The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
He saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.
Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’
David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
The definitive sign that people are worshipping the one true and living God is seen in the way they care for the least among them. The definitive sign of idolatry, that people are worshipping a false God, is seen in the way the so-called people of God can turn a blind eye to those in need.
Jesus, the Son of God, the God for whom the temple was built, the One who is greater than the temple, now stands in the midst of it. The television show Undercover Boss comes to mind.
In this case, he finds the place sieged by rogue religious leaders. It’s like a conspiracy of employees trying to throw him out by throwing the policy manual at him. They actually stoop to a thinly veiled defense of Caesar. I mean, Jesus would never stick it to Rome, would he? That would destroy our way of life. And those Sadducees with their ridiculous question about this seventh marriage issue. It’s another cheaply cloaked attempt to get him to contradict Moses. Finally, as if to say, “That’s all you’ve got?” Jesus pitches them a messianic riddle of his own.
After this tiresome exercise in missing the point, he delivers the zinger, illustrating the absurdity of all they had come to spend their time focusing on.
“They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
And if I’m honest, I must confess my own resemblance to such an excoriating characterization. I’m not too big on the robe idea, but I do like to be greeted with respect in the marketplace. I like the front row seats, and I love to be given a place of honor at important occasions. I like to know and be known by important people, and I like others to know it. And that’s where I would like to draw the line—which is the problem. I just don’t see myself devouring widows’ houses. We never do. Here’s how that works. It’s not that we actively devour widows’ houses so much as we make worship (and church) all about feeding our own appetites and needs. This explains how I can ignore a man holding a “Will work for food” sign on my way to church, thinking to myself something like, This guy probably has a BMW parked across town and he’s just scamming us. Get a job! Or worse, He will probably just go buy liquor with the money.
Church ever so subtly switches gears from the service of God to maintaining the status of its leaders and leading citizens. Nobody sets out to ignore the poor. We just get caught up in all it takes to maintain our own way of life. Before we know it, we’ve gotten God all caught up in all it takes to maintain our way of life. That’s how it happens.
And this isn’t a problem more charity can solve. It will take a genuine revolution of caring. At least I think that’s what Jesus cares about.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a son/daughter.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a saint.
Devouring widows’ houses? Can you see it? Do two copper coins ring a bell? It will.
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