Have you noticed that the Lord normally never answered simply “yes” or “no” to a question. Why? He answered the questioner – the person - rather than just the question. He was reaching the conscience rather than just satisfying curiosity, or giving a fact to suit the intellect. He then often expanded the answer to open up a larger body of truth, going well beyond the questioner’s thoughts.
In Luke 13:23, a person asked the Lord, “Sir, are such as to be saved few in number”? The Lord answers from verse 24 to 30. Instead of saying yes or no, the Lord tells them – not just the person who asked – to make sure that they are on the right path to salvation. In God’s dealings, there will come a time when things are final – the door is shut. They, as Jews, will not be able to claim proximity to the Lord as a reason for having part in the kingdom. Persons will say “We have eaten in thy presence and drunk, and thou hast taught in our streets”. This is a Jewish setting, but a similar thing is appealed to in our day. Talk to a person about the Lord and his future, and one may say that his uncle is a minister of religion, as if that will get him into blessing! The Lord addresses the conscience of the Jewish audience by showing that they of the nations will enjoy fellowship with the fathers and the prophets in the kingdom of God – the millennial reign of Christ – while many of them will be excluded.
If we turn to Luke 17:20, the Pharisees asked the Lord, “When is the kingdom of God coming?” The meaning of their question was really: When will Messiah [Christ] come and save Israel and take up his rule as king over the earth? Rather, he told them that the ruling power of God (in the person of their King,) was in their midst. See verse 21. Then he explained his sufferings (verse 25) and his coming, the period of his glory, the day of the Son of man. The title Son of man especially points to Christ’s sufferings and glory - see Psalm 8:4-6 also. The Lord wants the conscience and heart to be in constant exercise.
What would have happened if the answer was “About 2,000 years”?
The answer is found in Luke 112:45, “But if that bondman should say in his heart, My Lord delays to come…” he begins to ill treat and oppress his fellows, and become worldly. This too is the story of the public church. The possibility of the Lord’s return is always put within the lifetime of those to whom it is addressed.
The disciples then ask the question “Where Lord?” (Luke 17:37). How we love to know when and where! The Lord gives a veiled answer, “Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together”. I believe it means that the scene of action will be where the dead body of the Jewish nation is. Again, the answer is designed to keep us in constant exercise.
Another question came from John the Baptist in prison. He sent his disciples to ask, “Art thou the coming one? or are we to wait for another?” see Matthew 11:2. The answer spoke of works that surpassed even those foretold in Isaiah 35;4-6, “Blind men see and lame walk; lepers are cleansed, and deaf hear; and dead are raised, and poor have glad tidings preached to them;” and then the rebuke to John, “and blessed is whosoever shall not be offended in me”. This answer was far deeper than a plain “yes” and “no”. The answer was for John’s conscience. The Lord then used the opportunity to reach the conscience of the crowd. He reminded the crowd of the greatness of John and his message, and that they had ignored both the mournful call to repentance by John and the happy tones or pipings of grace of the Son of man.
When the Lord stood before the high priest and elders in Matthew 26:57-65, he was silent in response to the accusations of false witnesses. Under Jewish law, a person had to answer as specified in Leviticus 5:1, “And if any one sin, and hear the voice of adjuration, and he is a witness whether he hath seen it or known it, if he do not give information, then he shall bear his iniquity” When that formal demand for information was made, the witness must answer. [There was no pleading the U.S. Fifth Amendment that allows a person to not answer if it incriminates himself.] So in Matthew 26:63, the high priest demanded, “I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us if thou art the Christ the Son of God”. The Lord did not draw back to save himself. Consider the grandeur of the answer: “Thou hast said. Moreover, I say to you, from henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven”. He gave them more than they asked for. The title ‘Christ’ relates to Israel - their Messiah, king, the anointed One; but the Son of man speaks of his sufferings and glory - it goes wider than just Israel. It takes in all men.
Finally Pilate asked the Lord if he was a king in John 18:37. The Lord’s answer again goes beyond a simple ‘yes’. “Thou sayest it, that I am a king. I have been born for this, and for this I have come into the world, that I might bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice”. He was the only one that could answer in that way. Pilate’s conscience was reached. He asked “What is truth?” but he could not bear to wait for the answer.
If the Lord’s method was to answer the questioner rather than just the question, and to use it to open up a larger body of truth, we can take it as an example for ourselves. We need to provide answers to the needs of people, rather than to show how much we know. Christianity is not about setting points right, but helping one another to be right before the Lord.
Mm Oct 2007