Then the Pharisees met together to find a way to trap Jesus in his words. They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are genuine and that you teach God’s way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people’s opinions, because you don’t show favoritism. So tell us what you think: Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Knowing their evil motives, Jesus replied, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they brought him a denarion. “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked. “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed (Matthew 22:15-22, Common English Bible).
I have given this some thought over the past couple of days. I can’t think of a time I have ever disliked someone so much, feared someone so much or had so little faith in someone as to cause me to try to set a trap for them to fall in and where they would lose face or lose credibility.
A Pharisee of Jesus’ day would not be able to say that. Regardless of how you might interpret it, the religious authorities of Jesus’ day were truly afraid of Jesus and what he might do. They didn’t like him. They had no faith in him.
To be fair, and when it comes to the Pharisees we are often anything but fair, these were not bad people, at least not most of them. They were trying very hard to insure the faith would be viable for the future.
The Pharisees and their predecessors had worked hard to insure the faith had rid itself of idolatry. When we read the Old Testament it is easy to see that idolatry was rampant. In the New Testament the use of idols among the Jews would seem to have pretty well disappeared.
For the Romans, Caesar was considered to be a god. While not so much an idol, that would be a false god. To carry it a step further, the Jews believed, because Caesar’s image was on the coin, to have the coin on one’s person, was to be in possession of a graven image.
There is humor in this lesson. While the Pharisees try unsuccessfully to trap Jesus because Jesus sees the trap before he falls into it. He then turns the table on his would-be trappers by asking to see the coin used for the tax. Notice that as asks for the coin, he also calls those who are testing him hypocrites. How can you test someone in a way that brings to mind possessing a graven image while at the same time holding the graven image yourself.
It is an interesting dilemma that Jesus faces. More on that tomorrow.
Has someone ever used faith or Scripture in an effort to trap you? How? Were you able, with God’s help to avoid the trap? How?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved