May 21. The Jews Try to Trap Jesus

Mt. 22:15-40; Mk. 12:13-34; Lk. 20:20-40

The Herodians were Jews, who were loyal to the Herods. They were enemies of the Pharisees, but on this occasion, the two groups united to try to trap Jesus. Since the Jews hated to pay taxes to the Romans, they asked Him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?”

They thought that if Jesus answered, “Yes,” the Jews would be offended. If He answered “No,” the Romans could arrest Him for encouraging tax evasion. A perfect trap, they thought.

After the Jews had identified Caesar’s image and inscription on a denarius (coin), Jesus said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus had stopped the people in their tracks and they were all amazed at His answer.

The Sadducees were a sect of the Jews who did not believe in angels, spirits or the resurrection of the dead. They believed that a person’s reward or punishment came while he was on earth instead of after a resurrection.

After Jesus had silenced the Pharisees and Herodians, the Sadducees tried to trick Him with a question about the “so-called resurrection.” They gave an example of a woman who had been married seven times to brothers. With all seven brothers claiming exclusive rights to the same wife, heaven would seem like a perfect mix-up in family relations.

Jesus pointed out their ignorance. He taught them that marriage is an earthly relationship that ends at death. There is no marriage in heaven.

It was also taught that there is indeed life after death. God is the God of the living, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and not of the dead. Therefore, the spirits of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are still alive after death and are waiting for the resurrection of the dead.

After Jesus had silenced the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees, they had a meeting of the minds to determine another way to trap Him.

A lawyer had an idea of another way to trick Jesus into taking sides in a controversial issue. According to Jewish writers, some felt that of the more than six hundred commandments in the Law of Moses, animal sacrifices were the most important; others thought that wearing of phylacteries, or the great feasts or purification were the most important. The lawyer asked Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus answered, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

The lawyer could only admire and agree with Jesus because His answer was so well worded.

Jesus also complimented the lawyer for being “not far from the kingdom of God.” Being not far from the kingdom of God is not the same as being in it. One who is nearly saved is still lost.

These people did not ask Jesus any more questions because they had been embarrassed three times and they did not want to show any more of His wisdom or their own ignorance.