As a counselor I work with people of many backgrounds. When the client approaching a change or something close to it, it is natural for them to push back. Skepticism on what could be worth considering can be healthy even towards me as their counselor.
But cynicism is not really a healthy screening on life because one keeps out the good too. It protects against all truth but especially any inconvenient truth.
With strange semantics to it, Jesus had to deal with two cynical high priests the night he was betrayed. First it was what amounted to the high priest emeritus Annas in his house in a pseudo grand jury. Jesus is the good news and has good news. He is the heart of the gospel and this night his life and message engages with those who love their religious power and status quo.
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the [current] high priest (John 18:19-24).
I have said nothing in secret. – – This is important to note in beauty, truth and goodness are not meant to be secret. These objective truths are called theological transcendentals in part because they speak to the nature of God who transcends our conventional understanding yet are always tangible. They are essential in his teaching and for his disciples. Jesus did not want a social or secret society but a called out community to shine like a city on a hill in tandem with these themes.
Why do you ask me?– – Jesus responds by urging a responsible examination of his message. This is still applicable today to the Christian who deals with hostile examination. What traditional Christianity has to offer is apparent with even a few research tools. For example, one can ask or show the adversarial person if they are opposed to what the Bible teaches or what they think the Bible teaches.
If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. – – Here Jesus invites skepticism and accountability to speak up on where the error is. True, Jesus is without sin but instead of seeing this as sarcasm I would suggest it is appropriate in engaging people in much the same way as, “What makes you come to your conclusion?”
But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me- – – Jesus points to commonly held moral beliefs on cause and effect. The guard hit him without being attentive and responding from their intellect.
It is simple. But Annas dismisses him to his son in-law Caiphas in the next level because his cynicism is shown up and clarity has been touched upon. Ironically, when such cynicism is shown up, the Christian should not perceive failure. Light and darkness, through conflict, are exposed. What happens next for the person that chooses is God’s job. Later, we see in the martyrdom of Stephen the seed planted for Saul to become Paul the apostle. From a wider, biblical perspective, being aggressed upon due to the gospel is win-win.
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, ‘If you are the Messiah, tell us.’ He replied, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer (Luke 22:66-68).
If you are the Messiah, tell us.– – There is a saying, “Be careful for what you wish for. You might get it”. They say they are ready for the truth but have been hardening their hearts for sometime to God’s grace. Within this past week, Jesus has addressed their legalism and how they tie down people with loads they themselves do not want to carry.
If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer.– – Jesus illuminates their hardness of heart. As we look at a further angle from the Gospel of Matthew, we will see the impasse and a decision for Christ. Though the declaration of the gospel is not guaranteed to convert every person every time, we see in Jesus that he is a realist about their hearts. “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person” (John 2:24-25). For those who share the gospel, there is room to be a realist for the convert or the earnestly seeking but a realist on the rest.
Therefore, any Christian that runs into an impasse, should not be devastated nor surprised. And being a Christian who knows they are saved by grace one should not look down the nose at the hardening of heart. They love darkness because right now at least because is what they know and they hate the light. In an evangelistic impasse, we defer to the ultimate will of the Father in heaven.