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Mark XXII: Questions for the Teacher - Mark 12:13-44

When Jesus faced a series of tough questions from the religious leaders at the temple, He was being set up by people who hated His guts and were looking for a way to destroy Him. Their questions were designed either to get Jesus to commit to a course of insurrection so that they could hand him over to Rome, or to undermine His legitimacy and popularity as a teacher so that the Sanhedrin could move against Him without fearing the crowds. If Jesus failed this exam, they were going to kill him.

As His visit to the temple unfolds, Jesus answers a wisdom question about paying taxes to an idolatrous emperor, a mocking question meant to set forth the resurrection as an absurd idea, a challenging ethical question about which was the greatest of God’s commandments, and then He poses His own exegetical question about the identity of the Messiah.

And as Jesus wisely answers each particular question, a deeper question is being answered: who is Israel’s true Teacher? Not the Sanhedrin. Not the Scribes. Not the smart-alecks with their “gotcha” questions. The true Teacher of God’s people is the Christ, the Son of David, who is also somehow David’s Lord.

In answering the Pharisee’s question, Jesus teaches that God’s kingdom can coexist and flourish alongside all sorts of other kingdoms. There is no inherent contradiction between being an American, say, and a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. But here’s the bottom line: coins might belong to Caesar, but you belong to God.

Next, Jesus has an amazing response to the Sadducee’s question about inheritance and offspring in the resurrection: “You’re wrong because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.” They do not understand the nature of new creation life, and they haven’t listened carefully to God’s declaration about who He is: the God of the living, not the God of disembodied spirits.

The scribe who came next was so impressed by the answers Jesus had given that he really wanted to hear what Jesus would hold up as the most important commandment. “Love God, and love your neighbor.” Jesus says. Since God is one, give Him undivided love with your whole being. The scribe heartily agrees, and this ends the attack on Jesus’ teaching. The critics have been silenced, embarrassed, or in some cases, they’ve actually become Jesus’ supporters. After all their questions, this is what we hear: “You are right, Teacher.”

But then Jesus the Teacher has a question for them, a thinly veiled question about His own identity: Everybody knows that the Christ is the son of David. But how can that be, when David was led by the Holy Spirit to call Him “Lord”? A son might call his father “lord”, but a father doesn’t call his son “lord”! The crowd loves it – Jesus answers the toughest questions, but the scribes can’t answer His! The picture we are left with is of a triumphant Teacher who truly teaches the way of God.

Then the scene transitions, as Jesus contrasts the scribes who use religion to get honor and acclaim and wealth and offer hypocritical worship with a humble widow whose faith enables her to put her entire livelihood into the offering box. This contrast exemplifies everything wrong with the temple system and her leaders, but also provides a glimpse of true devotion from an undivided heart that worships God.

In light of this passage, is Jesus your Teacher? Is He the one you listen to when you ask life’s deepest questions? If Jesus is your teacher, then you will not be suckered in by flattery and hypocrisy. You will give the state its due, but you will also know that you don’t belong to the state; you belong to God.

If Jesus is your teacher, then you will seek to know the Scriptures and put your faith in the power of God. Do dead people rise again? Even if experience, common sense, philosophy, and science all make clever arguments that say no, Jesus teaches that God says yes, and that He is able to do it.

If Jesus is your teacher, then the most important thing in your life is loving God. Not making money, not getting an education, not building a reputation, not having a happy home. Be a worshiper, and be a good neighbor. That’s the Christian life.

If Jesus is your teacher, then He’s more than your teacher. He’s your Lord. He’s not just the heir to David’s throne; He’s the one sitting at the right hand of the majesty of God, ruling over heaven and earth.

And if Jesus is your teacher, then you won’t use religion to get honor and public recognition and access to the money of gullible people. Instead, you will entrust your entire life to Jesus, not just giving Him the pocket change of your life, but putting everything you are and have into His hands.

May God give us all ears to hear what our Teacher says.

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 by CJ Bowen