The Almost Unanswerable Question: Mark 12:35-37


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Year of the Cross – Episode 12: Discover what happens when Jesus turns the tables on the religious leaders and asks a question of His own. Discover what we can learn about God and the religious leaders from how this question is framed.

Read the transcript:

Coming right after the passage we focused on last week, we discover in our passage for this week that Jesus has a question for the religious leaders. When reading about this event, our last few weeks of episodes most likely cover one long event, and this event finds Jesus facing a series of questions challenging His ministry and His role.

However, the passage we focused in on last week didn’t seem to be much of a challenge. A religious teacher asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is and Jesus answered by quoting the law where it talks about loving God and Jesus follows up with the second most important commandment which is love for our neighbor.

The religious teacher agrees with Jesus, and it appeared to be the end of the discussion. However, part of me wonders if our passage for this week has Jesus speak up with a counter question before the religious leaders can regroup with a new question. Perhaps Jesus knows the next question that will come and He wants to short-circuit it before it gets asked.

Let’s read our passage and discover what Jesus asks the crowd of people who are present and what we can learn from what is said and the question that might not have had the chance to get asked. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 12, and we will be reading out of the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 35, Mark tells us that:

35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courtyard, he asked, “How can the experts in Moses’ Teachings say that the Messiah is David’s son? 36 David, guided by the Holy Spirit, said,

‘The Lord said to my Lord:

“Take the honored position—the one next to me [God the Father] on the heavenly throne

until I put your enemies under your control.”’

37 David calls him Lord. So how can he be his son?”

The large crowd enjoyed listening to him.

In this short question and quotation, we discover some profound ideas. Right before our event and Jesus’ counter question, Jesus had just shared the most important commandment, which in verses 29-30, Jesus quotes in full by saying “Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. So love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

This commandment stresses the singular nature of God. The question that likely was being formulated in the religious leaders’ minds was the question challenging Jesus on this very idea. If God is One and Jesus claimed to be God, then they had successfully trapped Jesus in His own words. While Jesus was both God and man, this union of Creator and creation isn’t something we can really understand. If Jesus was asked this question, it is possible there is no good, easy to understand answer.

So Jesus jumps in with His own question that challenges the premise of the question the religious leaders are all thinking, and in His response, He subtly gives Himself a role in the prophetic words David spoke.

Jesus attributes this psalm to David being guided by the Holy Spirit, and we discover in this psalm a conversation between God the Father and God the Son. This psalm has messianic connections because God the Father is pictured as being a deliverer and letting the Messiah sit next to Him while He deals with the Messiah’s enemies.

This psalm describes an event in Heaven, and it is a discussion among the members of the Godhead. This detail challenges the notion that God is one singular being. This detail also challenges the idea that God is singular but different at different points in history. This detail draws our attention onto two member of the Godhead, and Jesus alludes to the third Member in the opening statement to His question.

Not only does this question and quotation challenge the argument the religious leaders were forming about God being One, singular Being, but it also suggests that the Messiah existed before David, and that in itself challenges the idea that the Messiah is David’s descendant.

The only way all these details can be reconciled is a union between God and humanity, through a virgin birth. This detail makes sense on one level to us living thousands of years later, but it is still about as difficult and unbelievable as it was to someone hearing it for the first time in the first century.

Since the religious leaders didn’t believe God liked humanity enough to become a human, they could not fathom the idea that the Messiah could be a descendant of David, but also a member of the Godhead. It is in this dilemma that the religious leaders create for themselves that Jesus steps into. With the religious leaders’ preconceived ideas, Jesus asks them a question they want to answer, but they cannot. This question is perfect because it silenced both the question they were planning on asking, and it silences all their future challenges because it challenged the foundation of their entire tradition.

This conversation, and this question, challenges us today. While there are many people who believe Jesus was simply a good teacher who had some nice things to say, will we be willing to believe that God actually became human and lived and died to take the punishment for our sins?

Meeting Jesus and knowing who He is can be discovered up to a point, but past that point, we must have faith. Knowing how Jesus can be both human and divine is something we cannot fully comprehend, but we don’t have to understand it to believe that it is true. All that matters is that God knows how it is possible, and that He made it possible for us.

Because Jesus became human and because He died the death we deserved, we have the hope of an eternal future life with God in heaven.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and have faith when faced with ideas we cannot understand. Always push forward to learn and discover more, but know that time will end before we reach the end of what God wants to teach us.

As always, pray and study the Bible for yourself, and don’t take my word, or any pastor, podcaster, author, or speaker’s word for it. Discover God’s truth straight from the Holy Spirit inspired Bible, and study it in preparation for learning directly from God when Jesus returns!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of or back away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

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