Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8
It was only a couple of days into the week and needless to say, Jesus caused quite a stir. From entering Jerusalem with a welcome party to rival any ticker-tape parade to causing a huge scene at the temple involving the open and aggressive criticism of how the people were treating God’s sacred temple, all eyes were focused on Jesus and the religious leaders had had enough. Who did this Jesus think he was? He just comes into their place of work and makes a scene about how they operate to the people God had ordained them to influence? This was their territory and what right did He have to just come in and make a scene?
It’s that very question that they brought to his attention. After leaving Jerusalem for a short stint, Jesus returned to the temple but was not welcomed with the same enthusiasm as he had two days earlier. The leaders of the temple confronted this instigator and asked him, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them” (Mk. 11:28). It was a legitimate question. Who gave him the authority to come into their place of business and completely overthrow how they do things? What right does he have to bring confusion to the people and teach against their teachings? Who supplied him with the authority to heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, make the lame walk, make the dead rise, and cast demons out of people that have long been given up on? All that stuff did was just drawing more and more people away from them. All they knew was they had enough and he better have a good answer for them.
He did. It wasn’t the answer they expected or even necessarily an answer at all. He asked them where the authority came for John to baptize. This created a bit of a problem for the religious leaders. John the Baptist was much loved and respected by the people. They knew they couldn’t just completely discredit John’s ministry and expect to have the respect of the people. They also couldn’t admit that John’s ministry was valid because then that would beg the question of why they didn’t believe him in the first place. Then they would lose all credibility. All they could say was “We don’t know” (v. 33). They knew any other answer would lead to their downfall so at the time, that seemed to be the best option but what they didn’t realize was that they showed their true colors with that statement because Jesus ultimately refused to tell them what authority he did these things.
Jesus’ refusal was not his way of telling them that their answer wasn’t good enough for his wisdom. His refusal was to show them that because they weren’t able to identify God’s authority in the messengers he sent, then how could he have expect them to recognize the authority of the One that sent him. They were so wrapped up in this “authority” they had given themselves as administrators of religion that they failed in their primary duties in identifying what was really of God and more importantly, identifying the foretold Messiah from the Scriptures. If they could not be trusted in recognizing the work of a prophet, then how could they be trusted in recognizing the Son of God?
We often read this story and gawk at how ignorant the religious leaders were. Already by this point, Jesus had done miraculous things that could not be explained by anything else other than operating under God’s authority and we cannot fathom why they were so stubborn. While we like to beat them up for their failures, it’s also important for us to recognize when we have that attitude. Jesus said the he came to give life and life in abundance (Jhn. 10:10) but yet, we often struggle with giving him full control of our lives. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our needs, our wants, and our worries that we forget He who has the authority and where it comes from. When thinking about this Tuesday in history, think about the areas of your life that you struggle with allowing God full control. What is causing that hesitation? What is the source of that doubt? More importantly, what is holding you back from He who only comes to give life?
- What do you think kept the religious leaders from knowing under whose authority Jesus operated?
- Why do you think Jesus responded with his question about John the Baptist instead of giving a simple answer?
- How do you feel in knowing where Jesus’ authority comes from?