no question about it and rebelling against it was, from God’s perspective, disobedience to His rule but… what about giving to God was belonged to Him? There was the glaring omission on the part of the religious leaders, and they were trapped. Guilty as charged!
However, no amount of truth would bring His opponents to their knees. Jesus was hammering the nails deeper and deeper into His own coffin…and He knew it!