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  • Gwen Diaz

269 - Tricks and Traps

The next morning, Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. It was Tuesday. On their way, they passed the fig tree that Jesus had cursed the day before. It was completely dead. “How did it wither so quickly?” the disciples asked. “Miracles like this are a result of faith,” Jesus responded. “Not just any faith—faith in God!” Jesus knew that Jewish people often referred to obstacles in their lives as “mountains,” so he added, “Whoever says to a mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that God can make it happen, God will do it for him.” Jesus did not want lack of faith to hinder his disciples’ prayers. Neither did he want a lack of forgiveness to get in the way. So, he added, “When you are praying, if you have any-thing against anyone, forgive them, and your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.” When they arrived at the Temple, the religious leaders were waiting to ambush Jesus. They had debated long and hard and finally came up with a trick question they thought could trap him. There was no way he could answer it without claiming to be God. And if he made that claim, they would arrest him immediately for blasphemy. As he approached, they pounced. “Where did you get the authority to do all your miracles and to throw people out of the Temple?”, they challenged. “First, let me ask you one question,” Jesus responded. “If you answer me, then I will tell you where I receive my authority. My question is: Where did John the Baptist get his authority to baptize—was it from heaven or from men?” They discussed the answer among themselves. “If we say, ‘It’s from heaven,’ then he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him when he introduced me as the Messiah?’ But if we say, ‘It’s from men,’ all the people will stone us, because they are convinced that John was a prophet.” They were trapped, so they replied, “We do not know.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you where I get my authority.” Unable to lure him into blaspheming, they tried to trick him into committing treason against Caesar. If he did, then they could turn him over to the Roman authorities to be killed. So, they sent some Pharisees, along with Herodians, with a question. At first, they tried to flatter him by saying, “We know you are an honest man who teaches God’s ways. You aren’t influenced by other people’s opinions. So, tell us, is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?” (Taxes had to be paid using a denarius—a Roman coin with an engraved portrait of Caesar.) If Jesus answered, “Yes!” the Pharisees could condemn him religiously for using coins with a “graven image” on them. This violated the second commandment God had given Moses (see #48 - February 17). If he said, “No!” the Herodians could condemn him for encouraging civil disobedience against Rome. Jesus knew exactly what they were doing. “You hypocrites!” he addressed them. “Why are you trying to trap me? Bring me the coin you use for paying your taxes.” They brought him a denarius. “Whose image and inscription are on this coin?” he asked. “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s!” he answered bluntly. They were astonished at the wisdom of his answer. There was no way they could trap him. So, they left him alone.

Not a single word that Jesus spoke was ever wasted or wrong. Each one was truthful and wise. Do you spend time reading Jesus’ words and understanding them? They will bring you wisdom, life, and joy!

269 - Tricks and Traps
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