Luke 20:19-24

Luke 20:19 (KJB)
And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.

They had enough understanding to realize that the Lord was speaking about them but at this time they were unable to seize Him because the people had held Jesus as a prophet and the leaders would be afraid that the people would respond if they, in any way, tried to take Jesus. So they backed off and no doubt went into a meeting to discuss how they could take Him without raising the anger of the people.

Luke 20:20 (KJB)
And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.

The ire of the Pharisees were so raised that they employed spies to trap Jesus in His words. They wanted to find something which they could accuse Him of so they could pronounce a death sentence on Him. These spies pretended to be just men so they thought they would not be found out. The desire of the Pharisees was that they could get Jesus to say something of a seditious nature so he could be brought before Pilate and then condemned. (Mark 12:13 KJV) And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. Mark states that they employed men of the Herodian sect. The Pharisees and the Herodians were not on the best of terms but their desire to get rid of Jesus had overridden that situation.

Luke 20:21 (KJB)
And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly:

Now two opposing forces have joined together to try and snare Jesus. The Herodians were those who supported the dynasty of the Herods and were in total opposition to the teaching and principles of the Pharisees plus they were friendly with the Romans. They came to Jesus with the pretended attitude of sincere seekers of truth hoping to find something in the speech of Jesus that would cause the masters of these disciples to indict Him on. They came to Jesus as if they were truly seeking by stating that they know He is true and teaches the way of God and that He is not a respecter of persons. Did they honestly think that Jesus did not know their true intentions? Since the Herodians backed Rome and the Pharisees were ritual and ceremony obsessed, they were hoping that Jesus would say something that would indeed offend at least one of the groups.

Luke 20:22 (KJB)
Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?

Since Rome had conquered Israel and as a vassal state to Rome it was normal for the Romans to exact a tax or tribute to be sent to Rome. There were three types of taxes that the Romans levied: 1) A land tax on money and property; 2) A toll tax in ports or cities; 3) A poll tax which was like a capital gains tax. The last one is the issue of this verse. The poll tax also represented subjection unto Caesar. They thought they had Him because if Jesus said no, then He would have been in trouble with the Herodians and Romans and if he said yes, then He would have been in trouble with the Pharisees.

Luke 20:23 (KJB)
But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me?

Even though they came to Jesus with such kind words and probably a religious demeanor of smiles, Jesus knew that they were truly venomous and were not concerned about the answer to that question. They were only concerned and hoping that somehow Jesus would snare Himself in His words. He unmasked their evil by publicly calling them hypocrites. A hypocrite is someone pretending to be something they are not and they pretended to be nice and have just motives for asking that question.

Luke 20:24 (KJB)
Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's.

Jesus gets ready to do another visible example and asks that a penny be brought unto Him. The coin here would have been the Roman Denarius that would definitely have the picture of the Emperor on it. Then Jesus asks them about whose picture was on the coin and the inscription. There would be a picture of whichever Emperor was reigning and a brief inscription about him. In this case it would have been Tiberius who reigned from 14-37 A.D. The Inscription would have read, “TI CAESAR DIVI AUG F AUGUSTUS” which translates “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.” Actually the Jews had denounced pictures on the coins because they claimed it was an engraved image and a violation of the second commandment.