The Challenge to the King
I. The Political Challenge (15-22)
A. Setting Their Trap (15-17)
If Jesus answered, “No,” He would not only antagonize the Herodians, but would be accused of rebellion against the Roman government. The Pharisees would have hustled Him off and pressed charges against Him. If He said, “Yes,” He would run afoul of the Jews’ intense nationalistic spirit. He would lose much support among the common people—support which so far hindered the leaders in their efforts to dispose of Him.
There were, in fact, three regular taxes which the Roman government exacted. There was a ground tax; a man must pay to the government one-tenth of the grain and one-fifth of the oil and wine which he produced; this tax was paid partly in kind, and partly in a money equivalent. There was income tax, which was one per cent of a man’s income. There was a poll tax; this tax had to be paid by every male person from the age of fourteen to the age of sixty-five, and by every female person from the age of twelve to sixty-five; it amounted to one denarius—that is what Jesus called the tribute coin—and was the equivalent of the usual day’s wage for a working man. The tax in question here is the poll tax