Truth Taught- Jesus tells us that we are to financially support the government God has placed over us but we must never worship it. Worship is God’s alone
Last time we looked at the Parable of the Wedding Feast. That was the third of a series or trilogy of three parables that Jesus told about the Kingdom of Heaven. The general conclusion or point to each parable was that the current caretakers were not producing the fruit of the Kingdom and God was about to remove the Kingdom from them and give it to new tenants who would produce the appropriate fruit, namely Justice and Righteousness.
Now, we are moving on to a trilogy of questions. The religious elite are going to put Jesus to a test or as Matthew tells us, a trap. We must realize something here, they are not asking out of genuine concern or desiring to know what Jesus has to say, they have formulated these questions so that whatever answer He gives, they can trap Him in His words.
The first question we will look at today.
The Jews, like it or not, were under Roman control. Rome was in charge and any freedom the Jew had was a benevolent gesture from the Empire and could be rescinded at any time. The patriotic Jew hated Rome. There was the occasional outbreak of Jewish defiance even a revolt or two sprung up over the years. The longer they were under Roman control the more they detested the pagans with their idolatrous symbols that they had displayed all over the Holy City. Some had even been hung in the Temple from time to time. The Jews hated Rome.
One freedom Rome had given the Jews was that they still had the freedom to worship in their temple the way they saw fit. The only thing Rome was really interested in was that the Jews paid their taxes. So, there was the taxes everyone had to pay to Caesar then there was the Temple Tax. The taxes paid to Caesar was paid in Roman coinage. Rome allowed the Jews to mint their own coins to be used in the Temple.
The Jews refused to allow Roman money to used in the Temple area because, mainly, the coins had the profile of Caesar, in this case Tiberius, and had the inscription, Divi Filius or Son of God. These coins went against everything the Jew stood for. They reminded them that they were in subjugation to Rome, they went against all they saw as right, they went against their tradition to not have a graven image.
Exodus 20:3–6 (ESV)
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
This event takes place in the Temple area where only Jewish coinage was allowed. Jesus did not have a denarius because it was not in keeping with the honor of the Temple. While Jesus didn’t have a Roman coin in the Temple area, someone else did.
Now, before we look at the Sermon text for today, I want to mention something to help us with perspective. It is Wednesday and Jesus will be crucified on Friday and will rise again on Sunday. He doesn’t have long before His murder. He’s been walking around inside the Temple area now after He cleansed it teaching the people and the religious elite are furious.
Matthew 22:15–22 (ESV)
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
1. What Enemies Say About Jesus (22:15-16)
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.
Here, the Pharisees send their students to trap Jesus. They had already convened and had a game plan to trap Jesus.
The word in the ESV is entangle which is a good translation. It means to set a snare. The idea here is that they would set a word snare and lead Jesus into it. Usually, flattery will cause people to let down their defenses and be easily led into the trap.
They recruited the Herodians because when Jesus said His anti-Roman things, they needed to have some pro-Roman witnesses who then having access to the governor and his people could run in there and say, and be accepted in saying, because they were known as pro-Roman, “This man is an insurrectionist. This man is leading an anti-Roman rebellion,” and so forth and so on.
Now, if the Pharisees ran in and said that, they’d sort of look at them funny and wonder what they were plotting, because they knew they wouldn’t come to warn Rome about an insurrection. So, they had to have the Herodians.
This is their strategy. Now, most see that these Pharisees are saying things that they know to be true concerning Jesus. Even though they want to be rid of Him, even to the point of murdering Him, they have watched Him and know these things are true. This is so odd that they would not actually follow Someone like this. But the depravity of man runs too deep for that. So, even though the things they say about Jesus are true, they still are trying to entrap Him. This should tell us that they are God’s enemies.
Jesus has already told these Religious Elite that because they would not come to Him, in the context of the last parable, come to the wedding feast of the King’s Son they have proven themselves unworthy of the Kingdom. Here, if things could get worse they do, they show that the only interest they have in Jesus is to trap Him.
God has been clarifying something of significant eternal value to us. Who are the true people of God?
They are the ones cutting palm branches and laying down their cloaks and crying Hosanna to the Son of David. They are the ones who recognize Jesus’ divinity and Messiahship. They are the ones who come to Him for healing and forgiveness. They are the ones who believe like prostitutes and tax collectors. The people of God, in this case, are not the ones who hold the office or have certain credentials are seen as the religious elite of Jerusalem. This truth is important because we, at times, may see someone who looks religiously impressive. Understand, there are some very godly people with PHDs and yet they are godly because of the work of God in their lives not because they have PHDs. Our Lord is out to clarify this fact. The godly are coming to Him and the ungodly are either neutral or fighting against Him.
Why all the fuss about Jesus? If the Pharisees are not persuaded then why not just let Jesus alone and ignore Him? Jesus cannot be ignored. Mankind does not have that option. Every knee will bow to King Jesus in worship. Even His enemies will one day bow to him while on their way to eternal torment.
It seems this is true of many people today. They are sceptics and desire more than anything to somehow prove Jesus is wrong or God is irrelevant or perhaps that He doesn’t exist. If they can succeed at least convince themselves on some level then they do not have to feel accountable for their sin. That’s the real motivation for the sceptic.
These Pharisees make four statements about Jesus. Let’s look to their four true statements about Jesus…
A. We know that You are true… Teacher, we know that you are true
This is a rather important statement. Jesus not only always tells the truth but He is truth. They knew that He is truth in fleshed.
John 14:6 (ESV)
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus is truth.
B. We know that You teach the way of God truthfully… teach the way of God truthfully
Therefore, it stands that if Jesus is truth then everything He said is true. Here they acknowledge that. According to His enemies what Jesus taught about God was true. This is so odd. The Pharisees as a part of Judaism were supposed to be representing God so why when Jesus enters the scene and even they acknowledge He teaches things about God truthfully, why would they not follow Him? By their position, they have proven themselves unworthy of eternal life. They are not followers of God because they are His Son’s enemies.
John 8:41–45 (ESV)
41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
C. We know that You do not care about what others think… you do not care about anyone’s opinion,
The very fact that Jesus has spoken out against them shows that He doesn’t care what others think. He was not swayed by other’s opinions of Him or what He taught. Jesus taught the truth and if no one ever believed He was not going to change His message. He never took a poll to see what was popular like politicians do. He taught the truth no matter what.
D. We know that You are not a respecter of persons… you are not swayed by appearances.
Opinions didn’t sway Jesus and neither did the status of someone He was speaking to. He didn’t respect someone more or less based on who they were.
Jesus does not judge based on social status, wealth, or appearance. God evaluates a person based on his heart. We must do the same, as far as we are able, based on the qualities of faith, hope, and love. We show that we are looking at the heart when we do not favor the rich over the poor in our churches.
2. They Brought Jesus a Denarius
17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.
Is it right under the Mosaic Law to pay taxes to Rome. That’s the real question. Does God’s Word allow for us as Jews to refuse to pay the Roman tax. This is a question to trap Jesus. If He replies you don’t have to pay it then Rome will come down hard on Jesus. If He says you do have to pay it then His own people will be offended. What does Jesus say?
Jesus saw their true motives under all the flattery. He was fully aware of their wickedness. In a way only Jesus could, He traps them in their own snare.
The trap was set. If Jesus offended Rome the Herodians were there to hear of His insurrection. If Jesus spoke against God, Judaism or the Temple the Pharisees were there to hear.
19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.
It is the word kēnsos borrowed from the Latin census from which we get the census, or the counting of every individual. “Should we pay the census?” Now, it refers to a specific tax. The Romans counted all the people, and the Syriac Peshitta calls this head money. In other words, they attached an individual tax to everybody. Each year, every individual had to pay this census tax, like a poll tax. It was a personal tax on an individual. Here’s the catch, only non-Romans had to pay every year. Roman subjects, not Roman citizens had to pay.
The Roman poll tax fell principally on Roman subjects in the provinces, but not on Roman citizens. This was especially insulting for the Jews. Towns in the provinces who possessed the Jus Italicum (enjoying the “privileges of Italy”) were exempted from the poll tax.
The Roman poll tax was deeply resented – Tertullian bewailed the poll tax as a “badge of slavery” – and it provoked numerous revolts in the provinces. Perhaps most famous is the Zealot revolt in Judaea of 66 AD. After the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the Emperor imposed an extra poll tax on Jews throughout the empire, the fiscus judaicus, of two denarii each.
The Jews hated taxes and this one especially.
Jesus tells them to show Him the coin that was required to be used to pay the tax.
They brought him a denarius.
There were in those days people called Zealots. They wanted a revolution and freedom from Roman tyranny and abuse. One took place in 6AD and was shortlived. Another would come after Jesus in 66AD and would result in Rome destroying the Temple both were over the abuses of taxes.
So, in the crowd were also many patriotic Jews who wanted a revolution.
This was a highly political question where or not one should pay taxes to Rome.
They were in the Temple and they, the Pharisees brought or handed Jesus a Denarius. Perhaps they had it with them or perhaps one of the Herodians were carrying it but the point is the coin was a very big deal. It was breaking the very commands of God that the Jews claim they affirmed so highly. An image and an inscription Tiberius the Son of God.
It is highly ironic that they would rush this coin to Jesus the real Son of God to entrap Him.
Every time a Jew had in his hand one of those denarii with the image of Tiberius on it, it was the recognition that he held in his hand a little idol. A little idol of a god who was a false god. And you can imagine with what hatred they identified coinage. This is different. They didn’t hate it so much that day they used it to achieve a purpose, to snare Jesus in their trap or so they thought. The enemy of my enemy is my friend was true that day.
3. Whose Image and What Inscription?
20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
Jesus asks them as He holds up the coin, whose image and what is the inscription and they say Caesar. This is the real issue here. The image and inscription demanded worship. It was a little idol. The Romans had pushed their views (worship the government) onto the Jews who were to only worship God.
Whose icon? The Greek is Eixon meaning image and carrying with it worship. Romans worshipped the Caesar whose image was on the coin. They worshipped Tiberius as the son of god.
Jesus tells those there that day to render onto Caesar what is due him.
17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
Their view was that these were somehow optional. They spoke of paying taxes almost as if it were a gift given to the government. Here Jesus tells them that they owe Rome for the benefits Rome gives to them. That’s what render means. Render is a debt to be paid because of a service provided.
Pay Rome what you owe them. Pay Caesar what you owe Caesar.
Here’s my question…What was Rome trying to take that belonged only to God? Worship.
Render to God what is God’s. We must never worship the state. We must never worship the government. We are to pay our taxes because we do receive benefits from the government but we must never allow the government to claim what only God should have. We cannot worship, trust in, or find security in the government. God alone should be worshipped.
When the government moves in to try to usurp what God alone should have then we must defy such a government.
Pay what you owe and that’s it. Pay the government as little as is legally required don’t pay them any more than you are required to pay. Never ever give them your worship, that belongs to God.
1 Timothy 2:1–2 (ESV)
2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
The early Church tried to do this. They tried to live peacefully and pay their taxes but render worship only to God. When the Emperor required worship then the Church stood up and said no. They would only worship God. Many early Christians were martyred. Communist Governments such as China and Russia have outlawed Christianity. They want the worship and allegiance of their people.
We should be very diligent and watch our government. It may, in fact, be approaching that same state where it demands our worship. It may be there on some level. When the government tells us that we must obey something that is in direct contradiction to God’s Word, we must obey God and not man.
Are you willing to stand firm on God’s Word regardless what the government tells you? Are you willing to render to God what is only due Him?
If you are, praise the Lord. If not, it’s time to think through and examine your loyalties.
Because, unless God would intervene, we are going to encounter more and more persecution and I pray we would stand firm and resist no matter what.
Worship is rendering
Matthew by Leon Morris
Matthew by RT France
Matthew by David Doriani