Day 108: Patting the Creator on the head

Mark 12:28-44

(spring AD 30, Tuesday of Passion Week)

After a day of amateurish attempts by the religious leaders at making Jesus look bad, this was the last concerted attempt that we see in the gospel record. Not so much – this time – by trying to get him to say something treasonous against the Romans or heretical against God’s Word. This time he was given a tough question by a ‘teacher of the law’ – a religious leader – who not only had authority over people but thought that Jesus would defer to his authority and be glad of his approval.

What properly stunned the onlookers wasn’t that Jesus gave yet another good answer, but that when the teacher of the law spoke to Jesus presuming authority over Jesus, the Son of God turned it right back around on him.

“You are right…” the teacher of the law had opined. Jesus’ response was not merely to say that no, ‘YOU’RE RIGHT’, in some bland reassertion of authority. He went far beyond that and stated categorically that the man did not even have a relationship with God…but was on the right path towards. If ever a religious leader would have felt damned, as it were, with faint praise, ‘you’re not with God right now but you’re getting close’ would be it. Imagine a really good preacher commending a knowledgeable church member only for that member to turn around and tell him that he was close to being a Christian. Well, it would have felt worse than that.

It’s no wonder everyone gave up trying to trap Jesus in his words – he knew more than all of them, and was more authoritative than all of them – and the people could see it.

Jesus then showed that a famous prophecy in the psalms could not – as the Phrarisees had claimed –  merely have been about David’s human son. Jesus’ line of reasoning went a little like this:

  1. There is only one God (in answer to a question) (v.29)
  2. Speaking of there being only one God, why do the Pharisees think that the Messiah in Psalm 2 – the second ‘Lord’ in this quote – is just David’s child? We all know that the first ‘Lord’ in the quote is God the Father. (v.35-36)
  3. David wouldn’t call his own child ‘Lord’, therefore it must refer to a descendant of David’s who is far greater than David. (v.37)
  4. And since there is only one God (as we were just reminded)…the second ‘Lord’ must be as equally God as the first reference to ‘Lord’. Which means he MUST be the Messiah.
  5. Who’s that?
  6. Me.

And that’s why the crowd at the temple – who were loving Jesus’ words, actions and general uprooting of all the oppression from the religious leaders, were so happy about it…

…and that segued neatly into v.38-40 where Jesus condemned the entire religious ruling class as preening, cancerous, hellbound hypocrites. In a matter of three days, those same vile individuals would sway, entirely, a large crowd of people to call for Jesus’ death.

At this point, Jesus had done with miracles until the miracle that would be done to him on Sunday (Easter) morning. He had amply proved his identity on hundreds of separate occasions, now he proclaimed it, and showed his opponents up to be as ignorant as they were wicked, while pointing out that you didn’t need to be important to be loved by God (v.41-43).

He gave the people everything they needed an plenty more besides to believe in him – not just to listen with ‘delight’ (v.37) but to put their trust in Him as their Saviour.

And all those reasons he’d given to them, all the evidence he’d shown them, all the insanity of those who opposed him. You and I have a far better view of that today and yet even as Christians many of us retain a nervousness about our beliefs, a hesitancy about asserting even with gentle certainty, the only thing that makes sense:

Know the facts with confidence, express them with confidence. And talk to God about your doubts and concerns, knowing that he sympathises with all our weaknesses and wants nothing but our benefit.

God is not asking you to go out on a limb of faith. It’s faith, but it’s faith that fits the facts.

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