Thursday, August 2, 2018
The Four Questions
By Dan and Brenda Cathcart
Moed Ministries International
Video version of this teaching available at:
Scripture reading for this teaching is Mark 11:27-12:37
As the Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread approached, Yeshua enters the temple for perhaps the last time before His crucifixion. On the previous day, He went into the temple and threw out the moneychangers whose job was to exchange Roman coins for approved coins so the people could bring their annual temple tax and offerings. He threw out the merchants whose job was to provide acceptable animals for sacrifices and offerings. Then, He spent the remainder of the day teaching in the temple courts.
On this day, Yeshua would be challenged over His authority to clean out the temple and teach in the temple courts. After meeting this challenge, Yeshua would be tested with three questions and then, return the favor by asking a question of His own. These four questions will address God’s kingdom, power, and glory.
Yeshua was confronted by the Jewish authorities as soon as they saw Him in the temple.
Mark 11:27-28 NKJV 27 Then they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him. 28 And they said to Him, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?"
From our point of view as believers in Yeshua as the Son of God, the answer to who gave Yeshua His authority is obvious; it comes from God the Father. However, these authorities are asking a legitimate question. The Levites under the High priest were the ones who had authority over the temple. God was the one who directly gave this authority to the Levites in Numbers 18:2-4.
Numbers 18:2-4 NKJV 2 "Also bring with you your brethren of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may be joined with you and serve you while you and your sons are with you before the tabernacle of witness. 3 "They shall attend to your needs and all the needs of the tabernacle; but they shall not come near the articles of the sanctuary and the altar, lest they die-they and you also. 4 "They shall be joined with you and attend to the needs of the tabernacle of meeting, for all the work of the tabernacle; but an outsider shall not come near you.
Yeshua’s actions were not without precedent however. After the temple was rebuilt, the high priest Eliashib, conspired with one of the Levites to use one of the storerooms in the temple complex for Tobiah’s own personal use. Nehemiah acts swiftly to remove this desecration of God’s House by God’s priesthood and Levitical servants!
Nehemiah 13:7-9 NKJV 7 and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. 8 And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. 9 Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.
As for Yeshua’s authority to teach in the temple, just like today, there were established procedures and licenses for being able to call oneself a rabbi or teacher of the law. Alfred Edersheim in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah describes the ordination process.
Although we have not any description of the earliest mode of ordination, the very name – Samikah – implies the imposition of hands. Again, in the oldest record, reaching up, no doubt, to the time of Christ, the presence of at least three ordained persons was required for ordination.[i]
Yeshua’s authority, of course, came from God, but John the Baptist through the Holy Spirit publically “ordained” Yeshua. Yeshua referred to this ordination.
Mark 11:29-30 NKJV 29 But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: 30 "The baptism of John--was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me."
Since the Jewish authorities had rejected John but the people had embraced him, they didn’t know how to respond without getting themselves in trouble with the people. So, they refused to take a position. They came away unable to refute Yeshua’s right to clean the temple or to teach in it!
Although they were foiled in their attempts to question Yeshua’s standing as a rabbi or teacher of the Torah, the authorities were determined to discredit Yeshua. They began to question Him on points of the Torah that could be politically or doctrinally explosive. In other words, they examined His understanding and practice of Torah.
This leads us to the commandments and traditions of the Passover sacrifice. At the first Passover, God instructed that that lamb for the Passover be chosen four days before the Passover and that it be without blemish. Starting in Exodus 12 verse 3, and then skipping to verses 5 and 6:
Exodus 12:3 NKJV 3 "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.
Exodus 12:5-6 NKJV 5 'Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 'Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.
The understanding of this passage is that part of the reason the lamb was to be chosen four days before the Passover was so that it could be closely examined to make sure that it did not have any blemish. Yeshua, as our Passover lamb, is now submitting Himself to this same examination.
The number four shows up repeatedly in the Passover traditions beginning with the four stages of redemption marked off by the phrase “I will” with the last “I will” a repetition and emphasis of the fourth “I will.”
Exodus 6:6-7 NKJV 6 "Therefore say to the children of Israel: 'I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 'I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
Three of these stages refer to bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt while the fourth stage refers to God bringing them into covenant with Him. The redemption process is not complete until God takes them as His people.
Each of these stages is marked by a cup of wine giving us four cups of wine. There are four types of sons described in the Seder and four questions asked about the Passover in the Seder. There are four commandments or mitzvot carried out by observing the Seder, that of eating matzah, eating the bitter herbs, telling the story, and drinking the cups. There are three matzah placed in the matzah cover one of which is broken to become a total four pieces. Like the redemption process, each of these sets of four elements of the Seder can be broken into three similar ones with the fourth one necessary for the completion or wholeness of the process.
Yeshua will submit Himself to three questions by the Jewish authorities. The fourth question is one Yeshua will ask them. First Fruits of Zion in The Chronicles of the Messiah breaks these four questions into common categories of rabbinic discourse.
David Daube identifies each question with a distinct form of rabbinic discourse: a legal question (halachic); a vulgar question (borut) designed to ridicule a belief; a question of principles of conduct (derech eretz); and a question based on a narrative interpretation (aggadah). Daube sees the four-question formula as a common pattern in rabbinic material, and he points to the four questions and the questions posed by the four sons in the Passover Haggadah as a parallel.[ii]
Let’s look at these questions and what they reveal about God’s kingdom, power and glory. The questions asked of Yeshua are for the purpose of trapping Him with His own words.
Mark 12:13 NKJV 13 Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words.
The first question is about paying taxes to Caesar wrapped in flattering words.
Mark 12:14-15 NKJV 14 When they had come, they said to Him, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 "Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?" But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, "Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it."
If Yeshua were to state that they should pay the tax to Caesar, then He would be acknowledging Caesar’s right to rule which some zealot’s would understand as questioning or denying God’s sovereignty. If Yeshua said they should not pay taxes to Caesar, then the Herodians would be able to deliver Yeshua up to Rome for promoting rebellion. This question in essence is about what constitutes the Kingdom of God. How would Yeshua rule on this question of the legality of paying taxes to Caesar?
The taxes that the Jewish people were obligated to pay were a temple tax instituted in the time of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah 10:32-33 NKJV 32 Also we made ordinances for ourselves, to exact from ourselves yearly one-third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the showbread, for the regular grain offering, for the regular burnt offering of the Sabbaths, the New Moons, and the set feasts; for the holy things, for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God.
Coins used for the temple tax had to have the correct amount of silver in them and, ideally, would not have an image on them. The coins they were forced to use did not have Caesar’s image on them, but they did have an image of a Tyrian idol. On the other hand, common Roman coins had not only the image of Caesar on them, but also the back of the coin identified Caesar as “high priest.”
Yeshua asked that a Roman coin be brought to Him. The Pharisees would not have a Roman coin in their possession while in the Temple; it would be an impure object, but it seems that one of the Herodians had a Roman coin and showed it to Yeshua.
Mark 12:16-17 NKJV 16 So they brought it. And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's." 17 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they marveled at Him.
The literal understanding is that they should use Roman coins to pay Roman taxes, and temple coins to pay temple taxes. However, the meaning goes deeper than this. Things, not just coins, that bear Roman images belong to Rome; that is they belong to this world. The things that bear God’s image belong to God. We were created in God’s image to bear His image.
Genesis 1:27 NKJV 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Paul tells us that Yeshua is the image of God.
Colossians 1:15 NKJV 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Paul goes on to say that we will bear that same image!
1 Corinthians 15:48-49 NKJV 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
Alfred Edersheim in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah explains the significance of Yeshua’s answer.
It did far more than rebuke their hypocrisy and presumption; it answered not only that question of theirs to all earnest men of that time, as it would present itself to their minds, but it settles to all time and for all circumstances the principle underlying it. Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world.[iii]
All those who heard Yeshua’s answer marveled at His words!
The second question, posed by the Sadducees, was designed to ridicule the whole idea of eternal life and the resurrection of the dead. They pose the situation of a woman who was married successively to seven brothers each of whom died without having a son from the woman. They want to know whose wife she would be in the resurrection.
Mark 12:22-23 NKJV 22 "So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also. 23 "Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife."
Remember that part of the furor over Yeshua’s presence at this Passover is that He had raised up Lazarus from the dead. Miraculous as this was, Lazarus was not resurrected in the world to come or into eternal life; his previous life was restored to him. The Sadducees sought to diminish the awe and wonder with which the people regarded Lazarus being raised from the dead. Yeshua’s answer is a rebuke to the Sadducees.
Mark 12:24-27 NKJV 24 Jesus answered and said to them, "Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 "For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 "But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? 27 "He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken."
The argument about the resurrection of the dead was a common one between the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees who did not. The rabbinic arguments are recorded in the Talmud, most beginning with the phrase “You err, not knowing the scriptures.”[iv] But none of the arguments addressed the issue like Yeshua. He didn’t look for a deeper meaning or symbolic reading of the text which the Sadducees as strict literalists would not accept. He answered with a point of grammar, a literal meaning of the text. God’s words to Moses were that He is, not that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If God is still their God, than they still live or will live in the world to come. Yeshua’s second objection was they did not know the power of God! That power of God would soon be demonstrated when Yeshua would willingly give up His life and then, by the power of God, take it up again to receive a glorified body! We also look forward to receiving our glorious body in the resurrection of the dead.
Philippians 3:20-21 NKJV 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
The Pharisees and the scribes would have been delighted in Yeshua’s victory over the Sadducees in the debate of the resurrection of the dead. One of them, in his enthusiasm, followed up with an earnest question regarding the principle of conduct.
Mark 12:28 NKJV 28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"
Yeshua didn’t hesitate to answer that the first commandment was all about love—love towards God and man.
Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV 37 Jesus said to him," 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
We have an understanding of love that it is an emotion, but love in God’s eyes is an action. When we act right towards God and towards man, we demonstrate our love. Moses wrote that God keeps covenant with those who love Him and keep His commandments.
Deuteronomy 7:7-9 NKJV 7 "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 "but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 "Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
Yeshua said that the principle of putting this love for God and others before oneself is what all the commandments and prophets are founded upon. Every commandment of God and exhortation of the prophets is an instruction on how to love God and others. Paul describes how our love is for the glory of God.
Philippians 1:9-11 NKJV 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The scribe was impressed with Yeshua’s answer as were others who had heard Yeshua’s answer. After this, no one dared to question Him further! But Yeshua now turned it around and asked the Pharisee a question about a narrative interpretation.
Matthew 22:41-45 NKJV 41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?" They said to Him, "The Son of David." 43 He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call Him 'Lord,' saying: 44 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"'? 45 "If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He his Son?"
Yeshua is referring to the words of Psalm 110 where David calls Yeshua Lord. How can the Messiah, the son of David, be Lord over David? Yeshua poses the question about the true sonship of the Messiah. The Pharisees were silenced and could not answer Him. But after the resurrection, at the Feast of Shavuot when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples, the spirit of the LORD came on Peter and he answered the question.
Peter reminded his listeners that David was indeed dead, buried, and his body decayed, but that Yeshua was greater than David. Yeshua’s body did not decay; Yeshua was even then seated at the right hand of His Father God.
Acts 2:32-36 NKJV 32 "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."' 36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
With this fourth question, the principle is complete. Through Yeshua the Son of Dave and the Son of God, to God be the kingdom, the glory and the power forever! Redemption is not complete until Yeshua sits down in power at the right hand of the Father and is acknowledged Lord and Christ! Peter’s listeners heard and understood his words and asked what they should do. The answer is the same then as it is now. Repent and be baptized in the name of Yeshua for the remission of your sins.
1. The fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the dalet, d, representing the door. E.W. Bullinger in Number in Scripture describes the number four as the completion of God’s creative works. Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David wrote in an article titled “The Significance of the Number Four” that it is the number of completeness or fullness. (See Is. 43:7 for a description of the fullness of creation.). What are other instances of the number four that reveal it as the door or the number of completeness or fullness?
2. How do the four questions in this passage represent a completeness or fullness? In what way do these questions comprise a thorough examination of Yeshua the Passover Lamb?
3. The questions break down into three questions asked of Yeshua in which Yeshua reveals God’s kingdom, power, and glory. What does the fourth question, asked by Yeshua, reveal about God? (Mark 12:35-37)
4. Ezekiel 34:13-14 describes a new redemption in a series of four “I will” statements. Compare these statements to the “I will” statements in Exodus 6:6-7.
5. Solomon was noted for asking and receiving the gift of wisdom (1 Ki. 3:6-28). Yeshua stated that His wisdom was greater than the Wisdom of Solomon (Luke 11:31-32, Matt. 12:41-45, 2 Chr. 9:1-4). How does Yeshua demonstrate both the wisdom greater than that of Solomon and judgment on this generation?
© 2018 Moed Ministries International. All rights reserved.
[i] Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Hendrickson Publishing, Inc. ©1993, 2006. P. 737.
[ii] The Chonicles of the Messiah. D. Thomas Lancaster. First Fruits of Zion. ©2014 D. T. Lancaster. P. 1301.
[iii] Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Hendrickson Publishing, Inc. ©1993, 2006. P.740.
[iv] Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Hendrickson Publishing, Inc. ©1993, 2006. P. 750.