Concerted Efforts to Humiliate Jesus
Text: Matthew 22 : 15 - 46
The chief priests and elders must have chafed as they listened to one more parable spoken against them. They knew, only too well, that Jesus had directed this parable to them. Jesus was putting them in a bad light! They were the murderers in His parable. They did not even bother to refute the insinuations. Instead, they felt that the best thing they could attempt to do was to outwit Jesus! They did not believe that the whole lot of them, perhaps scores of the top religious minds in the land could not defeat this unlearned and untrained teacher from Nazareth!
“Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might
entangle Him in His talk.”
Jesus was famous for the way He taught. His exposition of the Scriptures was so profound that He held everyone spell-bound! Could the answer lie in publicly humiliating questions? They would band themselves together and see if they could somehow entangle Jesus in speech. If they could do that, then they could “bring Him down”.
“And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians,
saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach
the way of God in truth; nor do you care about anyone,
for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore,
what do you think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
1. An attempt at deception
The chief priests and elders were by now well-known to Jesus! They could not appear before Jesus without putting Him on His guard. But what if they were to send Him their “disciples”. These would be younger and less well-known. They were merely “pupils”. Surely Jesus could not see through them, or could He? The sending of “disciples” was little more than a cheap attempt to deceive Jesus.
2. In collusion with “traditional opponents”
Normally, the Pharisees and Herodians could never see eye to eye on many matters. The former believed in living a life of “separation”. The latter believed in combining religion and politics. Often they would clash in their debates over religious and political matters! Yet on this occasion, the Herodians were part of the concerted effort to publicly humiliate Jesus.
3. Using flattering speech
The disciples of the chief priests and elders decided that they would hide themselves behind flattering speech!
a) They “honoured” Jesus by addressing Him politely as “Teacher” (didaskalos)
The disciples of the chief priests and elders must have thought very little of Jesus, if they figured that they could flatter their way into the good books of this Teacher!
b) They expressed “admiration” for the way He taught the Scriptures
He did not seem to have any fear or regard for men! Surely that was outstanding! They had never come across a Person with a greater sense of integrity!
c) A barbed question
After they had made the appropriate preliminary remarks, the disciples unloaded the barbed question. What did Jesus think about the question of paying taxes to Caesar? They must have felt smug as they raised this question up. They couldn’t possibly imagine how anyone could have gotten out of this trap!
If Jesus were to answer in the negative, then the Herodians would pounce on Him. He could be charged with making treasonous statements! If He were to answer in the positive, then Jesus would be most unpopular with the multitudes! Just about everyone resented having to pay taxes to the Romans!
A BRILLIANT REPLY
The answer Jesus came up with left this group of disciples of the chief priests and elders so astonished they walked away from His presence!
“But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said,
‘Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.’
So they brought Him a denarius.
And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’
They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.'”
1. Jesus saw through their disguise
The disciples of the chief priests and elders knew that their game was up. They had failed to deceive Jesus.
2. A firm word of rebuke from the Teacher
Jesus knew that they were asking questions to see if they could trap Him in His words. For their efforts they were publicly rebuked as “hypocrites”. They had merely used flattery to address Jesus. They did not mean a word they said. They were hypocrites, actors playing a role!
“And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things
that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’
When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him
and went their way.”
How could they refute such profound thoughts? All left speechless!