In today’s Gospel reading in the Lectionary (Mark 11:27-33) we read of how the Scribes tried to trap Jesus:
And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:27-33 ESV)
It’s easy to be self-righteous and indignant as we read of yet another trap set by those who oppose and fear Jesus.
But, in his prayer for Holy Tuesday today at Heavenward blog, Pastor Scotty Smith reflects on the fact that we too were once enemies of Christ. It’s a powerful prayer of confession and thanksgiving that brings this portion of the Lectionary alive for me today.
Dear Lord Jesus, everything about Holy Week reveals the riches of your mercy for sinful, broken people, just like me. The tears you wept coming into Jerusalem, the anger you showed driving money changers from the temple—every encounter, parable, and action underscore Paul’s words…
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8).
Jesus, with no hesitation I gladly affirm, Paul was writing about me with those words. I’m one of the powerless, ungodly sinners for whom you died. Your death on the cross is the indisputable demonstration of God’s incomparable, irrepressible, indefatigable love for me—the rebel, fool and idolater that I am. I wasn’t God’s darling when you reconciled me to him through your death on the cross; I was his enemy (Rom. 5:10). May I never believe otherwise.
I would still be blind to the only thing that can bring peace if you hadn’t opened my eyes to see my need for you and your death for me. The gospel would still remain hidden from my eyes unless you’d given me sight to see you as the Lamb of God—the one who, alone, could take away my sin.
I have no right to sneer at a single Pharisee, Sadducee, priest, teacher of the law, or anyone else who tried to trick or trap you during Holy Week. I am just as worthy of judgment as any of them.