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Jewish Rulers Seek to Ensnare Jesus.

(Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, a.d. 30.)

Subdivision A.

Pharisees and Herodians Ask About Tribute.

A Matt. XXII. 15–22; B Mark XII. 13–17; C Luke XX. 20–26.

a 15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might ensnare him in his talk. c 20 And they watched him, and sent forth { b send unto him} a their disciples, b certain of the Pharisees and of { a with} b the Herodians, that they might catch him in talk. [Perceiving that Jesus, when on his guard, was too wise for them, the Pharisees thought it best to speak their cunning through the mouths of their young disciples, whose youth and apparent desire to know the truth would, according to their calculation, take Jesus off his guard. Having no ancient statement giving us the tenets or principles of the Herodians, we are left to judge them solely by their name, which shows that they were partisans of Herod Antipas. Whether they were out-and-out supporters of the Roman government, or whether they clung to Herod as one whose intervening sovereignty saved them from the worse fate of being directly under a Roman procurator (as Judæa and Samaria then were), would not, as some suppose, affect their views as to the payment of tribute. If they accepted Herod merely for policy's sake, policy would also compel them to favor the tribute, for Antipas, being appointed 598by Rome, would have to favor the tribute, and could count none as his adherents who opposed it.] c spies, who feigned themselves to righteous [sincere seekers after truth], that they might take hold of his speech, so as to deliver him up to the rule and to the authority of the governor. [Pontius Pilate was the governor. We are not surprised at the destruction of Jerusalem when we see the religious teachers of the nation employing their young disciples in such a work as this. To play detective and entrap a rogue in his speech and thus become a man-hunter is debasing enough; but to seek thus to entrap a righteous man is simply diabolical.] b 14 And when they were come, they say unto him, { c saying,} Teacher, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, b we know that thou art true, and carest not for any one; for thou regardest not the person of men, c and acceptest not the person of any, but of a truth teachest the way of God: a in truth [The meaning of their preface is this: “We see that neither fear nor respect for the Pharisees or the rulers prevents you from speaking the plain, disagreeable truth; and we are persuaded that your courage and love of truth will lead you to speak the same way in political matters, and that you will not be deterred therefrom by any fear or reverence for Cæsar.” Fearless loyalty to truth is indeed one of the noblest attributes of man. But instead of honoring this most admirable quality in Jesus, these hardened reprobates were endeavoring to employ it as an instrument for his destruction], 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? c 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not? b 15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? [The Jews were required to pay annually a large sum of money to the Roman government as an acknowledgment of their subjection. About twenty years before this Judas of Galilee had stirred up the people to resist this tribute, and the mass of the Jews was bitterly opposed to it. To decide in favor of this tribute was therefore to alienate the affection and confidence of the throng in the temple who stood listening to him—an end most desirable to the Pharisees. If, 599on the other hand, Jesus said that the tribute should not be paid, the Herodians were present to hear it, and would be witnesses sanctioned by Herod, and therefore such as Pilate would be compelled to respect. What but divine wisdom could escape from so cunningly devised a dilemma!] a 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, c craftiness, b knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, { a and said} Why make ye trial of me, ye hypocrites? [Thus, before answering, Jesus exposes the meanness and hypocrisy in their question, thereby emphasizing the important fact that he did not dodge, but answered it.] 19 Show me the tribute money. c 24 Show me a denarius. b bring me a denarius, that I may see it. [Religious dues and tributes had been paid in shekels or old Jewish coin, but the tribute to Rome was paid in Roman coin of which the denarius was a sample.] a And they brought unto him a denarius. [See p. 376.] 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? c Whose image and superscription hath it? [The little silver coin had the head of the emperor stamped upon it, and the superscription TICAESARDIVIAVGFAVGVSTVS, which stands for the words Tiberias Cæsar, Divi Augusti Filius Augustus; i. e., Tiberius Cæsar, the August Son of the Divine Augustus.] And they said, { a say} unto him, Cæsar's. b 17 And a Then b Jesus said { a saith} b unto them, c Then render a therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's; and unto God the things that are God's. [Each nation uses its own coin. Had the Jews not been under Roman sovereignty, they would not have been using Roman money; but the coin which they brought to Jesus bore witness against them that the Roman sovereignty was established in their land, and that tribute to it was therefore justly due; for whoso uses Cæsar's coin must pay Cæsar's tribute. This part of the answer satisfied the Herodians; and the last part “and unto God,” etc., satisfied the people, for it asserted, in a manner which carried conviction with it, that the payment of enforced tribute was not inconsistent with maintaining complete allegiance of God. 600God was no longer, as of old, the civil ruler of his people, and hence the payment of tribute to a temporal sovereign is in no sense incompatible with his service, but is enjoined as a Christian duty—Rom. xiii. 1, 7.] c 26 And they were not able to take hold of the saying before the people: a 22 And when they heard it, they marvelled, b greatly at him. c at his answer, and held their peace. a and left him, and went away. [They were amazed to find how far his wisdom transcended that of the teachers in whom they had such supreme confidence.]

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