WHOSE IMAGE IS ON THE PENNY
Matt 22:15-22 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man: for Thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest Thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites? Show Me the tribute money. And they brought unto Him a penny. And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Caesar's. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him, and went their way. (Also See Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26).
In the lesson text we find the sect of the Pharisees taking the lead in the never-ending plot by the Jewish religious hierarchy, to conspire against Jesus and have Him put to death in order to establish and keep their doctrine of human wisdom and their self-righteous leadership over the Jewish nation in place. The authority of the chief priests and elders of the Sanhedrin, as well as the "scriptural knowledge" of the scribes, to this point, had failed to find fault with Jesus sufficient to convict Him of performing acts that would warrant having Him put to death. Refusing to believe and accept Jesus as the promised Messiah and Son of God, the unrelenting Pharisees took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. The word "entangle," as used here, means to entrap, much like animals are caught by various methods of trapping. In other words, they sought to "capture" Jesus by posing questions that, by His answers, would incriminate Himself. In this plot by the Pharisees to entangle Jesus, they seek the assistance of a political sect of the Jews known as the Herodians. This Jewish sect became loyal to Roman rule under Herod the Great and readily, without question, paid tribute to a foreign government. The Pharisees, although they paid these levies, looked upon them as a violation of Jewish law. Although these two Jewish sects were divided in their political opinions, they became united in their combined effort to destroy Jesus.
Having sought out Jesus, the disciples of the Pharisee, in order to better deceive Him, "praised" Him with this flattering, hypocritical compliment: Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man: for Thou regardest not the person of men. Then they asked Him an incriminating question designed to make Him appear guilty of an offense worthy of death. They asked: Tell us therefore, What thinkest Thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? Considering their opposing political opinions on paying tribute to the Roman government, they would condemn Jesus with any answer He gave to their question. If Jesus opposed paying such tribute, the Herodians would accuse Him of conspiring against Caesar. If He approved of Roman tribute, the Pharisees would condemn Him for being a traitor to the Jewish nation. In their own earthly wisdom, these enemies of Christ Jesus did not think that He could escape the entangling snare they set for Him.
But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites? Nothing can be more hypocritical that a feigned, pretentious desire to know that which is right when one's heart is so hard and calloused with erring lies that it cannot be changed and accept God's truthful righteousness. So it was with these spiritually blind Jewish sects - the Pharisees and the Herodians. In order to expose their false desire for truth, Jesus asked them: Show Me the tribute money. The tribute required by the Roman government was to be paid with a Roman coin called a penny (a Roman denarius) as opposed to the tribute for the temple, which was a Jewish shekel. After bringing Jesus the penny, Jesus asked them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Caesar's. This coin bore the likeness of the Caesar as well as his name, which, at that time, was Tiberius Caesar. Jesus responded by telling them to Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. The coin of Caesar was to be returned for his purposes just as those demanded by God are to be given for the purposes He requires. From this we know that we have both civil and spiritual obligations. They marveled, and left Him!