Sworn political enemies who suddenly unite to defeat a greater threat, cunning interview questions designed to bring your opponent down, and fights over taxes. Sounds like a 2018 prime time political battle in Washington DC, but in fact there’s nothing new under the sun. Jesus faced tough interviewers during his last Passover week in Jerusalem, and these opponents weren’t trying to get him out of office, they wanted to get him killed.
In the first century the Pharisees were the pious religious party who scrupulously lived out their adherence to Jewish tradition. In popular opinion they were good moral spiritual folks. In contrast, the Herodians were the experts, delicately balancing their commitment to the tyrant, Herod Antipas, the Roman appointee who sought to maintain the support of Rome while keeping the Jewish masses from erupting in revolt against the Emperor.
Under normal circumstances, these two groups hated each other, but the power of the Galilean Jesus movement that was spreading into Judea united them. With the support of Jerusalem’s highest religious authorities, they approached Jesus with a tricky question about paying the Roman tax. If Jesus said, “No,” they could scream insurrectionist. If he said, “Yes,” the patriotic zealots in his crowd would bolt. Either way they thought they had him.
“Now the chief priests, the experts on the Jewish law, and the elders sent some Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to try and entrap him by his own word. So they approached him and said, ‘Teacher, we know that you are truthful, and that you are not concerned over who might be listening. You don’t’ look at the faces of your audience to determine what your message will be, but teach God’s way based on the truth. So--is it lawful to pay the tax to Caesar? Should we pay it or not?’
Jesus knew their playacting and ploy. So he said to them, ‘Why are you seeking to entrap me? Bring me a denarius, and let me see it.’ They brought him one and he said, ‘Whose image is on the coin and what’s the inscription?’ They answered, ‘Caesar’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The things that belong to Caesar give to him and the things that belong to God give to God.’ They were amazed over Jesus.” Mark 12:13-17
If we have chosen to follow Jesus, we are stamped with his image. We belong to him, and our enemies should say about us what they said about Jesus. God’s truth means everything to us, and we don’t lie or con for what we think are ultimate ends. The bad guys in this story are those who pretend respect, appealing to Jesus as a teacher. They deceitfully recognize his authenticity, impartiality, and integrity, and then seek to use these attributes to destroy him. Instead of falling into their trap, Jesus reminds us about the world of difference between his Kingdom and this World’s. He didn’t come to Jerusalem to change Caesar’s prideful, presumptuous kingdom igniting a Jewish revolt; instead, his death and resurrection reaches the internal heart of each of us where politics and social movements can’t reach.
Our King and Savior reminds us to pay our taxes and be good citizens of the government that humanly rules over us. They printed the money. We can give it back to them. But we must never play the political game like these Pharisees and Herodians did. Our ultimate allegiance is only to the true God and his Son.
LORD, protect me from using the feigning of respect and friendship and an appeal to someone’s pride to manipulate them and bring them down. Help me to never alter the truth to try and win the approval of different audiences. Recreate your image of integrity and truth in me this day.
For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!