|Religious leaders - Artist unknown|
TO CHEW ON: "And they reasoned among themselves saying, 'If we say, "From heaven," He will say to us "Why then did you not believe him?" But if we say, "From men," we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.' " Matthew 21:25,26
These chief priests, scribes and elders had the mindset of the conniving politician down pat. Their reasoning showed that they were more concerned with the impression they were making on observers than about searching their own hearts.
Jesus' claims often pulled out of His hearers such a reasoning response. That's what happens when what you see doesn't line up with what you have always thought possible. For example, after He said to the paralytic (whose friends lowered him to Jesus through a roof), "Your sins are forgiven," the scribes "reasoned" in their hearts that He had made a blasphemous statement (Mark 2:6-12).
When He talked about being the bread of life, the Jews "quarreled" with His claim (John 6:52).
Though such back-and-forth conversations in a reasoning, what-might-appear-to-us-as-argumentative style was the manner of Jewish teachers, Jesus never left the discussion on the theoretical plane. He inevitably pushed for a decision and a commitment.
In our reading today, Jesus refused to answer the leaders' insincere question about His authority to do miracles (Matthew 21:23-27). What was the point? It would just have produced more 'reasoning.'
In the story about the paralytic, from Mark, after forgiving the paralytic's sins, Jesus healed him physically, challenging the onlookers' assumptions that He was an ordinary man.
In the John account, after hearing the objections to His claims of being the bread of life, Jesus challenged the Jews to eat His flesh and drink His blood (a metaphorical allusion to the Last Supper and His death) - John 6:53-58.
Another time, when Jesus heard the wise answer of a scribe to His question, "Which is the greatest commandment?" He concluded, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God" Mark 12:34) (the implication being, 'Why don't you just take that next step and enter it?').
Paul does a good job of summing up the tension between reasoning and going farther.
"Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" - 1 Corinthians 1:20,21 (emphasis added).
It's fine for us to discuss and reason. But at the end of the day we need to take that step of admitting who He really is and, in the perfect reasonableness of believing faith, surrender to Him the lordship of our lives.
PRAYER: Dear God, there is in our age more than ever the tendency to reason away Your claims. Help me to go beyond playing with words and ideas, and to commit myself to You in action-changing belief. Amen.
New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.