The Temple complex that Jesus knew had been expanded and extensively rebuilt by King Herod. It was considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world at that time. A covered colonnade or cloister, built of double columns of white marble and cedar beams, run around the entire perimeter. Many scholars believe the eastern colonnade, nearest the Mount of Olives that formed the principal entrance into the Outer Courts (Court of the Women), was called Solomon’s Porch. This colonnade provided much needed shade from the scorching Middle Eastern sun and formed useful gathering places for groups. It is believed that this was a popular place for Rabbis to teach and argue the merits of their teaching – groups regularly gathered to hear the various teachers and to debate.
Today’s reading takes place in the Temple Courts. Jesus is most probably in Solomon’s Porch, where the Rabbis would teach, explaining the scriptures to a gathered crowd. The Sanhedrin: the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders were looking for a way to arrest him but were afraid of causing a riot (Mark 11:27, 12:12) so instead, they send various factions to argue with Jesus and try to trip him up intellectually.
The first contingent raises the question of paying tribute to Caesar, knowing that Jesus would be in trouble with the crowds if he sided with Caesar and in danger from the authorities if he did not. Jesus was well aware of their intent and brilliantly diffuses the situation (v.15-17).
The second attack comes from the Sadducees, who construct a complex dilemma around the doctrine of resurrection. Again, Jesus silences them with brilliant wisdom. Thirdly, another expert in the Jewish law, debates Jesus over which of the commandments is the most important. Jesus has no trouble summarising the whole teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures down to the command to love God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbour as yourself.
3-Nil to Jesus and then, “No one dared ask him any more questions.” (12:34)
Jesus was in the place where crowds gathered to hear the best and most learned teachers, debate the big issues of the day. In our society today, where would that place be? Where do people go to find answers to the big issues they face? Where could the Church or individual Christians place themselves, to bring God’s light and wisdom to the burning questions of our day? Pray about those places of influence and for those who have opportunities to speak out. Ask the Lord to show you new ways that you can be an influencer for the Gospel in your daily life.