A professor of mine once said that there are no bad questions, only bad answers. I used to believe that. However, as I write this meditation, election season has rolled round again. I deeply respect the democratic process that resides at the heart of our form of government. However, I have a hard time keeping my cynicism in check with all the negative ads. In the process, we do not learn from the questions why someone favors a particular candidate, party, or policy. The questions posed simply humiliate those with whom we disagree. We ask bad questions—questions to discover how well opponents fall into rhetorical traps.
This episode from Luke’s Gospel shows one way that Jesus handled that kind of situation. A group of Sadducees approach him with a question they hope will belittle him in the eyes of his adoring fans. Jesus responds by calmly reminding them of what their own law says about the subject of resurrection. We gain some satisfaction from Jesus turning the tables on his opponents and giving them a taste of their own medicine. As the Gospel notes, “They no longer dared to ask him another question” (20:40).
I believe this text also teaches a lesson about the kinds of questions we ask. Jesus calls us into relationship with one another. He does not seem to care about winning arguments. The questions we choose to ask each other and God may reflect more clearly the character of our heart and our commitment to following Jesus’ teaching—even more than the answers we desperately want to advance in the public square.
Knowledge and passion are wonderful virtues. Humility and respect for others are even more precious in God’s eyes.
God, may I ask the questions that lead me to faithfulness and community. Amen.
The rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple became a test of God’s promise. The prophetic word of Haggai insists on courage and labor, reminding the people that God’s Spirit is already present among them and points toward the future. In Second Thessalonians, some Christians have grown extremely agitated by claims that the “day of the Lord” has already come. The passage recalls what Jesus and God have already accomplished and insists that God’s future may also be trusted. Jesus’ response to the Sadducees confutes them, not merely by its cleverness (their question also is clever) but by its truth. The eschatological future cannot be understood simply as an extension of the present, except in one profound sense: God is Lord both of the present and of the future. This profound truth demands the praise to which Psalm 145 calls all creatures.
• Read Haggai 1:15b–2:9. The people return home from exile—but home has changed. When have you returned “home” to a different setting than the one you left? How did you feel the changes?
• Read Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21. How fully do you participate in worship? In what areas are you more reserved?
• Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17. The phrase “shaken in mind” may be better translated as “shaken out of mind,” implying great distress. What basics and foundation do you return to when you are “shaken out of mind”?
• Read Luke 20:27-38. The Sadducees miss the core of who Jesus is. When has an “old” religious mind-set blocked your ability to see and hear a “new thing”?
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