on An Afternoon of Questions

In our NT study, we are now to the place on the Tuesday (presumbably) of the Crucifixion week where the various Jewish parties have conspired together to catch the Lord in an embarrasing question. I am presuming that this occurred in the early afternoon, but it could have been earlier in the day. My proposition for this message was: It is utter folly for men to attempt to ‘match wits’ with God.

The attack begins with a political question, is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. They are hoping for a straight yes or no answer, either one of which could cause problems for the Lord, with the crowd or with the Romans. The Lord artfully answers ‘Yes’, but in such a way that no one could object to the answer. The Lord will not be trapped with such an easy question as this.

The second attack comes from the Sadducees with the theological question about the woman with seven husbands, all brothers. Who will have her in the resurrection? They have invented this sophistry as a means of mocking the doctrine of the resurrection. The Lord corrects their understanding of the human condition in the resurrection, then deals their doctrine a devastating blow by arguing from the tense of God’s statement to Moses from the burning bush: ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Not ‘I was…’ but ‘I am…’. The present tense establishes the fact of the resurrection. The fact is that mockers will think they can pose a problem so hard that God can’t be the answer – I once had a friend who couldn’t believe there was a fish so big it could swallow a man and spit him up three days later alive. My answer to him: ‘How big is God?’ People today want to say that science has disproved the Bible. My answer: ‘How big is God?’ The observable facts of creation are completely explained by a true and living God – those who find them mounting insuperable arguments simply don’t want to accept God as the answer.

The third question is a mild test of a legal question, but also an ‘almost, but not quite’ statement of kingdom faith. A scribe asks Jesus which is the great commandment and the Lord points him to the Shema (Love God with whole heart, mind, strength), and to the secondary commandment of loving neighbour as self. The thoughtful scribe responds that these two commandments are weightier than ALL burnt offerings and sacrifices. Jesus says that this man is not far from the kingdom. What he needs to get into the kingdom is to acknowledge the King, but this he doesn’t dare to do, as the opponents of Christ leave off questioning him. One finds himself hoping that this man was one of the three thousand on Pentecost.

Now it is the Lord’s turn, and he asks an unanswerable question. That is, it is unanswerable if you don’t like the answer. Jesus asks how David can call his son, Messsiah, Lord in Ps 110.1 ‘The Lord said unto my Lord…’ This question precisely zeroes in on the weakness of the Lord’s opponents. They will not admit his obvious identity – they will not accept his superiority – they will not confess that he is the God-man, the only son of God, come in the flesh.

As we see these questions, one has to wonder what the Lord would ask of me if he were to come and have an interview with me tonight. What lurking unbelief would he reveal with one simple soul searching question?

One also wonders how it is men think they can match wits with God. The answer? They don’t believe Jesus is God. That is why men dare to mock today. They question God’s word at many points, sounding very learned, but they have little faith in the God of the word. Their questions reveal it. Our lives can reveal it as well. How much faith do we have in the God of the Word?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Sermon notes here.


  1. Dave Marriott says:

    “As we see these questions, one has to wonder what the Lord would ask of me if he were to come and have an interview with me tonight. What lurking unbelief would he reveal with one simple soul searching question?”

    Wow, and to think that we have the very probing words of Christ in the inspired scripture which render us naked and open before his presence…discerning our thoughts and the intents of our hearts.

    I’m sure the question from Christ would render us speechless and place us on our knees in repentance.

  2. Yes, it is quite striking to see how the Lord is able to cut our pride and unbelief off at the knees. Consider also the passage where the ‘would-be’ disciples are questioned: “Lord, I’ll follow you anywhere.” “OK, The Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” Implied: Will you follow me there?

    Or consider the rich young ruler: “Give me everything you have.”

    And then I think about me. What would he say to me?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3