38 – The Time Has Not Yet Come
And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
- Authority: Power or right to give orders
Why do you think Jesus seemed to want to avoid this question?
What was important to the religious leaders, pleasing God or pleasing men?
We have all come across people who never give a simple answer. You ask them a question, and instead of answering they ask a question back. This experience is very frustrating, especially if the response affects your arrangements. This is exactly what happens here.
Now that Jesus has entered Jerusalem as a King and has disturbed what was going on in the temple, the religious leaders are searching even harder for a way to kill him. They ask him by what authority he does these things, hoping that he will say something they will be able to use against him.
But Jesus is not going to play their game. The time for him to die has not yet come; he is in control of the situation, not them. Therefore, he asks them a question first. The question is simply ‘where did John get his authority from’? The religious leaders had opposed John, but a great number of people had believed what he said. Therefore, Jesus put a question to them that they could not easily answer without getting themselves into trouble (exactly what they were trying to do to him!). If they say that John has come from God, then that would mean that everything which he said about Jesus is true. But if they deny John’s authority, then all the people who believed in John would turn against them. In order to avoid answering, they use the excuse that they don’t know. Therefore, there is no need for Jesus to answer them either.
It is important that we do not think that Jesus is being deceitful here. In a way he answers the question – that his authority comes from God, exactly like John. But they didn’t want to hear the answer, they only wanted to find a way of getting rid of him; Jesus was not ready for this to happen yet. Sometimes people will ask about our faith, but they do not really want to know the answer. All they want to do is to prove us wrong. At times like this there is nothing wrong in asking them questions as well, in order to expose their hypocrisy.
In which way does the attitude of Jesus here help us when we face questions from other people?
Why do you think that the leaders were so concerned with the authority of Christ?
for wisdom when trying to answer questions and when trying to explain the good news about Jesus Christ to other people.