Wednesday, October 15, 2008


You might remember the old chestnut about a reporter asking a politician, "Senator, have you stopped beating your wife?" There is just no good answer! If 'yes,' then the implication is that the senator used to behave that way; if 'no,' then such behavior is still going on.

In today's culture, such questions are called 'gotcha journalism.' Those attempts to get the candidate, the incumbent, the party standard bearer, the press rep, the spokesperson to say something which they immediately wish they could take back, and which immediately becomes a sound bite played over and over and over again. And, of course, if no answer is given, then obviously something else must be in play.

We like to think that this is all new - that we are the first generation, the first people to engage in such a tactic. But, of course, it is as old as humanity.

Back in Jesus' day, though, it was not the media that was playing 'gotcha,' it was all the good, proper religious types: the priests, the Sadducees, the Pharisees. All those who trailed after Jesus (sort of like a press pool) trying, in the words of Scripture, to 'entrap' him.

'Should we pay taxes?'
'If a woman marries more than once, who will be her husband in heaven?'
'Which commandment is the most important?'

The questions are asked in such a way, with such a gleam in the eye, and anticipation in the heart, that Jesus is seemingly doomed to failure, if he dares to open his mouth. The bait has been cast out, the lure is sitting on the surface just waiting to be snatched, so that the poor fish can be caught in the net.

Gotcha Jesus!!!

Maybe that's why Jesus always responds by going beneath the surface of the question (and the questioner) when he opens his mouth.

How are YOU doing at keeping those commandments, especially the two that are part of the prayer that every devout believer was to pray each day? Why are YOU the one that carries evidence around in your pocket/purse/wallet of where your true allegiance lies? Why are YOU so concerned with what will happen in heaven when you don't seem to have a clue as to how to live here on earth, with the people God has given to you?

In going beneath the surface of the question, in focusing more on the person who has asked the words rather than the words themselves, in his seeming willingness to step into the trap which has been set for him, Jesus is able to set people free, is able to open them up to the transforming power of God's grace, is able to help them put aside all those fears they carry around as burdens so they can embrace God's hopes and dreams for them. He offers them the chance to turn away from a life which is focused on 'getting' another, and living the gospel of service to all.

And then, Jesus smiles and whispers, 'Gotcha!'

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman

No comments: