Jesus: The Great Defender of Truth
Jesus was the greatest Teacher, Answer-Giver, and Defender of Truth the world has ever known. There never has been nor will be a better Person from Whom to learn and to imitate than Jesus of Nazareth. Near the beginning of His ministry in His hometown of Nazareth, “all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” (Luke 4:22). After His Sermon on the Mount, “the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29). Even His enemies (who were sent to arrest Jesus) could not truthfully deny the fact that “[n]o man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46).
What made Jesus such a great Teacher and Defender of Truth? What are some things we can learn from His actions that we can emulate in our own lives as we seek to defend our faith in Him?
Jesus Lived the Truth
Though He faced intense temptation by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11), and though He was continually followed, tested, and “microscopically” inspected by His many enemies, Jesus “was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The same Heavenly Will that He taught, He perfectly obeyed—never straying from the Truth. Even in the face of an unjust trial and death, Jesus prayed to God the Father, “[N]ot as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Indeed, Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).
Jesus lived in harmony with the Truth that He taught. He did not ask others to do what He Himself would not do. Unlike the phony Pharisees and insincere scribes who would often “say, and…not do” (Matthew 23:3), Jesus always lived in perfect harmony with the message that He preached. Such a consistent life with the Truth that He taught was foundational to His genuine success as a Teacher.
Admittedly, no one other than Jesus has ever or will ever live a perfect life on Earth (Romans 3:23). All accountable souls have sinned and made mistakes. But there is a difference in sin being a mistake for which we are truly sorry and sin being a habit that we continually commit and for which we are not really remorseful. Sin is literally the worse thing in the world (Romans 6:23). And hidden, unrepentant sin makes for the worst kind of “defender of the faith.” We need defenders of the Truth of God’s Word who, first and foremost (like Jesus), are living according to God’s Word.
Jesus Replied Rationally
A Christ-like defender of Truth is sensible, not foolish. Like Jesus, we tell the truth in loving, logical ways. Similar to how we rightly teach that 2 + 2 = 4, we rationally respond to those who question Christianity. After all, whenever Jesus taught and answered questions, He did so with sound argumentation, which could not be logically refuted.
On one occasion, when Jesus compassionately healed a demon-possessed man, His enemies illogically charged Him with casting out demons “by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (Matthew 12:24). How did Jesus respond to such contrived criticism? He replied with a sensible argument: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges” (Matthew 12:25-27). Jesus logically defended His miracle while insightfully pointing out the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. [And, of course, the Pharisees were as counterfeit at “casting out demons” as they were in their “righteousness” (Matthew 5:20). A real Miracle-Worker was in their midst, and all they could do was attack Him with inconsistent criticism.]
Jesus Offered Evidence
The Creator has never wanted thoughtless, foolish followers. Even when God came to Earth and put on flesh (John 1:1-5,14), He did not expect people to follow Him blindly. Jesus did not expect people to believe He was God simply because He said He was God. In fact, in John 10, while speaking to His enemies who were seeking to kill Him, Jesus said, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” John 10:37-38. Jesus was serious about offering evidence.
On another occasion, when Jesus was speaking to a group of hostile Jews about God the Father and Jesus’ equality with Him (John 5:17-30), He said, “If I bear witness of Myself” (without offering any evidence), “My witness is not true” (5:31). That is, merely claiming something to be true doesn’t make it so; real evidence must be offered. Jesus then proceeded to provide that evidence (in John 5:32-47).
Jesus did not come to Earth asking people to believe mystical things that cannot be proven. Rather, Jesus gave evidence that demands a true and just verdict. He gave people the proof upon which to build a rock-solid faith. And He rightly expects people to be able to examine the evidence, believe it, and then learn how to defend the Truth themselves.
Jesus Sometimes Said Little or Nothing
What would you think of a famous professional basketball player who felt he needed to answer every “boo,” heckle, and accusation that was hurled at him from the stands? If he tried shouting back (even a reasonable response) to every person who yelled at him, (1) at the very least, it would be a waste of time and energy (whether on the court or the bench) and likely (2) people would quickly think less of him than the rude and rowdy fans yelling at him. The fact is, no answer is often the best answer. As the wise man wrote: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him” (Proverbs 26:4).
One of the greatest lessons Jesus taught us by example is that sometimes the best reply is a brief one or none at all. Some questions, comments, and criticisms simply do not warrant a lengthy answer or defense. Why?
- Sometimes (like the unruly fans at a sporting event), people are “not in the mood” to receive an answer. The last thing they want in their current state of mind is to hear a reasonable response to anything they may be asserting.
- Sometimes, people have shown themselves not to be after answers but after blood. Many of Jesus’ first-century enemies had one thing in mind: “Let’s get Jesus.” They wanted to hurt Him in any way possible. And they eventually sought to kill Him (and did).
- Sometimes, more than enough evidence has already been given for one to come to an honest and rational conclusion. Thus there is no need for any more. More of the same would do no good. People can accept it, reject it, or spend more time pondering it, but sometimes, “less is more.”
After about three years of teaching, working miracles, fulfilling Old Testament prophecies, and confounding unbelievers at every turn, Jesus was eventually arrested. Rather than thoroughly answering critics and engaging in apologetics with the Jewish chief priests and elders, as well as with Pilate and Herod, Jesus repeatedly said little or nothing at all (Matthew 26:63; 27:14; Luke 23:9).
Whether you have already proved your point or are in a situation where you are being mistreated, sometimes the best answer is no answer.
Rather than use “our own way” to handle the questions that people ask us about Christianity, let’s keep in mind (and put into practice) how Jesus handled questions. Let’s allow the one and only perfect Teacher to impact how we provide biblical answers to others.
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