Cynical questions are nothing new. In televised political debates, which are really political theater and showmanship without any reasoned discussion, we are used to hearing questions based on hypothetical scenarios with the intent being to make someone look foolish. This was often the tactic of Jesus’ critics.
A classic example of a cynical question was one posed by the Sadducees about resurrection (Matt. 22:23-33). It was a transparently insincere question because the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Moreover, their question posed an absurd hypothetical scenario, intended to force Jesus into an equally absurd position. The smug Sadducees were largely pragmatists who, while believing the written law, put little stock in miracles.
In response, Jesus addressed the real, not hypothetical, and confronted the problem of the Sadducees themselves, which was their cynical, rationalistic approach. They erred, He said, “not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.”
It was not just their misunderstanding of Scripture, their exegesis. More fundamental was their underestimation of God. By deemphasizing the supernatural, they necessarily had to put too much reliance on the natural, hence their rationalism. Sarcasm and cynicism both come from an arrogant mind, as so much of modern thought evidences.
It is easy to underestimate the power of God, just as we forget the power of “natural” forces. I recently saw the immediate aftermath of a flash flood in the desert after seeing the area just hours earlier. We tend to assume the future will proceed as the past and wrongly apply this error to the progress of the Kingdom of God. Those with a pessimistic eschatology will project the religious decline of recent years into the future. Even those with a vision of victory can presume the growth they believe in will be a very slow, gradual one.
Both perspectives ignore the power of God because they focus on a process rather than the power of God. To use a Biblical expression, they walk by sight, not by faith.
Evil will self-destruct, not triumph, and the Kingdom of God will fill the earth. We are not responsible for that victory, only for our own faithfulness to it. Therefore, we teach faithfulness, which only comes by obedience. The results and timing are in God’s all-powerful hands.