Jesus Thwarts Attempts to Entrap Him
MATTHEW 22:15-40 MARK 12:13-34 LUKE 20:20-40
CAESAR’S THINGS TO CAESAR
MARRIAGE IN THE RESURRECTION?
THE GREATEST COMMANDMENTS
Jesus’ religious enemies are upset. He has just related illustrations that expose their wickedness. The Pharisees now conspire to ensnare him. They try to get him to say something for which he can be turned over to the Roman governor, and they pay some of their disciples to entrap him.—Luke 6:7.
“Teacher,” these say, “we know you speak and teach correctly and show no partiality, but you teach the way of God in line with truth: Is it lawful for us to pay head tax to Caesar or not?” (Luke 20:21, 22) Jesus is not fooled by their flattery, for behind it is hypocrisy and cunning. If he says, ‘No, it is not right to pay this tax,’ he can be accused of sedition against Rome. But if he says, ‘Yes, pay this tax,’ the people, chafing at being subject to Rome, may misunderstand and turn on him. So how does he answer?
Jesus responds: “Why do you put me to the test, hypocrites? Show me the tax coin.” They bring a denarius, whereupon he asks: “Whose image and inscription is this?” “Caesar’s,” they reply. Then Jesus gives the masterful direction: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.”—Matthew 22:18-21.
The men are amazed at Jesus’ words. Silenced by his skillful reply, they leave. But the day is not over, nor are the efforts to entrap him. After the Pharisees’ failed attempt, leaders of another religious group approach Jesus.
Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection, bring up a question involving the resurrection and brother-in-law marriage. They ask: “Teacher, Moses said: ‘If any man dies without having children, his brother must marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers with us. The first married and died, and having no offspring, he left his wife for his brother. The same thing happened with the second and the third, through all seven. Last of all, the woman died. So in the resurrection, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her as a wife.”—Matthew 22:24-28.
Drawing on the writings of Moses, which the Sadducees accept, Jesus replies: “Is not this why you are mistaken, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, neither do men marry nor are women given in marriage, but they are as angels in the heavens. But concerning the dead being raised up, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account about the thornbush, that 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 very much mistaken.” (Mark 12:24-27; Exodus 3:1-6) The crowds are astounded by that answer.
Jesus has silenced both the Pharisees and the Sadducees, so now a coalition of these religious opposers comes to test him further. One scribe asks: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”—Matthew 22:36.
Jesus answers: “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.”—Mark 12:29-31.
At hearing the answer, the scribe responds: “Teacher, you spoke well, in line with truth, ‘He is One, and there is no other besides him’; and to love him with one’s whole heart, with one’s whole understanding, and with one’s whole strength and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is worth far more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Seeing that the scribe has answered intelligently, Jesus tells him: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”—Mark 12:32-34.
For three days (Nisan 9, 10, and 11) Jesus has been teaching in the temple. Some people, such as this scribe, have listened to him with pleasure. But not the religious leaders, who now lack “the courage to question him anymore.”