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Chapter 14

He Teaches the Great Truth

The next morning as he and his twelve stalwart followers come to the temple court, activity is at its highest: the bleating of frightened animals soon to be killed for sacrifice, with the barnyard smells filling the air; the vendors of doves hurrying here and there; traders at the concessions crying their wares; priests in their abundant and richly coloured robes hurrying about; money-changers doing a thriving business, translating specie from many different provinces and countries into the temple coin; the Master and his followers in their provincial garb pushed or jostled or importuned to buy. Possibly someone is cheated by a moneychanger, or perhaps some poor woman with her scanty savings is overcharged for a pair of doves — whatever the immediate occasion, the prophet of Galilee is stirred and stirred deeply.

Then in a fury he overthrows the tables of the money-changers, and turns upon the different traffickers to drive them out of the temple court. ‘It is written, my house is the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.’

At any previous time, however deeply he might have been aroused, his method would have been that of gentle admonition. Such was the nature of the man. But now a change has come. A fire and a determination seem to burn in every act.

Is it part of a plan on his part to compel those who are seeking his arrest to make it? The news of his daring quickly spreads; he must inevitably hear from the temple authorities. That day and the next he and his followers make their way through various parts of the temple, attracting, even among the great throngs, more and more attention. He boldly teaches in the temple. He denounces with increasing violence the scribes and Pharisees and priests. He discusses whatever they will with excited priests, sent to trap him. They try to make an ally of the Roman authorities that they may trap him in a civil or political indiscretion or offence. The chief priests and the scribes and the elders even follow him at times as he walks through the temple.

They are getting continually more anxious. ‘And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not
give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said. unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.’ (Mark xii. 13-17.)

In various ways they again try repeatedly to trap him, but again in practically all cases they are trapped themselves. Sometimes it results in jeers from the crowd standing by and listening. They are getting continually more angry and desperate and determined. Here also occurs an incident which brings a masterful teaching universal and timeless in its content — the incident of the woman taken in adultery.

An expositor takes seven pages to elucidate it — a motion-picture producer might require seven reels. The real gist is this: ‘He among you that is without sin let him cast the first stone.’ A closely allied law pertaining to our common life would be: He alone that is perfect has the right to judge another. And no one is perfect. Were he perfect, he still would not judge another. Anyway, to judge another it would be necessary to have all the facts running back even to generations, and these no one ever has. The Master understood. He knew. ‘Go thy way and henceforth sin no more.’

Interesting things occurred one after another. His every move and act and saying seemed to be charged more than ever with: I must be about my Father’s business. Everything points to the fact that he realised his end was near. Some of his most salient teachings seem directed to clarify further and emphasise his great fundamental message, which during the previous months and years he had worked so hard to deliver.

Added statements, brilliant parables, pointed back to the Kingdom and centred around it but they more and more involved something to be done, rather than something merely to be received and believed. Men believing acted and, in acting, they were saved. Merely to believe is nothing. It gets one nowhere, unless it is followed by doing. It is thus that the truth makes one free.

His observation is keen. He sees everything; and he pours out many a lesson. ‘And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she

Another occasion, arising from the priestly group, gave him an opportunity for his greatest saying. Just what they had in mind on this occasion it is very hard to tell. A lawyer, an interpreter of the ecclesiastical code, stood up and asked the question: ‘Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

It seems almost as if Providence destined that this great affirmation should come during the last week of his life and ministry here. It was the most important thing of these last few days, even more important than his death; for it was primarily, we might say, to seal this fundamental thought into the thought and the life of the world that he willingly and eagerly gave his life. For our own good and our share in the good of the world we must return to it.

Time is passing, many things are happening, and the priestly authorities are getting desperate, They clearly see now that it is either his life or their authority and power — and living. They would either make a holiday of him or he would make a laughing-stock of them. The whole ecclesiastical system, with all its perquisites that it has taken years and even generations to build up, with all of its ramifications of tribute that flow in from many different sources, is being endangered.

The chief priests then ordered that he be taken and brought to them. They must have a sufficient charge, with sufficient evidence, however, and they dare not have him taken in public, lest his friends and followers and the friendly populace cry out against it and make a commotion which the Roman officials might be called upon to deal with.

They then resort to money in bargain with Judas, whom they find with an eye to business. They make a compact that he will lead them and their officers to some secret place, under cover of darkness, where Jesus may be taken and in this way avoid the risk of any public protest or tumult. Of the twelve, Judas seems the most worldly minded, the most actuated by a sense of personal gain, and the most discontented with the outcome of three years’ association with the Master. The wait is not long.


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