“Remaining firm in our faith and rendering absolute allegiance to the Lord, in order to oppose and fight against adverse and opposing factors in the world!”
(Based on 2 Pet 3:11-15, 17-18 and Mk 12:13-17)
The statement, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is a common phrase known to many of us.
Considered generally to be Arabic, this ancient proverb means that solely because two parties have a common enemy, they are friends.
There is also an identical Chinese proverb that says, “It is good to strike the serpent’s head with your enemy’s hand!”
A good example of this comes from World War II. The US and Great Britain were allied with the Soviet Union. Neither country was friendly with the USSR before the war and they would be enemies again soon afterwards. But during WWII, they were both enemies of Nazi Germany. Because the Soviets were the enemy of Hitler (an enemy of Britain and the US), they were considered friends of the US and Britain!
Even in nature, we have an example for this…
The Pilot fish, which are smaller fish, cleans parasites off larger predators like sharks. These smaller fish swim freely around the sharks and even inside the mouths of the sharks that could easily eat the small fish. Since the shark’s enemy is the parasite and the parasite’s enemy is the smaller fish, the shark considers the Pilot fish a friend and accommodates an otherwise potential food source.
The Gospel of the day presents a classical example of this canny ingenuity in human nature…
… and seeks to put Jesus, to the shame!
But the Lord of all wisdom and knowledge overcomes all such shrewd tactics and comes out a winner
…with flying colours.
The passage begins with the statement, “They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to ensnare Him in His speech” (Mk 12:13)
The “they” in the verse refers to the chief priests, the scribes and the elders (Mk 11: 27b)
This group had already been silenced by the Lord…
In questioning Jesus of His authority, they found themselves facing a tougher question from Jesus. (Mk 11: 27-33)
Jesus also told a parable of the Tenants in the vineyard, which alluded to their closed attitude to accept Him as the Messiah of their lives (Mk 12: 1-12)
This group of chief priests, scribes and the elders, went away…
… with hatred in their against Jesus
… with a mind to plot further against Jesus
So, they got together two opposing parties, in their scheme to oppose Jesus.
These two opposing parties were the Pharisees and the Herodians (Mk 12: 13)
Who are the Pharisees?
The Pharisees were primarily not a political party but a group of scholars and pious people. They enjoyed a large popular following, and in the Gospels, they appear as spokesmen for the majority of the population.
They hated the pagan Roman occupation of Israel.
Their hope was for a new Judas Maccabee who would arise and throw off the Roman empire.
Many of the common people embraced their patriotic message.
Who are the Herodians?
Their name came from King Herod, who was a half Jew and had made a made a political deal with the Romans.
The Herodians held political power, and supported King Herod Antipas, the Roman Empire’s ruler over much of the land of the Jews from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39.
The Herodians favoured submitting to the Herods, and therefore to Rome, for political pragmatism.
The Pharisees were obsessed with their religious traditions, while the Herodians had little religion at all.
Yet, when Jesus spoke and opposed both formalism and love of worldliness, these two groups came together in their opposition to Him!
And they trap Jesus with a very cunning question, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Mk 12: 14c)
If Jesus had said:
No, you should not pay taxes….
… that no true Israelite who loves God should willingly pay the tax as the Roman Coin with the image of Caesar and all of his titles claiming to be divine is blasphemous…
All of the common people would have said, “How godly man is He!”
… but Jesus would have been arrested for sedition and treason.
On the other side, if Jesus had said:
Yes, you should pay taxes….
… that it is not bad since the Roman empire brings stability and economic prosperity…
All of the common people would have abandoned Him saying, “He is a betrayer of God’s law!”
… Jesus would have been badly persecuted for misleading them from the path of God.
It was trouble either way…
But Jesus, the Lord of all wisdom and knowledge, found His way through the maze of human shrewdness by answering, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mk 12: 17)
Jesus said that what is most important in life is one’s supreme allegiance to God!
Political demands, social commitments, familial duties, communitarian stipulations all have their place and position…
But above all, what needs to be given the prime importance in one’s life is: Allegiance to God!
We live in times and situations wherein there are many forces and philosophies and thought-patterns, that join hands in opposing the teachings of Jesus and the Church.
Jesus is still an enemy to many of the truth-denying realities in the world.
The Church is still opposed by many of the immoral entities of the world.
Let us give heed to the words of St Peter who exhorts us:
“Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace….
… beware, lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 3:14, 17-18)
It is our duty to remain firm in our faith and render absolute allegiance to the Lord, in order to oppose and fight against such adverse and opposing factors in the world.
God Bless! Live Jesus!
Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “God requires a faithful fulfilment of the merest trifle given us to do…