Have you ever read the Gospels and thrown your arms in the air saying, “Come on! Really?” I have. Certain conversations in these sacred texts carry a combination of remarkable depth and breathtaking simplicity. Like today’s passage, they sometimes appear to be written in children’s playground language in order to address adult concerns.
A group of religious leaders dares Jesus with a trick question. Jesus double dares them with his own trick question. If they answer, he will. The leaders find themselves in a bind and cannot answer. Jesus then refuses to address the initial question. Come on! Really?
I took the passage to my children, 7 and 10, hoping for some light. “Hmmm. Why did they ask about his authority?” inquired my daughter with suspicion. My son focused more on the transactional aspect of the interaction: “If they were not smart enough to answer Jesus’ question, why should he answer theirs?”
Perhaps these two young exegetes are right. The starting point is to determine the wisdom of the question. What is the purpose of entertaining questions about faith if not grounded in some form of religious wisdom? Jesus’ attitude seems to denounce precisely that lack of wisdom.
As people who read reality through the lens of faith, we have an obligation to ask questions. Nonetheless, our questions to God and about God need to be wise.
What is needed is not mere wit or factual knowledge but wisdom as a divine gift, nurtured by being in relationship with God and strengthened by knowing God’s ways. For such wisdom, we pray. In it, we delight. To it, we devote ourselves.