Recently we considered the question Jesus asked of people who sought him out, “What do you want me to do for you?” Shortly after these exchanges Jesus encounters people who have a question or two for him.
First on the scene are the Pharisees and the Herodians, the religious and political elite of the time. (Mark 12:13-17) Their question is based on their desire to trap Jesus, to discredit him, they hope to set him up for failure. They come with flattery on their lips and deceit in their hearts. They pose a query based on the commodity they most value – money, which, of course translates into power.
Jesus sees through their insincere praise to their intended motive and responds accordingly. He knows their falseness and avoids the trap they think they’ve set.
While studying counseling in graduate school I had a professor who would always tell me that the secret of a good therapist was to “see the game, call the game, but not play the game.” I was to see the dysfunctional pattern of my client, name it is such a way that the client could also see it and then refuse to pulled into the dysfunctional relational or cognitive pattern. Jesus was good at this, he saw their game, named it and refused to play.
They think they’ve backed Jesus into a corner so that whatever answer he gives will get him into trouble, either with the religious or the political powerhouses. He knows what they are up to and sidesteps the trap.
They come to Jesus with false hearts hoping to prove him wrong.
We do this. We come to Jesus with words of praise on our lips and with a personal agenda in our heart. We come to him with a question relating to the commodity we value most, a question that has a right or wrong answer. It usually is crafted as an either/or query. “God, if you are loving, why do I suffer.” In our mind, the answer has to be black or white, one or the other. God is either loving or not. He can’t be both. In this way of thinking it follows that if I suffer, God must not be loving. In our own way, we’ve set a trap for Jesus.
But he doesn’t play that game. Somehow, beyond our limited ability to comprehend, God can and in fact is both loving and does permit suffering.
The sweet thing about this exchange is that it changed the Pharisees and the Herodians. They approached Jesus with false hearts and impure motives, they left him with respect and awe. Once again Jesus demonstrates that all questions and questioners are welcomed by him.
Next we’ll look at a group of people with hard hearts who are determined to prove Jesus right.
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