Jesus was a man of fearless faith who stood tall in testing times. The contestants coming against him in the temple were the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians – each wanting to discredit Jesus. They came not with physical blows but with questions they hoped would expose him as a spiritual lightweight and disqualify him in the eyes of the public.
Next the Sadducees tried to floor Jesus with a question about marriage and resurrection. This was hypocritical since they didn’t believe in resurrection, but it was their sure-fire never fail question. It was based on the Law of Moses which taught care for a widow, where if one brother died, a living brother was obliged to marry her. Their example had a poor woman marrying seven brothers in succession as each died. Their question was whose wife would she be in heaven since she had been married to all seven. They intended this to reveal the idea of resurrection as nonsense. But Jesus fended off their best question pointing out they were mistaken about the scripture, about marriage, about heaven and about angels. The crowds were loving this contest and enjoyed seeing Jesus reveal the ignorance of the spiritual elite.
Next a top legal expert asked Jesus to identify the most important commandment. The answer to this was not controversial, but the expert got more than he bargained for when Jesus not only identified the top commandment, to love God, but also added the second greatest commandment for good measure, love your neighbour as yourself. Jesus was pointing out the failure of those who focused on loving God but neglected to love the people around them.
Having fended off all their attacking questions, Jesus asked them one of his own, Whose Son is the Messiah? They answer, the messiah was the Son of David. To which Jesus further asked, then why does David call this Son his Lord? It takes just a little background knowledge and consideration, but this question went to the core of who they thought the messiah was and to the identity of Jesus. Jesus was trying to get them to join the dots between his kingly entry to Jerusalem, his authority to cleanse the temple of money changers, the miracles of healing he was doing in the temple precincts and to realign their view of the messiah to realise the messiah they were expecting was standing right in front of them. If Jesus had messiah tattooed on his forehead his claim could not have been clearer. But rather than acknowledge who Jesus truly was, we read, "No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:46)
What difference does this make to us?
1) It confirms, in word and deed, Jesus was and is the Messiah. This can give us confidence and assurance- Jesus knew who he was, David’s Lord, the Messiah.
2) We see Jesus’ example of fearless faith, contending with the spiritual heavyweights of his day and emerging victorious. This can address our fears and encourage us to engage in spiritual conversations. Moses speaking to the people of Israel said, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Michael Harvey wrote, fear is anticipation of pain, but too often its bark is worse than its bite. Many of the things we fear don’t materialise or aren’t as bad as we imagined. Because God is with us, we can follow Jesus’ example of fearless faith.
What tricky faith question do you hope you are never asked?
What will you do to learn a good answer to this question so like Jesus you can speak with fearless faith?
Rev John Malcolm