What makes a person important? Is it their economic situation, education, political position or popularity as a sports hero or a movie star? Every society has some way of marking the important people.
It was no different in Jesus’ day. Of the various people who encountered Jesus, many were considered among the least in that culture. Some were poor, disabled or just regular working people whom he called to be his followers, but Jesus accepted and loved them all.
It might be easy to get the impression that Jesus cared only for the outcasts of society. That would be an unfair assessment. Undoubtedly Jesus cared for outcasts, widows, sick and poor people, but his heart also went out to the religious leaders who were honestly seeking the truth.
Jesus and the Religious Leaders
The Gospel of Mark, Chapters 11 and 12, describes a number of encounters between Jesus and religious leaders such as the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees.
In Mark 11:27-33, the chief priests asked by what authority Jesus was teaching and performing miracles. Jesus responded with a question of his own because he recognised that they were not sincere but merely trying to stop him from teaching. He asked, “John’s baptism—was it from Heaven, or from men?” Jesus had been baptised by John. He knew that if the priests answered incorrectly, the people who accepted John the Baptist as a prophet would be outraged.
On another occasion the Pharisees and Herodians asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17), leader of the Roman government that occupied Palestine at the time. Jesus realized the Pharisees were only trying to trap Him. If He said “yes” He would be supporting the Romans. If He said “no” He would be breaking the law. Jesus took a coin and asked whose picture was on it. When the Pharisees replied: “Caesar,” Jesus told them it was right to pay to Caesar the things that bear his image or belong to him.
The Sadducees were a religious group that did not believe in a resurrection after death. They asked Jesus if there would be marriage in Heaven (Mark 12:18-23). They wanted to know if a widow who had remarried would have multiple husbands. Jesus made it clear that relationships in Heaven would be different from the way we understand them in this life. He also assured them that God will indeed resurrect believers, noting: “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living …” (Mark 12:27).
The Most Important Commandment
In Mark 12:28-34, an expert in the law put this question to Jesus: “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart … and love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). The expert in the law was pleased with this answer. Jesus knew this man was intelligent and sincere, but knowledge alone was not enough to assure him a place in the Kingdom. Jesus told him that he was on the right track, but knowledge must be put into action. Knowing and doing must go hand in hand. When speaking to religious people, Jesus lamented: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life” (John 5:39-40).
Jesus never had a problem with honest inquiry. The mind is something to be properly used for God’s purposes. However, it is also important to put into practice the things that we already know about living the Christian life, and to trust God in the areas where we are still growing.
The same Jesus, who knew the hearts of the people in Mark’s day, knows you. Being a follower of Christ means acting on your knowledge as you continue to learn from the Bible and apply it to your life. Walking with Jesus is an adventure of a lifetime, but it takes courage to say ‘yes’ to him.
By Elaine Becker
Source: Faith & Friends,