First part of Homily LXX.
Matthew Chapter 22, Verse 15
"Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle
Him in His talk."
Then. When? When most of all they ought to have been moved to compunction,
when they should have been amazed at His love to man, when they should
have feared the things to come, when from the past they ought to have believed
touching the future also. For indeed the things that had been said cried
aloud in actual fulfillment I mean, that publicans and harlots believed,
and prophets and righteous men were slain, and from these things they ought
not to have gainsaid touching their own destruction, but even to believe
and to be sobered.
But nevertheless not even so do their wicked acts cease, but travail
and proceed further. And forasmuch as they could not lay hands. on Him
(for they feared the multitude), they took another way with the intention
of bringing Him into danger, and making Him guilty of crimes against the
For "they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians saying,
Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth,
neither carest thou for any man; for thou regardest not the person of men.
Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto
Caesar or not?1
For they were now tributaries, their state having passed under the rule
of the Romans. Forasmuch then as they saw that Theudas and Judas2 with
their companies for this cause were put to death, as having prepared for
a revolt, they were minded to bring Him too by these words into such a
suspicion. Therefore they sent both their own disciples, and Herod's soldiers,
digging, as they thought, a precipice on either side, and in every direction
setting the snare, so that, whatever He should say, they might lay hold
of it; and if He should answer in favor of the Herodians, themselves might
find fault with Him, but if in their favor, the others should accuse Him.
And yet He had given the didrachmas,3 but they knew not that.
And in either way indeed they expected to lay hold of Him; but they
desired rather that He should say something against the Herodians. Wherefore
they send their disciples also to urge. Him thereto by their presence,
that they might deliver Him to the governor as an usurper. For this Luke
also intimates and shows, by saying, that they asked also in the presence
of the multitude, so that the testimony should be the stronger.
But the result was altogether opposite; for in a larger body of spectators
they afforded the demonstration of their folly.
And see their flattery, and their hidden craft. "We know," their words
are, "that Thou art true." How said ye then, "He is a deceiver," and "deceiveth
the people," and "hath a devil," and "is not of God?"4 how a little while
before did ye devise to slay Him?
But they are at everything, whatsoever their craft against Him may suggest.
For since, when a little before they had said in self will, "By what authority
doest Thou these things?"5 they did not meet with an answer to the question,
they look to puff Him up by their flattery, and to persuade Him to say
something against the established laws, and opposed to the prevailing government.
Wherefore also they testify the truth unto Him, confessing what was
really so, nevertheless, not with an upright mind, nor willingly; and add
thereto, saying, "Thou carest not for any man." See how plainly they are
desiring to urge Him to these sayings, that would make Him both offend
Herod, and incur the suspicion of being an usurper, as standing up against
the laws, so that they might punish Him, as a mover of sedition, and an
usurper. For in saying, "Thou carest not for any man," and, "Thou regardest
not the person of man," they were hinting at Herod and Caesar, "Tell us
therefore, what thinkest Thou?" Now ye honor Him, and esteem Him a Teacher,
having despised and insulted Him oftentimes, when He was discoursing of
the things that concern your salvation. Whence also they are become confederates.
And see their craftiness. They say not, Tell us what is good, what is
expedient, what is lawful? but, "What thinkest Thou?" So much did they
look to this one object, to betray Him, and to set Him at enmity with the
rulers. And Mark declaring this, and more plainly discovering their self-will,
and their murderous disposition, affirms them to have said, "Shall we give
Caesar tribute, or shall we not give?"6 So that they were breathing anger,
and travailing with a plot against Him, yet they feigned respect.
What then saith He? "Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?" Seest thou how
He talks with them with more than usual severity? For since their wickedness
was now complete and manifest, He cuts the deeper, first confounding and
silencing them, by publishing their secret thoughts, and making it manifest
to all with what kind of intent they are coming unto Him.
And these things He did, repulsing their wickedness, so that they might
not suffer hurt in attempting the same things again. And yet their words
were full of much respect, for they both called Him Master, and bore witness
to His truth, and that He was no respecter of persons; but being God, He
was deceived by none of these things. Wherefore they also ought to have
conjectured, that the rebuke was not the result of conjecture, but a sign
of His knowing their secret thoughts.
2. He stopped not, however, at the rebuke, although it was enough merely
to have convicted them of their purpose, and to have put them to shame
for their wickedness; but He stoppeth not at this, but in another way closes
their mouths; for, "Shew me," saith He, "the tribute money." And when they
had shown it, as He ever doth, by their tongue He brings out the decision,
and causes them to decide, that it is lawful; which was a clear and plain
victory. So that. when He asks, not from ignorance doth He ask, but because
it is His will to cause them to be bound by their own answers. For when,
on being asked, "Whose is the image?" they said, "Caesar's;" He saith, "Render
unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's."7 For this is not to give but to
render, and this He shows both by the image, and by the superscription.
Then that they might not say, Thou art subjecting us to men, He added,
"And unto God the things that are God's." For it is possible both to fulfill
to men their claims and to give unto God the things that are due to God
from us. Wherefore Paul also saith, "Render unto all their dues; tribute
to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear."8
But thou, when thou hearest, "Render unto Caesar the things which are
Caesar's" know that He is speaking only of those things, which are no detriment
to godliness; since if it be any such thing as this, such a thing is no
longer Caesar's tribute, but the devil's.
When they heard these things, their mouths were stopped, and they "marvelled"
at His wisdom. Ought they not then to have believed, ought they not to
have been amazed. For indeed, He gave them proof of His Godhead, by revealing
the secrets of their hearts, and with gentleness did He silence them.
What then? did they believe? By no means, but they "left Him, and went
1 Matt. xxii. 16, 17.
2 Acts v. 36, 37.
3 Matt. xvii. 24, 25-27
4 John vii. 12; viii. 48; ix. 16.
5 Matt. xxi. 23.
6 Mark xii. 15.
7 Matt. xxii. 20, 21. [Abridged.]
8 Rom. xiii. 7.