Lingering Unbelief

Just the other day, I had a young man ask me questions about God and hell. But here’s the thing, he was not seeking an answer. He was not wanting to discuss differences we may have. He was intent on painting God as a dictator who forces compliance through threats of eternal punishment. He asked question without wanting to hear my thoughts. To be honest, I was not truly trying to learn from him either. But when I asked a question, I did want to hear his answer. Okay, but what is the point? Sometimes people are coming together from diametrically opposite vantage points; each side believing that they are right. This is not a wrong thing. This young man and I treat each other with respect. I am not trying to destroy him. He is not trying to destroy me. At least, that I am aware. And here is the difference.

In Luke 22:66-71, the people who are confronting Jesus are asking questions, not to learn, not even to merely stump Jesus so that they could win the argument. Nope. They are asking questions so that they could discover a reason to kill. You know, legally. So, when it became day, the Sanhedrin had Jesus brought to their chamber. Most likely this is not Jesus’ first trip there. The official investigation and pronouncement of judgment had to be during the day. So, they get right to their main question; the question that will give them ammunition to kill: “If you are the Christ, tell us.” No more hinting at it; no more performing miracles that excite the masses but raise questions; no more evasive answering the question with a question. Just tell us.

But Jesus doesn’t just tell them. He lets them know that if he did, they would not believe. And here we come to Jesus’ main concern. He wants them to believe; to put their trust in the truth. They want to destroy. He wants to save. They ask to discover weapons. He wants to ask to bring about faith. But he knows that if he asked a question, they would not even answer. This had been their response in 20:1-8. And because they had already refused to answer, Jesus didn’t feel compelled to answer their question. They kind of forfeited the right to ask. But he does tell them that they will see the son of man seated at the right hand of the power of God. This is taken from Daniel 7 and from Psalm 110:1. As we have seen, Daniel 7 deals with the one who is like the son of man riding up to the Ancient of Days on a cloud where he is given dominion forever. Psalm 110:1 states, “My Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” Both passages were considered by some to be messianic. But, did Jesus claim to be the Messiah here? Well, not really. He is telling them that they will see messianic fulfillment.

They assume he is referring to himself. They ask, “Are the you the son of God then?” There is some evidence that the Qumran community used “Son of God” as a messianic title. It is possible, therefore, that their question is simply, “Are you the messiah?” It may also be a statement: Well, you obviously think you’re the Messiah! The latter part of verse 70 can be punctuated as a question: “Do you say that I am?” It could also be a statement: “You say that I am.” The question makes more sense in the context to my fevered brain. In other words, Jesus is not saying something like, “It is as you say,” or “By George I think you’ve got it!” He is turning their investigation back on them, “Do you really accuse me of being the Messiah?” Are you really going to look at my words and actions and say that they measure up to me being the Christ?

Instead of the truth setting them free they dig their trench and say, “What further need do we have of testimony?” Jesus did not officially claim to be the Messiah. But they will use whatever they can get. They will take half-truths and lies and go running to Pilate. They didn’t really get the ammunition they wanted. But with a little manufacturing, they came up with a plan they thought might just work.

When you find yourself in a discussion, what is that you want to happen? Do you want to win? Or, is the main goal salvation? That will change how we ask questions; how we answer questions; how we treat people. Do we see Jesus winning an argument here? I think his heart sunk with the realization that no matter what he said or did they would remain hardened to the truth. This was not about winning a duel for Jesus. This was about losing souls. I have and will lost arguments. I am okay with that. I am not okay with lingering and hardening unbelief. It saddens me. It saddens God. But you? You believe! Grace and peace.