Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Meditation for the Tuesday Before Easter

The Jewish religious leaders were persistent and it is likely that they didn’t really respect Jesus, even as an adversary. And why should they? Jesus was a nobody, a Galilean bumpkin from a tiny obscure village, while they were the centers of Jewish theology. They didn't go to "seminary," they were the "seminary." So they tried to set a trap for Jesus, baited with flattery:

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. (Luke 20:19-26, NASB)

The trap, as they conceived it, was that the Law of Moses made no provision for the Jewish people paying taxes to foreign rulers. To them it was a perfect trap, as they themselves had no principled answer. If Jesus answered that it was lawful, He had contradicted the Law and justified a much hated burden. On the other hand, if Jesus said that paying Roman taxes was not right then they could report Him to the Roman authorities as agitating against Roman authority. They thought they had Jesus in a trap! Jesus schooled them by pointing out that Jewish taxes were to be paid with Jewish money, while the money with which Roman taxes were to be paid were Roman coins. Jesus swatted the gnat they were straining using the swatter of their own fashioning; the business of the money-changers Jesus had driven from the temple was to change Roman money into Jewish money for those who needed to pay the temple tax.

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