Neither Will I Tell You
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At some point in our lives, whether on the playground, the workplace, the dating scene, and, most painfully, in parenthood, someone demands of us: “Just who do you think you are?”
The Son of Man was no stranger to this question.
Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority” (Matthew 21:23)?
Unruffled, He asked a counter-question:
“I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin” (vv. 24-25)?
They talked amongst themselves and deduced that the politically expedient answer was a cop-out, as most politically expedient answers are: “We don’t know” (v. 27).
Jesus shrugged, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things” (v. 27).
As a young believer, I was very troubled when I was caught off-guard by a question from a fellow student: “So you’re a Christian. Are you telling me that I’m going to hell if I don’t believe in Jesus?” At the time I didn’t know how to answer. Later I felt that I had let down my classmate and cost him an opportunity to hear the Gospel. I was confessing this to a friend who happened to be a Jewish believer. His response reminds me of Jesus in the passage above.
My friend suggested I could answer that question with another question: “Do you believe in hell? If so, what are you doing about it? And if not, then what’s the problem?” If the questioner is looking to discredit you rather than sincerely seek answers, at least start the dialogue honestly.
When the Pharisees were trying to discredit Jesus, why didn’t He just answer the question for the benefit of sincere seekers in the audience? Instead of responding to the religious leaders demanding “who do you think you are?” He went on to tell two parables that exposed who they were. By the end of the conversation, the chief priests and the Pharisees “knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet” (vv. 45-46).
This exposure was for the benefit of the tax collectors and the prostitutes in the crowd.
Our Messiah understands where our questions, and our questioners, are coming from. My indignant classmate was likely not insincere, but simply angry at what he assumed I stood for. I’ve certainly brought my share of angry assumptions and questions to the Lord. And, mercifully, sometimes He asks me questions in return.
He will never reject a sincere question from the heart: “Who are You, Lord?”
Scripture is quoted from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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