The scribes and chief priests wanted to get rid of Jesus. He was accusing them with His stories. They saw what Jesus was doing, and they wanted Him gone. So these religious leaders sent spies, some who pretended to be sincere with their questions, but who really wanted to catch Jesus in something. They wanted something of which to accuse Him, then present Him to the authorities, and finally dust off their hands and be done.
“Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ He saw through their duplicity and said to them, ‘Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. He said to them, ‘Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.” Luke 20:20-26
They began with flattery, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.”
Then the zinger. “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Gotcha! They had to have been chuckling; they had Him right where they wanted Him. If Jesus said it was not right to pay the taxes, then they would accuse Him of treason against Rome. If He said they should pay the exorbitant taxes, then they could accuse Him of siding with the Jews’ enemy. No matter what the answer, they had Him. Oh, they were so smart.
Jesus saw their hearts and simply asked for a coin. Whose picture and inscription were on the coin? The answer of course was Caesar’s.
“Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
A simple answer to a simple question and they were astounded.
With scarcely a breath Jesus had silenced those crafty accusers. With one simple sentence, He also had put the Roman emperor, who himself claimed to be God, in His rightful place, that of NOT God!
And because they themselves had been made in God’s image, since God’s picture was on all of mankind, Jesus gave a gentle reminder that they needed to turn their lives over to the Lord of all.