It’s a week packed full of anger, demonstrations, marches, chants, polarizing questions, and trigger words—where offense is a common theme and where everybody has a cause. Think I’m talking about 2015? No, this is a page straight out of the first century. It could easily have been the politically charged atmosphere Jesus rode into on the back of a donkey. The crowds like Him at first because there might actually be some use for Him. Jesus will rectify things. Settle inequities. Launch initiatives. It finally looks like God is going to do something. Not everybody likes Him, though. Some key players feel it’s important to neutralize Him.
The Pharisees launch a public trap asking about taxation. “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?”¹ If Jesus answers yes, that will indicate His solidarity with Roman oppression and bunch of dirty emperors who demand people think of them as gods. If He says no, He’ll seem to be an outlaw, making Himself a target for the Roman authorities.
It’s a simple either-or response based on one of those sizzling issues that people just love to ask about. They like to watch people squirm. Surely, they think, Jesus will squirm, too. And He’ll give the wrong answer. Everybody gives the wrong answer.
Instead, Jesus says, “Bring me a Roman coin.” They do. He asks, “Whose image is on it?” They say, Caesar’s. “Okay, give to Caesar what belongs to him, then. But give to God what belongs to God.” Crush. They walk away. Nobody ever answered like that.
The Sadducees come along, another sect of the Jewish population, aristocracy, well-placed, well-connected, happy with Roman rule because it guarantees them some measure of social stability. But there’s plenty they think is ridiculous with mainstream Jewish belief. Like the doctrine of resurrection—clearly low-brow stuff. And so they decide to ask Jesus the old “Can-God-make-a-rock-too-heavy-for-Him-to-lift” question.
“There’s these seven brothers, see, and the first one dies. So his brother marries the widow. Then he dies, too. And each of the brothers, in succession, all marry her and likewise, die. Then she dies. In the resurrection, whose wife will she be?”
They’ve asked this question before and always snicker as the person who answers tries to “tap-dance” his way into some plausible response. But there’s no dancing now. Jesus tells them, “You err greatly, not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God.” He then goes on to show them that they don’t understand spiritual things and don’t know the Bible, either.
The short version of the “examination” of Jesus continues in different ways by different people until finally Pontius Pilate announces, “I find no fault in Him” (John 19:6).
But along the way to that point it was time for a truth break. Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). To this, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Maybe his question wasn’t in the spirit of noble Roman inquiry. It was more like Pilate was saying, “Yeah, truth, right. Are you kidding?”
In an environment where people are so embroiled in the heat of controversy, where could truth ever genuinely be found?
Follow Jesus and you’ll find out. You’ll see the truth on an old rugged cross where the lawlessness and evil of man will collide with the holiness and love of God. Follow a little farther and you’ll see truth at a tomb where a new, powerful life is demonstrated.
Then you’ll know the truth.
1. These discourses occur in Matt. 22.