If you share a conviction about a truth, expect questions—from both believers and non-believers. First, look at how the non-believers responded to Jesus’ statement. Jesus would be pelted with questions regarding his teachings. Go back to John 7:33, where he says, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.”
Do you believe that Jesus’ statements here brought about some questions? “Where is he going that we cannot come?” (v. 35). Here is a case where people will have questions regarding the future of Jesus’ exiting—and even His return. So many questions arise about the timing of everything regarding Jesus’ return. Nothing is new: even the Pharisees who had everything tracked out (they thought) in regards to Jesus’ first return, but they in their limitations and fallenness of their thinking, they missed a considerable amount—especially since He was standing right in front of them, teaching in their jurisdiction the entirety of his ministry. We can have our systems in place, but if we miss the entire point of the systems (Christ coming to save His people from their sins), all the arguments about end times systems will be a wash.
After Jesus makes a statement about believing in Him and living waters coming out of the one who believes, questions arose again! “Is not the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (John 7:42-43). So questions will arise as to where Christ came from? Was he born like others? What does it mean that He was ‘born of a virgin’? Why is that important? Isn’t it enough that he’s such a great teacher?
Being able to articulate the truth about Christ’s origin will come up even in our culture. Christ came as Holy God, but willingly became as a human to stand in our place for our sin as a sacrifice for sin. If he had been born of an earthly Father, then He would have been tainted with sin—and thus would need a Savior. So God sent Him by way of Mary, who was a virgin—never had known a man, so that the sin of man never tainted Him. He was holy from eternity, holy in time and space, and that Holy One suffered as a substitute for our sin by fully keeping God’s law on our behalf as well.
Questions will come, but we have to be careful: will they come from honest skeptics, or dishonest skeptics? I appreciate Ravi Zacharias making this distinction (see the clip below). First the dishonest skeptic—this is someone who just enjoys debate and being the ‘devil’s advocate,’ but isn’t really inquiring about the Christian faith. He just wants to argue, no matter how good of a case you can make. The Pharisees did this in Matthew 21:23, when they asked Jesus, “By what authority do you do all these things?” Did they really want to know? Not really.
It reminds me of a time when Larry King (before he was Larry King) was a radio host in Miami who interviewed Steve Brown, a Presbyterian minister, about the things of the faith. King kept asking skeptical questions over and over, until finally Brown asked King, “Larry, are you just asking questions for their own sake, or are you wanting to know the truth?” King was caught off-guard, and finally responded, “That’s a very good question!” In other words, was he an honest or dishonest skeptic?
An honest skeptic is one who asks questions to truly try and understand the Christian faith to really weigh the arguments. Nicodemus was one of these, who approached Jesus by night in John 3. The rich young ruler (whom we shall discuss tonight) was another: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
It’s important that we distinguish, so that when an honest skeptic comes along, we can patiently teach them the importance and urgency of the Christian faith. God left us here to be the body of His Son. We have ears to hear His Word, but also ears to hear the questions his imagebearers are asking. We may not know up front what type of skeptics we have–so may we plant those seeds, trusting the Spirit to do the work. But let’s be discerning. Jesus didn’t answer everyone nor entrust Himself to others because He understood their heart (John 2:23-25). But he would answer the honest skeptic. Pray that God would give you discernment as you share and defend the faith.