“They said, ‘If you are the Christ, tell us.’ But, he said, ‘If I told you, you would not believe and if I were to question you, you would not answer.’”
Jesus breaks his silence, though not for very long. They press him about whether he is the Messiah — their accusation is that Jesus is a blasphemer — and Jesus responds in an interesting way. Essentially he is saying to them, why are you asking me this question, you aren’t interested in hearing the answer! The only thing that the priests were really interested in hearing was those things that they could twist to justify their seeking Jesus’ execution — why feed their frenzy?
The next statement is a curious one. Some have taken this to imply that Jesus is saying to the priests, “if you were in my shoes, you wouldn’t answer either.” Yet, I don’t think that is the thrust of the comment. I think that Jesus is turning the tables on the priests and saying, “Look, if I were to question you as to whether I am the Christ, you would give no answer.” Why would they remain silent? Because they did not want to place themselves in a position where they were self-condemning.
A very similar confrontation had taken place just a few days earlier (Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8). The priests and scribes had challenged him as to his authority to teach. Jesus turned the tables on the priests by challenging them as to who had given John the Baptist authority? The Jewish officials recognized that if they said that John’s authority was from God they then authenticated John’s ministry and condemned themselves as they had stood against John, but if they rejected John’s ministry, the people, who revered John as a prophet (and rightly so!) would be up in arms. Jesus is pressing them with the same basic matter here. If they testify that Jesus is the Christ, then what are they doing arresting him? If they testify that Jesus is not the Christ, what happens if he proves them wrong? The priests were concerned with preserving their power and control — to do so, in their own eyes, Jesus had to die so they could not answer his question.
Loved ones, there is a very basic principle that can be gleaned from this interaction. Politics in church is bad news. If you would see something accomplished, don’t maneuver and manipulate things to bring about said effect. Walk uprightly and with integrity, do not bully those around you to gain your way, and interact with others with humility, meekness, and truth. Sadly, all too often fallen people in the life of the congregation seek to bring things about by their own means and God does not bless that behavior.