Standoff in Temple
Read Matthew 21:23-23:39
JERUSALEM, Tuesday, spring ca. 30 a.d. – Antagonism between Jesus of Nazareth and local Pharisees increased in a standoff in the temple today.
After yesterday’s controversial cleansing of the temple, Jesus returned today to this Jewish holy place. While there with His followers, representatives of different groups sought to engage Him in debate in an effort to expose weaknesses in His positions.
Chief priests and elders asked about the authority of His teaching. Herodians sought to trap Him in His position about paying taxes. Sadducees attempted to demonstrate the illogic of His teaching about the resurrection of the dead. Meanwhile, Pharisees were seen conferring with one another. Ultimately, one of them posed a question about the greatest commandment of the Jewish Law.
In each instance, Jesus’ response seemed to silence His interrogators. One neutral bystander commented, “I found myself resonating with the questions from the different groups, thinking, ‘They’ve trapped Him with that one!’ Still, His responses were always clear and seemed to quiet their arguments. It was amazing to witness. Maybe His disciples have good reason for following Him, after all!”
Just before leaving the temple, Jesus addressed the crowds with one final, scathing warning about, and admonition to, the scribes and Pharisees. Seven times, He spoke “woes” of judgment against these adversaries. Repeatedly, He sought to expose hypocrisy, with the argument that their expectations of others was vastly different from their own lifestyles.
Pharisees were notably silent as Jesus finished and left the temple. One Pharisee told reporters, “It’s true, we withheld further comment today. Still, those kinds of remarks will not go unanswered.”
Letter to the Editor:
As a former Pharisee, I understand tension here. I was also once a Pharisee defined by rules…rules that were stricter for others than for myself. They were rules that I could not live up to. In a private meeting with Jesus, He showed me the need to jettison my attempts to keep the rules. He offered me a new life…a life marked by grace and granted on the basis of faith rather than performance.
Woe to those living according to rules. Grace to those liberated by faith.