The Book of Luke, The Authority of Christ, Part IV - Lesson 212
Jesus had made it clear as to who played each part and we are told that these leaders perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.
This of course added to their venom which they desired to use against this man who in all ways was disturbing their place.
So we see in Luke 20:19-26, where they continue to make plans for the destruction of Jesus Christ.
And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them. 20And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. 21And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: 22Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? 23But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? 24Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesarís. 25And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesarís, and unto God the things which be Godís. 26And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.
We are given here a view of the heart of the Jewish leaders with regard to how they thought and how they lived.
As we have seen on many occasions in past studies they were not interested in truth.
They have two fears, a fear of losing their place in Israel but they also fear the people, and because of this they have to be very careful as to how they go about riding themselves of this threat to their place.
We are told by Luke that they sought to lay hands on Jesus Christ.
But it seems their attempt to arrest him was opposed by the people in such a way that they were forced to back off and to develop as strategy that would allow them to make an arrest without the interference of the people.
So again they plant spies, agents who worked for them, men who would pretend to be just and honorable men who would have the mission of finding fault in Jesus.
Their intent was to find fault in his response to their questioning, fault sufficient to deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.
They intended to prove him a rebel against the power of Rome!
So the spies, who were pretending to be just men, revealed themselves as unjust men, by buttering up the Lord with truth but with truth that they themselves did not believe.
21And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly:
Jesus is being asked whether or not a law-abiding Jew, a Jew keeping the law of Moses, should pay taxes to Caesar.
God only knows what that money will be used for and does it mean that if a person pays taxes that he endorses those uses?
Does the paying of tax to a foreign government in itself cause a Jew to break the law?
This was an issue that was very much alive in Jesusí day, and interest in it has not lessened even to our day as evidenced by several cases in our own community where people have chosen to not pay taxes for various reasons.
And because of their choices they are now feeling the power of the government.
But it is ironic that in asking this question of the Lord they pretended to despise Roman rule, but it was to Roman rule that they turned in order to put Jesus Christ to death.
The question about taxes was meant to reveal rebellion in the heart of Jesus Christ against Roman rule, but they fully looked to Roman rule to carry out their evil plans.
They reasoned, they could get this ďself-acclaimed MessiahĒ to make statements against the power of Caesar, and therefore they would be able to press charges of treason against Him.
Now their question is not if a person should pay taxes at all, but whether or not a Jew should pay taxes to a heathen, Gentile government.
The issue is posed as a problem of keeping the law while at the same time paying taxes to Rome.
So here was the question: ďShall we pay taxes to Caesar or not?Ē
The spies challenged him to speak to this issue and when he did, the Roman rulers would be called upon to crucify Jesus as a traitor guilty of treason against Rome.
23But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? 24Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesarís.
First of all we should notice that Jesusí crafted his answer in accordance with the deceitful motives and intentions of the questioners.
Had this question been asked by a sincere person wishing to know truth his answer would no doubt have be more fully developed.
In fact it is more fully developed in the Apostle Paulís 13th chapter of his epistle to the Romans and from the Apostle Peterís 2nd chapter in the epistle of 1 Peter where Christians are instructed to obey God by obeying government in every way that does not place him or her in disobedience to God.
In asking for a penny Jesus was asking for a Roman denarius which was the form of money used for paying taxes to Caesar.
Different kinds of money were used for different kinds of payments.
The temple tax was paid by the drachma or shekel.
In Matthewís account Jesus asked to be shown the tribute money and he was shown a denarius, which was the exact money used to pay the Roman tax, for the denarius was a Roman coin.
Caesarís name was inscribed on it, along with his likeness.
There was a reason for this and that reason was that Rome made and issued that coin.
Governments can issue money and governments can also require that money be given back, especially in the form of taxes.
Now this particular coin pictures the then ruling emperor Tiberius on its front side, and on its reverse side he is shown sitting on a throne.
He is wearing a diadem, a crown of royalty, and is clothed as a high priest.
The inscription on the front says Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus and on the reverse side it says Pontiff Maxim which means Highest Priest.
Now you can imagine that this very coin was a thorn in the flesh of every Jew as they looked upon this coin depicting a man who claimed to be deity.
Now one thing we should also notice is that Jesus did not take this coin from the bag that Judas kept but instead asked his questioners for the coin.
I think we can assume that it was establishing the fact that his questioners were using the coin in spite of hating the image pressed into it.
They were benefiting from its use, and by benefiting from its use, had shown that in some ways they were obligated to the government of the coin.
In other words because of the benefits that they realized from itís government they had a responsibility to that government and that responsibility was carried out in paying their taxes.
The same principle applies when it comes to giving to the support of the church and to those who minister to the church.
Paul wrote of this to the Corinthians in: I Cor. 9:13, Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? 14Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
Those who benefit from the preaching of the Gospel must support those who preach the Gospel.
And likewise those who benefit from government must support the government.
So Jesus chose to teach this principle of paying your due by show and tell.
Show me a Roman coin. Letís examine its face.
It was obvious whose face was on the coin, it was the face of Tiberius Caesar Augustus.
Now Iím sure that this trap that was set for the Lord Jesus, was carefully thought out.
I imagine there were seminars of scholars formed prior to this event where possible questions were discussed which would place this self-acclaimed Messiah in jeopardy and give ammunition which would be used to put him to death.
For the Jews wanted to get Him into a position whereby the Romans would do their dirty work.
No one expected him to say, as He at least implied, that the people of Israel should pay taxes to Rome.
Who would have ever dreamed that a person claiming to be Israelís Messiah would ever support the paying of taxes to such a heathen and wicked government who claimed deity for their rulers?
So they thought this question was the unrivalled question, the question that guaranteed the trapping of Jesus into rebellion against Rome.
No one expected to hear words such as these after he had examined the Roman coin.
Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesarís, and unto God the things which be Godís.
So we see in the answer of Christ a statement that while
government and God are different, they are not opposed to each other.
Each has a role, and government is simply a minister of God.
So the answer of Christ was, Yes, pay the tax! Taxes are within Caesarís sphere of authority.
You enjoy the benefits of government therefore you should do your part.
You get police protection, you get roads, you get courts to settle differences, you have its money with which to engage in commerce and even with which to engage in Godís work.
Just think about the difficulty it would be to engage in Godís work without the money that is produced by government.
And consider that at this time, in spite of the fact that the foreign rulers were hated, the Roman empire had brought a measure of peace to the people.
There was a least no threat of an enemy at the nationís door.
So these things imply a responsibility on the part of the people.
Paul expounds this later on in Romans 13:1-6, Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are Godís ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
But by saying, ďrender unto Caesar the things which be CaesarísĒ, he was stating that the emperor should be paid only what was his due.
If the emperor claimed divinity that should not be accepted as his due for that was Godís due.
Jesus expected his listeners to think and to know Godís word in order to be discerning believers.
To know Godís word is to know what is due the king and what is due God.
This matter of God and government is well covered in the Old Testament where we see in 1 Samuel chapter 8 the children of Israel demanding a king like all the other nations.
Samuel warned the people that they would be heavily taxed by their king, and that the price of this government would be high.
The peopleís reaction was one of ďBring it on!Ē and they got what they desired including heavy taxes.
Jesus Christ was ready to be their king but they refused him in favor of this Gentile government and it was therefore right for them to pay taxes to Caesar.
Were they not in their heart ready to use Rome to destroy this man who was a threat to their place?
What hypocrites they were in asking if they should pay taxes to Rome while at the same time expecting Rome to do their dirty work!
Jesus was Israelís King, but they would not have Him.
Instead of bowing the knee in obedience to Jesus as Messiah, the leaders of the nation used this Gentile government to serve their self-interest by putting Jesus to death.
It will be just a few more days and Pontius Pilate will introduce Jesus to the Jews by saying, ďBehold your kingĒ but the Jews response will be:
Away with him, away with him, crucify him. We have no king but Caesar.
And just a few days before this, we see here that they have the nerve to ask whether they ought to pay taxes to the one whom they claim as king.
It is interesting that in giving up his life on the cross that Jesus yielded to Caesarís authority to take life.
Yes, it was a misuse of his authority but he did indeed have God given authority to take life and Jesus yielded to that authority.
But in so doing and unbeknownst to these wicked men, Jesus fulfilled the will and purpose of God which was to redeem sinful men and to redeem Israel from her sins.
The Jews thought they were using Rome to destroy this nemesis but in reality Jesus was using Rome to bring salvation to men and even to the very men who conspired in his death.
We see in Christís answer to the spies, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesarís, and unto God the things which be Godís, the basis for determining what belongs to God and what belongs to someone or something else.
He tells us that tax money belongs to Caesar because his money has his image and his words written on it.
And we can imply from his answer that what has Godís image on it belongs to God.
We who are born into the family of God are being impressed with Godís image in that we are being made in the image of Godís son, Jesus Christ and the Word of God is impressed in our hearts.
Authorities over men have authority over their money for their money is made by the authority.
But God made men and therefore He has ownership of men and has the right to impress His image and His word upon them.
Governments have the right to require men to owe them taxes but they do not have the right to own people.
This is only the prerogative of God, and not of government.
If money bears the image and the words of rulers, men bear the image and the Word of God.
Men are created in Godís image, and those who have come to a personal faith in Him have His word written on their hearts.
Romans 8:29, For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.