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One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and said to him, "Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?" He answered them, "I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" They discussed it with one another, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Why did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'Of human origin,' all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet." So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Then Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."
A Gutless Answer
When I read this little passage, my first thought was this: those chief priests, scribes and elders gave one gutless answer. I mean, give me a break. When Jesus turned their question back on them, they knew exactly what they believed to be the right answer. But they were so busy weighing the consequences of what they might say, they wimped out and said that they didn’t know. Now, in my book, that was gutless to the max.
But before I swing the hammer too hard, I have to admit that there are times I do the same kind of thing myself. I mean, when asked a question, sometimes I weigh the costs of the alternatives before giving my answer. And then when I finally decide to respond, it reflects more calculation than honesty. And so, if I’m honest with myself, there are times when my own guts are lacking.
But I don’t think I’m alone. To varying degrees, I think we all do this kind of thing from time to time. And even though we may be able to justify it by saying we’re actually thinking of others and their feelings, I believe we generally have ourselves in mind as we hem and hah. And as a result, we probably shouldn’t be surprise that we don’t receive the answers we want at the times we need them most.