The holiday season should be marked with joy, the warmth of relationships, and special times with those close to us. That’s certainly what we expect and hope for. Some of you will experience much of this ideal. For others, it is far from reality. What do we do when our loved ones are far away or we are overwhelmed with the pressures of life or we are carrying sadness that doesn’t disappear just because the calendar says December?
While there are no easy answers, there are some truths that I’ve found meaningful for myself.
Take Time: In the midst of the busyness or sadness or loneliness, would you take time to step aside and join Mary in “pondering all these things”? Intentionally walk a little slower. Intentionally savor the gift of Jesus who walks with us. I’m not very good at this myself, but one of my long-term prayers has been “Teach me to live a quiet, unhurried, relational life.” It’s something that I’ll keep praying until it’s fully a reality in my unruly soul. Instead of pushing on by yourself, step aside and open your heart to the reality of Christ.
Embrace Longing: Recognize that longings are a gift reminding us that there are better and richer and deeper things than what we are experiencing today. Turn the longings of your heart into prayers that you lift to the Father. If you long for peace, ask for it for yourself and the people that God has called you to serve. If you long for relationship, ask that he would give you friends and that He would be your Friend. Recognize that it is less broken to long for what should be than to be satisfied with lesser things or simply not to long at all.
Delight in Jesus: The snow may not be falling outside our windows this month. Our tables may be sadly empty. Christmas may be marked with pain and sadness and loneliness. Yet we do have a reason for a persistent, fierce hope. Christ has become flesh and makes his home with us. Come to the manger with all that you are and all that you have been carrying. In that place, speak to the Incarnate Son about the deep desires of your heart. Ask Him to carry the burdens that you cannot carry. And then rest in that place as you see the Hope of the Ages in the face of the Son.
Holy Jesus, there are burdens that we carry. There are also fears that we do not speak. We come to you.
There are unfilled desires that you have given. There are also pursuits and ambitions that are not from you. We come to you.
You have placed in our hearts a love for the lost, but that love often grows dim, and even when it burns, that love itself does not give us life. We come to you.
Fill our hearts until the darkness becomes light. Fill our lives till our brokenness gives way to life. Fill this world until those you have loved come to know your love.
We come to you and we eagerly wait for your final coming.
Written by: E.M.
Do you feel connected to your church? If you say “yes,” you probably have close friendships with numerous individuals within your congregation. These relationships – especially those which span generational gaps – are one of the defining factors between you and those who feel disconnected from their churches. A study by the Barna Group showed that “seven out of ten millennials who dropped out of church did not have a close friendship with an adult and nearly nine out of ten never had a mentor at the church.”
Mentorship is a key to unlocking meaningful community, but it doesn’t only create community. Mentorship also produces personal growth and empowers others. Because of these benefits, every Christian needs a mentor, and every grounded Christian needs to be a mentor.
What is mentorship?
Mentorship is a relationship between a mentor and a mentee. This relationship allows the mentee to process and discuss life decisions with someone who has more experience. It doesn’t need to follow a certain formula. You don’t even need to call it “mentoring” if that seems too formal. Mentorship can simply be getting together and discussing the things that the mentee truly cares about. Keep in mind that a good mentoring relationship requires vulnerability – for both parties involved. One of my mentors intentionally creates opportunities for vulnerability by asking how he can pray for me, then also telling me ways that I can pray for him.
Is mentorship in the Bible?In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul tells Timothy to take what he was teaching him and share it with other men who would then be able to share it with others. Older women are instructed to teach younger women in Titus 2:2-6. While the word “mentoring” doesn’t appear in Scripture, we have examples such as Eli and Samuel, Moses and Joshua, Jesus and His disciples, Barnabas and Saul, Paul and Timothy, and others which show us that Scripture places value in mentoring.
How do you choose a mentor?
Luke 6:40 tells us that “everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Who do you want to be like? If you look around and don’t see anyone whose life you want to imitate 100%, don’t despair. Mentors are still growing more and more into the image of Christ too. Look for a Christ-centered person with excellent character, not necessarily someone who thinks exactly the same as you do or who values all the same things that you do.
How do you choose a mentee?
There are a lot of people who don’t have mentors, but you probably can’t mentor all of them. To help you decide whom you should mentor, ask yourself the following questions:
Should you really be a mentor?
I’m making the claim that every grounded Christian needs to be a mentor. Maybe you are questioning if you are at the place where you need to be in order to help guide someone else. Try asking yourself the following questions:
Does a mentor need to be older than the mentee?
Scripture seems to suggest that there are times when the mentor can be younger than the mentee. It is likely that eleven of the twelve disciples were less than twenty years old during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Acts 2:41-42 tells us that three thousand new converts all devoted themselves to the teaching of these young disciples. Paul instructs Timothy not to allow people to reject him because of his young age, but rather to be an example to all the believers. While it’s generally better if the mentor is older than the mentee, spiritual maturity is more important than age.
Whose job is it to start the mentoring relationship?
Intentional mentorship is something I never experienced until I was nineteen years old. It wasn’t that I didn’t think it was a good idea before then or that I didn’t want to be mentored. The problem was that no one had ever asked if they could mentor me. Since then, in talking to people both young and old about mentorship, I have realized a trend. There are a lot of older people who would be willing to mentor someone, but they aren’t mentoring anyone. No one has approached them. I also have found many younger people who would love to have a mentor, but they are waiting for someone older to initiate the relationship.
Whose job is it? The answer is simple. It’s yours. The responsibility does not fall on only the mentors or on the mentees – it rests on each individual.
So go ahead. Find some people who you want to be like and ask them if you can pull wisdom from their experience. Keep your eyes open for people in whom you see potential. Step up and begin to build strong community, one relationship at a time.
Written by Matt Jantzi. Originally published on Radi-Call, a blog committed to "Calling Young Anabaptists Back to The Root."
 “5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church,” Barna Group, accessed August 08, 2018, https://www.barna.com/research/5-reasons-millennials-stay-connected-to-church/.
 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 2007, 2011.
 Luke 6:12-13
 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 2007, 2011.
 See Exodus 30:13-14 and Matthew 17:24-27
 1 Timothy 4:12
You see a link to an interesting article and “click.” The page quickly loads, and to your dismay, all you see is line after line of text. It’s 8 point font, Times New Roman, and stretches from edge to edge across your screen. Your interest quickly disappears and you move on to the next exciting headline.
Sometimes we’re like that writer. We fill our days with 8 point text, with little attention to focus, and no room for margin. Each day, we turn the page in the story of our lives and find yet another page jam-packed with activities and to-dos. Our time seems to disappear even before we start our day. We just don’t have time to do everything.
Or do we?
Ironically, time is the world’s only resource that has been distributed equally. Every person, from CEO to field worker, has 24 hours in a given day. You cannot save time in a bank nor can you borrow time in advance. Time cannot be sped up or slowed down. It passes one second at a time, and then it’s gone, never to be used again.
At twenty-six years of age, statistics indicate that I have another fifty-two years to live. That’s comforting, at least right now. However, in another twenty-six years, I’ll be well past my mid-life crisis and will wonder where the time went.
Billy Graham recognized our tendency as young adults to disregard the brevity of time.
“If someone had told me when I was twenty years old that life was very short and would pass – just like that – I wouldn’t have believed it. And if I tell you that, you don’t believe it either. I cannot get young people to understand how brief life is, how quickly it passes.” 
So on one hand, we live as if there were no tomorrow. On the other hand, we live as if we have all of a lifetime before us. This combination steals today of its joys and tomorrow of its effectiveness.
Lately, God has been teaching me some important lessons about time. Yesterday was a prime example. I started out my day with a phone call that cut into my college study time. I was determined to make up for the lost study time later in the day, but that never happened. To my embarrassment I forgot a scheduled appointment, which then caused me to get started at work fifteen minutes late.
On days like yesterday, I need to be reminded that God has given us enough time to do His will. He will never give us a task without providing the resources that we need to complete it. This does not mean that everything will go as we planned. There will be times that we plan our ways and then He redirects our steps. However, we can always be sure of one thing: God has a purpose for our life on earth, and that means He has a purpose for the very minute that we are living right now.
Jesus lived His short life surrounded by endless ministry opportunities. He gave of His time and energy without reserve, from dawn until dusk, but there were always more people, more opportunities, and more needs. Israel was still a needy place when Jesus came to the end of His three-year tenure. However, He could confidently say, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4, NKJV).
Jesus didn’t meet every need, but He did finish the will of His Father.
Something else that I am learning is the importance of focus. When we say, “I don’t have enough time,” we are really admitting that we’ve taken a wrong turn. Either we are trying to do something that God has not called us to do, or we are not using our time wisely.
Focus is simply investing our time wisely, and that is only getting harder as the years go by. Google earned 110 billion dollars last year from advertisers willing to pay for our attention. Facebook grew from a small college-based project into a company worth 571 billion dollars after figuring out how to capture large chunks of our time. Telemarketers want our time. Salesmen want our time. It’s a valuable resource, and you and I get to decide how we use it.
No matter what stage of life we are in, there will always be plenty of ways to use our time. That is why we must learn “to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, NKJV). We must ask ourselves, “What is God calling me to focus on? What are my priorities?”
Perhaps the greatest mind shift for me has been embracing rest. I recently read the book “Reset” by David Murray. All throughout the book, he uses the analogy of a car in a repair bay. Murray points out that we, like cars, must be taken care of in order to run well. We must keep our tank full and our engine oiled. Otherwise, we will not be able to make it from point A to point B.
Our ability (or inability) to rest goes beyond our physical health. It directly affects our relationship with God. Murray puts it well:
“God designed this pattern of six days of work and one day of rest for perfect people in a perfect world. How much more do we need it now in such fallen bodies in such a fallen world? This is a divine gift for our good, as Jesus said: ‘The Sabbath was made for man’ (Mark 2:27). It’s needed now more than ever before, considering that in the last twenty years working hours in the United States have increased 15 percent and leisure has decreased 30 percent.” 
As Anabaptists, we’re known for our strong work ethic. From little on up, we’ve learned to carry our own share of the load, to do the hard things and reap the rewards. Family men work 60-80 hours a week, pastors run their own business while shepherding their congregation, and wives garden, can, homeschool, sew their own clothes, help out on the farm, and raise 5-10 children all at once. But have we learned to rest well?
How about you?
Over the past year, God has been stretching and growing me in my use of time. I have to keep reminding myself that I do have enough time – no, not enough time for every opportunity that comes my way, but enough time to finish the will of my Father. I need to focus on what’s important in life and ask God to show me what’s important to Him. I have to remind myself to rest, both physically and spiritually. That means being like Mary and sitting at Jesus’ feet, even when there are plenty of “to do’s” on my list and a Martha breathing down my back.
How about you? What are some things that you have learned about how you use your time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
--Written by: I.M.
One thing that I really look forward to as we begin our time of furlough every three years is spending some time at a small par-three golf course just outside of Dover, Delaware. This morning, August 7th, I visited Par-Three and in the Delaware heat and humidity enjoyed my first round of golf in nearly three years.
It was summer six years ago when my sons and I were on this small, deteriorating but cheap, par-three golf course. As we played from one green to the next I observed the owner (who owns several golf courses) sitting on a bench looking over the course with a troubled look on his face. As we played by the place he was sitting I walked over to him and thanked him for making this place available to folks like us who cannot justify paying the high prices that fancy golf courses charge.
Three years ago, I was again playing on the course but there was a marked improvement in the quality of the course. The owner was there again and I told him how much improvement I saw as I played around the golf course. He looked at me and his face brightened as he asked if I remembered the conversation we had three years earlier. He then shared how he had been contemplating closing the course for several reasons, but when I came to him with words of gratitude he decided to refocus, do what it would take to get the course into better condition and remain open to the public.
Now, I visited the course again. The course was beautiful. As I sat re-hydrating in the shade outside the office I was amused as a group of senior citizens came through bantering with each other and laughing. One of the long-time employees walked up to me and asked if I remembered the conversation I had with Rick (the owner) years earlier. I replied, “Yes, and the place is beautiful today.”
A word of gratitude can be so helpful when one is struggling. This summer as we mingled with folks at BMA Convention, I was encouraged by how often someone approached and said thank you for serving. A simple expression of gratitude left me eager to continue. Does God desire my pure and simple gratitude?
Had I approached Rick with suggestions on how he could improve Par Three (and I could have given some suggestions) I wonder if he might have chosen to quit. The truth is that he knew what needed to be done. He needed someone to show appreciation and gratitude. My gratitude did not cause the changes that were needed. What my gratitude did was encourage the one who could implement good improvements.
How frequently I express gratitude to manipulate God or others so that my requests might be more easily received. I also know the dread I feel when I think someone is complimenting or thanking me just to set me up for advice or suggestions and how hurtful and artificial the former compliments feel.
Psalms 106:1 "Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!"
Psalms 107:1 "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! "
Yes, God wants to hear my requests! However, I do not give gratitude to God because I want to manipulate Him to do what I want. I am grateful to Him for who He is and for what He has already done for me. He is good, and His steadfast love endures forever.
--Written by D.T.
“But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, KJV).
I remember when I was younger (as in six years ago), I had a mountain of dreams and self-ambitions. I wanted to be fast, I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be good at singing, guitar, tennis, baseball, and volleyball. And I always thought that if I really dug deep inside, I would find the part of me that was capable of holding people spellbound with my music, or impressing them by tracking a speeding baseball through the air and bringing it to rest in my glove with an all-out diving catch.
Now that I’m old, compared to that fifteen year-old version of myself, I realize the shallowness of some of those desires and the errors in my method of realizing them. But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped dreaming and goal setting. On the contrary, there are many different areas where I want to improve. Some of those areas where I see the need for progress include prayer, patience, fluency in Spanish, and discernment.
One and a half years ago I came to Mexico to care for abused children. And there are not many things about me that haven’t changed since that key event. Qualities that I viewed as “nice” and “something I could probably improve on” suddenly became mandatory, a matter of success or failure. But my method of “trying to find the patient part of me” was not working well.
I knew that God wanted me to become a better disciple of His and that some of the things I desired were qualities which all His followers should develop. Take, for example, what Paul wrote to Timothy, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Timothy 6:11, KJV). However, I wasn’t sure how to just BE that more patient, prayerful, and godly person that my children needed. So I just did my best day by day to care for my children with my heart and with my actions.
And God began to show me the principle of Mathew 6:33. As I sought God’s kingdom in the hearts of my kids, God began to add to me the things that I needed. As I focused on making the boy who sleeps above me an important part of my life, it became easier and easier to remember to pray for him. As I allowed the small one with the constantly moving hands to burrow deeper and deeper into my heart, I realized that my prayers on his behalf started to come from the same place. As the well-being of my children became more important to me than my own comfort, I found that patient and godly actions came easier than before.
Now I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me, I’m still a selfish and proud individual. But, by God’s grace, I now have another weapon, another principle to use on my behalf. And I believe this principle is instrumental for anyone who wants to grow as a Christian.
It is nearly impossible to grow spiritually if you are focused on yourself. You will not grow in love unless you practice it on the people in your life. You will not grow in patience until you learn to care for THAT person who requires patience. And you will not grow in righteousness until you care about not hurting Christ and His followers with your sin.
This is why Satan loves to tell us that we should not worry about others until we’ve fixed all of our own problems. He knows that if we never focus on others, we will never have anything but problems. Trying to grow without practicing on others reminds me of a game I saw in a science museum. Two people would sit across from each other at the table with brainwave-reading headsets on. The headsets measured the waves emitted from the brain while relaxing. And whoever “relaxed” the hardest, won. But the more you focused on the game, the less progress you made.
And I’ve been there. The harder I tried to fix my problems, the less progress I made. So, I realize that the probability of you learning something from the life experience of a twenty-one year-old is quite minimal. But I hope that this can serve as a reminder. If God has shown you an area that you are weak in, find someone that you can invest into in that area and I believe God will build back into you through those efforts.
Take the initiative! Find that way that you can build God’s kingdom, leave yourself behind, and God will add to you what is necessary.
--Written by: C.Y.
Through the centuries, Christians have been encouraged and mystified by the concept of God’s work in relation to our work as humans who bear His image. An extreme example is the mindset that William Carey encountered when he shared with a group of ministers the need to take the Gospel to the heathen. One minister told him, "Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he'll do it without consulting you or me."
Exodus 14 gives us insight on the issue of God’s part in relation to our part. The Israelites were trapped, with the Red Sea before them and the army of the world's superpower behind. Then God told Moses something quite intriguing:
“As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it…
“As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh...
“Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen.”
Exodus 14:16-18 (NASU, emphasis added)
Moses was made in God’s likeness, so of course he had a job to do–and a God-sized job at that–to divide the Red Sea! Moses was so powerless to accomplish that but he had already learned the lesson of doing things God’s way with His tools (ie. a staff).
And what job did God specify only for Himself? The job of working in the heart of humans. Who, in their right mind–after those ten terrible plagues–would dare go into a sea with walls of water on the left and right (v. 22)? Yet God did an amazing miracle in their hearts.
God did two types of miracles here. He worked a miracle in the natural realm of creation–the dividing of the sea was Moses’ work. And yet we know that even this could only be done by God’s presence and power, symbolized by the staff.
God also worked a miracle in the spiritual, unseen realm, and this was done directly by the hand of God. He did the work of changing hearts (this time a hardening). This work in the unseen realm of the human heart was actually the greater work and, I feel, brings most glory to Him.
How does this apply to us in DNI today? We have a part to do. We must rely on the Lord’s presence and power. But like Moses' staff, our tools look very ordinary. Two of our tools are prayer (includes abiding in His presence) and sharing the truth about Jesus with people.
As we use these tools, the Lord will work miracles in the natural realm. He may heal sickness, give special confirmations through circumstances, and even deliver from demonic powers. But these are “lesser” miracles. Do not set your heart on them. As for the Lord, His special part is to change the hearts of humans. And in the New Covenant we find amazing stories of how He softens and opens hearts in repentance. This is the greater work. Set your heart and soul to see hearts changed into Jesus’ likeness!
As we do our part with God’s seemingly ordinary tools, like prayer and speaking, God does His special work in the heart, and He will bring lasting honor to His name as He did at the Red Sea. People will know and experience in their heart that Jesus is Lord.
--Written by: B.S.
The question I was attempting to answer was, “Summarize your personal life and ministry over the past three months. Share both ups and downs, positives and negatives.” How do you even start to try to answer a question like that? Part of my response was this, “I feel like these months have been somewhat months of reprieve for us." We didn't have a lot that absolutely had to be done, and we had a very hard end of 2017, struggling deeply on a personal level. So to have a few months with less pressing was very refreshing. In some ways we are still very much struggling, but in other ways we are very healthy again. God is taking such good care of us. Sometimes we struggle anyway.
The response is what has set me to pondering. My friend wrote back, "That is life to some degree till we get 'home.' I am grateful you have felt some refreshment.” So this is life till I get home? What a good reminder for me--I’m not home yet!
Since that little snippet of wisdom some months ago, I’ve been thinking about what defines a good day. So often I wish for “good days.” But if I’m just passing through this world, what really defines a good day? Colossians 3:2 tells me, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth" (NKJV). So shouldn’t I measure my days in that light, not in the light of what I can see physically?
What if I get home exhausted, tired because my relationships with the people around me take work? It seems to me that I’m having a bad day, because these things make me tired and don’t feel nice! But, if I set my mind on things above, maybe I’ll remember the great commandment, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31, NKJV). If I set my mind on things above, I remember my Lord’s command, and remember to be obedient! In that obedience a “bad” day can become good!
That is only one example, but what I have been realizing is that I need to define my days as good or bad not by how I feel about them, but through the lens of eternity and the truth of the Bible. If I have lived my day in obedience to God by the power of the Spirit, that is a good day. When I serve my family, when I love my wife by laying down my “rights” for her, when I pursue resolution amidst difficult relationships, when I make disciples of Jesus Christ, that is a good day. And if I end my day with a headache and feel discouraged, I can rest in peace, knowing that I had a good day.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV).
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness...” (2 Peter 3:10-11, NKJV).
Are you having a good day?
--Written by B.B.
One afternoon, we were sitting in a park with people of our focus group all around us, but not with us. My wife remorsefully shared that it had been awhile since she had a good discussion with them. Days and weeks are one thing. But to go months without a good discussion is just hard! This field can be difficult. How can we reach these people for the LORD?!!
Later that afternoon I read John 4:35-38,
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
At times I lament to the Lord, "Where are the white fields here?" However, the white fields and the concept of sowing and reaping are directly intertwined.
A couple weeks ago it was Holocaust Remembrance Day. A few days later, a friend and I set up a Bible stand on the sidewalk, which may have been naive. An older Jewish man approached us and when he found out we were Christians, he became very angry. With tears of anger in his eyes, he erupted, “You don’t know your history!" He went on to explain, "I am from Lithuania. Do you know what happened there? Before the Germans invaded, the Catholics, good Catholics, just started killing the Jews.” Then came the part that cut into my heart, and into the heart of anyone who longs for another’s salvation, “All Christians are Nazis!”
Is this what it means to “sow in tears?”
Another time a middle aged lady came to our stand and wanted a Tanach (Old Testament) for her nephew and a New Testament for herself. When we made sure she knew that the materials were about the Messiah Jesus, she said with a serious sort of smile, “I want to read it for myself.” Then she slipped off without giving us a chance to exchange contact information.
While I was doing a job for a Jewish couple, the Lord opened up the door to share the Gospel with the wife. After listening to the presentation she said, “Do you hear bad things about Jewish people? (Implying from our church) Not everyone likes Jewish people.”
We met a dear family about three years ago in Illinois. We had many good interactions with them, involving questions like, “Could Jesus really be God?” Friends of ours who currently live in Illinois were also able to meet them. Good questions and an invitation to a Shabbat meal followed.
I often reap seeds sown by the enemy of our souls. At times it takes discipline to not dwell on the negative and to REJOICE IN WHAT GOD IS DOING! Too quickly I get discouraged when I try to throw in the sickle for a good harvest, only to have the sickle bounce off with accusations like, “You’re a Nazi!”, or to pick one of the many lies that have been planted through false brethren. I so easily forget that the fields have been in the enemy’s hands for way too long without the King’s workers laboring in them.
Is your field hard? Keep pressing on! It’s high time we get about our Lord’s work of planting good seed!
--Written by a DNI worker.
Do you wish you could join an intentional group of young people, led by an experienced, caring couple? Why not check out the opportunities that the Voluntary Missions Board offers?
One day, the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17, NKJV) This was a loaded question. If He would answer, “No you don’t have to,” He could be accused of usurping the Roman government. If He answered, “Yes, you really should,” He would be viewed as supporting the Roman government, which would come across as betraying the Jewish nation. They wanted to trap Him.
“But Jesus perceived their wickedness and said, ‘Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money’” (vs. 18-19a). He asks whose image is on the coin and they reply that it has Caesar’s inscription. He goes on to instruct them to give to Caesar that which belongs to him, and to God that which belongs to God.
He skillfully sidestepped a political question and cut to the heart. He avoided the stated question while answering the more important question: What do I owe to whom? His answer: Give taxes to whom it is due, but more importantly, give God that which belongs to Him.
Seeing that the Pharisees were unsuccessful at trapping Jesus, the Sadducees decided to take a stab. Matthew precedes the question with a brief commentary. These are the religious leaders “who say there is no resurrection” (vs. 23).
They ask the question with a short, yet tragic, story. A woman had a husband. He died and his brother took the widow as his wife to raise up offspring for the deceased brother. This happened seven times. Now the question, “Whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her” (vs. 28).
Jesus starts out by answering their stated question: She won’t be married to any of the men, because in heaven there is no marriage.
But Jesus doesn’t stop with that. He goes on to address their heart question: Does the resurrection really exist? Quoting the Torah, He points out that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died a long time ago. Although their physical bodies have deteriorated, Jehovah is their God, so they must have a spirit that continues living. “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (vs. 32).
The multitudes were astonished at His teaching. His authority and skill were unmatched.
That wasn’t the end of His interrogation. The Pharisees put forward a lawyer to ask a question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (vs. 36) Again, the question is not as simple as it appears. Out of the many commandments that God had given through Moses--along with the many other laws to ensure no one broke the God-given laws--there were many to choose from. No matter which commandment He would choose, they were sure to come back with, “But what about this law? Or what about that? Aren't these just as important?”
As we already know, Jesus quotes, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (vs. 37-40).
In very few words, Jesus answers their question while cutting to the heart. It’s not about simply obeying the letter of each law. It’s about why you obey to begin with! Obedience flows out of love for God, which will ultimately result in love for one’s neighbor. Every law hangs on these two concepts.
Jesus ends the interrogation by asking them a question. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” (vs. 42) He already knew what they believed, but He asked the question anyway to challenge their preconceived ideas.
“The Son of David,” they replied.
He came right back with a well-known quote from the Psalms.
"How then does David in the Spirit call Him 'Lord,' saying:
'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand,
till I make Your enemies Your footstool" ' ?
"If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He His Son?" (vs. 43-45)
He pushed them to wrestle with the most important question: Who is Jesus? Their arguments were silenced and their consciences were pricked. As I meditate on this passage, I long to have more spiritual wisdom to look past the questions people ask and to see the real questions their hearts are wrestling with. This leads me to look more closely at how Jesus responded in each of the situations above.
He looked for the intent behind the questions. Jesus saw politics in the question about taxes. Right away, He knew it was a trap, but He still didn’t turn them away.
He looked beyond the intent and addressed the heart issue. Jesus answered their question about marriage in heaven, but He went even further. He saw their real question was about the resurrection and He focused on that issue instead.
He turned their religious questions towards relationship. The Pharisees’ question about the most important law was a religious one. Jesus answered their question but pointed out that the law is really all about relationships. It’s about loving God above all and loving others out of love for Him.
He pushed people to wrestle with the question: Who is Jesus? And so must we. May God give us skill to become more like Jesus in our daily interactions. May we have discerning hearts and bold lips to answer and ask the important questions, just as Jesus did.
--Written by I.M.