The Jewish religious leaders that were intent on having Jesus put to death tried to trick him into saying something that they could use against him in a court of law. Matthew described this situation by saying the Pharisees “took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk” (Matthew 22:15). The Greek word translated entangle, pagideauo (pag-id-yoo´-o) means to ensnare (G3802). Pagideauo is derived from the word pagis which means “a trap (as fastened by a noose or notch); figuratively a trick or stratagem (temptation)” (G3803). It seems likely that what was going on during the last few days of Jesus life was an intense spiritual battle that may have involved numerous agents of Satan. The Apostle Paul’s description of spiritual warfare indicated there are many levels and sources of spiritual attack (Ephesians 6:12). He instructed believers to “put on the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
The Greek word translated wiles in Ephesians 6:11, methodeia is a compound of two words that means “traveling over that is travesty (trickery)” (G3180). The root words refer to travel (G3593) and accompaniment (G3326), suggesting that Satan is aware of the course of our lives and plans his attacks so that we won’t make any spiritual progress. Jesus’ determination to die on the cross was both helped and hindered by Satan. The most critical aspect of what was going on at the time of Jesus’ death was the requirement for him to have lived a sinless life in order to be qualified as the savior of the world. If Satan could somehow cause Jesus to sin before he was crucified, then Jesus would have died for his own sin, not the substitutionary death of everyone else. The Pharisees strategy when they approached Jesus with the question “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17), was to make him an enemy of the state. If Jesus said it was unlawful for Caesar to collect taxes from the Jews, then Jesus could have been arrested and put to death for rebellion against Rome.
Jesus was aware of what the Pharisees were trying to do (Matthew 22:18) and overcame their trickery with his brilliant response to their question about paying taxes. He said, “Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Cesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Cesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:19-21). Jesus diffused the situation by identifying the origin of the coins that were being used for commerce in Jerusalem. Although its laws and culture had been imposed on the Jews, many people were getting rich as a result of Roman occupation and it’s likely that the Jews’ overall quality of life had been greatly improved. Therefore, it made sense for the Jews to pay their share of taxes. Matthew indicated that the Pharisees were impressed with Jesus’ response. He said of their reaction “When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left him, and went their way” (Matthew 22:22).