The Scripture for today’s Matthew’s periscope has a group of the Chief Priests and the Scribes, and the other Synoptics Mark and Luke has the grouping to be Pharisees and the Elders. The importance of these groupings represent the divisions which make up the membership of the Sanhedrin. They are the religious, cultic, social, and legal make up in the Sanhedrin. Their primary responsibility is to discern the truth and/or falsity of one who identifies themselves as a prophet.
This is the first time that Jesus is in the synagogue in Jerusalem. It is also the last time Jesus will preach in the synagogue. The religious leaders ask Jesus if He is a prophet? Jesus doesn’t answer their question, but asks a question of them instead. The question deals with the authenticity of John the Baptist. Jesus asks the grouping “Is John the Baptist a prophet? or an imposter? This method is a familiar rabbinic method. To answer a question with a questions is a typical rabbinical method. Jesus’ question silences the questioners, because to answer it one way would upset the Roman authorities, and to answer with another way would upset the crowds who acknowledge John the Baptist as a prophet. Jesus reminds the questioners that the way their ancestors treated legitimate prophets in the past was to murder them.
If there is a lesson here it might very well be something that St. Francis De Sales said. “It is not necessary to always speak, but if we do we must speak the truth”. In a book on “How to get to yes with people we disagree with” there was a gathering of Generals who had different suggestions on how to marshal their troops and resources to win a war. These men agreed First, when presenting a position they would never get personal. Second, in presenting a position they keep focused on the issues. Of course with this formula they won the wars.
Finally, Peter Drucker, Father of Modern Management, had this to say about how to act when two or more people come to an impasse: Be firm, be fair, and be friendly!
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is a member of the Passionist Community at Sacred Heart Monastery in Louisville, Kentucky.