Humble Hero


Christ Confounds His Enemies

This chapter is based on Matthew 22:15-46; Mark 12:13-40; Luke 20:20-47.

The priests and rulers could not refute Christ’s charges. But this made them only the more determined to entrap Him. They sent spies, “who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor.” NRSV. These young men, eager and zealous, were accompanied by Herodians who were to hear Christ’s words so that they could testify against Him at His trial. HH 279.1

The Pharisees had always chafed under Roman taxes, holding that paying them was contrary to the law of God. Now the spies came to Jesus as though they were wanting to know their duty: “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” HH 279.2

Those who put the question to Jesus thought they had disguised their intentions, but Jesus read their hearts like an open book. “Why do you test Me?” He said, showing that He read their hidden purpose. They were still more confused when He added, “Show me a denarius.” They brought it, and He asked them, “‘Whose image and inscription does it have?’ They answered and said, ‘Caesar’s.’” Pointing to the coin, Jesus said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” HH 279.3

The spies felt baffled and defeated. The brief, decisive way in which Jesus had settled their question left them nothing further to say. Christ’s reply was no evasion, but a candid answer to the question. Holding in His hand the Roman coin, He declared that since they were living under the protection of the Roman power, they should give that power the support it claimed. But while they were peaceably subject to the laws of the land, they should at all times give their first allegiance to God. HH 279.4

If the Jews had fulfilled their obligations to God faithfully, they would not have come under a foreign power’s control. No Roman banner would have waved over Jerusalem, no Roman governor would have ruled within her walls. HH 279.5

The Pharisees marveled at Christ’s answer. He had not only rebuked their hypocrisy but had stated a great principle that clearly defines the limits of duty to the civil government and duty to God. And although many went away dissatisfied, they saw that Jesus had clearly set forth the principle underlying the question, and they marveled at His farseeing discernment. HH 279.6

No sooner had Jesus silenced the Pharisees than the Sadducees came forward with sly questions. As a group they were bigoted, yet there were persons of genuine piety among them who accepted Christ’s teachings. The Sadducees professed to believe the greater portion of the Scriptures, but in practical terms they were skeptics and materialists. HH 280.1