One of the things we were taught in the Fishers of Men program is the importance of answering questions with questions. There are several reasons for this. First, so doing can disarm those who make inquiries that are prone to generate more heat than light. Another is to gain clarification and/or determine the meaning of the question. Finally, answering questions with questions can determine the sincerity or lack thereof of the querist.
This last purpose was the point of Jesus’ response to the Jewish leaders in Mark 11. These enemies of truth demanded an accounting of the Lord concerning the authority by which He acted. I believe the action in question was His cleansing of the Temple.
Purporting to be the official judges concerning all things authority, they demanded, “By what authority do you do these things? And who gave you this authority?”
What was Jesus’ response? A simple and honest test; ‘I will answer your question if you answer mine. Was John’s baptism from heaven or men?’
The question Jesus asked was inherently about authority. If these opponents were truly experts on matters of authority, certainly they could answer a simple question about authority.
Instead, they reasoned among themselves, realizing they could not speak concerning John for two reasons: 1) if they said John’s authority came from heaven, Jesus would ask them why they rejected John’s message; and 2) fearing the people, they didn’t have the courage to publicly affirm what they really believed.
Being unwilling (not unable) to answer Jesus’ question, the Lord was then under no obligation to answer theirs.
This is hardly the only time Jesus used this tactic (cf Mark 12:13-17, 35-37). We would do well to learn to ask pertinent (and piercing) questions to those who ask of us. It can be an eye (and heart) opening experience! Mark 12:37