I was sitting in a small room in Greece with a bunch of local students who had come to hear my professor speak. He was a Christian equipped with several upper graduate degrees and the Holy Spirit. As some of the more skeptical people in the room argued with him about religion and philosophy, my professor was quick to argue back using their favorite philosophers and the kind of logic that they’d have to take seriously. It was quite interesting to watch a guy from Michigan debate with the people of Athens on their own turf, using their own heroes to make his points. They seemed caught off guard.
I imagine that’s a bit how all the religious leaders felt about Jesus on Holy Tuesday. They tried to trap him over and over again, but Jesus continually found a way to turn the tables back on them using logic, stories, Scripture, and by referencing the heroes of the day. Indeed, every time they tried to trap him in an argument, Jesus instead trapped them.
Chief Priests: “Jesus, where did you get your authority?”
Jesus: “From John the Baptist! Or wait… did you not think he was a prophet?”
The chief priests looked around at the crowd and knew they were in big trouble if they disagreed.
Then along came the Pharisees: “So what do you think about taxes, Jesus? It’s such a hot topic these days. Should we pay them?”
Jesus: “You mean those coins with Caesar stamped on them that claim he’s the son of god? Ya know, I don’t seem to have any of that money on me. Do you have a coin I can see for a moment?”
Pharisees: “Oh yeah, sure, here you go.”
Jesus: “Oh, you do?”￼
Pharisees: (Uh oh.)
Jesus: Well, this coin has Caesar’s image on it so give him his petty silver. You, however, have God’s image on you, so give him yourself.”
And then along come the Sadducees: “The idea of resurrection is ridiculous Jesus. Let’s say a woman was widowed 7 times. So what—she’s going to have seven husbands in the new creation?”
Jesus: “Wait, you think the age to come will be the same as this age? Plus, have you even read the Bible? Do you not see where it points to resurrection?”
Sadducees: “Well, we only hold ourselves to the first few books of the Bible.”
Jesus: “Yeah. It’s there too. Read it.”
Then a lawyer chimed in: “Okay, well what do you think the greatest commandment is? There’s lots of arguments going around. Who do you side with?”
Jesus: “Love God. The second, by the way, is to love people. All the other commandments you all argue about come naturally if you just love first.”
In the end, maybe they didn’t want to agree with Jesus, but eventually they knew the conversation was to dangerous to continue. How often in our prayers today do we think we’ve trapped Jesus, just to find that he flips things around back on us. Like me in Chicago this weekend: “God, I know I’m getting too angry with my kids right now for not listening but—“
God: “You mean my kids?”