1. One day Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, proclaiming the good news, and as He finished up, the ever-vigilant chief priests and teachers of the law, together with the elders, approached Him to talk to Him.
2. And they challenged Him, demanding, “By what power of authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this power of authority?"
3. He replied, "I will answer your question with another question, and if you give Me the answer, then I also will tell you by what power of authority I do these things.
4. The baptism of John…from where did it originate? Did it come from heaven, or did it come from men?”
5. This question immediately set a private meeting among them into motion, in which they said to one another, “Watch out…this is a trick question…if we say that the baptism originated in the heavenlies, He will no doubt ask us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’
6. On the other hand, if we say, “It is of mere human origin, we’re going to receive so much flack from the people...they may even stone us...for they all regard John as a prophet.”
7. So they answered, "We don't know where it was from."
8. And He said to them, “Fair enough…so neither will I tell you by what power of authority I do these things.”
9. Then He went on to tell them this illustration: "A prominent landowner planted a vineyard, rented it out to some tenants, and moved somewhere else for a long time.
10. When it was time to harvest the grapes, he sent his servant back to collect his profits. But the tenants took the servant and beat him up, and sent him away empty-handed.
11. He then sent another servant, but they also beat that man, and severely abused him, then they sent him away empty-handed, as well.
12. He even sent a third, and they also met him with violence, wounded him, and threw him out.
13. Finally he sent his own son to them, saying, 'Surely, they will respect my own son whom I love, and not treat him the way that they have treated my servants.'
14. But, as it turned out, when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir to the fortune…let’s kill him so that we can have his inheritance!”
15. And, sure enough, they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him right then and there. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes back, what do you think he’ll do to those horrible, murderous tenants?
16. He will come and put those tenants to death. and give the vineyard to others."
When the people heard this, they said, "God forbid that he would do something like that!"
17. Jesus looked intently at them and asked, “Have you never read in your Scriptures: ‘The very Stone which the builders rejected and threw away has become the Cornerstone'?
18. Everyone who stumbles on this Stone will be shattered to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed to powder, scattering him like dust.
19. When the religious leaders heard His dark, illustrative story that day, they perceived that He was talking about them, and began to aggressively look for a way to arrest Him as soon as possible. But they didn't know how to do it because they were cowards.
20. But from that point on they kept a close watch on Him. They even sent spies, pretending to be sincere, in hopes of catching Him in some verbal trap...waiting for Him to snare Himself with His own words so that they might hand Him over to the authorities.
21. These spies came to Him and questioned Him, saying "Teacher, we know that You certainly speak and teach what is right...and we also know that You have integrity, that You teach the way of God truthfully, regardless of possible consequences, that You are uncompromising in Your ethics, and that You don’t pander to Your audience.
22. So tell us...is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
23. Of course He saw right through them, and said, “Do you phonies honestly think that I don’t know what you're up to? Surely you can’t be simple enough to assume that I would be rendered gullible by your empty compliments. That kind of flattery may work on you, but it doesn’t work on Me…why do you keep trying to trap Me with these tired old tricks?
24. All right…I’ll play along with your silly game. Show Me a coin, and tell Me whose image and inscription are on it." "Caesar's", they replied.
25. “Well, then, it should be obvious, shouldn’t it? Pay to Caesar the things that are due to Caesar, and pay to God the things that are due to God. It’s that simple.”
26. The Pharisees didn’t have a comeback. Once again the profound simplicity of His words had left them speechless, and they were again unable to entrap Him. Astonished by His answer, they were completely silenced.