This morning I was reading Luke 23 and these words jumped out at me: “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (verse 2). When did Jesus forbid anyone to pay taxes to Caesar? Weren’t the Pharisees and Herodians to ones who sent their disciples to trap Jesus into saying something for which they could accuse him? Matthew records everything that happened.
They asked Jesus, Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
And Jesus knowing what their motives were, called them hypocrites and then he asked them to show Him the tax money. When they did, He asked them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”
They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”
And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way (Matthew 22:15-22). I am sure these men went back and reported Jesus’ answer to those who sent them.
Matthew wrote of another time when Peter was asked if Jesus didn’t pay the temple tax. Peter told them that He did. When Peter came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself” (Matthew 17:24-27, ESV).
On both occasions Jesus encouraged the people to pay taxes. So, what the religious leaders said about Him forbidding people to pay taxes was a blatant lie. These people who prided themselves as being obedient to the law were breaking it. They were breaking the commandment which explicitly states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor ” (Exodus 20:16).
They were resorting to lies in their plot to kill Jesus. They wanted Him dead and they were willing to do whatever it took. These were the people who called God their Father yet they were plotting to kill Someone because they were envious of Him. Matthew 26:59 states: Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death. Two false witnesses came forward and said that Jesus said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days’ (verse 61). Mark recorded them as saying, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands’ (Mark 14:58).
Did Jesus really say these things? According to John, He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). In verses 21, 22, John explained what Jesus meant. But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. Those who heard Him didn’t understand what He meant. They thought He was speaking about the building and when He was standing before the council, the two witnesses twisted His words to make it sound completely different from what was really said. Why do they think that Jesus would make such an outlandish statement? What reason could He have for destroying the temple that He had chased moneychangers from, saying that it was His Father’s house which had been turned into a den of thieves?
Jesus was right when He called His accusers the children of the Devil. They were lying and the Devil is the father of lies. He said to them, Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (John 8:42-47).
These men were not of God. If they were, they would not have plotted to kill an innocent Man. They paid the man who betrayed Him, sent guards to arrest Him, slapped and spat on Him in a trial which took place at night, brought people in to give false testimony. They wanted Him dead because He saw through their hypocrisy.
One day, these men will stand before God and will have to explain why they rejected the One whom He sent and why they persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus (Matthew 27:20).