From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 9 – What is ‘the love of the truth’ and why does truth matter so much to God?
To proud, hard-hearted people such as them, Jesus choose not to go into detail or to give full answers. He would often say things to the crowds standing alongside so as to rebut or condemn the things said by His critics and enemies. But at such times He was really speaking to the crowd, not to the Scribes and Pharisees themselves.
When His enemies and critics asked Him questions Jesus frequently chose not to explain Himself or to elaborate on what He was doing. He tended to give them short answers. He would often just turn to the crowds instead and tell them what was wrong with the Scribes and Pharisees who were standing next to Him. Let’s look at a few examples of how Jesus gave them short, abrupt answers, or rebuked them, or even gave no answers at all. It was evidently not an uncommon occurrence:
1 One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up 2and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” 3 He answered them, “I also will ask you a question; now tell me, 4Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” 5And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7So they answered that they did not know whence it was. 8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”Luke 20:1-8 (RSV)
They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also.”John 8:19 (RSV)
37 While he was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him; so he went in and sat at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of extortion and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.Luke 11:37-44 (RSV)
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the market places. 44 Woe to you! for you are like graves which are not seen, and men walk over them without knowing it.”
In the meantime, when so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they trod upon one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.Luke 12:1 (RSV)
10 “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him. 15 But he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.Luke 16:10-15 (RSV)
Note the stark contrast between Jesus’ detailed response to Nicodemus in John chapter 3 and the way He gave short, sharp answers, or even rebukes, to some of the other Pharisees. God gives revelation, and understanding to those who have the love of the truth but not to people who don’t. That is because they don’t care about finding out what is true and what is false.
Compare the attitude of Nicodemus with that of some of his fellow Pharisees, as shown in this next passage. His colleagues are criticising Jesus and rejecting His message. By contrast, Nicodemus speaks up publicly in defence of Jesus, right in front of his fellow Pharisees:
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.John 7:37-52 (ESV)
40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”