September 22, 2019
As we study the Gospel of John, we will discover some people coming to John and Jesus asking dishonest questions. What is a dishonest question? A dishonest question is motivated by and designed to trick or entrap or put a label on the person you are questioning rather than asking an honest question that truly seeks to learn the answer to the question. Most of those sent from the authorities in Jerusalem to interrogate John the Baptist asked dishonest questions. They wanted a simple Yes or No answer from John so they could put a label on John, go back and report to their leaders, and then plan how to stop John from preaching and baptizing without their authorization. When we read the gospels, we find interrogators coming to Jesus seeking to entrap Him so they can arrest Him. Asking “Are you the Messiah” with the intention of entrapping John or Jesus would be a dishonest question.
What is an honest question? A person asking an honest question truly seeks information and knowledge because they really want to know the answer. Asking “Are you the Messiah” with the intention of following the Messiah if you can find out if He is the true Messiah would be an honest question. An honest questioner thinks the answer might be life-changing or add to their understanding of reality, and they believe the person they are asking might have the answer they are seeking. An excellent example of an honest question was asked by a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and asked, “How can a man be born again when he is old?” Nicodemus truly wanted to know the answer to that question, and he sincerely believed Jesus was “a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God” (see John 3:1-10). Nicodemus was not trying to entrap Jesus. He asked honest questions.
From reading the gospels and seeing how John and Jesus answered dishonest questions and honest questions, we learn that dishonest questions do not need to be answered directly or completely, but they must be answered truthfully. For example, John the Baptist could never have explained to the leaders from Jerusalem that Jesus’ coming as Messiah included His coming as the Lamb of God.
From seeing how Jesus answered Nicodemus, we learn how Jesus gave him as complete an answer as it was possible for Nicodemus to understand under the circumstances. If Nicodemus had received what Jesus told him and had believed what Jesus told him about earthly things, then Jesus could have explained heavenly things to him, and he would have understood them (John 3:12). The same requirement is true today.
As Christians who study the Bible and hope and pray that we can share the truth of Jesus with others, we will be asked both dishonest and honest questions. We will need to pray for the Holy Spirit to help us recognize which is which and how to answer each type. As we answer both types, we will need to pray that we do so with the Spirit that Jesus showed. Through us, the Holy Spirit might draw a person asking dishonest questions to begin asking honest questions; and thereby come to believe in Jesus, the Messiah and Lamb of God.
May God continue to bless your Bible study and teaching and encourage you by His Word and Spirit!
Teaching the Truth in Love for the Love of God’s Word and His people,