Tuesday of Holy Week is a day full of teaching. So much so, that we will only deal with a small fraction of the texts. However, after the busy-ness of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Jesus and his disciples take a day of rest in Bethany on Wednesday. That bit of rest will provide the opportunity for us to reflect on some more of today’s teachings in tomorrow’s devotions
As Jesus and the disciples pass the fig tree, which just a day before was cursed for its lack of fruit, they notice that it has withered away to the root. In only twenty-four hours Jesus’ curse has come to fruition. Jesus uses this to teach about the importance of faith, saying “truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.” (Mark 11:23, NRSV) It is this text from which we get our saying, “faith that moves mountains.”
Do you have this kind of faith, doubt-free, mountain-moving, faith? If you are anything like me, and most people I know, the answer to that question is a qualified, “sometimes…” At times like that I rest on the faith of the father of the possessed boy who proclaims “I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24 NRSV) This week, my prayer for us all is that we deepen our faith. We may not be able to move mountains, but let us work toward moving at least small hills!
After Jesus and the disciples arrive at the temple, they are approached by some Pharisees and some Herodians in an attempt to trap Jesus. Immediately Jesus realizes it is a trap. The Pharisees and Herodians are usually at odds with one another, so when they approach Jesus together it is a sign that something strange is happening.
They ask Jesus whether or not it is right to pay taxes to Caesar. The problem is the biblical prohibition against idolatry. The Roman coins of the day identified Caesar as a God, and displayed his picture. Jesus immediately turns the question back on them by asking whose image is on the coin. Effectively he accuses them of idolatry, so when they answer “Caesar,” Jesus instructs them to “give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17 NRSV) In effect, Jesus says, “The money belongs to Caesar, but YOU belong to God!”
Are we living our lives in that truth? Are we, like the Pharisees, seeking to bracket God’s presence in our lives? Or are we giving God our whole selves?