(spring AD 30, Tuesday of Passion Week)
The religious leaders were determined to make Jesus look stupid, like an enemy of the people, like an enemy of the Romans, or preferably all of the above. On this occasion Jesus seems to have been dealing with people from Jerusalem who knew of Jesus largely by reputation.
On at least two of the occasions they tried this (including 12:13-17 in today’s reading) Jesus didn’t answer their question, or did so in a very obscure way. He exposed the hypocrisy of the questioner and turned the question back on them.
Sometimes people will raise objections to Christianity that aren’t really objections at all – they’re just statements designed to make you look like a fool, however you answer. Jesus here modelled the perfect non-response response to the non-enquiring enquiry.
If someone is obviously gloating, taunting or in some other way insincere, there are several ways you can respond to them. For example, when someone throws down a “But God hates gays” as if it’s a winning hand at cards, there are many potential ways to respond, beyond the obvious, ‘no he doesn’t’, such as:
- “Why do you say that?” (I act bewildered as I say this, to communicate what I consider – genuinely – the utter ridiculousness of such a thought)
- “If I can show you that God loves gays as much as people of any other orientation and any identity, will that convince you to trust in Jesus and repent of your sin?”
- “He hates gays like he hates straight people, bi, pan and every other sexuality. In fact, he hates us all so much that he sacrificed himself so that we can be with him forever. So actually, he loves everyone.”
- “In that case it was really weird that God picked an intersex person as one of the first examples of a convert through evangelism” (ref: Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts 8)
Ask people questions that will force them to confront their assumptions rather than just stand around for them to lob verbal rocks at you. If they don’t want a real conversation, don’t waste your time trying to have one. If they do, praise God, and trust him that he will help you, always remembering 1 Peter 3:14-16:
“…even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”