Are There Any Real Questions Left?

We’ve lost the fine art of seeking truth.  

I recently watched a couple of Youtube town halls because I like the tension of live discussion—the folks in attendance who ask great questions because they really want to know something, and the speaker in a sweat-drenched shirt, sleeves rolled up, earnestly trying to engage those real questions with real answers.  

Or am I just imagining something from movies?

Of the seventeen carefully scripted questions, most made a statement of some kind, or sought to provoke the speaker into giving catastrophic responses.  Few of the enquiries were genuine.  Questions and answers resulted in deadlock because all of them seemed to know it was a game.  

Thrust, parry.  Thrust, parry.  And so it went.    

This is our world, where questions are trump cards, and maneuvering devices.  We understand the game so well that when real questions get asked for the sake of obtaining truth, we’re almost taken by surprise.    

Real answers—the kind that bring truth to light—are rarer still.  Whoever gives them, needs to be incredibly careful.  Naive souls are rarely rewarded for honesty, and typically find themselves having to dig out of the swamp they made by telling the truth.  On the other hand, those with more political IQs do a lot of wordsmithing and nuancing, dodging the issue with the vaguest sort of responses.       

It’s a contest many enter, but few escape.       

Lk. 20:20 So they watched him [Jesus] and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 

These people were skillful, like ancient fowlers who caught game birds in nets.  First they appealed to the pride of orthodoxy.  Nothing tempts a decent man quite so much as flattery of his non-compromising virtue, his moral courage, his fidelity to truth.   Your Bible teaching is solid, fearless!  And so, such a man, caressed by the fawns of approval, loses his sobriety.  Bolstered by compliments, he proceeds with less guarded remarks, until he is caught in a net of his own rash words.  

His fake admirers have only stroked his ego in order to catch him in an unguarded moment.    

Then they ask “the” question:    

22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 

This issue had been the subject of some debate among the Jews, with no acceptable public answer, not without severe reprisals.  They knew it.  To endorse taxes to Caesar would have meant alienating mainstream Jewish citizens who did not recognize Rome’s right to tribute.  To disagree with those taxes would have meant advocating rebellion against the Romans, a life-threatening position for anyone.    

It was the perfect trap. 

I’ve seen this acted out in real time.  Like when a popular preacher was invited onto a television talk show.  The host had been locked and loaded with “the” question.  She couldn’t wait to ask it, and of course it was timed right after an enthusiastic audience reception when no guest would want to hear applause degrade into a chorus of boos.  So she asked it with a certain impish delight, apparently wanting to see him squirm.    

Jesus doesn’t allow anyone to play this game with Him.  

Lk. 20:23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 

While every coin in the imperial treasury might belong to Rome because of Caesar’s image and likeness stamped upon it, what things belonged to God?  

Why, whatever bears God’s image, of course. 
Like every human being. 
Including the Pharisees. 
Including Caesar himself. 

The One who created all is entitled to all.

26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.

The Wisdom of the ages had leveled their gamesmanship.  Far from being a battle of wits, though, He had brought them into an encounter with the truth of God.

Sadly, there had been no repentance following.  No hallelujahs.  Only stupefied silence.

If you have a question for Jesus, first make sure you want to know the answer.  

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