Ellen G. White Writings

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The Desire of Ages, Page 602

The words, “We know that Thou sayest and teachest rightly,” had they been sincere, would have been a wonderful admission. But they were spoken to deceive; nevertheless their testimony was true. The Pharisees did know that Christ said and taught rightly, and by their own testimony will they be judged.

Those who put the question to Jesus thought that they had sufficiently disguised their purpose; but Jesus read their hearts as an open book, and sounded their hypocrisy. “Why tempt ye Me?” He said; thus giving them a sign they had not asked, by showing that He read their hidden purpose. They were still more confused when He added, “Show Me a penny.” They brought it, and He asked them, “Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's.” Pointing to the inscription on the coin, Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.”

The spies had expected Jesus to answer their question directly, in one way or the other. If He should say, It is unlawful to give tribute to Caesar, He would be reported to the Roman authorities and arrested for inciting rebellion. But in case He should pronounce it lawful to pay the tribute, they designed to accuse Him to the people as opposing the law of God. Now they felt themselves baffled and defeated. Their plans were disarranged. The summary manner in which their question had been settled left them nothing further to say.

Christ's reply was no evasion, but a candid answer to the question. Holding in His hand the Roman coin, upon which were stamped the name and image of Caesar, He declared that since they were living under the protection of the Roman power, they should render to that power the support it claimed, so long as this did not conflict with a higher duty. But while peaceably subject to the laws of the land, they should at all times give their first allegiance to God.

The Saviour's words, “Render ... unto God the things that are God's,” were a severe rebuke to the intriguing Jews. Had they faithfully fulfilled their obligations to God, they would not have become a broken nation, subject to a foreign power. No Roman ensign would have waved over Jerusalem, no Roman sentinel would have stood at her gates, no Roman governor would have ruled within her walls. The Jewish nation was then paying the penalty of its apostasy from God.

When the Pharisees heard Christ's answer, “they marveled, and left Him, and went their way.” He had rebuked their hypocrisy and presumption,

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