Jesus Deals Objectively with Deceptive Enemies

Jesus Deals Objectively with Deceptive Enemies

Devious Plot

Christian Leaders do get tested or challenged by deceptive enemies; they can learn from Jesus on how they may deal with such tests and challenges. For example, certain men sent by the Pharisees employed a deceptive setup to trap Jesus:

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?”” (Matt 22: 15-18).

Those who posed the above question to Jesus intended to trap Him in the presence of the Herodians, who were loyal to Herod, who had the imperial authority to collect taxes by force, if needed. The questioners and those who sent them to Jesus had hoped that Jesus would say something to the effect, “Don’t pay imperial taxes to Caesar,” within earshot of the Herodians. This appears to be the intended plot.

Incidentally, while these men DID NOT mean what they said to Jesus during the setup, they spoke the truth about Jesus as part of their deception—so, pay attention to what they said. Here are four examples of what they said and what they likely believed:

  1. They said, “Teacher, we know that You are a man of integrity.” But they believed “Jesus was a false teacher.” They did not trust Him as the Messiah, the Son of God, the fulfillment of the Scriptures, or the only way to God.
  2. They said, “You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” But they believed, “Your teachings are false and rubbish, you are NOT the one trained and disciplined to teach what is true.”
  3. They said, “You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.” But they believed, “We want to puff you up. You think you are not swayed by others including the Roman rulers, but we are smart enough to know how to trip you up and get you on the wrong side of the Roman rulers over imperial taxes that are due to Caesar.”
  4. They said, “Tell us then, what is your opinion?” This was a dishonest request. They had no intention of learning from Jesus, and they did not care for any of His opinions. They wanted to hear His opinion to cause him to fall into the hands of the Roman rulers. They expected His words to bring a swift rebuke, or worse, from the Roman authorities, and the public humiliation of Jesus.

An Objective Response from Jesus

Not perturbed by what He heard, Jesus went on to say,

“Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.” (Matt 28: 19-22).

It is notable, Jesus was NOT angry, emotional, or upset upon sensing the trap. Instead, Jesus was very objective. He asked for data (i.e., a coin). Jesus answered their question objectively, even though they were devious and dishonest.

Amazed, Defeated and Unforgiven

It was a brilliant move by Jesus to ask them for a Roman coin and employ it as “Exhibit A” in his response. Jesus’ response took the wind out of His enemies’ sails; they must have sensed defeat!

Remember, Jesus also said to them, “...and [give back] to God what is God’s.” They had the opportunity to do so. But, did they?

The devious men, in their amazement, could have said, “Lord, You are the Son of God, Glory to God,” or something similar to Nathaniel’s exclamation, when he met Jesus: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel” (John 1:49). Because praise and honor belong to God, these are examples of giving back to God what is God’s.

Further, the men could have “given” Jesus the chance to forgive them by confessing to their plot and pleading for His forgiveness before they went away. But alas, not one of them appears to have done so. Sadly, they left Jesus and went away defeated and unforgiven.

This passage shows how Christian leaders may remain objective when tested and challenged.

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Paul Swamidass

Paul Swamidass, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. INTEREST: Leadership training for leaders of Christian organizations. He has published some articles on Christian leadership and contributed to some Christian-leadership training in India in partnership with The Kerusso Institute for Global Leaders

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