The Life and Teaching of Jesus – Part 33 – The Cross Examination

The Life and Teaching of Jesus – Part 33

The Cross Examination Continues. (Mark 12:13-44)

When the Prime Minister or a President has a press conference the journalists turn up and most of them seem to believe they have a right not just to ask questions but to challenge everything that is said. It seems to me that during the last week of His life on earth Jesus faced a constant cross examination, but in His case, it wasn’t the press corps, it was the religious and political leaders of His day that Jesus constantly faced.  The first to come where the Pharisee who were the people who added the oral law to the written law we have met them many times before in the Gospel accounts and they were the legalists of their day. The other group, the Herodians were the political elite of their day and they supported Herod and the Romans. What is fascinating to know is that the Pharisee’s were extremely anti-Roman and the fact that these two came together to attack Jesus is very interesting. So natural enemies band together to do battle with their common enemy, clearly, they viewed him as a threat.

They then ask Him this question,  Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar. (Mark 12: 14b) That’s a very straight forward question, however in this case one thing we need to note is word in the phrase “should we pay” The word translated pay, is actually a word that means give. From their point of view, they were not paying for something, they were just giving something to the Romans that they though was theirs.  (Mark 12: 15b-17a) Back in verse 14 I said the word “pay” meant to give. Jesus uses a different word”. That Greek word translated “render” means to return, to give back, to restore to someone. So, the Pharisee’s and the Herodians are saying, do we have to give this money to the government, and Jesus is saying, no, you are not really  giving them anything as such, you are merely returning what is due. He uses the image of a Caesar on the coin to make His point, but at the same time, he then says, “Render to God what is Gods.”  Caesar had his image stamped on a Roman coin but God also have His image stamped somewhere

So, God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:27)

Give back to Caesar the things that belong to him, for his stamp of ownership is on the coin anyway and give back to God that which belongs to Him, because His image, His stamp of ownership is on you.

At this point another member of this theological press core has a go at Him from another angle. (Mark 12:18-23)  The group who don’t believe in the resurrection, bring up a question about the resurrection, could they be any more hypocritical. 24 Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?  You don’t understand heaven at all, then he quotes from Exodus chapter three and says you also don’t understand what the scriptures teach concerning the resurrection. The Sadducee's only respected the Pentateuch, the first five books of the bible so He selects a passage that they would accept as authoritative. Jesus uses the scriptures that they accept, to correct them, and answer their question in the most incredible way. He used the Word of God, to demonstrate the power of God to correct their wrong thinking.

The teachers of the law are exactly what their name suggests, they are the lawyers. Remember this group of “lawyers” had codified the 10 commandments into 613 different laws and they want to now know which one is the most important. Jesus’ answer is, (Mark 12: 30-31) Jesus reminds us these two commandments, the greatest commandments, belong together, they are not two separate things. Notice it was only the teachers of the law that Jesus said were the close to the truth and he commends them for it. However, being close to the kingdom of God is not the same as being in the kingdom of God. The Jews recognized the Messiah was coming and they recognised that the Messiah was the, ‘Son of David’ They also recognized that one of the key Psalms in disclosing the promise of the Messiah was Psalm 110. Psalm 110 is talking about the coming Messiah, but have you look at it carefully. Therefore, if He is the Messiah, and because he is over David, then He is definitely over them. Then at exactly the same time, He turns to the common people and says, you beware of these people because all they really want is a place of pre-eminence.

So, in the context of a discussion covering the payment of taxes and the resurrection, Jesus teaches is we ought to render to Government what is theirs and render to God what is His, and we give to God by loving Him and loving our neighbour. I would summarise all of this, like this. If you belong God. And if you recognise Jesus as the Messiah, and if you know the scriptures and the power of God. You should not seek pre-eminence. Rather you should whole heartedly love God and love your neighbours as yourself and sacrificially give and serve.  At the beginning of this passage Jesus said, bring me a coin and asked whose image is on it? However, we also need to remember we are made in the image of God, and therefore, we belong to him. We ultimately belong to Him by believing His Son Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the saviour of our souls and out of that comes the ability to love, and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

This passage of scripture just about covers everything that you need to live the Christian life. If you can do all that, you’re not just close to the kingdom of God, you’re in the kingdom of God. When we really know scripture, and we really know the power of God, we can only then truly humbly submit to the Lord in the Power of the Holy Spirit. My advice to all of us today, and to myself also, don’t be like the scribes rather be like the widow and you’ll be just fine. Don’t be near to the kingdom of God, be in the kingdom of God.

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