This is a story that is told in the Bible three times—by Matthew (22.15-22), Mark (12.13-17) and Luke (20.20-26). Jesus had been teaching for a long time about leaders who pretend to love God and follow his commandments but are actually lying. Some of these leaders were the Pharisees, a group who taught in the Jewish churches (the synagogues) and were very religious about following their own laws and those of the Old Testament. They did not like Jesus because he was teaching about the Kingdom of God and how people could be a part of it. The Pharisees were jealous of the power that Jesus had and how the people were following him. Because of this they decided to try and trick Jesus into saying something wrong in his teaching with his disciples and the crowds.
So one day the Pharisees met and decided to send some of their followers and those from the head of the Roman government to Jesus with a trick question, one that they thought he would answer wrong. Now the Roman government had a king who was in charge of all the Jewish people that Jesus taught so the people had to obey the Roman government’s laws. The king’s name was Herod Antipas. If Jesus was teaching the people not to obey the Roman government and Herod, who was the ruler of the Palestine area where Jesus lived, then they could arrest him.
These followers went to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we know that you are honest. You teach the truth about what God wants people to do. And you treat everyone with the same respect, no matter who they are and you teach people about what God wants them to do.” All of this was of course true: Jesus was an honest and respectful teacher who told everyone what they should do to follow God. But then the followers of the Pharisees and Herod asked this trick question: “Tell us what you think! Should we pay taxes to the Emperor, who was Caesar, or not?”
This was a trick question because they thought that Jesus would say no and then they could have the Roman soldiers take Jesus to court. They thought that Jesus would say that people should follow and obey God alone. But Jesus knew what they were trying to do. He called them show-offs who were trying to test him. Then he asked them to show him one of the coins that were used to pay taxes. When they gave him one he asked them “Whose picture and name are on the coin?” They replied that it was The Emperor Caesar’s picture.
Then Jesus told them, “Give the Emperor Caesar what belongs to him and give God what belongs to him.” When he said this they were very amazed and had no reply of their own so they left. The spies sent by the Pharisees and Herod’s group couldn’t find anything wrong with what he was saying to the people.
Does Palestine have to be defined as including Israel, Gaza and Jordan?
Does the relationship of Herod Antipas as son of Herod the Great and Herod Agrippa as grandson of Herod the Great need to be pointed out?
Does the rule of Caesar and the Romans need to be explained or amplified?