Monday, July 17
As time was nearing for Jesus to face the cross, after the “Triumphal Entry,” the Pharisees were determined to kill him. They had to find a legitimate way to bring a charge against him that would satisfy the Roman government. The matter of paying taxes to Caesar appeared to be a good way to do that. All three synoptic gospels record this event, Mt. 22:15-22, Mk. 12:13-17, and Lk. 20:19-26. This was a cleverly preconceived plot to trap Jesus. A little history here. Herod was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau, and therefore related to the Jews. He was a selfish politician that wormed his way into Roman favor and became “King of the Jews” in about 37 B.C. As an Edomite, he was well acquainted with Jewish culture and religion. He curried favor with the Jews for political reasons. For example, he virtually rebuilt their temple, which then was called Herod’s Temple. His true colors surfaced when the magi appeared on the scene seeking the baby Jesus. Herod knew that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, and proceeded to slaughter all babies in that area. Joseph and Mary, with baby Jesus, were warned by God and fled to Egypt until Herod died in 4 B.C. Rome divided the Jewish kingdom into four areas, ruled by “tetrarchs.” Galilee was ruled by Antipas, Judea by Archelaus. Archilaus was such a ruthless tyrant that the Jews were about to revolt, so Rome deposed him, made Judea into a province and named a Roman as a prefect, directly accountable to the Emperor. This made things untenable for many of the Jews. Until the revolt of Judas the Galilean (Acts 5:37), the Jews had no problem paying taxes to a pagan government, but when the insurrection was crushed, its cause was not. Many Jews took the view that they were accountable only to God and it would be betrayal to pay taxes to a pagan ruler. And here, as Shakespeare would say, is “the rub.” The Jews of Galilee paid their taxes to a Herodian, which was tolerated, but Jews in Judea had to pay taxes to a Roman. And Jesus was now in Judea, not Galilee. The plot thickens!