Christ-followers get ambushed all the time, don’t we?
And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:27–33)
A popular morning show features a segment they call “Ambush Makeover.” Beauty experts ambush an unsuspecting audience member, whisk her away and return her in an hour with updated hair, makeup, and clothes. The results are astounding. It’s the kind of ambush I would welcome.
There are other times when an ambush is not so welcome. Christ-followers get ambushed all the time, don’t we? For instance, how many times have you been ambushed with questions like, “Why would a loving God allow war? Suffering? Disappointment?” Sometimes people are genuinely looking for an answer, but often the questions are asked in a sarcastic tone.
Jesus was ambushed by the religious leaders of his day with the question, “By what authority are you doing these things?” The question was not asked from any desire to learn the truth, but to catch Jesus off guard in a “wrestle for control.”1 They confronted Jesus as if they were conducting an interrogation. The setting does not convey an open-minded request for information.2
Certainly, Jesus could win any argument, but he was not argumentative here. He used the techniques of the rabbis better than they did! He offered to answer their question. But first, he asked them to validate their authority to question his authority by answering a question he posed.3 His response defused the confrontation because the leaders no longer wanted to proceed with the argument. They are left uttering the words, “we don’t know …” Sisters, there is a lesson here for us: There is a time to argue the facts and a time to realize that arguments will not produce anything good.
How do you respond when you are ambushed with questions about your faith? How can you defuse such confrontations?
Prayer for the Journey
Lord, help me always be prepared to make a defense with gentleness and respect to anyone who asks me for a reason for the hope that is in me (1 Peter 3:15). Amen.
1 Craig A. Evans, Word Biblical Commentary: Mark 8:27–16:20 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 198.
2 R. T. France, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2002), 452.
3 Evans, 205.