We are continuing on in the temple with Jesus. He has just finished sharing a parable that left those listening to Him speechless! The scribes and chief priests recognized themselves in this parable and were incensed! They wanted to take Him RIGHT THEN, but they were afraid of the people. The people loved what He was saying. Luke told us just a little bit ago that “all the people were hanging on His words” (Luke 19:48). No way are the religious leaders prepared to take on the people.
Instead of coming at Jesus directly, they decide to try and trick Him instead. Their goal was to get Him to say something they could take to the Roman government. Then the Romans would have to deal with Him and they could keep their hands clean. So now the problem was how to get Him to incriminate Himself.
Have you ever heard the phrase “Flattery will get you everywhere?” Well there is another phrase that more appropriately applies to today’s encounter; “Flattery will get you NOWHERE.” As far as getting Jesus to incriminate Himself, this is exactly where they got; nowhere. Jesus answered their challenge so expertly that those seeking to trap Him instead were left “marveling at His answer” (verse 26).
We have already looked at this encounter in both Matthew and Mark’s gospels. The focus of both of them is very similar as I struggled to find something different to focus on. In both we looked at the flattery of those questioning Jesus and how if they actually believed what they were saying they would have been following Him. We also looked at the seal God puts on our hearts when we accept His gift of salvation. In the discussion focused on Mark’s telling we looked a little more at the behavioral aspect of the seal of God on our lives. Please feel free to jump back to either of these blogs and reread Jesus’ response to these insincere men. Matthew’s is titled “Taxes to Caesar” and Mark’s is titled “Whose Likeness Is It.”
Today I want to take a little different focus. I want to look at the setup for this encounter. Luke tells us that “The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on Him at that very hour, for they perceived that He had told this parable against them, but they feared the people” (verse 19). They recognized themselves in the parable of the wicked tenants. They also realized what Jesus meant when He said that the tenants would be destroyed and the vineyard given to others. “Surely not!” (verse 16) God certainly wouldn’t destroy them! After all, they were decedents of Abraham. How preposterous to think that God would give their birthright to someone else; Gentiles! Again, surely not!
They wanted to stop His teachings in their tracks. No more talking about how badly Israel (especially the religious leaders) had behaved. No more talk of God including anyone outside the Jewish religion in His Kingdom. No more of this “RABBLE” stirring up the people. Enough is enough! But they can’t go about it openly. “The people don’t realize they needed protecting from Jesus’ preposterous teachings.”
They also realize that they can’t approach Jesus like they have been. He has shot them down at every turn. If they came straight at Him, He would expose them right away. So instead they chose a group to go to Jesus pretending to be one of His followers. They were pretending to need information for their “walk with Him.”
Enter the spies. These men were from, or a part of, the religious leaders who really wanted Jesus dead. They did everything they could think of to convince Jesus that they were really His followers. They tried to disguise their intent and affiliation through flattery. Every word they spoke was the truth, but they didn’t buy into any of what they were saying.
Jesus saw right through them. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep and His sheep know His voice. These were NOT His sheep. He would not be deceived by them.
In Jesus’ answer He didn’t directly call them out like He had been known to do when dealing with the religious leaders in other instances. He simply gave them an answer that left them speechless. They had no rebuttal they could offer. No “yabuts” around to toss out. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (verse 25).
I’m curious to know if they looked in their hearts to see if they had God’s likeness there. Did they really believe they were serving God? Jesus pointed out on many occasions where they were falling short, but did they take those warnings seriously? Or did they dismiss anything Jesus had to say, even when they recognized themselves in His parables? If they would have listened to Jesus’ correction, how different would have things turned out?
Father God, help me see wolves in sheep’s clothing when I encounter them. Help me see Your seal on their lives and know that they represent You. Help me shine Your seal on my life above all else. Remind me that what others see me do reflects back on how they see You. I want to bring You honor with everything I do. I KNOW I fall short on many occasions. Please forgive me Father. I NEVER want to offer You anything but sincere love and fellowship.