Reflecting on Matthew 22: 15-21
How embarrassing. Those wily, smarmy Pharisees thought they had the perfect trap for Jesus. They began by revealing that they already knew much about his extraordinary character. From his miracles and parables they had to admit that he didn’t pander to people of any particular status, and that he was bluntly honest about the hypocrisies of those in religious power.
So, they began by flattering him. No, YOU don’t care what anybody thinks. YOU are pure as the driven snow. (Their sarcasm drips off the page.) And then they set their trap: we know that YOU wouldn’t do anything unlawful for Jews to do, so, what about the tax demanded by the Romans? Would you pay it? Hmmm?
And then he set the trap for them. “Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they took it out of their pockets. Jesus was kind not to humiliate them right there, but, when they thought about it later, they must have blushed. Jews were forbidden to carry Roman coins, because the coin that circulated in Israel at the time of Christ was stamped with not one but TWO images of the Roman emperors.
The front of the coin showed the head of Tiberius, and the back had the head of Augustus, with the Greek inscription, “God Augustus Caesar.“ So, for a Jew to carry a Roman coin it meant that that person was breaking the first commandment, “Thou shalt not have false gods before me.”
Jesus doesn’t ask them how they reconcile their public personas with the obvious hypocrisy of caving to the culture. We don’t get to grin too hard, lest he should ask us the same question.
What parts of the culture are the most tempting for you?
Kathy McGovern ©2023