They Fail to Entrap Jesus
BECAUSE Jesus has been teaching in the temple and has just told his religious enemies three illustrations that expose their wickedness, the Pharisees are angered and take counsel to entrap him into saying something for which they can have him arrested. They concoct a plot and send their disciples, along with party followers of Herod, to try to trip him up.
“Teacher,” these men say, “we know you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and you do not care for anybody, for you do not look upon men’s outward appearance. Tell us, therefore, What do you think? Is it lawful to pay head tax to Caesar or not?”
Jesus is not fooled by the flattery. He realizes that if he says, ‘No, it is not lawful or right to pay this tax,’ he will be guilty of sedition against Rome. Yet, if he says, ‘Yes, you should pay this tax,’ the Jews, who despise their subjugation to Rome, will hate him. So he answers: “Why do you put me to the test, hypocrites? Show me the head tax coin.”
When they bring him one, he asks: “Whose image and inscription is this?”
“Caesar’s,” they reply.
“Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” Well, when these men hear Jesus’ masterful answer, they marvel. And they go off and leave him alone.
Seeing the failure of the Pharisees to get something against Jesus, the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, approach him and ask: “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If any man dies without having children, his brother must take his wife in marriage and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and deceased, and, not having offspring, he left his wife for his brother. It went the same way also with the second and the third, until through all seven. Last of all the woman died. Consequently, in the resurrection, to which of the seven will she be wife? For they all got her.”
In reply Jesus says: “Is not this why you are mistaken, your not knowing either the Scriptures or the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, neither do men marry nor are women given in marriage, but are as angels in the heavens. But concerning the dead, that they are raised up, did you not read in the book of Moses, in the account about the thornbush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob’? He is a God, not of the dead, but of the living. You are much mistaken.”
Again the crowds are astounded by Jesus’ answer. Even some of the scribes acknowledge: “Teacher, you spoke well.”
When the Pharisees see that Jesus has silenced the Sadducees, they come to him in one group. To test him further, one scribe among them asks: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replies: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah, and you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.’ The second is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” In fact, Jesus adds: “On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.”
“Teacher, you well said in line with truth,” the scribe agrees. “‘He is One, and there is no other than He’; and this loving him with one’s whole heart and with one’s whole understanding and with one’s whole strength and this loving one’s neighbor as oneself is worth far more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Discerning that the scribe has answered intelligently, Jesus tells him: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
For three days now—Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday—Jesus has been teaching in the temple. The people have listened to him with pleasure, yet the religious leaders want to kill him, but so far their attempts have been frustrated. Matthew 22:15-40; Mark 12:13-34; Luke 20:20-40.
▪ What plot do the Pharisees concoct to entrap Jesus, and what would result if he should give a yes or a no answer?
▪ How does Jesus foil the attempts of the Sadducees to entrap him?
▪ What further attempt do the Pharisees make to test Jesus, and what is the outcome?
▪ During his final ministry in Jerusalem, how many days does Jesus teach in the temple, and with what effect?