When I imagine meeting Jesus, I start formulating all the questions I would ask him. “Jesus, what does this verse mean?” “How should I handle this situation in my life?” “Where do you come down on this issue?” I am certain I would pepper Jesus with questions just like people in the Gospels did. They asked him questions about the Bible, controversies of the day, politics, his power, their own personal issues, and more. And Jesus’ answers are just as diverse as the questions—at times he answers the question directly, other times he responds with a parable, he might work a miracle, other times he outright rebukes the questioner. Everyone has questions for Jesus. But Jesus does not give answers to all of them. All questions are not created equal.
In the early chapters of Luke, there are three similar requests of Jesus that he answers in drastically different ways. In the opening verses of Luke 4, the devil asks Jesus to confirm his identity and power through working miracles. In response, Jesus simply quotes scripture, refusing to oblige the devil’s requests. The in Luke 4:23, Jesus’ hometown brethren from Nazareth ask him to perform the miracles he had done at Capernaum to prove his identity as the Son of God. In response, Jesus rebukes their attitude and resolves to spend his time away from his sign-seeking brethren.
So far there are two requests for Jesus to confirm his identity through a miracle, and Jesus declines. But in Luke 7 as John the Baptist is sitting in prison awaiting his execution, he sends messengers to Jesus asking, “are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (v19). It is essentially the same question as the devil and Nazerites: “can you confirm your identity?” But Jesus’ answer is much different—he took the messengers with him as he healed the blind, lame, lepers, deaf, and the demon-possessed and told them to report back to John what they have seen (vv21-22). Not only that, Jesus went on to preach to the crowd about the great work and faith of John the Baptist (vv24-35).
Three questioners with a similar request: “can you confirm your identity to us?” The first two are met with rebukes; the third is answered with a definitive, “yes!” Similar requests, but different requesters with drastically different hearts. The devil’s motive was temptation. Nazareth’s motive was to see a magic show. John’s motive was to seek help when he was wrestling with doubt.
All questions are not created equal, even if the questions are exactly the same. Jesus accommodates the earnest and diligent seeker; he is patient and welcoming to him. But with the tester, the curmudgeon, the tempter, and the cynic, Jesus has no patience. He works no confirming miracles for these hearts. When we are seeking truth, studying the Bible, and asking questions, the most important detail is the heart these inquests proceed from.