Digging in Deeper: Mark 12:24-27

“Jesus spoke to them, ‘Isn’t this the reason why you’re mistaken: you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised – haven’t you read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God said to him: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. You are badly mistaken.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever been in a fight with another person? I’m not talking about a rhetorical squabble, but an honest-to-goodness physical altercation. Thankfully, I haven’t. I’m not looking for that either. As a general rule, I try and avoid getting hit as often as I can. But if you were to be in a fight, it would be a whole lot easier if your opponent was made out of straw. A strawman, you see, can’t hit back. Well, what applies to our bodies, applies to our words as well here. Often when someone is going to get into a rhetorical battle with an ideological opponent, rather than engaging that opponent directly, he will create a ridiculously weak strawman of his opponent and proceed to demolish it. Then, when the dust settles, he will plant a rhetorical foot on the vanquished foe’s back and declare victory. And while this scene may be convincing to some, the trouble is, the actual opponent is not only still standing, but has done the same thing. Both parties are declaring unequivocal victory over the other without ever having actually engaged with each others’ arguments. Well, when someone accustomed to taking down strawman opponents comes face to face with an actual opponent who is well-prepared for the confrontation the outcome generally isn’t pretty. When a group of Sadducees got their turn to try and embarrass Jesus with a trick question, this is exactly what happened.

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Digging in Deeper: Mark 12:15-17

“But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.’ They brought a coin. ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ he asked them. ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Jesus told them, ‘Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

During it’s seven-season run, I loved the show West Wing. Now, I know its cultural and political positions are pretty decidedly different from those I personally hold now, but the writing and acting were both terrific. When Aaron Sorkin wasn’t trying to be preachy (which wasn’t much, but still…), he was a master of witty dialogue and developing solid relationships among a whole cast of characters. All the same, the show was designed to highlight a certain political and cultural worldview (which, interestingly, would find no quarter in today’s political scene with its ever-shrinking center), and Sorkin’s preferred method of doing so was to have one character deliver a perfectly-timed monologue in such a way to make the other side look absolutely silly and defeated and to render all counterarguments moot. Well, I’m not sure how much time Sorkin has spent reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, but if he has, he must have been pretty impressed as Jesus did the same kind of thing with a remarkable frequency. Let’s take a look this morning at one of the more well-known of Jesus’ “Sorkin moments.”

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Morning Musing: Mark 12:13-14

It is great to finally be back. My family had a fantastic and much needed several days away. I’m ready, though, to hit the ground running this morning. I’ve got the next few weeks through Mark sketched out and can’t wait to dig into Jesus’ final days with you. We’ll also look at some things going on in the culture around us that resonate with the Christian worldview in powerful ways. You won’t want to miss a single part of the journey that lies ahead of us. Thanks for reading and sharing.

“Then they sent some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to Jesus to trap him in his words. When they came, they said to him, ‘Teacher, we know you are truthful and don’t care what anyone thinks, nor do you show partiality but teach the way of God truthfully. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever had someone try and use your words against you? If you’re a parent, you’ve probably had that experience. You draw a line in the sand with one kid, and later, when another kid comes up against the same sort of experience and you’re considering letting them cross it for some reason, the other will loudly remind you of your words to make sure nothing unfair takes place. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve heard. In a larger sense, U.S. citizens have the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution to protect us from our words being unfairly used against us in a legal setting. The experience of having someone take words you’ve said and twist them around for their own ends ranges from frustrating to horrible. As the religious leaders kept trying to find some way to take Jesus down, they sent a group of Pharisees and Herodians to do this very thing.

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A Quick Update…

My family is taking a much-needed rest over the next few days. Posts will be only here and there until we get back. I can’t wait to hit the ground running with you when we do. There’s much to talk about together. As always, thanks for reading and sharing. None of this happens without you. Blessings!

Digging in Deeper: Mark 12:10-12

“‘Haven’t you read this Scripture: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This came about from the Lord and is wonderful in our eyes?’ They were looking for a way to arrest him but feared the crowd because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. So they left him and went away.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever witnessed a moment when someone finally realized they had nothing left to lose and just went for it? The courage of such a person doesn’t just double. It increases several-fold. When there’s nothing left that can really be done to a person, their willingness to face down any amount of suffering to achieve their aim becomes incredible. Obstacles become meaningless. There’s only one other thing that can give such a boost. When a person is supremely confident in the righteousness of their mission the consequences of its pursuit cease to matter. As the number of Jesus’ days before facing the cross grew shorter He became bolder with His words than He had been before in His ministry. Let’s listen in closely today as He puts the religious leaders in their place.

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