AS the enemies of our Lord seek to entrap Him, it is wonderful to watch His conduct and His replies. The Pharisees tried to snare Him on the question of tribute, but He answers: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are Gods.” The state has its claims, but we never must give it that allegiance which belongs only to God.
Next they asked Him concerning the resurrection—whose wife should she be who had married seven? Our Lord replies, laying down the basis of error: “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” So many believers today either do not study the Bible and depend too much upon experience, or else they read the Bible and do not heed what they read, so do not know the power of God.
He declares that earthly conditions and relationships do not prevail hereafter. For God said, “I AM the God of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob,” not “I was….” In His sight all live; He does not speak of them as having been. Besides, God had made promises to these patriarchs which necessitated resurrection if they were to be realized (Gen. 17:8, 28:13; Heb. 11:13).
A scribe asks which is the “great commandment,” and our Lord quotes from the Old Testament (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18) the two commandments of love for God and one’s neighbor, upon which hang all the others. Certainly if you keep the first, you will keep the first five of the Ten Commandments; and if you keep the second, you will keep the second five.
Now notice the grand climax. Our Lord Himself propounds the next question: “What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?” It is as though He said, “All these questions you have asked are secondary. What about Myself? That is the supreme issue.” It was the supreme matter then; it is today. After that, they asked Him no more questions. There are no more questions after that! For Jesus Christ is the last word, and when you stubbornly refuse Him as did these, there is nothing more to be said. They made Him to be only David’s Son, but He refuted it from the Scriptures.
Then he turned (in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew) to the most flaming condemnation of Pharisaism of His entire ministry. The charges He brings are terrific! They do not practice what they preach. They love clerical show and high places at conventions, and lofty titles. They obstruct the conversion of others. They cheat the poor and pray long prayers. They encourage dishonesty. They see little faults in others and commit great sins themselves. They are hypocrites—righteous without and vile within; whitewashed, not washed white. Their fathers had killed the great prophets of the past. They are snakes, sure for hell!
No more awful condemnation of any group of people has ever been delivered! It is noteworthy that our Lord never spoke of or to the Pharisees except in judgment, for they were blind leaders of the blind, and His attitude was “Let them alone.” Some people cannot be won, they can only be let alone.
From this fiery message Jesus turns to lament over Jerusalem. Notice, the responsibility is theirs: “and ye would not.” Jerusalem must be desolate until Israel receives her long-rejected Messiah.