Wednesday of Holy Week

Rev. Steve Boutell   -  

On Monday, I gave you 3 questions to ask yourself when you got angry.

On Tuesday, I asked you what Jesus might be asking you.

Today is Wednesday of Holy Week. And the portion of scripture (Mark 12) we’re going to look at has people asking Jesus questions. The questions they ask are about more than any simple answer that will satisfy.

Let’s look at those questions today.

  1. Should we pay taxes to the Emperor or not?

And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?  Should we pay them, or should we not?”

MARK 12:14-15 (NRSV)

Jesus does a totally Jesus thing to do. He sees right through their motive and asks the people who ask the question to show him a coin.

But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.”

MARK 12:15 (NRSV)

I find it interesting when I read this story that Jesus had to ask for a coin. Did Jesus not carry any coins?

When they show Jesus the coin he asks whose picture and whose name is on it. When they reply that it is the emperors, Jesus says well then give it to him.

Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.

MARK 12:17 (NRSV)

Different parts of Jewish culture had different understandings of how to relate to the emperor and Rome. Some thought they were good for Israel. Some went along to get along. And some were convinced they were bad and wanted to fight to get rid of them.

When they asked Jesus the question about paying taxes to the emperor, they were asking Jesus to choose a side in the controversy relating to Rome.

But Jesus wouldn’t choose sides.

When he says to give to the emperor things that are his and to God the things that are God’s, Jesus is making it clear that the only side he is choosing is God’s.

  1. What about marriage in heaven?

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children;  and the second married the widow and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; 22 none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. 23 In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”

MARK 12:18-23 (NRSV)

The Sadducees are asking this second question. Mark quickly points out a defining characteristic of the Sadducees, they say there is no resurrection. I always remember this by something taught to me a long time ago. The Sadducees were SAD-YOU-SEE because they didn’t believe in the resurrection.

This question was about a portion of Jewish tradition meant to keep family lines going. If a married man died before having a child, it was the responsibility of his brother to marry his widow and give her a son so that some would be there to care for the women and the family line would continue.

Jesus finds it funny that the Sadducees ask a question about what happens in resurrection life when they don’t believe in the resurrection.

Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage,

MARK 12:14-15 (NRSV)

The Sadducees asked Jesus the question in an effort to point out what they thought was the absurdity of the resurrection. They wanted Jesus to side with them.

But Jesus wouldn’t choose sides.

  1. What is the greatest commandment?

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?

MARK 12:28 (NRSV)

Every rabbi (teacher) had a different set of rules that they taught were the most important to follow. The scribe was trying to get Jesus to choose sides. Jesus wouldn’t choose.

29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

MARK 12:29-31 (NRSV)

This is what we understand as The Great Commandment.

Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Love others as you love yourself.

Jesus uses all 3 questions in Mark 12 to teach a greater lesson.

When we ask questions of Jesus, we often ask questions in hopes that Jesus will be on our side.

Early in my time at Cross Plains United Methodist, I preached a sermon series entitled “Defining Questions.” The description of the series said, ” I am convinced that the questions we ask are just as important as the answers we get for those questions. Asking questions is an important part of our faith as well.  When we ask questions and faithfully wrestle for answers we grow in faith and understand more what we believe.”

What questions do you have of Jesus?

What if those answers challenge your point of view?

Are you worried about Jesus being on your side or you being on Jesus’ side?

See you tomorrow.

Pastor Steve

Don’t forget Holy Thursday and Good Friday worship online at 7 pm both nights.

In celebration of Easter, we’re still flowering the cross! The cross will be in front of the church starting Saturday morning. Drive by and place your flowers on the cross as a sing of hope for our community.