Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. (Mark 12:13)
I think it’s fair to say that when I first looked at this week’s passage my response was, “This is hard. I don’t really understand what’s going on.” Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, and Scribes all come to Jesus with questions. Some questions are meant to trap Jesus, to “catch him in his words.” One genuinely seems to come from wanting to understand where Jesus stands on a particular issue. They’re difficult questions, but Jesus has answers to all of them. He answers each question with wisdom and insight. He knows the motivation behind each question and yet answers with sincerity.
As a pastor or church leader, I think it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking we need to know all the answers. But, the reality is, we don’t. We don’t have all the answers. We are not Jesus. It’s okay for me to struggle to understand this passage this week. It’s okay if I don’t understand the questions being asked of Jesus, let alone his response. For me, it’s only Monday. I still have the rest of the week to dig deeper into the passage, seeking wisdom from other scripture passages and theologians. And even if, by the end of the week, I still don’t fully understand the passage, I have not failed. God calls us to engage His word, to wrestle with it. Those coming to Jesus did the same, even if they didn’t necessarily agree with or like Jesus’ teaching. The response of the scribe makes this clear. Jesus answers his question about which commandment is the greatest, and he responds with these words:
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33)
The scribe agrees with Jesus’ teaching. But, you can tell from these verses that others disagree. There are different understandings and schools of thought on which is the greatest commandment (or more likely, the second greatest). They came to these conclusions through studying God’s word, by wrestling with it. If these biblical scholars, who spent their lives trying to understand God’s word, didn’t have all the answers, I think it’s safe to say it’s okay if I don’t either. God will continue to work in my heart, continue to open my eyes, continue to give me wisdom and understanding. I may not understand everything that’s going on in this week’s passage today, or even later this week, but God will continue to make it clear to me if I continue the work of study and prayer.
Do you ever struggle when you don’t understand a scripture passage?
Where do you go to gain more insight?