“One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, ”Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.”
He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?”
And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”
So they answered that they did not know where it came from.
And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.””
Remember that Palm Sunday was the lamb selection day to prepare for Passover. Typically, a family would spend this week inspecting the lamb that they had picked out to make sure it would be a good sacrifice for Passover.
The Pharisees are doing this and they don’t even realize it.
Jesus goes through more scrutiny this week than at any other time.
The authority question is kind of like asking for a resume or school credentials. Rabbis were taught to be an exact replica of their teacher so that there would be a continuous line of education all of the way back to Moses. They admitted that times changed and that teachings changed too, so you had to name the Rabbi that trained you kind of like we have denominations today.
It is a good question. I mean, who does He think He is, running all of the merchants out of the court of the gentiles just days before Passover? And where did He get all of this teaching from?
Jesus answers in one of the most awesome ways. Knowing where His authority comes from wouldn’t change them in any practical ways. They are just looking for something to argue and disagree about. Even more, if they knew where His authority was from, they might have a way to justify not listening to Him!
Anything we believe is quickly bogged down if there isn’t any practical implication of that belief. There is no practical application for them to know who Jesus’ teacher is if they aren’t going to yield and submit to that teaching.
This is such a great test when we start to divide over religious beliefs. “What are the practical implications of this belief?” What exactly is going to change in my life, or in what I do, if I believe this or that disputable issue? If it’s not going to change very much, if anything, then it might not be worth dividing over. Even worse, if it’s just going to be a conceptual belief that I stand for but don’t change my life in any way, it’s really not worth dividing over.
At that point, you’re just picking teams for the sake of picking teams.
Jesus’ snarky answer of “then I’m not going to tell you” isn’t just Him being a punk. He knows that the questions they are asking are just for the purpose of dividing and self-justification.
Let’s ask questions. Let’s wonder and discuss the scriptures. But at the same time, let’s keep it practical and applicable without setting up teams of self-justification.
We want Jesus to win all things, not us.
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