The Chief Priests, Teachers of the Law and Elders have thus far lost every challenge they made to Jesus’ legitimate authority (Mark 11:27-33). They still did not realize that it was they who were on trial, not Jesus. They sent Pharisees – who were the legal sharks, and Herodians – who were political supporters of Rome to try to trap Jesus in His words so they could arrest Him (Mark 12:12). They were, in effect, lawyering up.
We’ve all seen the stereotypical trial lawyers and slick politicians in the media – the ones who make you feel like you need a shower just from being exposed to their false flattery & deceptive techniques. These Pharisees and Herodians were just such people.
They begin, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the law of God in accordance with the truth.” (Mark 12:14)
With flattery like that, just about anyone would get at least a little puffed up and proud – even if only momentarily. They honored Him by calling Him “Teacher”. They emphasize Jesus’ integrity. Finally, they pretend to sincerely appeal to His wisdom and truthfulness in His teaching the way of God.
Disarming? Engaging? Alluding? That’s exactly what the Pharisees and Herodians were attempting. Do you think they believed a single word of what they were saying? Certainly not! If they did, they would have been reverent, and would probably not be there at all.
They slipped their question in at the end: “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Mark 12:14-15), hoping that Jesus might give a “populist”, boastful or even offhanded response to live up to the flowery words they used to build Him up. I’m sure they had their cell phones on speed dial to call on the Temple Guards to arrest Jesus as soon as He incriminated Himself.
But they were disappointed.
Not only did Jesus not incriminate Himself, He called them out in their deception, and still answered them (Mark 12:15) – but not in the way they had hoped.
Jesus’ response was consistent with His teaching to this point, and advanced it to a practical application. We can learn a lot from a study of His response, and readers should delve into that on their own.
For now, we should all consider how we fall prey to those who have “lawyered up” and attempted to trap us in our words, when we encounter such circumstances, we must remember that our pride will be our own destruction.