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out by that act of violence which had mingled the blood of some of this Galilean party with their sacrifices,* having caused them to be slain in the midst of the last year's Passover. All this the Pharisees well knew, and however they might secretly wish well to the cause of Judas of Galilee, it was needful for their own safety, that they should show themselves to be entirely separate from him and his party ; but if they could make it be believed that the Lord Jesus held the same opinion as those rebels, then indeed they had an accusation against Him, sure to be immediately listened to by the Roman governor, and all the more readily that it was generally believed that Jesus was a native of the suspected province of Galilee.
In order to bring this about, the Pharisees, for the time, joined themselves to the Herodians, whose opinions were in all respects, except in hatred to Jesus, exactly the contrary of their own. The Herodians cared only for the present advantages to to be gained from the favor of Herod, and the power of the Romans. The past glories of Israel were as nothing to them. It was their interest to maintain the authority of the strong government of Rome, for by it Herod reigned ; and as his particular followers and friends, their prosperity depended upon it. Thus were the interests of the Herodians and of the Pharisees exactly contrary the one to the other : but in one thing they were agreed, they must rid themselves of the presence and influence of the holy Jesus. Their opposite opinions in all other things formed the very ground of their hope to work out His ruin. He must agree with one or other of them, and whichever way it was, it would be represented either to the Roman government, or to the multitude, who so admired him, as a détestable crime. It might be made to look either as rebellion against the state, or as treachery against His own people and nation and religion. With deep hypocrisy and cunning, they laid their plan.
* John xiii. 1.
Lule xx. 20. "And they watched him." They took care to choose such of their disciples or pupils as should know how to appear deserving of respect. These were to pretend that they came from a real conscientious anxiety, to ask the opinion of the Saviour in a difficult case, in which they earnestly wished to know wbat was right. St. Luke tells us that they sent forth spies, which
Verse 20. “Should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, so that they might deliver him into the power of the governor.”
St. Matthew and St. Mark explain that these spies certain of the Pharisees,” “their disciples ” (that is, the pupils of those chief priests and Pharisees who were seeking to lay hold of Jesus)* and of the Herodians.
Mark xii. 14, 15. “And when they were come, they said unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man; for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful (that is, according to the laws of God) to give tribute to Cesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give ?” Calmly the Saviour made reply, “knowing their hypocrisy:"
Matthew xxii. 18—21. “He perceived their wickedness, and sald, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites ? Shew me the tribute-money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose image and superscription * is this? They say unto him, Cæsar's. Then saith-he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things which are God's."
* Luke xx. 19. t‘Superscription' means the words written upon the coin.
Thus at a touch was broken the snare from which they thought that Jesus could have found no way of escape. Questions that to them bred strife and division, were to Him as nothing. He took no part in the passionate opinions of men, but viewed the truth in the clear and holy light that shines from heaven, a light that would shine upon us all, in the use of the reasonable judgment God has given us, did not sin raise such a storm within us, and about us, that we cannot see the simple truth. The very light within us becomes dark ness, and our judgments, led astray, fix upon some error which we passionately maintain to be the truth. This it is that fills the world with fierce discord. And fearful it is to think that men should dare to use the name of God, and of His religion of peace, as an occasion of strife.
The reply of Jesus in a moment freed the question of the tribute-money from the difficulties which the passions of His. countrymen had thrown around it, and that, so evidently, and so quietly, that they had nothing left to say. The money of the country had upon it Cæsar's name and title, because he was the sovereign of the country; they used it in the daily business of their lives, and in doing so acknowledged his rule; what excuse had they then to refuse him obedience in this as in any other matter? They could not reasonably refuse to pay him a tribute of the money that bore upon it his name and image, in obedience to the laws he had established in the land, and by which in all other things they were governed. How could they suppose that this obedience interfered with their submission to the laws of God, since it could only be by His permission that the Roman Emperor had the rule over them. Let them therefore, "render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's."
Verse 22. “And when they heard these words, they marvelled, (LUKE XX. 26.) and held their peace, and left him, and went their way.”
Let us not also leave Him, and go on our way without thought of the lesson He would teach us. Why was the calm wisdom of His reply so marvellous in their eyes ? Often He spoke as none but God could speak; and told of things unknown to man; but this answer of His might have been given by the calm judgment of any man whose mind was free from prejudice. It was this that made the wisdom of its simple truth so marvellous in the eyes of the chief priests and Pharisees, whose own minds were so blinded and warped by pride and passion, " that seeing, they could not see, and hearing, they could not understand.”
In a stormy night, we cannot judge of the safety of a single step. The wind and the rain and the darkness give an impor. tance to things which, in the light of a quiet day, are as nothing; and so it is with most of the questions that disturb men's minds. It is the storm of excited feelings that prevents them from seeing the truth. Yet we must answer to God for the use we make of the sense and judgment He has given us.
Let us give earnest heed to the great lesson taught by our Lord's reply—“Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's,” and beware how we distress our minds, and perplex the minds of others, by making a question of religion of that which has nothing to do with it.
It is most true that every thing we have to do must be done either in a religious or an irreligious spirit, and this necessity, with the Christian, settles all questioning of right and wrong: but there are many who, in the spirit of the question, “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar or not," throw doubt and darkness and perplexity on subjects on which there should be none. Cæsar was indeed a heathen,--all his money was used for his own purposes, and the tribute paid to him by the Jews, erabled him to carry on the governmenē he had violently seized; but God permitted this to humble His people. It is " by Him that kings do reign,” and it is His command that we obey them that are set in authority over us.” The remembrance of this would settle many a difficult question, and in private as in public life, it would bring the clear light of day on many a needless perplexity.
Prayer. O God, in thy great mercy and pity raise us above the passions of our sinful nature. Deliver us from all pride of heart. Send the light of thy Holy Spirit upon us, that we, having a right judgment in all things, may be able clearly to see thy will, and putting from us all prejudices of our own, may be enabled simply to do it ; for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
Verses 23 -- 28. “ The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and shall raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother : Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection, whose wife shall she be of the seven ? for they all had her." * * Deut. xxv. 5. This law was made to preserve to distinct families the in