It is not uncommon that the unbelieving world accuses Jesus of lying or some other kind of equally immoral behavior.
In Jesus’ day, the Jews accused him of blasphemy because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (Jn. 10:36).
Today, websites are set up specifically to impugn Jesus, as a liar, as they carelessly snip comments from the Bible in their effort to make Jesus look less than truthful.
Overall, it is the unbelieving world’s attempt to prove its case that God does not exist.
Because if God does exist, especially through the incarnation of Jesus, as God, then their whole rebellious argument about Jesus and God crumbles to dust.
A classic example of careless “gerrymandering” by those critics of Jesus’ integrity comes from Matthew’s Gospel (21:18-22).
On the Monday morning of the week leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus is returning to Bethany.
He comes across a fig tree that did not have any figs on it. Apparently, Jesus wanted figs for breakfast, but none was to be found (at least on this one lone fig tree).
Jesus makes a declaration that the fig tree will never produce fruit from here forth and the tree proceeds to wither away.
Jesus’ disciples, who seemingly were traveling along with him, “were amazed.” “How did the fig tree wither at once?” was their question to him.
It is Jesus’ response that our modern-day critics have taken and twisted to try to make a liar out of him.
He said to the disciples, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it shall happen.
“And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.”
First, what Jesus said is emphatic, for he uses the word amen, which is frequently translated “Truly.”
In Matthew’s Gospel, alone, Jesus used amen 31 times, which was his way of getting the attention of his listeners, so that they would pay attention to something extremely important he wanted them to grasp.
Up to Matthew 21, there is no reason to believe that Jesus was lying before and there is no reason to believe that he is lying now.
Second, Jesus uses a third-class conditional “if” statement along with a second person plural subjunctive verb: you may/should/ought to have.
Third-class conditional phrases typically denote uncertainty, even though eventually the condition will most likely be fulfilled.
When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness and he said, “All these things [the kingdoms of the world] will I give you, if you fall down and worship me,” is a classic example of another third-class conditional sentence.
Satan would have likely given Jesus the kingdom of the world, if Jesus had fallen down in worship of Satan.
Since Jesus never did that, then Satan left him, seeking a more opportune time to attack or tempt him again (Lk. 4:13).
Jesus’ disciples, at Matthew 21:18-22, did not possess the necessary faith to do the very things the he assured them, even if they would only ask.
In fact, all of Jesus’ disciples eventually ran and hid themselves only a few days later, when Jesus was being tried and crucified.
It would not be until after Jesus’ resurrection and subsequent empowerment by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that his disciples were to exercise their faith in powerful ways, whereby the people were healed (Acts 4:14; 8:7), demons were exorcised (Acts 5:16; 8:7), and the dead were raised (Acts 9:41).
Third, some critics may ask whether the Christian knows of anyone—Jesus’ disciples or otherwise—has ever moved a mountain by telling it to move.
Of course, the implication is, if no one has ever done it, then what Jesus promised was untrue. He is a liar!
However, it must be kept in mind that just because no one has asked for such to happen, that does not necessitate that Jesus was lying.
All it means is that no one asked that a mountain be moved.
Moreover, such a conclusion on the part of the critic fails to take into account that a command is not being given by the believer for the mountain to move.
A request is made to God or Jesus for the mountain to move.
It is part of what “all things you ask in prayer” is all about.
Asking implies that someone else exercise their will to do something that cannot or will not be done by the person offering the petition.
If the petitioned does not exercise his will, and in this case, it would be God or Jesus, then the mountain will remain right where it is.
Furthermore, belief, faith, trust, or reliance takes into account asking according to God’s will; are we asking because it is something that ultimately glorifies God or are we asking to consume it upon our own lusts or to tempt God?
Again, when Satan was tempting Jesus in the wilderness, he tried to get Jesus to turn stones into bread and then to jump off the pinnacle of the temple.
In both instances, Jesus could have done those very things, but there was something much bigger in God’s plans than bestowing glory upon Satan who does not deserve it.
So, just because no one has asked for a mountain to move does not make Jesus out to be a liar.
Instead, it exposes the faulty understanding of those calling Jesus a liar, as they lie about him in their attempt to seek their own glorification.
Praying by faith in accordance with God’s will always produces the desired result of the petitioner.
Supposedly, failed prayers or those that are assumed to have been never answered, are actually answered prayers, in the alternative or delayed.
Instead of moving the mountain, God may give the strength to circumnavigate it, that its majesty might be enjoyed amid the climb or journey.
Instead of granting the prayer’s request today, in God’s infinite wisdom, the fulfillment may come years later, when the petitioner is more mature and can appreciate the extent to which God answered the request.
The bottom line is Jesus did not lie by telling his disciples to “ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.”
Not only was there no reason for Jesus to lie, there was no reason for others to lie about him.
Nevertheless, as in the days when Jesus walked the earth, regardless of what he said or did, his critics would not believe. The same applies today.
Yet, it should be kept in mind, that is not Jesus’, his disciple’s, or the Christian’s fault.
It is the fault of those who do not believe, because they cannot. It is has not been granted them the right to believe.
So, they lie about Jesus while ironically accusing him of lying.