Luke 20 - The Question That Jesus Refused To Answer

Luke 20 – July 23

There are many occasions in the gospels when people ask Jesus a question. He usually responds with a very rich answer. However, there are occasions when Jesus answers a question with a question. Why does He do that? Because the intent of the question is not to receive an answer. Rather, these questions are asked in order to trap Jesus. They were loaded questions intended to turn the government or the populace against Him. He adeptly and wisely navigated through them by responding, but not in the way they anticipated or desired.

When studying logic and rhetoric, the most common example provided to describe a loaded question is, “When did you stop beating your wife?” If a person refuses to answer, they appear guilty. If they answer with a time or date, they appear guilty. If they deny it, they appear guilty. And regardless of which of those options they choose, the questioner has caused everyone listening to now to view the one being questioned in a negative light. They now all have the image of this upstanding man harming his lovely wife. So, how do you answer a loaded question? With a question. In this case, you might respond with a question such as, “Do you often create false scenarios when you question your guests or is it just me?” Or you might ask, “What on earth would cause you to think that I would ever do something like that?” The questioner is then thrust into the spotlight and they are now required to give some kind of explanation as to why they would pose such a damaging question.

The chief priests and scribes knew that Jesus could not say that His authority was derived from Rome, because the common Jewish people would reject Him. If He said that He gained His authority from a Jewish source, that would place Him under their jurisdiction and they would claim that He would have to submit to their authority under Jewish Law. If He claimed it was from God, they would accuse Him of blasphemy and have Him executed. (This is what they eventually did.) However, knowing it was not His time, Jesus instead answered by simply asking a question that He knew they could not answer. “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?”

Luke provides for us the reasons that they could not select from those two multiple choice options. If they said it was from heaven, then it would have revealed that they had rejected God’s plan because they had rejected John. If they said it was from man, the people would have rejected them because they knew better. In their conversation, you see the deep level of fear and possibly even paranoia that the people would put them to death for denying the prophetic nature of John’s teachings. So, they said that they could not give an answer. So, Jesus told them that He would not give them an answer either.

This is instructive for us because there are times when there will be people who are mocking you or seeking to trap you with their questions. In such cases, ask as many questions as you can to ascertain the legitimacy of the person’s intentions. There are times that it is acceptable not to play into the hands of a scoffer. Although we should always be ready to give an answer for the reason of the hope that is within us, and though we should always be prepared to share the gospel, there will be occasions when you are asked a question that is not actually a question. When that happens, pray for wisdom to answer lovingly and wisely, just like Jesus.