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Matthew 22:15-22: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

Posted by adventbiblestudy on June 29, 2012


Matthew 22:15-22 NLTse Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. (16) They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. (17) Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (18) But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? (19) Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, (20) he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” (21) “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” (22) His reply amazed them, and they went away.

 

Jesus had just finished telling the parable about the king who prepared a wedding feast for his son. The guests would not come. They did not appreciate the preparations the king had made for the feast. It showed how little respect the people had for their king, who only wanted to share his joy with them. Jesus closed His parable by saying, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

 

James and his brother John were still standing at the gate, watching Jesus on one side, the priests on the other. They could see how each action, each word went far beyond the physical experience unfolding in front of them. They had already been taught the spiritual significance of the encounter God had arranged that day. They prayed, listened to the Spirit, and discussed each detail as it came to their minds.

 

Jesus waited quietly on His side of the court. For the time being, the priest had abandoned their work of repairing the damage Jesus had done the day before. The work enraged them. Their anger acted like a wall blocking every attempt Jesus was making to reach them. The harder they tried to ignored Jesus’ words, the angrier they became. It was like a cancer eating away at them. Each priest added to the anger in others. They exchanged stories about Jesus answering their questions. They speculated why this man would not join them. They talked about the benefits they had to offer Him, the security they could provide, if only He would teach matters according to their laws and traditions. The priests reasoned among themselves, they would give Jesus one more chance to redeem Himself if He would join their cause today. To accomplish this task, they felt they would have to teach Jesus a lesson. They gathered together to plan something that could not possibly fail. To accomplish their goal, they laid aside their prejudice to join forces with some of Herod’s closest supporters. Together they formulated a plan.

 

They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

 

Jesus looked at them with a smile on His face while He hesitated a long time, as if waiting for them to see the error in their question. James and John thought about the question, but could not begin to guess how Jesus was going to answer. Were they finally able to put Jesus in a position He could not get of? Why were they asking these questions? Was it to show Jesus is capable of a mistake, or was it to take the attention off Jesus and refocus it on themselves?

 

As they thought about the question, James remembered the scene from the day before. Jesus threw the tables around, sending money every which way. The people in the temple court scrambled, picking up as much as they could. The priests called for the guards to act, who remained frozen, and did not respond. James would never forget seeing the priests on their knees trying to pick up as much money as they could. Now they are asking Jesus a question about money.

 

All the people in the court waited for Jesus’ answer. No one could see any sensible way out of the situation the priests put Jesus in with their question. But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

 

As Jesus held up the tiny copper coin the answer came to every person who had gathered to listen to Him speak, “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” The priests were stunned. In a moment their best laid plans were dashed. For a moment they stood staring at Jesus. His reply amazed them, and they went away.

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