One of the signs of a good answer is being able to provide a quick and accurate response to a difficult question. Here’s an illustration I came across:
A trial lawyer was famous for his courtroom techniques and legal arguments. His opponents feared him; his clients loved him. He was always sure to win the case. He began writing in law journals concerning how these techniques could be acquired. He used a standardized lecture to be used for speaking engagements.
He traveled with his secretary, a bright young man who was proud to be associated with this renowned lawyer. After several months of listening to the same lecture, the bold secretary announced to the lawyer that he had heard the same speech so many times that he could give that speech himself. This so intrigued the lawyer that the switch was arranged.
It was agreed that the next time they were out of town, and no one would recognize them, they would exchange duties. The lawyer stood in the back of the room while the secretary addressed a room of expectant lawyers.
The secretary waxed eloquent, demonstrating techniques and addressing intricate details with precision. At the end of his speech the secretary was given a standing ovation. It was truly a splendid speech! The moderator indicated that there were still a few minutes left on the program and asked the appreciative audience if they had any questions for their honored guest.
One lawyer ventured to ask a question concerning the legal precedents for one of the techniques referred to early in the speech. The lawyer in the back of the room felt his heart sink. He could easily field the question, but there was no way to let his secretary know the answer. They were about to be exposed! The secretary began to laugh. With just a tinge of mockery he responded, “Why, that is such a simple and well-known precedent of which all of you should know the answer! Even the common layperson should know the answer to that question. In fact, to demonstrate my premise, I am going to let my secretary give you your answer.” (selected)
Answering tough questions takes skill. Jesus had the skill to respond to questions that would ordinarily be impossible to answer for anyone else. But Jesus was not just like anyone else. He had the divine skill to know what was in the minds and hearts of others (John 2:23-25). So, when the scribes and Pharisees and other Jewish leaders asked tricky questions, Jesus could answer them in ways that ended their argument and made them look foolish (Luke 5:21-26; Matt. 9:3-8).
Jesus also knew when inquiring minds were sincere and really wanted to know the true answers to their questions. Some people were able to accept his answers and others were left perplexed and unconvinced of his teachings. There are important lessons we can learn as we examine his answers to the many questions posed to him while he was in his ministry.
Here are at least 10 questions and their follow-ups that will help us understand the important answers we need to know and apply:
1. (chief priests and elders) By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority? (Matt. 21:23; also, Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8)
Sometimes the best answer is a question especially when confronted by those contesting our views. Jewish leaders challenged Jesus’ authority. But he silenced his opposition by answering a question with a question. Since they couldn’t answer his question, he didn’t answer theirs. He put them on the spot and, in effect, turned the tables on them, making them look foolish: And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things,” (Matt. 21:27).
This scene is one example of the many questions asked by Jewish leaders to trick him into saying something that would give them cause to accuse him of breaking a law so they could kill him. Other examples: Matt. 16:1; 19:3; 22:15; Mark 8:11; 10:2; 12:13; Luke 11:53-54; 20:20-26; John 8:6. As usual, the leaders were left speechless for Jesus spoke the truth and they refused to listen. In Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus warns his followers not to be like these leaders, labelling them “hypocrites,” for “they do not practice what they preach.” They were too proud to humble themselves and accept the teachings of Jesus the true Messiah. We, too, are called upon to humble ourselves to the truth concerning Jesus, and his teachings (Luke 14:11; James 4:6).
2. (the rich young ruler) Good Teacher , what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 18:18; also, Matt. 19:16; Mark 10:17)
The rich young ruler thought he could earn his way to salvation by doing something which he could conveniently afford. We don’t doubt his sincerity. But Jesus made it clear that it’s not what a person has or does but how a person thinks and responds. A true follower of Jesus is one who not only obeys the scriptures, but is sincerely willing to give up everything for the sake of entering his kingdom. Because he was rich, the young ruler went away sad and disappointed to hear the Lord’s instruction. He could not accept the fact that inheriting eternal life requires giving up even the most important things in order to pursue the eternal riches in the age to come. We do not want to have the same reaction as this wealthy young man. Those who desire to inherit eternal life in God’s kingdom are willing to give their all for Jesus since he gave his all for us.
3. (the lawyer) Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25; Teacher, which is the great commandment of the Law? (Matt. 22:35-36 Mark 12:28)
This is like the question posed by the rich young ruler but it was asked by a lawyer, an “expert” in the Mosaic law. He was among the Pharisees, one of the Jewish sects that continually opposed Jesus (Matt. 22:34-35). Unlike the rich young ruler, the lawyer was not really being sincere for it was asked with the intention of putting Jesus to the test, (Luke 10:25). The question was more about the legalistic side of the law than a willingness to live according to the spiritual principles of the law. First, the lawyer challenged Jesus by asking him, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? (Matt. 22:36). This leads to another question asked by the lawyer….
4. (the lawyer) And who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29)
When Jesus quoted the two greatest commandments that summarized the law, including loving God first, and second, loving your neighbor as yourself, the lawyer then asked this question. Jesus proceeded to tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) who showed compassion and benevolence for someone in need—the sign of true neighbor. The “expert” in the law was, in all probability, disappointed to hear Jesus’ response because in the parable he reveals the indifference of religious men like the lawyer. Furthermore, the Samaritans who were despised by the Jews, could hardly be considered by them as persons who showed the true qualities of a good neighbor. But Jesus wanted the lawyer, as well as the others who opposed him, to know what it truly means to love your neighbor as yourself.
5. (the disciples) Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? (Matt. 18:1)
The disciples were struggling to understand their position in the kingdom of God. At the time, they could only perceive the kingdom in terms of political power and rank. Their personal ambition caused strife amongst themselves. Jesus set them straight when he set a child before them and said that the only way to be greatest in his kingdom is to humble themselves like that child. Once again, we learn the importance of humility rather than pride for entering God’s kingdom.
6. (Martha) Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me. (Luke 10:40)
This is all about priorities. Yes, it’s important to provide for guests and prepare a nice meal for them, especially those we honor and care for as dear friends. We can imagine that Martha was one of those who went all out when someone came to visit: The house had to be spotless, everything picked up and put away, and the meal had to be perfect. Martha had been working hard to get dinner ready when Jesus arrived. But her sister, Mary, didn’t seem too concerned about helping. Mary was more interested in listening to the Lord and what he had to say than working in the kitchen and preparing the meal. So, Martha questioned if Jesus cared that she was left all alone to do the serving. Why didn’t he instruct Mary to help her? Jesus responded, Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her, (vss. 41-42). Jesus showed Martha that she shouldn’t be worried about the temporal things. More time needed to be spent absorbing the teachings of Christ that give greater blessings which can’t be taken away. Our real priority is to be more like Mary who hungered for the spiritual things which lead to the eternal reward to come.
7. (the Samaritan woman at the well) How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman? (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (John 4:9) You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do you get that living water? (John 4:11)
As was pointed out previously, the Jews were prejudiced against the Samaritans. They had long standing antagonism for over 600 years, ever since the Assyrians invaded Israel (see https://truthbook.com/jesus/illustrated-stories/why-the-jews-hated-the-samaritans) But Jesus demonstrated that the Good News was for all, including the Samaritans. He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water but he was about to offer her the living water that springs up to eternal life (John 4:13-14). After a long discussion concerning her marital circumstances and the subject of worship, the woman realized the Jesus was not only a prophet, but that he is the promised Messiah (vss. 15-30). She could not be silent about her conversion. She shared the Good News of Christ all throughout her community. What a lesson for us! We long to drink the Living Water that Jesus gives, proclaiming the Good News to others who also thirst for him.
8. (Pilate) Are you the king of the Jews? (John 18:33) I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered you up to me; what have you done? (John 18:35) So, you are a king? (John 18:37) What is truth? (John 18:38)
Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of Judea, was curious about the accused man standing before him. He’d heard much in regard to what others alleged about him. Pilate asked him point blank whether he was the king of the Jews. Jesus, being the teacher that he was, answered his question with a question: Are you saying this on your own initiative or did others tell you about me?” (v. 34). Was Pilate’s inquiry out of hearsay and did he truly want to know if Jesus was king of the Jews? Pilate avoided Jesus’ question and put in a disclaimer that he is not a Jew. But the Jewish leaders who delivered Jesus to him is why he is standing before Pilate. So Pilate wants to know what Jesus has done to deserve their accusations. Jesus reveals that his kingdom was not of this present age or else his followers would rise up and fight. Rather, his kingdom was coming at a future realm of time. This led Pilate to ask if Jesus was therefore a king and Jesus confirmed, You say correctly that I am a king…. Jesus then points out that his purpose in life is to witness this truth and to bring others to accept it, as well. Pilate then asks the all-important question, “What IS truth?” Here, the truth was standing right before him but Pilate just wouldn’t bring himself to believe it. This is a question we must all settle in our minds. Jesus said he is the truth, the only way to the Father and life everlasting in his kingdom (John 14:6). Unlike Pilate, we follow him as our Savior and Lord.
9. (the disciples) Lord, is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)
The disciples had already witnessed the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. Forty days after he rose from the dead, Jesus appeared to the disciples and reinforced the teachings concerning the kingdom of God in their hearts and minds. But they still couldn’t understand the timing of everything and when Jesus was going to set up his kingdom. They wondered if the time had finally come for Jesus to restore Israel as a powerful nation according to the ancient prophets (Isaiah 60-61; 65; Jeremiah 30-31; Ezekiel 36-39; Amos 9:11-15). Jesus did not answer the question directly for he said it’s not for them to know. Rather, God has the time planned under his own authority. What they really needed to be concerned with was what God wanted them to do in the meantime: Receive God’s Power and be his witnesses starting in Jerusalem, then throughout the regions, and eventually to all parts of the world. This is our responsibility, as well. (Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:16-20). Right after this, Jesus ascended to heaven with the promise that he will one day return in power and glory (Acts 1:11). We continue the mission of being his witnesses as we share the Good News of Christ and his coming kingdom. Israel will be exalted among the nations on that day and the church will be co-rulers with Christ when he rules from Jerusalem.
10. (the disciples) Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled? (Mark 13:4; also, Matt. 24:3; Luke 21:7)
The disciples were longing for the day when Jesus would fulfill the promises concerning the kingdom of God. They were in the dark, however, as to what was going to take place before that time comes. Jesus probably startled them when he predicted that the temple buildings that Herod was constructing was going to be destroyed. They wanted to know three things from Jesus: (1) when will these things occur, (2) what will be the sign that Christ is coming, and (3) the end of the present age (Matt. 24:1-3). Matthew 24 presents a detailed list of the signs presented by Jesus that answers these questions. As we study the conditions prior to the second coming of Christ, we see that much has already taken place pointing to the nearness of Jesus’ return. Jesus concludes his discourse by warning us to be ready for his coming by keeping alert, “for you do not know which day your Lord is coming,” (Matt. 24:42). Each day that goes by gets us closer to that glorious day. May we get our lives in order and be prepared by serving him vigilantly every day!
Here is Marshall Hall singing, “Jesus Is the Answer”: https://youtu.be/u-UpOjZAsuE
Good News to YOU!