When Jesus Didn't Answer Questions (and When We Shouldn't Either)

Sometimes in our culture we are faced with tough questions asked by people with bad motives. These people may want to belittle Christ and desire to make Christianity appear absurd, outdated, and backward. What are we as Christians to do when faced with such questions? Must we answer all questions asked of us?


As Christ ministered and taught on earth he was asked often by many people who had different motives. More often than not Jesus blew away all expectations as he answered questions. The result was that his opponents were often stunned, even shamed, as he answered their questions with precision and truth.


Yet there were times when Christ refused to answer questions posed to him. In Luke 20:1-4 the chief priests and teachers approach Jesus to ask him, “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things…Who gave you this authority?” 


Note Jesus could have answered this question, “I am God in the Flesh! The Father has sent me! I am his Son!”  It would appear on the surface that all the chief priests wanted was the truth, all they wanted to know was more about Jesus. Who of us if asked this question about Jesus would hesitate to answer clearly?


But Jesus knew these people were not seeking truth, they were not seeking to believe—they were out for blood. This question was a trap, the leaders were seeking for Jesus to declare himself either God, which would be blasphemy, or the Christ, which would make him a threat to Rome. They wanted to legitimize their opposition to Jesus while at the same time discrediting him. 


So Jesus responded by asking them a question about John’s baptism—did it come from heaven or from man? Jesus pressed them to declare what their hidden allegiances are. Instead of playing along, Jesus turns the table on them. 


When the religious leaders refused to answer, Jesus in turn refuses to answer their initial question. Was Jesus being dishonest? Or course not. He was unwilling to play their twisted game.  Jesus conducts himself in the same way elsewhere (Matt. 15.1-3). The question for us is, “What should we take from Jesus’ refusal to answer loaded questions?” 


Christians in our culture are faced with similar situations. The secular world wants to ask us “trick” questions in an attempt to marginalize us. Most of these questions today have to do with human sexuality—the acceptability of homosexuality and transgenderism. The world goes out of its way to ask us loaded questions in order to lead us into a trap of their own making. When doing so they are not seeking truth, they are not seeking to understand our position, they have an agenda which is anti the gospel. 


It is in such circumstances we should consider Jesus’ actions here. When someone comes to us with a clear agenda of trapping and ensnaring us through their system of thinking, we would be wise to answer their question with our own questions. 


If someone is truly seeking to know more about God and what we believe, we should answer them eagerly. Yet when someone is only seeking to malign Christians, to trample us under the foot of the new mob-morality, we can choose to not play their game.  Now to be clear, such a choice should not be driven by fear or self-preservation; rather, it is driven by a desire to not partake in the false reality being established by the opponents of God.


How can we tell the difference? By asking them probing questions to see why they are asking us and to see if they are actually willing to enter into an honest dialogue. 
Let me give an example of such a conversation:


Non-Christian: “Why do you hate homosexuals? Isn’t all love the same? Jesus only cared about love, and to not judge? Why are Christians so hypocritical?”


Christian: “Why is it wrong to hate? On what foundation do you judge the beliefs of others as being wrong at all? How is that not intolerant and judgmental?"


Now the initial question asked in this scenario is very loaded and it is very close to much of the dialogue our culture has on sexuality.  We know Christians do not “hate homosexuals” yet the world has labelled it as hateful to say that homosexual acts are wrong. So how do we proceed?


Instead of answering the question according to their agenda and terms, we should respond by asking them how and on what basis they are making their own moral judgments. It is clear they think it is wrong for Christians to hold the moral position that homosexuality is wrong, yet at the same time they themselves are declaring that their morality superior to ours. They are making moral judgments which discriminate against the Christian position. 


In my experience, most non-Christians fail to realize how inconsistent they are being. They fail to see that they themselves are making moral claims and being intolerant. This is what prompts the response of the Christian. 


We want the unbeliever to think carefully about why they believe what they believe. If they truly want to have dialogue with us they will answer this question. If all they want is prove themselves to be self-righteous according to their cultural morality, then they will just continue in their insistence that we are the hate-filled bigots they have already assumed us to be. If that is the course they choose, we need not answer them. We do not have to play their game according to their unbalanced scales. 


Jesus told us that there will be occasions when we should not engage with belligerent people who are aiming only to make fools out of us and the gospel. Jesus says in in Matthew 7:6, “Do not cast your pearls before swine. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

We are not always obligated to answer questions which are clearly designed to lead us into a trap. Christ recognized this and it is time Christians recognize this as well. We do not answer, not out of cowardice, but out of wisdom. We refuse to play an unbalanced game on an unbalanced field.