Trapped by Truth (Mark 12)
Tuesday of Holy Week
You cannot trap Jesus. In the end, you will only trap yourself.
First, it was the Pharisees and the Herodians who tried “to trap him in his talk” (Mark 12:13). These two groups, generally antagonistic toward one another, found a common enemy in Jesus.
They confronted Jesus with a political question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” If he said no, they could report him to Rome. If he said yes, his popularity would over, and they could get on with their work of religious reform (Pharisees) or political revolution (Herodians).
Jesus’ brilliant answer, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (his money), “and to God the things that are God’s” (your hearts) left his opponents speechless, and the crowd amazed. Flattery (12:14) had gotten them nowhere, and the trappers found themselves trapped.
Next, it was the Sadducees, who tried to stump Jesus with a religious question. Jesus rebuffed them by showing that they were not nearly so smart as they thought. They wanted certain things to be true so badly that their judgment was clouded. “You are quite wrong,” he said. (In fact, he said it twice!)
While this was going on, a man in the crowd heard the disputes and realized that Jesus had “answered them well.” He asked Jesus, “Which is the most important commandment?” It is a very good question — one often debated in that day. After all, there were more than 600 commandments in the Books of Moses. This was the most important?
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…,” Jesus said. For good measure he followed it with the second: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The man, because his question was sincere and not sinister, replied thoughtfully. “You are right, Teacher, ” he said. Jesus observed his honest heart and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
These three interchanges reveal more than just the conflicts Jesus encountered on Tuesday of Holy Week. They also give us a window into our own response to Jesus.
Sometimes we are jaded. Our questions are little more than excuses. We’re not really serious about Jesus and his claims. In this instance, Jesus confronts our hard-heartedness, just as he did with the Sadducees and the Pharisees. He may ask us a few pointed questions of his own! We may, like them, find ourselves trapped.
But if we are honest in our quest for truth, we may find ourselves in the same position as the third man. We discover that Jesus (and Christianity) gives credible answers to critical life questions. To us, Jesus says with a welcoming smile, “You are not far from the kingdom.”
“Lord Jesus, help us to be honest with ourselves when we have questions. When we are looking for excuses to justify our behavior, challenge our conscience. When we are earnestly desiring the truth, help us to see that you are, in fact, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”