Holy Week – Jesus vs. Religious Leaders
If you’re following the blog, then you know I’m reflecting on Holy Week as told in the Gospel of Mark.
So far this week, we’ve looked at Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He caused a huge stir in the city, and put people on edge. Folks were anxious about what Jesus was up to, and hopeful he might be their long awaited king.
They next day, Jesus came back into town and went around the temple clearing the Gentile court of people who were exchanging money, and livestock. The scene had to be remarkable to watch, and yet with all that Jesus did to upset the status quo, he wasn’t arrested. In fact, no one even seems to question his authority that day, they simply retreat to figure out how to kill him.
In Mark 11:27, Jesus and his disciples return to Jerusalem yet again. The religious leaders have had a night to plot his death. They determine that the best way to get Jesus, is to trick him into answer a question the wrong way so they have concrete evidence to bring him to trial. So, over the course of the day, Mark records that they sent various people, with various questions, to Jesus.
First up, the chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders approach him asking what authority he has to do what he’s doing. This is a really big question, and depending on how Jesus answers it, gives them the best case for arresting him. Jesus doesn’t play by their rules though, and jukes them by asking his own question. Jesus ends up trapping them in their own game, and they end up looking foolish.
After hitting them with a parable, the Pharisees and Herodians come to Jesus next, and try to trap him with a question about taxes. Jesus uses a coin to teach them a lesson, avoiding their trap, and amazing them in the process.
Next the Sadducees try to trick Jesus with a question about marriage, and how it plays out in the afterlife and Jesus once again uses scripture to school them and avoid their trap.
Finally, another teacher of the law approached and asked Jesus which is the most important commandment. Jesus responded with a summary of all the law saying, “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31
After this, Mark tells us that no one else dared asked him any more questions.
All of these leaders are trying to trick Jesus. They want him to mess up so they can arrest him, and kill him. Instead of finding out the truth of who Jesus might actually be, they seem more concerned about protecting their own power and authority.
Maybe I’m oversimplifying this, but they totally miss out on knowing the Messiah they’ve been waiting for, because the Messiah that came doesn’t fit their system of belief.
In the midst of Holy Week, this truth is important for us as well. Jesus didn’t come to affirm our ways of life, that generally center on us. Jesus came to bring new life, and a new way of living that is centered on the Father. This is demonstrated in his answer to the teacher of the law. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The religious leaders of Jesus day had put themselves before God, and if we’re honest, we can easily do the same.
This Holy Week, it might be good for us all to ask the following questions:
- Where is my life centered on me, and not on the Father?
- Father, what areas of my life do I need to give over to you so that I am better able to love you with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength?
- How can I love my neighbor they way you love me?
May the truth of the gospel transform us as we ask these important questions.