The Authority of Jesus Questioned

We are continuing our meditations on the last week before the crucifixion. After Christ had overturned the money changers tables in the Court of the Gentiles in the temple precincts, the Chief Priests and leaders felt that the situation was getting out of their control with the crowd hanging on to Jesus’ every word (Luke 19:48). Their jealousy and fear of losing their financial empire made them acknowledge that their efforts to stop Christ’s popularity had little effect. They said, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him” (John 12:19). They decided that they had to try to undermine the people’s faith in Christ’s spiritual authority. They would ask Him about His certificate of ordination to be a Rabbi. What religious school had taught Him, and under whose authority was He doing these things? Of course, they knew that He had attended no “seminary” or “yeshiva” and that He had no formal authority from men. This tactic, they thought, would discredit and undermine the people’s faith in Him. Before the multitudes of people, they interrupted His teaching.

1One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2“Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” 3He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me, 4John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men?” 5They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” 7So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.” 8Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things” (Luke 20:1-8).

The religious leaders thought they had Him. All the people looked on, awaiting Jesus’ response. Jesus replied with a question for them. If they would answer His question, He would answer theirs. “The baptism of John; was it from heaven or from men?” (v. 4). This put the religious elite into a difficult position because they had rejected John the Baptist’s preaching of repentance for Israel (Luke 7:29-30). Jesus did not evade their question. He used the question to expose the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In commenting on this passage, William Barclay writes:

He asked them to answer the question, “Was the authority of John the Baptist human or divine?” The point is that their answer to Jesus’ question would answer their own question. Everyone knew how John had regarded Jesus and how he had considered himself only the fore-runner of the One who was the Messiah. If they agreed that John’s authority was divine then they had to agree that Jesus was the Messiah, because John had said so. If they denied it, the people would rise against them because John the Baptist had been perceived as a prophet. Jesus’ answer in fact asks the question, “Tell me—where do you yourself think I got my authority?” He did not need to answer their question if they answered his.

Fearing the crowds, whom they assumed would side completely with them, the religious leaders were humiliated when Jesus would not answer their question. What could they say? They hadn’t believed John’s message about repentance and being ready for the Messiah, but they also knew that most of the people that stood before them had. They did not want to risk inciting a heated debate, perhaps leading to mob reaction. They had to back down before all the people. The lesson for us is to not harden our hearts against the Messiah, but to believe and trust Him. He has all the authority in the world.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 53. Luke 20:1-19: The Parable of the Vine-Growers. Keith Thomas

Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *