Today is the fifth Tuesday in Lent, and we are continuing to read Mark chapter 12. Religious leaders — both Pharisees and Sadducees — come to challenge Jesus with questions. They want to trick him, and to get him into trouble. But Jesus speaks to them with the wisdom of God.
These leaders are asking Jesus a tricky question that can get him in trouble no matter how he answers. If he says you should pay taxes to Rome, then the crowd following Jesus will be angry. They hate the Romans and want them to leave their land. But if he says you should not pay, then he will be in trouble with the Roman leaders. Can I imagine being one of Jesus's friends, listening to the leaders asking him this trick question? How do I feel, as they go to hunt up a coin and I wait for Jesus to respond? Am I nervous to see what he will say?
How do I feel when I hear the answer that Jesus finally gives?
Mark tells us that when Jesus answers them, the religious leaders are amazed: they marvel and wonder at him. I wonder why that wonder doesn't turn in to love and worship?
A picture of Caesar's face is stamped onto his coin. And God's image is stamped on every single person. I wonder what Jesus is teaching us to do, when he says to give back to God what belongs to God?
Can I believe, right now, that I belong to God? Can I trust that I bear God's image in a special way in this world? Can I talk with God right now about how I can give myself back to the one who has made me, and who loves me very much?
Now the Sadducees come to Jesus with a very different question. If I am one of Jesus's followers walking with him through Jerusalem, I wonder how I feel about all of these different groups coming to test Jesus, one after another? I wonder if I might begin to feel like he was under attack from all sides?
The Sadducees are trying to make the idea of resurrection — of God bringing new life out of death — sound silly. If a woman is married to seven men, whose wife is she when they are all raised? They seem to think resurrection is just bringing people back to the life they had before they died. But Jesus says they do not understand resurrection at all. I wonder how their idea of being raised to a new life is too small, or too limited?
Resurrection is God's power to re-make all things: our Creator God can even raise people out of death into a new and completely transformed life. I wonder if that is why Jesus tells the Sadducees that they do not understand the power of God?
Can I trust and believe right now that God loves me, and loves my world, so much that he will re-make me and re-make the world? Can I hope that just as Jesus is raised from death to a new and transformed life, I will be too?
Are there any words, or pictures, or moments in this story I want to talk with God about right now?
Are there any words, or pictures, or moments in this story I want to carry with me into the rest of my day?
Jesus of Nazareth, son of God: thank you that we have a book filled with your words and deeds. Give us the wisdom and understanding that comes from your Holy Spirit, so that we can know you better and follow you all the days of our lives. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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