To Caesar or To God?
Reading: Luke 20:19-26
The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them. So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor. They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But He detected their trickery and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent. [NASB1995®]
The condemnation of Jesus in the previous passage reveals the intentions and hearts of the priests, scribes and Pharisees. The masks drop, and their true intentions are shown. They go into attack.
Their animosity is so great that they use whatever they can to make Jesus say something inappropriate, or to leave himself exposed to the authorities. The decision is clear: to sustain their religious, political and economic system, they must kill Jesus. He is the problem.
They are so steeped in deceit that they send spies to trap the teacher. They use the appearance of righteousness to commit an atrocious injustice. They disguise themselves with kindness and humility, but the Lord can see the darkness of their intentions.
“Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?” they ask. If Jesus says yes, he will turn the people against him, but he says no he will be in open rebellion to the Roman authorities.
This passage is often used to explain the relationship of believers with secular authorities. We understand, in the light of Scripture, that while we live on this earth we have authorities to obey, provided that this does not mean disobeying our God, to whom our first faithfulness is due. This lesson is very valuable.
Looking at the passage in the light of the immediate context, another important aspect is the authority with which Jesus speaks. His wisdom amazes everyone, even those who come to trap him.
Who is this that has such authority to silence the deceivers? Who is this that proclaims a higher kingdom than that of men? Who is this that makes the masks of hypocrisy fall?
In these last days in Jerusalem, Jesus proclaims more clearly than ever his identity and authority as the Messiah.
MEDITATE: How do we live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, living on this earth, but with a heavenly identity? How do we express our service to God on a day-to-day basis?
Scripture quotation taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Translation By: Emily Stader