After his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus spent the next few days confronting the religious leaders in the Jewish Temple. At night, he would exit the Golden Gate and return to Bethany to rest with his disciples.
It was in the Temple that Jesus delivered some powerful lessons to the growing crowds – always in earshot of the increasingly panicky and paranoid religious authorities…
One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.”
He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from.
And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Luke 20:1-8)
At one point, the religious leaders used spies to work into the crowd and catch Jesus in a trap – something that would put him at odds with the Roman governor.
They asked, “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Luke 20:21)
They were trying to get Jesus to decry the oppressive Roman tax system as Roman soldiers lurked nearby. They figured Jesus would seize upon the opportunity to build popular appeal with his Jewish audience. The Gospel of Luke continues:
But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. (Luke 20:23-26)
We can’t be sure what coin Jesus used in this often quoted Gospel text, but it is presumed to be a Roman denarius, since it has the image of Roman Emperor Tiberius on it — and he was emperor at that time.
On a final occasion, the Pharisees gathered together to come up with a question that would stop Jesus in his tracks. One of them, a lawyer, asked him the following as the ultimate test… “Teacher, which commandment is the most important of all?”
Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Incredibly, Jesus wrapped the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures – the massive amount of religious laws and prophetic teachings handed down over the centuries — into one Great Commandment: “Love God and Love Others.”
The Gospel of Mark tells us, “After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.”