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12. Parables and Teachings
1And he began to speak unto them in parables. A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it, and digged a pit for the winepress, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into another country. 2And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruits of the vineyard. 3And they took him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. 4And again he sent unto them another servant; and him they wounded in the head, and handled shamefully. 5And he sent another; and him they killed: and many others; beating some, and killing some. 6He had yet one, a beloved son: he sent him last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. 7But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. 8And they took him, and killed him, and cast him forth out of the vineyard. 9What therefore will the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. 10Have ye not read even this scripture:
The stone which the builders rejected,
The same was made the head of the corner;
11This was from the Lord,
And it is marvellous in our eyes?
12And they sought to lay hold on him; and they feared the multitude; for they perceived that he spake the parable against them: and they left him, and went away. 13And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, that they might catch him in talk. 14And when they were come, they say unto him, Teacher, we know that thou art true, and carest not for any one; for thou regardest not the person of men, but of a truth teachest the way of God: Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 15Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why make ye trial of me? bring me a denarius, that I may see it. 16And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's. 17And Jesus said unto them, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. And they marvelled greatly at him. 18And there come unto him Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, 19Teacher, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave a wife behind him, and leave no child, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 20There were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed; 21and the second took her, and died, leaving no seed behind him; and the third likewise: 22and the seven left no seed. Last of all the woman also died. 23In the resurrection whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. 24Jesus said unto them, Is it not for this cause that ye err, that ye know not the scriptures, nor the power of God? 25For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as angels in heaven. 26But as touching the dead, that they are raised; have ye not read in the book of Moses, in the place concerning the Bush, how God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27He is not the God of the dead, but of the living: ye do greatly err. 28And one of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together, and knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, What commandment is the first of all? 29Jesus answered, The first is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one: 30and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. 31The second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 32And the scribe said unto him, Of a truth, Teacher, thou hast well said that he is one; and there is none other but he: 33and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is much more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices. 34And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question. 35And Jesus answered and said, as he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that the Christ is the son of David? 36David himself said in the Holy Spirit,
The Lord said unto my Lord,
Sit thou on my right hand,
Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet.
37David himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he his son? And the common people heard him gladly. 38And in his teaching he said, Beware of the scribes, who desire to walk in long robes, and to have salutations in the marketplaces, 39and chief seats in the synagogues, and chief places at feasts: 40they that devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; these shall receive greater condemnation. 41And he sat down over against the treasury, and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. 43And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: 44for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
The Question Respecting Tribute.
13 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. 14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not? 15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. 16 And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Cæsar's. 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.
When the enemies of Christ, who thirsted for his blood, could not find occasion against him from what he said against them, they tried to ensnare him by putting questions to him. Here we have him tempted, or attempted rather, with a question about the lawfulness of paying tribute to Cæsar. We had this narrative, Matt. xxii. 15.
I. The persons they employed were the Pharisees and the Herodians, men that in this matter were contrary to one another, and yet concurred against Christ, v. 13. The Pharisees were great sticklers for the liberty of the Jews, and, if he should say, It is lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, they would incense the common people against him, and the Herodians would, underhand, assist them in it. The Herodians were great sticklers for the Roman power, and, if he should discountenance the paying of tribute to Cæsar, they would incense the governor against hum, yea, and the Pharisees, against their own principles, would join with them in it. It is no new thing for those that are at variance in other things, to join in a confederacy against Christ.
II. The pretence they made was, that they desired him to resolve them a case of conscience, which was of great importance in the present juncture; and they take on them to have a high opinion of his ability to resolve it, v. 14. They complimented him at a high rate, called him Master, owned him for a Teacher of the way of God, a Teacher of it in truth, one who taught what was good, and upon principles of truth, who would not be brought by smiles or frowns to depart a step from the rules of equity and goodness; "Thou carest for no man, nor regardest the person of men, thou art not afraid of offending either the jealous prince on one hand, or the jealous people on the other; thou art right, and always in the right, and dost in a right manner declare good and evil, truth and falsehood." If they spoke as they thought concerning Christ, when they said, We know that thou art right, their persecuting him, and putting him to death, as a deceiver, was sin against knowledge; they knew him, and yet crucified him. However, a man's testimony shall be taken most strongly against himself, and out of their own mouths are they judged; they knew that he taught the way of God in truth, and yet rejected the counsel of God against themselves. The professions and pretences of hypocrites will be produced in evidence against them, and they will be self-condemned. But if they did not know or believe it, they lied unto God with their mouth, and flattered him with their tongue.
III. The question they put was, Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not? They would be thought desirous to know their duty. As a nation that did righteousness, they ask of God the ordinances of justice, when really they desired nothing but to know what he would say, in hopes that, which side soever he took of the question, they might take occasion from it to accuse him. Nothing is more likely to ensnare ministers, than bringing them to meddle with controversies about civil rights, and to settle land-marks between the prince and the subject, which it is fit should be done, while it is not at all fit that they should have the doing of it. They seemed to refer the determining of this matter to Christ; and he indeed was fit to determine it, for by him kings reign, and princes decree justice; they put the question fairly, Shall we give, or shall we not give? They seemed resolved to stand to his award; "If thou sayest that we must pay tribute, we will do it, thou we be made beggars by it. If thou sayest that we must not, we will not, though we be made traitors for it." Many seemed desirous to do it; as those proud men, Jer. xlii. 20.
IV. Christ determined the question, and evaded the snare, by referring them to their national concessions already made, by which they were precluded from disputing this matter, v. 15-17. He knew their hypocrisy, the malice that was in their hearts against him, while with their mouth they showed all this love. Hypocrisy, though ever so artfully managed, cannot be concealed from the Lord Jesus. He sees the potsherd that is covered with the silver dross. He knew they intended to ensnare him, and therefore contrived the matter so as to ensnare them, and to oblige them by their own words to do what they were unwilling to do, which was, to pay their taxes honestly and quietly, and yet at the same time to screen himself against their exceptions. He made them acknowledge that the current money of their nation was Roman money, had the emperor's image on one side, and his superscription on the reverse; and if so, 1. Cæsar might command their money for the public benefit, because he had the custody and conduct of the state, wherein he ought to have his charges borne; Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's. The circulation of the money is from him as the fountain, and therefore it must return to him. As far as it is his, so far it must be rendered to him; and how far it is his, and may be commanded by him, is to be judged by the constitution of the government, according as it is, and hath settled the prerogative of the prince and the property of the subject. 2. Cæsar might not command their consciences, nor did he pretend to it; he offered not to make any alteration in their religion. "Pay your tribute, therefore, without murmuring or disputing, but be sure to render to God the things that are God's." Perhaps he referred to the parable he had just now put forth, in which he had condemned them for not rendering the fruits to the Lord of the vineyard, v. 2. Many that seem careful to give to men their due, are in no care to give God the glory due to his name; whereas our hearts and best affections are as much due to him as ever rent was to a landlord, or tribute to a prince. All that heard Christ, marvelled at the discretion of his answer, and how ingenuously he avoided the snare; but I doubt none were brought by it, as they ought to be, to render to God themselves and their devotions. Many will commend the wit of a sermon, that will not be commanded by the divine laws of a sermon.