The Jewish leaders, after being made to look foolish in public have withdrawn from the scene to plot. They really want Jesus dead, but they still fear their own people will react against them if they simply grab Him and take Him away; they don’t want a riot.
They scheme and plot in secret…
Later that same day, their plans begin to unfold; they will send surrogates to trap Jesus into saying something that incites the crowd. They attack in three waves, this being the first; the surrogates are an interesting little group of the disciples of members of the Sanhedrin and a delegation of Herodians. The Herodians were those who were allied with Herod, the Roman backed “king” of Judea. Herod wasn’t a Jew; relations between the camp of the Jewish leaders and the Herodians were always strained, but to get rid of Jesus was a cause that temporarily united them, and they advance on Jesus with their question about paying tax to Rome. We have already discussed how unpopular this was, so if Jesus would speak out against paying Roman taxes, He would be in deep trouble with the Romans, and subject to arrest. If He spoke in favor of paying the tax, He would lose the favor of the crowds and the leaders would have their opportunity to strike; either way, Jesus would be in trouble.
They begin with flattery, as though to make Jesus relax and think He was among friends. Here’s a tip for you: When you hear politicians, such as this delegation, engage in this kind of flattery, watch out! Jesus was not fooled by this rather thinly veiled tactic, and when they get to the question, He responds by calling them hypocrites. More than that, He demonstrated their hypocrisy when he asked for a Roman coin… and they produced one, right there in front of all the people.
What were these great spokesmen of Jewish virtue doing carrying Roman money around?
When Jesus induced them to acknowledge whose image and name were on the coin, they were finished, and I am reasonably certain they knew it. But Jesus wasn’t quite finished with them; He answered their question in a way that did not betray any obligation to Jewish Law or tradition; “give back to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and give to God that which is God’s.”
They couldn’t help but be amazed for remarkably, they hadn’t seen that one coming; they retreated in defeat. The stage is set for the second assault, a group of Sadducees is ready to advance; Jesus is waiting for them.