Then the Pharisees going, consulted among themselves how to insnare him in his speech. And they sent to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that thou art a true speaker and teachest the way of God in truth. Neither carest thou for any man: for thou dost not regard the person of men. Tell us therefore what dost thou think? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites? Show me the coin of the tribute. And they offered him a penny. And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this? They say to him: Caesar's. Then he saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God, the things that are God's. ― Matthew xxii. 15-21.I wrote last year of the coin of the tribute. It is a very short passage, but a really significant incident in the mission of Jesus. The herodians and the pharisees teamed against Jesus. The herodians were romanised (secularised), and the pharisees were pious hypocrites. Now, this was near the big feast of Passover, Jerusalem was crowded, and Pilate would have troops in town. Amongst Herod’s men, there probably were soldiers or guards. Jesus was a threat, both, to the corrupt state, and the corrupt church. They, again, wished to trick, trip and trap Him. They attempted to beguile Jesus with praise, in order to loosen his tongue. If He suggested to refuse the state, He could be considered a rebel or traitor, an enemy of the state and subject to roman justice. If he advised to pay, then he was an impious collaborator and would lose popular support.
The combined alliance failed. Jesus did not carry the suspect coin; He shewed, that, they did. And what did the crowd understand His answer to be?
The next verse: And hearing this, they wondered and, leaving him, went their ways. They were stymied. Our Lord was cleverer than they, again. Did He say to pay or no?
Postscriptum: 19 October 2008. This is also the Gospel for the 29th Sunday in ordinary time, cycle A.