Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?" But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?" he asked. "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." They brought the coin, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." And they were amazed at him.
Watch them line up and ask their tricky questions to the Rabbi they despised from Galilee. Jesus obviously had them worried. The Pharisees who so much wanted respect for their ability to defend Jewish tradition were feeling threatened. Time and again, these religious leaders had found themselves on a collision course with the Roman administrators. They were happy enough making peace with the Herodians when it meant stamping out the inconvenient teaching of John the Baptist. But could they tolerate Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God? For a while after John the Baptist's execution the Pharisees and Herodians worked together, sharing notes in their efforts to get rid of Jesus.
Herod was worried. And that means that many of those working for him had to be worried too. They were trying to keep their jobs with that blood-thirsty ruler and they were not pleased with the way Jesus' ministry had developed. They wanted Him to trip up. The religious leaders and those on Herod's side lined up together seeking an opportunity to take this Galilean Rabbi down a peg or two. When they couldn't trap Him, it made them bitter. He had thrown out the money-changers in the temple; He had exposed them as hypocrites.
It was the oh-so-strict Pharisees, and the party of Jewish sympathisers with Herod, who joined forces, coming to Jesus with a trick question. So apart from the people who had come to be taught by Him, there were at least two other groups - those who saw Him as a challenge to their Jewish authority, and those who were trying to get him into the Roman administration's bad books.
Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?
The first thing that Jesus says is:
Why are you trying to trap me?
In other words.
Stop trying to weasel with me. I know your tricks.
And what does Jesus do then? It is a question about taxation. Instead of answering their question, He asked a set of his own:
What money are you using?
Where does your money come from?
Who provides you with money?
Let's see a coin?
Whose head is this?
Like a skilful teacher, Jesus asked His class an obvious question. And then says in effect:
You've answered your own question.
Give tax to the ruler who has your money minted -
the tax which is his due
which you should pay because he is also God's servant.
And give to the Lord God of Israel
who has given you His Law
the respect and honour that is His due.
Caesar gives you minted coin; pay him tax.
The Lord God gives you everything and His Law. Live for Him.
Both groups were gobsmacked. The Herodians and the Pharisees were startled by such direct instruction. Here was someone they could not match. He also taught them about the true meaning of taxation. He taught His disciples the true mean of government.