Important Questions—Matthew 21
Read Chapter 21
Sometimes questions are more important than answers.
I am a middle school English teacher. I spend a lot of time either answering or asking questions. Sometime when a student asks me a question, even if I can easily answer it, I tell the student “Go find out, and let me know the answer.” Usually, I get a sigh and an “Okay.” Sometimes I answer with another question. I do this to involve them in their own learning, or to point to something they already know. I want to make them responsible for their own learning. It’s sneaky and underhanded, but it works.
People questioned Jesus all the time. Who are you? Who’s your favorite? What’s in this for us? How do I forgive? I picture Jesus raking his hair back with his fingers, leaning against a nearby tree or rock, and taking a deep breath. I feel that way a lot. Are you seriously asking me that question? Didn’t I just tell you that?
In Matthew 21, Jesus is questioned repeatedly about his authority. Like a good teacher, he turns the question on those who ask it, making them take responsibility for the answer. They know it but are either afraid or unsure if they want to be responsible for their answer. So, the priests and elders copped out and pled ignorance. Point made. Jesus wanted them to have the faith to affirm the answer they knew and could not give.
Jesus tells two stories. The story in verses 28-32 is the parable of two sons who were asked to go work in the family vineyard. One refused outright and the other replied “Okay” and did nothing. Jesus asked which one obeyed. No answer. The story in verses 33-40, about a vineyard owner, is about taking responsibility. Again, the audience copped out, pleading ignorance. What could they say?
Their answers, or their lack of answers, was much more important than any question they might have asked. They already knew the answers but were afraid to say so.
What are you afraid to say? What are you afraid to take responsibility for?
- Why were the people in authority so afraid to answer Jesus’ questions?
- Read the parable of the two sons. Have you ever been either one of them?
- How are questions in this chapter important?
Gracious God, be with us in our questions. Give us wisdom to ask important questions and patience to hear answers. Make us bold in our action to speak your grace to the world. Amen.
Julie Arndt is a member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Lumberton, NC. She is active in Christian education, worship and music, Women of the ELCA, and the congregation council. She has been editor of the monthly newsletter for St. Mark’s, and during the COVID-19 crisis has taken the publication weekly. Julie has a BA in English from Charleston Southern University in Charleston, SC and a BS in Middle Grades Education from UNC-Pembroke. She is a middle school English teacher, avid reader, and wannabe novelist. She has been happily married to Robert Arndt since 2002 and gives him full credit for bringing her into the Lutheran church. They live in Pembroke, NC.