“One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, ‘Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.’ He answered them, ‘I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?’ And they discussed it with one another, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say, “Why did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From man,” all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.’ So 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.’” Luke 20:1-8
By their very question, the religious leaders betrayed their shallow thinking and preference for argument and nitpicking instead of truth. They were, after all, leaders, and they could call the shots. Jesus, knowing they wanted to have nothing to do with His rightful authority, returned a question to expose their heathen mindset, and they tripped. Their mental figuring got tangled in fear, word-plays, others’ perception, and what-ifs, and they could not answer. They had sought a trap for Jesus, not truth that would set them free. (Luke 20:19-26; John 8:32)
There can be teaching and preaching we would rather not accept- it may be hard to understand, it may require a response we are unwilling to give. In our tendency to push back or avoid, we skirt the real issue and focus on trying to undermine its validity. This reaction reveals both a hard heart and a closed mind. Rather than being willing to explore truth as it is presented, we dance around the issue, major on minor things, and decline to be transformed.
Time and again, the religious leaders were so focused on undermining and disclaiming Jesus that they completely missed the rich wisdom and life-changing words He offered. When we get singularly focused and argumentative, what intention drives us? They cared more about appearance and approval than doing the right thing. When have we been more concerned with what others will think if we do as God instructs, than with loving Him in obedience and exalting His reputation? Do we fear the reprisal of man more than God Himself?
When the Lord speaks through His anointed teachers, how intent are we on listening to learn and apply? How often do we go to the Lord with questions when we have already prepared the answers we want to hear? Do we genuinely seek Him, His will and ways, or do we simply lay out our plans and expect His approval? Do we dare question His motives when things don’t go our way?
Good Father, expose any ulterior motive and heart deception, and purify my communion with You. Keep keen my desire to know You who are true, and all Your right answers. (1 John 5:20)