Tag: Questions Jesus Asked

11. To what shall I liken this generation?

Matthew 11:16 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions,

Read: Matthew 11:16-19; Luke 7:31-35


somewhere in cities of Galilee – Jesus’ “itinerant” ministry, after sending Twelve out (Matt. 10:5ff)

John Baptist’s disciples have asked question, received answer

Jesus continues instructing crowd – connecting dots from Luke 3:1-18, esp. verse 15

Person(s) being questioned:

probably not really directed at crowd – “this generation”

thinking out loud, talking to self but ok if others listen in – not intended to be private conversation

Question behind the question:

Why are you so committed to stereotypes?

Why do you behave so immaturely about such serious things?

Expected response:

Jesus probably did not expect a response

intended to answer his own question for benefit of those really listening

already knew attitude of majority toward John’s ministry and his

Jesus’ point:

people had idea (“the people were in expectation”), had rubric (complete Old Testament)

application to real life using wrong rubric – stereotypes promoted by religious leaders intended to maintain status quo

John – fasting, criticized/discounted for being too strict; must have picked up a demon out there in the desert

Jesus – feasting, criticized/discounted for not being strict enough; must be lowlife like those he associates with

were evaluating (both John and Jesus) in light of humanly developed standards – principle easily applies to any situation

should have been mature enough to use God’s standard the Bible to evaluate against, then accepted the evidence

didn’t mind using Bible to find promises that give hope, should have gone rest of the way… asked most important question – is what we are seeing a true work of God?

e.g., Edwards on Revivals: Containing A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northhampton, Massachusetts, A.D. 1735

Modern Application:

easy to construct mental image, stereotype of some kind – is ok when faithful to what is portrayed in Bible

should carefully evaluate at each use for something of this magnitude, going back to original for validation

easy application: they way they do things (church, evangelism, missions, music, outreach, mens/womens ministry) over there

doesn’t matter whether results appear favorable/positive or unfavorable/negative – is God at work?

second easy thing to do: judge validity of method by (apparent) results – Bible repeatedly cautions against that

where God / Bible prescribes method we must follow, responsibility for results is God’s


10. What did you go out to see? A prophet?

Matthew 11:9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.

Read: Matthew 11:2-14; Luke 7:18-30

see also Luke 3:1-18, esp. verse 15


somewhere in cities of Galilee – Jesus’ “itinerant” ministry, after sending Twelve out (Matt. 10:5ff)

John Baptist already arrested by Herod for reuke of illegal/immoral marriage (Herodias married 2 of her uncles)

John knew who he was, unsure about who Jesus was – was Jesus real deal or only an impostor

Person(s) being questioned:

the multitudes – ones following Jesus around throughout Galilee

were right there when John’s two emissaries asked Jesus the question, and heard Jesus’ response

knew how John had been acting/preaching… as the forerunner angel referenced to Zechariah – Luke 1:13-17

iow, John would be forerunner promised Mal. 4:5-6 – so… John a fulfillment of prophecy, asking if Jesus a fulfillment of prophecy also

Jesus answered prophecy question with prophecy answer – clear reference to Isa. 61:1 – implied: you are seeing this prophecy fulfilled, what do you think?

John’s disciples had their answer, went back to report; Jesus turned to crowd left behind, continued teaching, putting them on the spot

Question behind the question:

asks series of pointed questions closely connected to John, Herod, Jesus and prophetic promises – expecting listeners to think

what were their expectations? preconceived ideas? motivation? were they prepared for if this / then that connections?

if you really expected “this”, why did you respond as you did?

if you really expected to see a prophet, the prophet, then proper response would be…

are you seeking / hungering for truth… or entertainment?

ties in with expectations and motivation – often see what confirms expectations, respond accordingly

if you are hungering for truth, where does that truth lead?

if truth leads somewhere, need to follow to logical conclusion

Expected response:

Jesus gave expected response… for at least some of crowd – did expect to see prophet

Jesus also knew many went out to see John just for the spectacle, entertainment value

Jesus’ point:

if you go to hear / see genuine prophet of God, should expect to heed what he says – ought to result in some kind of change

John was identified by angel as forerunner, Jesus confirmed that identity – Matt. 11:10; if that is true, then… someone must be following, iow the Messiah

since that is true, are Messianic prophecies also being fulfilled? yes, indeed, what did John’s disciples hear and see – v.5

the one who has ears to hear will recognize / acknowledge who Jesus is, will accept him as the Messiah, submit to his rule

Modern Application:

same as Jesus’ deeper question: what are expectations? preconceived ideas? motivation? are we prepared for if this / then that connections when go to hear God’s word proclaimed?

also true, btw, when come to God’s word in personal devotions and study

point also the same: if you go to hear / see genuine “prophet” of God (one who proclaims God’s truth), should expect to heed what he says – ought to result in some kind of change


9. Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?

Matthew 9:15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Read: Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39compare John 3:28-30


period of Galileean ministry: teaching by sea (Mk.2:13); eating at Levi’s (2:15); walking through grainfields (2:23); synagogue (3:1); to the sea (3:7)

perhaps at Levi’s house (Luke 5:29ff) – if so, gathering included many tax collectors, sinners, scribes, Pharisees, disciples of John

John’s disciples (Matt 9:14), they (Mk & Luk) asked, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”

Person(s) being questioned:

Jesus’ response question directed primarily at those who questioned him – John’s disciples, but for benefit of entire group

Jesus often put his challengers on the spot, at same time expected all within earshot to be actively hearing

like with Nicodemus, how Jesus phrased his question should have provoked response – many around the table Bible students

also John’s disciples were following John before Jesus’ ministry began – should have been familiar with John’s theological position

Question behind the question:

when do you fast, when do you celebrate?

fast when mourning (1 Sam. 31:13); deep personal trouble (2 Sam. 12:16-22); national danger (2 Chr. 20:1-3ff); no NT reference after Acts (13:3; 14:23)

celebrate victory (1 Sam. 18:6-8), deliverance (Ex. 15), marriage (John 2:1-10), great accomplishment (Ezra 6:16; Neh. 12:27)

what is appropriate behavior for godly people now?

two examples – action is possible but not proper – not put-down of old garments, old wineskins… have time and place

something has changed, former ways of doing things no longer proper; and… a time for celebration not mourning

who do you think I (Jesus) am? what do you think my purpose is here?

highlighter on word “bridegroom” – should have been clue to hearers, especially John and his disciples

Expected response:

no, of course not

wedding a time of celebration for all present, regardless of relationship or station

to not enter into celebration would be insult to bride and groom particularly, in some way to everyone

no mourning for entire duration of wedding celebration – in Jesus’ day, week-long feast

Jesus’ point:

now is not the time for mourning – is a time for celebration

next big event on God’s timeline in Jewish understanding – coming of Messiah and his Kingdom

was Jesus’ way of telling serious students of Bible their hopes were being realized – Bridegroom was with them

God as husband – Isa. 54:4-6; 62:4-5; recognized / identified by John as Bridegroom – John 3:28-30

because Jesus was there, no need to fast – claim only God himself could make

Modern Application:

narrow focus – Bridegroom has come, established his kingdom, taken away by death and then by Ascension

can and should rejoice that next to last major promise of God has been fulfilled

wider focus – all that is true, but is it appropriate to fast now?

two statements Jesus made:

John 16:16-20 “…you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy”

Matthew 28:18-20 “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

fasting an ok “spiritual discipline” – not obligatory, not common practice among NT church



8. Why do you think evil in your hearts?

Matthew 9:4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?

Read: Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26


Jesus’ own town (Matthew); Capernaum, at home (Mark); later, went to his house (Matthew)

crowd that filled space, spilled out into street (Mark); included “experts in the law” (Matthew), Pharisees and teachers of the law from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem (Luke)

Jesus preaching the word to them (Mark); four or more men plus paralytic, down through the roof, forgiven then healed (Mark)

Person(s) being questioned:

experts in the law and Pharisees – religious leaders of the day

Jesus had significant enough following, came from all over country to check it out

based on their apparent assumptions, were already biased against Jesus

Question behind the question:

Two distinct but related issues: attitude toward Jesus, attitude toward others (shepherds to flock)

How do you suppose I know your heart? (was not obvious in body language – see Mark 2:8)

What is man’s greatest need?

You are spiritual leaders – what are your ministry priorities?

Expected response:

Why are you acting like God?

Why do you accuse us of evil?

How do you know what we’re thinking?

Jesus’ point:

did not recognize Jesus as Nicodemus did – John 3:2a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

accused Jesus (rightly) of acting like God while they (wrongly) acted like God toward Jesus and paralytic

were more concerned with protecting theological territory than showing genuine compassion to the lost

Jesus must have authority to forgive sin since only God knows heart/thoughts – healing miracle visibly confirmed it

eternal destiny is far more significant than present circumstances – need for forgiveness and reconciliation with God far more important than any other consideration

Modern Application:

the Gospel is non-negotiable – sharing the Gospel is most compassionate thing we can do

except in emergency/crisis situations, no Gospel no help; is ok to direct those who reject Gospel to secular agencies

problem with relational evangelism – encourages mindset that puts relationship before evangelism; often never get to Gospel

organizations church supports must be Gospel-centered… clearly and articulately so – no biblical precedent for undercover Gospel work

showing love of Christ to others no more meaningful than simple compassion when they don’t know it is Christ whose love is being shown

7. Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?

Matthew 8:26 But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Read: Matthew 8:18-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25


after Sermon on the Mount, intense period of healing and teaching

accompanied by his disciples in the boat… and accompanying boats – see Mark 4:36 and Matt. 8:23

mature men, seasoned sailors; Sea of Galilee 1/3 larger than Sebago, only half as deep, comparable volume; would have recognized signs of bad weather

resting in boat; preparing to broaden ministry on “the other side”

area of Decapolis – other side many ways: geographically, religiously, culturally, ethnically

northwest vs east
Judaism vs Caesarism (emperor worship) plus influence from Canaanite/Greek/Roman idol worship
Jewish vs Greco-Roman
Jew vs Gentile

growing from local ministry to cross-cultural, provincial to international – significantly ramping up threat to Satan… see Matt. 8:28; Mark 5:2; Luke 8:27

Person(s) being questioned:

some, but probably not all, of the Twelve – the ones with him in that boat – the rest in smaller boats (fishing boat vs. skiff)

ancient fishing boat from the 1st century AD, discovered in 1986 on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee – 27 feet long, 7.5 feet wide, maximum preserved height of 4.3 feet; shallow drafted with a flat bottom; four staggered rowers, also a mast” (wikipedia)

Question behind the question:

Why are you not following My example? If Jesus was not fearful, what possible reason could they have for fear?

Why do you think I don’t care? (Mark 4:38)

You have a little faith, why are you not exercising it?

Expected response:

mumble, mumble, red face, hanging head, “sorry, Master”

notice: Jesus asked question before he calmed the storm – now not the time for questions, do something!!

Jesus acted purposely in other order… disciples preoccupied with what he did, not who he was

was effective strategy – notice emphasis of their question: “who can this be”

Jesus’ point:

who you are with is way more important than where you are

disciples should have known by then who he was (see John 3:2), known he couldn’t die until he chose, they were safe with him… even if the boat sank!

emotions need to stay within boundaries that are set by what we know

Christian should act based on knowledge of truth and confidence in source of truth

Modern Application:

one of more common exhortations in Bible – do not be afraid (and related, e.g. “let not your heart be troubled”)

phobias, anxiety/panic disorders get that way when circumstances take priority in thinking over truth

be proactive, training mind when no immediate encouragement to fear – fill mind with God’s truth, meditate on it, focus on it… so are prepared when fear comes

you have only a little faith? Use It!! exercise what you have, pray for more, do all in God’s strength

6. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?

Matthew 7:16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?

Read: Matthew 7:15-20; Luke 6:43-45

notice larger context in Matthew – chapter begins with “Judge not”, now teaching about criteria for “judging” (root word κρίνω, Eng. derivative criterion, critique, criticism)

Setting: same hillside near Capernaum (Luke 7:1), near beginning of formal ministry

continuing the first formal “Bible School class” for the Disciples – Jesus the teacher (Matt. 5:2), they the students (Luk. 6:20)

class took place in hearing of “great multitude of people”

appears to be same setting in both Gospels

Person(s) being questioned: the Twelve… directly (Matt. 5:1-2; Luke 6:13ff), but for all present to hear

will be going out on ministry in pairs, representing Jesus, carrying his message, having some measure of authority

need: discernment, distinguishing between right/wrong, helpful/harmful

Question behind the question:

Does character matter?

Will true character be evident?

Should we try to gather nourishment from what cannot nourish and only irritates?

Expected response:

of course not; should not expect to be able to do so

thorns and thistles cannot produce fruit so they don’t

those who try will be disappointed

Jesus’ point:

a plant produces according to its character, its nature

same is true for people

fruit may appear healthy and wholesome outwardly, have a rotten core

same is true for people

consider Gen. 3:18; also 2 Cor. 11:13-15

Modern Application:

must be discerning: those we heed, those we lead, those we feed

heed – seek out who/what will edify, don’t waste time on the rest

lead – pay attention to kind of fruit produced, question/challenge what is suspect

feed – look for good fruit production; and… if fruit remains bad, perhaps tree is bad (need evangelizing, not discipling)

5. What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?

Matthew 7:9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?

Read: Matthew 7:7-12; Luke 11:11-13


Matthew – same (Sermon on the Mount) but with qualifiers of immediate context: verses 6, 12

Luke – different: see v.1… “He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray”

instruction on content of prayer (2-4), importunity in prayer (5-10), response to prayer (11-12), object of prayer (13)

Person(s) being questioned:

Matthew – the Twelve plus surrounding auditors and seekers – preparing to go out on ministry

Luke – disciples only, final round of Jesus’ ministry through Perea and Judea before “Passion Week” – preparing to carry on ministry

Question behind the question:

argument from lesser to greater

supplied in Matt. 7:11, Luke 11:13… in part

in addition:

Matthew – who do we trust

Luke – how do we depend

Expected response:

In Jesus’ day – no one, of course; silly question, God always gives good gifts

to “real” question – God of course, who else, for everything

today – see Fatherlessness data

argument not readily understood in current culture – almost 1 out of 4 adult nationwide, 1 in 3 in Maine, in religious “nones”

should plan for preliminary teaching before asking question about both God and fathering

Jesus’ point:

notice kind of things son is asking for – things normally considered good

applies to what we ask / seek / knock for

God doesn’t “prank” his kids

Matthew – trust in God, not civil authority; show discernment who you trust with “valuables”

Luke – persevere in prayer

Modern Application:

trust: many try to “steal” trust – professionals, science, agencies

ask: what worldview do they represent? is what they promote/counsel consistent with Bible?

persevere: God isn’t a drive-thru – gives what is good for us and for his glory… may not be exactly what we requested

God gives on his schedule and in his way – taken all together is what makes it good