Recall that on Tuesday of Passion Week while Jesus was teaching in the temple He was confronted by a delegation of Jewish leaders from the Sanhedrin challenging Him about His authority to go about teaching the people and cleansing the temple as He was doing. In answer to their question He asked them if John the Baptist’s authority for preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mar 1:4) was from heaven or from men, which if they answered honestly would also have answered their question. However, they immediately realized that either way they answered they would end up incriminating themselves in the eyes of those before whom they had hoped to embarrass Jesus. Consider from this the inherent nature of truth: If something is true it is impossible to prove it false, and any attempt to do so will inevitably result in a similar dilemma; cf. Act 5:38-39. How then was the predicament they found themselves in the inevitable result for all who deny or attempt to suppress the truth? Cf. Psa 2:1-4, 37:12-15. How were they then forced to answer Jesus, and how is that again similar to all who refuse to acknowledge the truth? Are there things about which we are forced to plead ignorance because of a similar hardness of heart that refuses to acknowledge the truth?
In light of the Jewish leaders’ answer to His question about John’s authority, how did Jesus answer their question about His authority? See Mat 21:27b. What did their response to Jesus’ question indicate about why it would be of no use for Jesus to answer their question? See Luk 22:66-68; cf. Luk 16:31, Joh 10:24-26. What does Jesus’ answer to their question teach us is the great danger to those who suppress the truth and refuse to acknowledge the light because it exposes their darkness? Cf. 1Co 14:38 in the KJV, Joh 12:37-40 and think: If someone refuses to acknowledge the truth, does God continue to reveal the truth to them, or does He answer them according to the intention of their hearts and give them over to believe the lie they want to be true? See Rom 1:20-28, 2Th 2:9-12. What does this help us to understand about the truth of Psa 18:25-26? Cf. 1Co 3:19. What does Jesus’ answer teach us about our own obligation to answer scoffers who are not sincerely interested in the truth but simply looking for an occasion against us? Cf. Pro 26:4-5, Mat 7:6.
Consider the lasting influence that the choices the religious leaders had made concerning John were forcing them into in regard to Jesus, and the implications that had for their eternal destiny; in contrast, consider from their deliberation the impact that John’s ministry was having even after his death, even upon those who had rejected him while he was alive; cf. Mat 14:1-2. Although Herod and the religious leaders were no doubt relieved on one level at John’s death because he was no longer present to oppose them, how had the influence of his life prevented even death from silencing him? What does this teach us about the power of an influential life to transcend even death? In what way is a person’s influence after their death the ultimate measure of the influence of their life? What does this teach us the goal of our own lives should be, even if that lasting influence is only over our children and those closest to us? Because of the choices they had made in regard to the truth, how has the lasting influence of the religious leaders differed from that of John or Jesus? See Dan 12:2 and consider how the Jewish religious leaders, like Sodom and Gomorrah, have been regarded with contempt throughout history. What does this remind us will be the lasting influence of those today who deny or suppress the truth, regardless of their present power and authority? What encouragement does this give us to stand firm for the truth even if we stand alone or as part of a small minority?
Consider that because of the polarizing nature of influential people like John the Baptist, Jesus, the apostles, John Huss, William Tyndale, or even Martin Luther King Jr., their enemies often suppose that their death will rid them of their influence; in fact, why does the untimely death of those who are most influential in their lives make their influence all the more permanent? Think: what communicates one’s sincerity and commitment to something more than their willingness to die for it? As we have come to understand that the true riches of heaven are the manifold joys expressed for us by those whose lives were influenced for eternity by our own life (cf. Gal 4:19, Phil 4:1, 1Th 2:19), what does this help us to understand about how we may compound our riches in heaven even beyond those that we store up in heaven during our lifetime? What does it also reveal about the even deeper meaning of the central truth of the gospel about dying to live and losing one’s life to find it? Cf. Joh 12:24-25 and Jesus’ own example. From this perspective and in light of our eternal rewards, need one fear an untimely death for taking a bold stand for the truth? In conclusion, how does the lasting influence of those who stand firm for truth differ from the lasting influence of those who deny it, both in regard to themselves and to others?
1. This is the principle of proving something true in Mathematics by “reductio ad absurdum”: by assuming a proposition is false and arguing logically to a contradiction, the truth of the proposition is established.↩