How Did Jesus Answer Questions?

Posted: Tue. Sep, 27 2016

How Did Jesus Answer Questions?


Our Lord's ministry began with the temptation from Satan in the wilderness. Recorded are three temptations concerning Christ's relation to the plan of God for Him as a man. He came to do the will of the Father and that will was revealed. With this full revelation in His heart, Jesus set about the monumental work of witnessing of Himself to Israel and saving mankind. At the beginning Satan is allowed to tempt Him; turn the stones into bread, jump from the pinnacle of the temple, and bow down worshipping to be given the kingdoms of the earth. No one could have ever surmised what Christ's responses were, not even a close guess. His responses are all from the word of God and were so perfectly drawn by Him as only the One in union with God could have done. As He could have only done, He responded to the tempter with perfect heavenly truth.

During His ministry he was often asked questions by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes, and in the same manner, His answers are heavenly and unexpected. He actually doesn't answer their questions since they have been thought up with the fallen and faulty human knowledge of good and evil. Often the questions were traps, but the motivation to trap Him and the bad questions themselves are all from this same source - man thinks he knows right and wrong and when the bearer of truth from heaven is in his midst, he peppers the Creator with questions that arise from his fallen concepts of what the Creator and Savior should be or should do according to him. Christ would never descend to this level and become an arbitrator for man's confusion. Why arbitrate when the question is all wrong? They give Jesus a choice between A and B and both are wrong.

What's important to note is that He did answer and that is a result of His love for mankind. Instead of dismissing them in silence He speaks the truth that gets at the heart of the reason for the question and in doing this He is calling for them to reconcile unto Him in faith. Unfortunately, this didn't guarantee repentance in the questioners. They have a free-will and by their own choice they must respond in faith to His call, and He calls over and over.

Room does not allow us to examine every question asked of Him. I will choose just two that reveal this amazing gap between the so-called wisdom of man and the truth of God and how Jesus bridged that gap with His cross. Anyone who believes in Him will come to know the truth that He speaks. The sheep know the voice of the Shepherd and they hearken unto it.

LUK 20:1-2 And it came about on one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him, and they spoke, saying to Him, "Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?"

The Lord could have easily responded to this question, "My Father gave Me this authority" and be done with it, however, they do not see authority as being bestowed to any man but through their agency. To them, if God is going to give authority to someone then He has to go through the proper channels, their channels, which in this case would be any of the rabbinical schools currently accredited. It would be the same today if a group would only account a believer wise in the ways of God if he attended certain colleges or seminaries. God directly makes men wise by means of the local church and that He does freely. Man desires a record kept, a transcript, or a document that proves a person is promoted. Christ is a carpenter from Nazareth. He doesn't possess the proper degrees. JOH 7:15-16 The Jews therefore were marveling, saying, "How has this man become learned, having never been educated?" Jesus therefore answered them, and said, "My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me." Being the only heavenly one, He sees the essence of the question and it is not whether or not some human institution has bequeathed authority to someone. The question rather is if God can directly give authority and promotion to a person without going through man's accepted pathway. And so Christ retorts with another question.

LUK 20:3-4 And He answered and said to them, "I shall also ask you a question, and you tell Me: Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?"

John the Baptist certainly did not possess the proper degrees. He lived in the wilderness of Judea, clothed in camel hair, and ate locusts and wild honey. So why was John baptizing? Why was he telling the many who came to see him to repent and that the kingdom of God was at hand? Certainly no man had given him this commission. We know that God directly commissioned John. God sent an angel to John's father Zacharias who told him that he would have a son and his name was to be John and that he would be the forerunner before the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elijah. It is clear that God can and does directly bestow promotion and authority, and Christ gets to the heart of the matter, "Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?" These elders had already asked this of John directly. JOH 1:25-27 And they asked him, and said to him, "Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" John answered them saying, "I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." Turns out that John doesn't directly answer their question either.

Man poses questions that fit with his flawed understanding of good and evil. He has worked out a method of promotion that is good to him. Yet man's good is always soiled with evil. The schools of the Jews by which men became rabbis and Pharisees were not solely concerned with knowledge of the Law but also with the positions and egos of the elite who oversaw the schools. JOH 7:49 "But this multitude which does not know the Law is accursed." Today we find that governments require certain licensing for various positions, much of which is simply designed to generate revenue for the government. Universities force students to take certain classes that have nothing to do with their majors and naturally they charge for them. The people of the world have to jump through these hoops if they want promotion, but in the plan of God, man's hoops are not considered. God freely promotes according to His good pleasure and no man is able to prevent it. 1PE 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.

The elders find themselves in a position they had not foreseen.

LUK 20:5-8 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say,' Why did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'From men,' all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet." And they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

These only care for their own reputations and so the answer would have done them no good. In this instance, Christ doesn't cast His pearls before the swine. He is not treading in the depths of man's understanding of good and evil but is light-years above it.

In another question the Pharisees seek to know why Jesus' disciples were violating their laws for the Sabbath.

MAR 2:23-24 And it came about that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to Him, "See here, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?"

The Sabbath was given so that Israel could reflect on the promises of God while she rested from labor. God would do the work to establish the Abrahamic covenant. Israel through her own efforts could never hope to accomplish it, but God would. On the Sabbath they were not to go out to work, not buy or sell, rest, and rejoice. The Sabbath was to be a day without work, a day of remembrance, and a day of delight. At the close of the work week there was to be a holy rest just as Israel had rest and redemption at the end of the labor and sorrow of Egypt. They were to remember that a better rest was coming in the reign of the Messiah and then ultimately an eternal Sabbath rest in heaven. But in practice all of this terribly degenerated. This was the heart of the matter and the One from heaven could clearly see it while the ones drowning in the knowledge of good and evil of man could see no farther than their degenerate rules.

"Readers of the New Testament know how entirely, and even cruelly, the spirit and object of the Sabbath were perverted by the traditions of 'the elders.' [Edersheim, The Temple: It's Ministry and Services] An almost numberless amount of directions were thought up of avoiding work made the Sabbath day the greatest labor of all. Rather than delight it produced fear and anxiety. "All work was arranged under thirty-nine chief classes, or 'fathers,' each of them having ever so many 'descendants' of subordinate divisions. Thus, 'reaping' was one of the 'fathers' or chief classes, and 'plucking ears of corn' one of its descendents." [ibid] What was supposed to be a day of rest and delight in pondering the many promises of God as well as the mighty arm of God in delivering Israel from Egypt became a day of countless rules all created by religious men for the avoidance of all work.

MAR 2:25-28 And He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and became hungry, he and his companions: how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he gave it also to those who were with him?" And He was saying to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. "Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

David broke the rule when it was necessary for him and his men to survive. David weighed the facts and determined that on this one occasion it was prudent for him to eat the consecrated bread. The point is that the boundaries on the Sabbath are necessary and important, but it isn't the rules that are the most important. "The Sabbath was made for man" means that the Sabbath serves man. While man rests the word of God serves him. This gives him joy as the word reveals to him the work of God in the past in delivering Israel and giving her the promised land. His joy is heightened when the word reveals to him the coming Messiah who will sacrifice Himself for the sins of the people and then will usher in His kingdom where Israel will have rest from all enemies. His joy reaches a maximum when the word reveals his eternal destiny in heaven. In this way the Sabbath serves man and not man the Sabbath. The Pharisees had forgotten this for centuries and the Lord knew it was the real question that had to be answered.

This look at the way the Lord answers questions makes me think about prayer. Romans says that we don't always know what to pray for, but like the Lord responded to the flawed questions in a way that got to the root of the matter, so He promises to respond to our prayers. Just because we don't exactly know what to pray for doesn't mean that we shouldn't pray. We should have the confidence that the Holy Spirit intercedes and that the Father will perfectly answer, but the answer may be most unexpected.  

Love to all the royal family,

Pastor Joe Sugrue

Grace and Truth Ministries